The two records still in existence that document the first Thanksgiving celebration in 1621 describe an event that is drastically different than what happens today. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t a national celebration until Abraham Lincoln was convinced that a Thanksgiving event might unite our war-torn country in 1863. Yet, even though Lincoln had declared a national holiday, it was not considered a permanent fixture on the calendar. Each year, the sitting president had to declare Thanksgiving Day or deliver a Thanksgiving Day proclamation.
Utah’s Territorial Governor, Eli H. Murray (1880-1886), issued a proclamation on November 18, 1884 in support of the proclamation by President Chester A. Arthur. Governor Murray set aside Thursday, November 27 as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer. While recognizing the blessings enjoyed by those in the territory, Governor Murray was more specific in his aspirations for the territory. He hoped for the
“establishment of fraternal fellowship between neighbors, and all citizens of a common country; for the absolute abolishment of every hatred, ‘which places us beneath those we hate’; for an estoppel of all slander, ‘which meets no regard from noble minds,’… that all may zealously labor to build up the Territory, in the spread of intelligence, the elimination of all that is bad, and the preservation of all that is good, and these to be adjudged in the broadest charity, and for the ‘preservation of the general Government in its whole constitutional vigor as the sheet anchor of our peace at home.'”
(The full proclamation can be viewed through our Digital Archives)
Today, our hopes are much the same. We at the Utah State Archives are grateful for the public, administrative, and legislative support that allows us to fulfill our mission: to assist Utah’s government agencies in the efficient management of their records, preserve Utah’s governmental records of enduring value, and provide quality access to public information.
More information on Thanksgiving History can be found at the Plymouth Plantation website.