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1910 Thanksgiving was marked by faith, tragedy, outdoor sports

Published November 20. 2010 09:00AM


A century ago, the president of the United States was actually encouraging people to "assemble in churches to give expressions to the their thanks" about Thanksgiving.

Even the media outlets, especially smaller publications such as the Tamaqua Courier, had no trouble expressing their beliefs to readers. The Courier even used its front page item to deliver President Taft's message, and add some personal commentary of its own on the true meaning of the day.

"When the president issues a proclamation, loyal citizens hear and heed," the local writer stated. "The day is set apart to be a holy day, not a jolly day, and the call is to the church, not the place of amusement. Thanksgiving is the day's first duty - feasting and rejoicing may well go with Thanksgiving, but to 'eat, drink and be merry' without remembering that every good and every perfect gift cometh from God and demands our thanks, is to turn a Christian holiday into a pagan festival."

He then closed with this commentary:

"Let the people of Schuylkill County - people of all races and all creeds - show themselves, one and all, good Americans as well as grateful children of a Heavenly Father, by obeying President Taft's call to the church for Thanksgiving."

Just a few days earlier, newspaper readers learned just how fragile life is with the death of a well-known Lansford carpenter. Frank Dresibach, 55, was returning from work when he was struck by an automobile and killed instantly on the Lansford hill between the No. 9 breaker and Centre Street.

The automobile, owned by Bert's Garage in Reading, was driven by George Althouse, who apparently did not have his lights on when the early-evening accident occurred. Coroner Bray from Jim Thorpe and an investigating panel quickly determined the death to be accidental.

Another tragic and unexpected death occurred in the sand house at the same colliery on Thanksgiving Day. Tilghman Shoemaker, described as a "wayfarer," had crawled into the sand house to spend the night. He curled himself up on a pile of sand close to a stove in the room which was "burning brightly."

During the night, he rolled off the bank of sand against the red-hot stove and his clothes caught fire.

"While in 'a stupor' from the cold and possibly drink he was incinerated without getting awake," the reporter stated.

A workman found the charred body the next morning.

Another tragedy just before Thanksgiving involved an 8-year-old prankster named William Burchard, a Pottsville boy who reportedly "was having great fun ringing door bells."

After being startled in his home, George Burke, 18, rushed out of the house with a broom handle.

"With great force he brought the stick down on the youngster's head and the boy fell unconscious on the pavement," the writer said. The boy suffered a brain concussion.

Hunting and football, two activities still popular today, were also part of the seasonal holiday fare in 1910.

Young Curtin Eltringham of Tamaqua was able to provide plenty of meat for the Thanksgiving table when he brought down a 225-pound buck. He and his father John were members of a local hunting party that traveled to Centre County. The deer head was taken to taxidermist Lewis Aurand for mounting.

Another animal brought to Aurand for mounting that season also created a buzz throughout the area. While hunting in the Hometown area, Lamont (Greenie) Perrine killed a large catamount which was, many suspected, the one raiding properties in the Rush Township area for months.

"The cat is the largest that has ever been seen in this section of the country and at first glance looks like a tiger," the Courier stated. "This is undoubtedly the animal which has caused the farmers in that section considerable worry of late by killing off their fowl and pigs."

Residents of Lehigh Street in Tamaqua wondered if this was the same cat that had been raiding their chicken coops during the summer. A young daughter of Tilghman Boyer reportedly fainted from fright after the animal "jumped over her head" and back into the woods during one of the chicken coop raids by the cat.

Although the tradition of watching football on television was still a half century away for most people, Tamaqua fans were treated to some live football at the YMCA Park on Thanksgiving afternoon. The local squad played a strong Jackson team from Mahanoy City to a scoreless tie in what one writer called "one of the roughest football games seen in town in many years."

Crowd control was a problem at the game.

"One of the most unpleasant features was the crowding over the sidelines of the spectators," the Courier reporter stated. "Frequently the players were hemmed in by a solid mass of humanity and could not get off any of their fancy runs."

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