Tag Archives: New Year

Thanksgiving… on Christmas?

Harpers Thanksgiving cropped

“Who said anything about Thanksgiving Dinner?” Harper’s Weekly: November 26, 1881 (click to enlarge).

Last week we posted about the bizarre timing of early American Thanksgiving celebrations (i.e. sitting down to a turkey feast in June or July) and how, even into the 19th and early 20th centuries, there was no standard date to celebrate the holiday in the United States.

Until Lincoln issued his national proclamation in 1863, it was the responsibility of governors to determine the date of Thanksgiving in their respective states. We did some combing back through Missouri’s history and matched up MO’s Thanksgiving dates with significant dates in the lives of the Campbells. Here’s what we came up with – the date of that year’s Thanksgiving day is listed, followed by a note about what the Campbells had going on that week.

November 29, 1844 (Last Thursday in November): Robert Campbell Jr. died two days earlier on November 27 of the measles. He was two years and eight months old.

December 25, 1845 (yep. They had Thanksgiving on Christmas): The Campbells were living in their first St. Louis home by this point, an attached row house downtown. Today Ballpark Village sits in its place.

December 3, 1846 (First Thursday in December): Well, at least it wasn’t on Christmas day this year.

November 25, 1847 (Last Thursday in November): Virginia gave birth to Hugh Campbell, the third child to be given the name after the deaths of his two older brothers, ten days earlier on November 15. Hugh would be one of just three of the family’s children to see adulthood, managing the family estate after his parents’ deaths and dying at age 84 in 1931.


“The Great Fire of 1849”

1849 (Missouri records show no Thanksgiving proclamation issued this year, so either the Governor or the state archivists dropped the ball. Our best guess is that it was observed on the last Thursday of the month): The Campbells weren’t even in St. Louis that November. 1849 was a bad year to be in the city, there was a enormous fire that wiped out most of downtown (Robert and Virginia’s home escaped, but his office near the riverfront did not) as well as a terrible cholera epidemic (caused by unsanitary drinking water) that killed their eldest son James. The Campbells packed up and headed to Philadelphia for several months to escape, and Virginia gave birth to their daughter Mary in September of that year.

November 20, 1853 (Last Thursday in November): Hazlett Campbell was born three days later on November 23.


Hazlett Campbell (1853-1856). Another son named Hazlett would be born in 1858 and lived until 1938.

November 20, 1856 (Third Thursday in November): The same Hazlett Campbell dies on  his third birthday, three days after Thanksgiving on November 23.

December 31, 1857 (New Year’s Eve, Last Thursday in December): Grab your party hats and noisemakers, smooch that special someone, and shovel in a couple forkfulls of turkey and dressing to ring in the New Year.

November 26, 1863 (Last Thursday in November): Abraham Lincoln’s national Thanksgiving proclamation. Following his lead, Presidents would annually proclaim Thanksgiving dates until Congress passed a law in 1941. (read more about that in last week’s post)

As you can see, Thanksgivings were a mix of happy and sad times at the Campbell House (and often at wildly different times of the year). The family was rejoicing over births and concurrently celebrating other holidays like Christmas and the New Year. But they were also dealing with the deaths of their children, disease, and the dangerous conditions of city living in the 19th century. Count clean water, safe conditions and healthy children among your list of “things I’m thankful for” when you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner this year!


“Thanksgiving Dinner” Harper’s Weekly: December 5, 1857 (click to enlarge). Thanksgiving was on New Year’s Eve in Missouri this year.


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Happy New Year from Campbell House Museum!

Welcome to 2010 everyone!  To celebrate the new year, we’re posting a letter William Sublette wrote to Hugh Campbell on New Years Day 1837, 173 years ago.  He talks about his health problems and what he thinks of Dr. Beaumont – apparently Beaumont treats Sublette the way Sublette treats the Indians he trades with.  But the 2nd letter talks a lot about Sublette’s feelings toward a certain “coquette” who Robert fell in love with.  Sublette is certain that Robert will get over her in just a short time.  The girl is Virginia Jane Kyle, and considering the letters they wrote to each other in their 38 years of marriage, Sublette’s predictions certainly never came true.  Enjoy and Happy New Year!


