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Thanksgiving in North Dakota


On this date in 1897, Mayor John Dinnie of Grand Forks issued a proclamation designating a day of thanks. He said the people of the city and the surrounding area had a great deal to be thankful for, including a very good harvest and a newly-built plant to provide electric lighting.

The Grand Forks Herald announced that the holiday would be “fittingly observed” by the people of Grand Forks and their neighbors in nearby towns. The morning would be devoted to church services. The Presbyterian Church was cooperating with the Baptists and the Methodists for a combined service. There were also services at the Episcopal and Catholic churches. They were all expected to be very well attended.

The afternoon was given over to the holiday meal, and those living in the Grand Forks area had many options. There were many dinner parties planned, as well as informal gatherings. The city hotels offered holiday meals, and the newspaper reported that “in some instances they will be elaborate.” The hotels were expecting a large number of visitors, many from neighboring towns.

No one was to be forgotten. St Luke’s and St. Joseph’s hospitals arranged special meals for their patients. The officers of the Ladies’ Union Aid Society had identified needy families, providing forty complete Thanksgiving dinners with all the trimmings. The Mercy and Help Department of the Epworth League also provided dinners for needy families. The Wilder School students added many Thanksgiving gifts for those who otherwise might have gone without. The YMCA planned to stay open and invited young men to spend Thanksgiving there if they were unable to get home. Even the prisoners at the county jail would receive complete Thanksgiving dinners.

But church and dinner were not the only activities of the day. A skating rink had been cleared on the frozen Red River for those who preferred the great outdoors. The comedy “A Milk White Flag” was to be presented at the Metropolitan Theater in the evening. Schools and government offices were closed so students and employees could enjoy the holiday. The newspaper expected that most stores would close at 11 a.m. so store clerks could have the rest of the day off.

Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher


The Grand Forks Herald. “Give Thanks.” 25 November, 1897