When I Grow Up

Giving Thanks in 1850

wisconsin-1808156_1280-edNov 24 – ancestors’ Thanksgiving


The Smith family had a modest farm in Northeast Pennsylvania. In 1850, they had 7 children, the youngest a baby. Thanksgiving would have meant a brief break from work on the farm. It is likely that John or his son Peter would have gone out hunting that week, possibly for a wild turkey, or maybe a couple grouse. They had set aside a good amount of potatoes, so that would have been on the menu as well as rye bread with butter. They may have traded some of their maple sugar (a commodity not common in the area) for some canned peas or beans from one of their neighbors who had grown those vegetables. With only two milking cows, they would not have been able to make cheese and may have traded for this with their neighbors as well. Since their neighbors were also farmers with large families, they likely spent the holiday with their immediate family only. Life on a farm means there are no days off, so though the schedule may have relaxed a bit, there were still chores to be done after the main meal.