St. Louis January the first 1837
Dear Hugh
Your welcome and interesting letter of December 5th came
to hand on last evening which I have long wisht for and this
is the latest news we have from Philadelphia as the roads has
been in such situation it was impossible to reach here sooner.
Now just imagine you see your friend Sublette situated in
an rocking armed chair with a writing desk atacht thereto.
Cross leged for that situation at the present answers me best
for reasons you may guess- My health and strength has im-
proved considerable since Robert left here, but I cant brag
much on my fundamental principles for Dr. Beaumont and
me has a round or so every fieu days. On yesterday he per-
formed a small operation and on the extreme it was as severe
as it was small and dificult to get at was as severe as any
hertofore. I have given him his orders to let me rest until
tuesday next when I expect to have a small row with him.
He puts me in mind of my self whilst engaged in the Indian
trade how I frequently laid open the mules backs and cut open
the diseased parts (poor animals how they suffered). But
speaking of Beaumont I am much pleased with him and think
him an excelent sergent [surgeon] at present there is not
much prospects of my getting out before spring to attend to
business and I have determined to take it fair and easy for
my candid belief is all things are for the best as God made us
for his purpose and knows best how to dispose of us if it
should be for the benefit of others, as I am smartly enclined
to believe in foreordination.
Times is dull in St. Louis and money scarce but there is
some hopes of a bank here from our legislature.(footnote 10) Our city
is not as gay this winter as has usually been and from what
cause I cant say for it has been uncommonly healthy. Produce
of all kinds is high corn has sold here in market for $1.25 per
bushel and coal averages about 28 cents pr bushel, those two
articles I am most interested in but the roads has been des-

Dear Hugh
Relative to your part of the letter respecting Robert I am
sorry I was not in posesion of before he left for my advice to
him would have been different from what it was from the
acount and description that Robert gave me I felt much inter-
ested in his behalf and candidly it rendered [me] more or
less unhappy on his account as I discovered it praid on his
feelings-pressed him to go in company, I went so far as to ad-
vise him to press his addresses that no doubt but that a good
wife was the greatest blessing a man ever enjoyed and that
she was young and foolish and would soon yield, that a wife
two easy courted was scarce worth having, not thinking that
Robert could be over come by and blinded by love at his age
as I have no doubt but he was. For we in our remarks re-
specting the qualities of young ladies generally agreed, and
that of a coquette or of showing fading colours I never ad-
mired. I am well aware Roberts situation at that time was
one that was rather inclined to lead him a stray. Just recov-
ering from a long spell of sickness when a man’s mind is
rather week and not other wise engaged in business the least
kindness or attention shown him at that time and especially
by a female was enclined to make the more lasting impression
of it. But as I think this is not more than the second or third
time he has been in love and probably a long absence may over
come it, not a short one. But I am not capable of judging
for I must candidly confess which you may think strange for
a man of my age to say I was never seriously in love in my
life nor would I permit myself to be so for I never was in a
situation to get married as that which I could wish. How easy
this may wear off with Robert I cant say for my belief is that
when a man’s afection is once placed it never can be removed
to that of another with the same ardor but I think Robert
ought to bless his stairs [stars] he can get out of this scrape
and I will advise him to take a wife in Missouri and leave him
to trust to Providence as all is for the best.
I admire the character of your countryman Tom Moore in
many respects but in the instance you speak of in your letter
it puts me two much in mind of one of the party now in ques-
tion (V K). I have given you my views as far as I am
capable. Its a pitty we both could not get married to wives
of fifty thousand each as I have more need of her money than
love, at present and in faith I think Robert would have no
objection to the cash, if so, he could keep the wife & give me
the cash. We are getting on as well as could be expected but
I think a wife would be of no incumbrance to one or both with
a fieu shillings, if there is one of that kind please send her
to me by Robert. I dont want her too smart for she might out
general me and perceve my weakness and not be so afec-
tionate in case I should spend the money. Please excuse my
scribling by writing me, and my respects to Mary &c. I will
write to Robert soon.
God bless and protect you are the wishes of a friend
Wm. L. Sublette
This is the only Newyear’s Gift I have to present you, as small
and uninteresting as it may be. My fruit trees have not yet
come to hand.
Mr. Hugh Campbell
Care of Gill, Campbell & Co.,

10 The Bank of the State of Missouri was chartered by act of the
legislature, February 2, 1837. The legislators elected John Brady Smith,
president, and Hugh O’Neil, Edward Walsh, S. S. Rayburn, Edward
Dobyns, William L. Sublette, and John O’Fallon, directors.

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