The Rev. Samuel Adair led Osawatomie’s first community Thanksgiving observation in the Old Stone Church on Nov. 28, 1861, During the Civil War, following President Abraham Lincoln’s establishment of Thanksgiving in September 1861.

The Osawatomie Graphic reported in its Nov. 30, 1911, issue that “In Osawatomie, a small handful of patriotic and devout citizens numbering nineteen in all, came together in the Congregational or ‘Old Stone’ Church, under the leadership of Rev. S.L. Adair, who preached the sermon of Thanksgiving. He took for his text the 106th Psalm, the 1st and 2nd verses ‘Praise ye the Lord, O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good for his mercy endureth forever. Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord? Who can show forth all his praise?’”

The Osawatomie Graphic pointed out that Thanksgiving had been observed before in Osawatomie due to the New England origins of many of Osawatomie’s founders.

The paper reported, “This was not Rev. Adair’s first Thanksgiving sermon in this town, but it was the first observance of the day as a national affair. The custom had come down from the New England states and as Osawatomie had been settled mostly by New Englanders and northern people, the celebration of Thanksgiving was not a novelty with them.”

Attendees at the first official community Thanksgiving Observation included many of the pioneers who built Osawatomie, among them being Mr. and Mrs. C.H. Crane, Mr. and Mrs. O.C. Brown, Mr. and Mrs. Morgan Chronkhite, Mr. and Mrs. Jas Carruth and their daughter, Lucy, Mrs. H.H. Williams and her Mother Sara Carr, Mr. and Mrs. Orson Day, Mr. and Mrs. George Rising, Mr. and Mrs. C.W, Holm, and their two sons, and Reverend Samuel Adair, Florella Adair, along with Charles and Emma Adair, and Miss Kate Kinter.

Osawatomie’s pioneers were largely a deeply spiritual and patriotic group of individuals, and when they gathered to observe Thanksgiving on Nov. 28, 1861, the Civil War was raging, and some of the congregants had family members who were in uniform and in harms way during the first official community observation of Thanksgiving.

The families of service members in 1861 shared the feelings of sadness that the loved ones of service men and women have today in the present war when they are separated from their families on holidays.

Rev. Samuel Adair gathered the community together to give thanks to God for the many blessings, one of them being the brave soldiers who had marched off to defend their country. Today, as families gather together to observe Thanksgiving, let us all hold the men and women who are serving their country in our hearts and prayers and give them the support and respect that they deserve, for we are a free nation because of their courage.

Grady Atwater is site administrator of the John Brown Museum and State Historic Site.

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