History of Thanksgiving in NE Ohio

Nov. 24—Today is Thanksgiving and many northeast Ohio residents will be spending the day with friends and family.

In honor of the holiday, we explored some Thanksgivings of the past, as depicted in the Star Beacon and in other Ohio newspapers on Ohio Memory and Chronicling America.

Although the United States Thanksgiving tradition dates back to colonial times, it was not nationally observed until 1863, following a proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln.

In 1941, a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress proclaimed Thanksgiving to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.

Ohio newspapers in the mid-20th Century published stories, poems and photos themed around thankfulness, Pilgrims, family celebrations and wild and domesticated turkeys.

A winter blast 66 years ago left Ashtabula County residents thankful they survived Mother Nature's wrath — 27 inches of snow.

It doesn't compare to last week's storm in Buffalo, but still, it brought Ashtabula County to a temporary standstill, according to the Star Beacon's news reports at the time.

Cars were stranded on both sides of several roads, including Route 20.

The National Guard was called in to deliver food, clear the streets and to transport expectant mothers in labor to the hospital.

Snow had bombarded Ashtabula County six years earlier, as well. At the time, Thanksgiving 1950 was deemed the most treacherous in Ashtabula County history.

The National Guard from Ashtabula brought out tanks and half-tracks to clear Route 46. Six semi-trucks were off the road in a one-mile stretch near the Miller family's farm.

They had to tunnel through the snow from their house to the barn to milk the cows, according to news reports.

In the past, and more so in the present, Thanksgiving signaled the start of the holiday season, and the day after, Black Friday, when shoppers find sales at local stores and online.

Before the boom in online shopping, and in the 1990s when the Ashtabula Mall was thriving, people would line up outside the mall before 6 a.m. to get the best deals.

When the mall floundered, some stores tried something new — they opened on Thanksgiving and offered all sorts of deals to lure customers in.

This year, most retailers will be closed for Thanksgiving, changing history.

The new trend started two years ago when stores closed on Thanksgiving to limit crowds during the COVID-19 pandemic and pushed more sales online. What started as a temporary measure, is being repeated again this year.

To learn more about Ohio Thanksgivings of the past, check out the Star Beacon's newspaper collections at the Ashtabula Public Library and on Ohio Memory and Chronicling America.