Thanksgiving 1861, And In PY A Respectable Place for Ladies to Dine on Oysters

By Rich MacAlpine

As Gleaned from the Yates County Chronicle, November 28, 1861

General George McClellan, 1861

All was quiet along the Potomac as newly appointed General of the Army George McClellan emphasized drill and discipline among Union troops encamped around Washington and prepared for the Spring offensive into Virginia. Elsewhere, Union forces were active along the South Carolina coast and in Kentucky and Missouri. The Lincoln administration struggled with the thorny diplomatic dilemma presented by the capture on the high seas of Confederate diplomats Slidell and Mason, who were bound for England to seek an alliance.

“THANKSGIVING – Tomorrow this annual festival returns and we hope it will be unanimously observed. It is one of the earliest institutions planted on American soil by our New England ancestors and it should not be forgotten. We inherit an incalculable legacy from the past for which we ought to be profoundly grateful. And by reason of what the past has left us and the enlightenment of our own age, we live in a period and country before all others in its benign influences upon the human family. It is true we have fallen upon troubles and trials of a very serious nature in our national affairs. But we have the strongest faith that these difficulties are but educating the People for a nobler Progress. We cannot doubt that Liberty, Equality, and Democracy are to be permanent gainers by the trial and purification we are now undergoing. Every day’s experience shows us that our true strength lies in the justice of our cause and our readiness to do justice to all classes of men. Let us be thankful for all this and take heart for the advancement of the race. Let us, while enjoying the good gifts of Providence in the bounties of a fruitful season, remember that there are many who share but scantily of the earth’s abundance and that to them the hand of charity has an unspeakable solace and a refreshing encouragement.” – Editor Stafford C. Cleveland

“THE PLACE – We are frequently asked by our friends from the country if there is a place in town where they can take their ladies and get a lunch? We answer, yes! The Union Eating House – not drinking House – one door below the Benham House, is the place where you can take your ladies and get just what you want. The beauty of the thing is you will not come in contact with the hubbub which is so common in saloons in this village. We frequently see ladies in there  taking a dish of oysters; and why not? Ladies like oysters as well as men but as a general thing, they don’t get half as many. Nor have we had, until lately,  a place where ladies could go with propriety and get them. There are rooms expressly for ladies where they can be entirely by themselves and not be annoyed by others. We say what we mean and what we know.”

About Ray

Ray Copson worked for many years at the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress before coming to Yates County in the heart of the Finger Lakes region of New York State. He chairs the Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee of the Yates County Genealogical and Historical Society.
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