While the Pilgrims and Native Americans jubilantly celebrated the first Thanksgiving at Plymouth Rock in 1621, Pittsburgh was not privy to this celebration until 1756, more than one hundred years later. Nevertheless, Pittsburgh’s first Thanksgiving was one filled with historical significance and festivity, and helped to set the foundation for our feasts of today.
War and Peace
During the French and Indian War (1754-1763) the area now known as “The Point” remained a vital stronghold, which the French were able to occupy until 1758. However, for all of their strength, the knowledge of a large British army on the way caused the French to burn down their fort at Duquesne -with the hopes of causing damage to British forces. This display of pryotechniques did not prove a difficult obstacle for the British as Gen. John Forbes (with the assistance of his large army) claimed the charred remains of Fort Duquense for himself and declared the day be commemorated with a great “thanks giving.”
Festivity and Faith
In the early morning of November 26, 1758, the first public Thanksgiving was held at “The Point.” For all the divine providence that was bestowed upon the British forces in battle, Reverend Charles Clinton Beatty lead more than 5,000 soldiers in prayer- including a rising public figure and war general, George Washington. Although food and shelter were scarce, due to the devastation of war and overall impoverished conditions, prayers and community satiated the appetites of all present.
Thanksgiving Today: Pittsburgh and Beyond
Thanksgiving was not recognized as a national holiday until 1863, during the time of Lincoln’s presidency, but its early roots in faith and gratitude greatly impacted its presence in our lives today. According to a 2017 survey by CNBC, more than 48.5 million individuals are on the road traveling to meet family during the holiday, and over 41 million turkeys are eaten! Such numbers are overwhelming, but remind us of the importance of family, our gratitude for a full harvest, as well as our faith.
By: Leah Segal