[…] Thanksgiving Mr & Mrs
Whitwell Father Mrs Witherell Emily Horatio &
Gustavus dined at tea here. Michael &
sister & Ann Oral at the second table.
Mr W went home at half past three to
marry a couple Oakes A Emily & Susan went
with him After they left this evening Mrs
Witherell & self called on Mrs Dow in Olivers
Mr & Mrs Dow & family Mr & Mrs H Lothrop & Cyrus
“[T]his was thanksgiving day,” wrote Old Oliver Ames, after a brief notation that the day “was fair in the morning but clouded up in the afternoon”. Evelina and her servants prepared a feast that fed at least fifteen people. The whole Oakes Ames family was there, naturally, and so was Old Oliver. Dining with them were Sarah and Emily Witherell, Reverend and Mrs. Whitwell, brother Horatio Ames and his youngest son Gustavus, the latter two having arrived from Connecticut the day before. At the “second table” – which likely means a second seating – the servants partook. Catharine Murphy and Ann Shinkwin were presumably present, as was Michael Burns (Old Oliver’s coachman/ostler), his sister and Ann Orel, a young Irish girl who worked for Sarah Witherell.
Family gathered next door, too. The Oliver Ameses, meaning Oliver Jr.,Sarah Lothrop Ames and their children Fred and Helen, shared the repast with two of Sarah’s brothers, Henry and Cyrus, along with Henry’s wife Eleanor and long-time friends, the Dows. Quite a gathering, all told, as family members dined and visited.
Sarah Josepha Hale, the patron saint of Thanksgiving, describes her understanding of the origin of Thanksgiving in a novel she wrote in 1827 and republished in 1852:
“Soon after the settlement of Boston, the colony was reduced to a state of destitution, and nearly without food. In this strait the pious leaders of the pilgrim band appointed a solemn and general fast. […] The faith that could thus turn to God in the extremity of physical want, must have been of the most glowing kind, […] On the very morning of the appointed day, a vessel from London arrived laden with provisions, and so the fast was changed into a Thanksgiving.”
This may have been the version of Thanksgiving that Mrs. Hale used to persuade Abraham Lincoln to make it a national celebration. It also may have been the story of Thanksgiving with which the Ameses were most familiar.