We all will certainly remember 2020 as “one for the books,” and by no way in a positive sense. Most of us have probably endured more significant hardship this year than we ordinarily have in years previous. Few would have foreseen our present difficulties at this point last year. Few can honestly say when this challenging time will end. With this in mind, a traditional holiday like Thanksgiving takes on heightened significance. It gives us a chance to pause, to reflect, and perhaps to enjoy more acutely than ever, not only those traditions that mark the years but, more importantly, the gatherings that provide meaning to our lives. In that spirit, reprinted here is an article that appeared in the Bethel column of The Newtown Bee on Friday, November 29, 1896. It is reproduced in its original form with all of its anachronistic grammar and spellings just as it was presented to readers 124 years ago. Despite its age, the piece is timeless and equally meaningful today as it was in its own time. Its message acts as a voice from our communal past.  It reminds us that even in difficult times such as these, the mere fact that we are alive should be enough to illustrate that we still need to be more appreciative of what we have and less critical about what we have been compelled to sacrifice. And that after all, Thanksgiving is for giving thanks.

“It made a blaze that shone brightly, warming the front room.” An image of the large fireplace found in the James Taylor Hoyt House located at 16 Taylor Avenue as it looked in 2001.


THANKSGIVING MEMORIES - The Newtown Bee - Friday, November 29, 1896


A week hence comes Thanksgiving day, an old-fashioned New England custom of children and grandchildren coming home to the old homestead, a reunion of the family. To the young the day long remembered as being one of the happiest days of their lives. How often we think of the old Colonial house, one roof slanting back down within the reach of a tall boy. The best room is heated up for the occasion, not with our modern stoves but a fire burns on the hearth or fireplace in the great stone chimney. A large stick of hard wood was used as a back log and the old fashioned hand irons with brass tops stood in front and was piled high with great sticks of dry wood that sent the sparks flying upward. It made a blaze that shone brightly, warming the front room.These rooms were furnished with a rag carpet and the big arm chair and ol Boston rocker with a few stiff back flag seats and the old fiddle back style so common in early days. Here was also a large cherry table, brass candle sticks with snuffers and tray, tallow dips or candles which were lighted while the fire was in use. Matches were not invented until later on. Early on Thanksgiving day morning we were up bright and early to split oven wood which must be dry for use. The big oven must be heated until the bricks became just the right color and then with the long handle peel the coals are removed and ashes swept out and then tilled with pans of pudding and a great turkey, spare-rib and a big hunk of beef. Then the great iron door closed for an hour or more. Pies and doughnuts were always prepared one day before. In those days people talked of hard times the same as to-day. Very little money was in circulation. Our father worked hard to raise corn and fat a few hogs and perhaps a beef. We lived on corn meal pudding and milk or molasses, with buckwheat cakes in their season. We wore a cloth that was made of wool filling and cotton warp. When threadbare it was white and too conspicuous for our pride. Shoes of cow hide and stockings knit from wool that was spun into thread by our mothers, who worked night and day for our comfort. And we were thankful that we had as good as our neighbors, just what we are all striving for at the present time. The poor and the unfortunate were all remembered. The poor and unfortunate are with us this year, which must not be forgotten. Let us be contented and thankful for what we have and also be thankful that we live in a land of plenty and a nation at peace with the rest of the world. Let us thank the Giver of All Good Gifts on Thanksgiving day.

“How often we think of the old Colonial house, one roof slanting back down within the reach of a tall boy.” A 1936 photograph of the historic Benedict House, a saltbox style home located at 35 Hawleyville Road in Bethel. (Photo courtesy of the Bethel Historical Society)

“With a few stiff back flag seats and the old fiddle back style so common in early days.” Two early American chairs with rush or flag seats and fiddle backs, rear splats carved in shapes that resembled violins.

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