In early Dayton, Thanksgiving was based around family

By Ruby McFarland

Why, it's the climax of the year.

The highest time of living.

Till naturally its bursting cheer.

Just melts into Thanksgiving!

- Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)

This is the time of year when most families get together to celebrate the wonderful bounty we Americans are fortunate enough to embrace. There are those folks less fortunate that should be taken in to share our good fortune. Families who don't see each other the rest of the year do try to get together for Thanksgiving.

I like to tell about how the holidays were spent according to Emma Nevada Loftus, a prolific diarist who lived in Dayton in the early 1900s.

The Barton and Loftus families always spent the day with family and friends. There wasn't a year that Emma didn't report how Thanksgiving Day was spent and the food that was shared. Emma bought her turkey from Joe Ricci for the most part.

The Ricci family raised turkeys in quantities for the holidays in the early days of Dayton. Grace Ricci has photos of large flocks of the birds her mother-in-law raised. You can see a photo at the kiosk on Main Street in Dayton.

The folks in Dayton didn't seem to suffer too much during the depression years because everyone raised a garden and had a few animals they raised for food. Those who didn't have gardens didn't do without because folks shared with each other. Emma always shared her pies and cakes with the single men and her neighbors when she baked.

She made pies for Thanksgiving dinners hosted by the Bartons. Emma would remark in her diary about how lucky she was to have such a good son and daughter-in-law who shared Thanksgiving dinner with her.

The Hankammer children who had lived with the Bartons would come back to Dayton to share Thanksgiving with all of their family. Bob Hankammer, the patriarch, lived with the Bartons from time to time, but always came to Thanksgiving dinner.

When Tom Allingham married Wilma "Sparky" Hankammer and had their own family, they too would come back to Dayton to spend Thanksgiving. Ursula and Don Cadwallader tried to make it for the holidays, but lived too far away to come often.

Emma always noted how good the dinner was and hoped that they could all be together the next year. She mourned the loss of good friends and family through the years but she enjoyed the pleasures of being with family during the holidays.

I can relate to that.

The Dayton Museum is located on Shady Lane and Logan Alley in Old Town Dayton, and is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays. Check the Web site: Group tours are available. Call 246-5543, 246-0462 or 246-0441.

The Historical Society of Dayton Valley meets at noon on the third Wednesday of the month at the Dayton Valley Community Center. Visitors welcome.

• Ruby McFarland has lived in Dayton since October 1987, she serves as a board member of the Dayton historical society and a docent at the museum.


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