Thanksgiving Day, 1898

There was one group that decided they had to organize and hold their own Thanksgiving merriment.

JSSP Keith Norman Column Sig
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Thanksgiving in 1898 was celebrated, according to a front-page news story in The Jamestown Alert, “with due regard to the social amenities, as well as to the religious and the gastronomic traditions of the day.”

Turkey and all the trimmings certainly are a “gastronomic tradition” although I don’t think I have ever seen it described with those words.

The Baptist and Catholic churches held special services on Thanksgiving that year. According to the article, they were well attended. A special thanks was noted for the American successes in the Spanish-American War going on at the time.

And many residents held gatherings for family and friends in their homes.

But there was one group that decided they had to organize and hold their own Thanksgiving merriment.


Jamestown had an active “Bachelor’s Club” back in 1898.

“Having no homes of their own the members were obliged to secure a roof elsewhere in which to welcome their guests,” wrote the editor of the Alert.
They selected the Jamestown Armory as the site of their festivities. The party wasn’t just for the bachelors of the community, but a chance for them to invite friends and acquittances and host a party.
“So many responded, remained until a late hour, and went away telling the inexperienced hosts of an enjoyable evening,” wrote the Alert.
After the meal, the floor of the armory became a dance floor with dancing continuing to the late hours.
The organizers among the Bachelor’s Club even provided mirrors and face powders in the waiting room of the ladies' room. The editor of the Alert speculated that must have been instinctive knowledge as bachelors would have had no experience in those areas.

It appears the party was scheduled to end at midnight with the serving of refreshments but it seems the band was encouraged to play on with the dancing “prolonged until the hours grew small in numerals and then large again.”
The weather plays a part in all North Dakota events. The Alert called Thanksgiving Day of 1898 a “crisp winter day in North Dakota suggestive of hilarity and good cheer.”
The best kind of winter day you can have in North Dakota.

Author Keith Norman can be reached at

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