Thanksgiving Festival and Family Gathering

Just when I thought the backlog of manuscripts was nearly gone, something “new” turns up. And I apologize for being one week late with this! I was quite surprised and pleased to find this document in among “Miscellaneous” documents [ask me sometime about the word miscellaneous]. The Battell family of Norfolk, Connecticut, documented their family gathering and Thanksgiving festival on December 7, 1865.

The cover of the booklet reads “Thanksgiving Festival & Family Gathering of the Battell Family — Thanksgiving Week 1865. Ms 54547.

Every family member in attendance was asked to sign his or her name. The entertainment was held at the Joseph Battell House and the pastor’s residence in Norfolk. The first order of the day was attending public worship. Ms 54547

The Battell’s celebration was part of a larger National Day of Thanksgiving for Peace after the long and hard-fought Civil War. In the Battell family tradition the meal, served at 2:00 at the minister’s house, consisted of:

The turkey presented his roasted sides to the carver at one end of the table, while in no less tempting condition though [?] boiled appearance his mate reared her drumstick heavenward at the other. Chickens that had never known a digestive pang graced the center of the board, while a brace of partridges, their “wanderings over” quietly folded their wings and brooded in [?] gravy.

There were vegetables too numerous to mention, a dish of chicken pie, followed by pies of various kinds. The dessert consisted of apples, oranges, raisins and other fruit.  The meal lasted four hours. There was a hymn and prayer, and then the family enjoyed games, plays, songs and stories. The entire event concluded on December 9, 1865.

Reading accounts like this make the past come so alive. The chronicler of this event had a very droll sense of humor which makes deciphering the crabbed handwriting well worth it. This record can be seen by coming to the Research Center and asking for Ms 54547. Searching our online catalog using Battell as an author search retrieves ten records for items we have that relate to the Battell and Battelle families.

P.S. Did you know that the Norfolk Music Festival was funded primarily by this same Battell family?