Early Thanksgiving in Greenwich

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I decided to research what Thanksgiving was like when the Town was first founded.  As you know, Greenwich was founded in 1640, twenty years after Plymouth Colony (1620).  We've all heard strories about the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth.  They had a huge feast and invited the Native Americans to join them.  So I thought the same would have happened here.  I couldn't find any information on a similar feast here in Greenwich.  This might not be as strange as you may first think. 

Mead notes in "Ye Historie of Ye Town of Greenwich" that our settlers had left the Massachusetts Bay Colony to escape the rigors of Puritanism.  Perhaps they rejected the customs or traditions observed in Plymouth. Maybe they wanted to start their own tradtions.  Mead also noted that Greenwich was considered a wild and lawless town.  People did pretty much what they wanted.

Looking back at the 1640 time period, one thing that really sticks out is the deteriorating relations with the Native Americans.  Captain Patrick and Robert Feake had purchased land in what is now Old Greenwich for 24 fur coats. (Some reports say the natives were never paid in full!)  Maybe the Native Americans meant to share the land and not give it entirely away.  There were reports of the English using liquor to get them drunk so they could cheat them from their property.  Once the Indians figured out the trickery, they retaliated.  In 1642, Cornelius Labden was killed by the local Indians, and the next year Captain Patrick killed sachem (chief) Mayn Mianos. The worst incident happened in 1644 when Captain John Underhill led 130 Dutch and English in a massacre at an Indian settlement at Strickland Plains.  It was reported that 800 to 1,000 Native Americans were killed near Cos Cob.   Eventually, most of eastern Connecticut and southeastern Massachusetts would be involved in King Phillips War.  There was definite tension between the Colonists and the Native Americans.

Local newspapers started in 1877, so there are no newspaper accounts of early Thanksgiving celebrations.  However, Mrs. A. C. Lowitz, wife of the president of the Historical Society, gave an interview to the Greenwich Time on what an early Thanksgiving feast could have contained.  It was published on November 24, 1965. In the seventeenth century, women would start preparing several days before the celebration.  Residents relied heavily on home-grown foods.  A favorite was Dutch Oven "Pye".  This could be made from woodcock, grouse, partridge or chickens.  Wild turkey might be served with oyster stuffing.  Baked lobster was no doubt on the menu due to our proximity to Long Island Sound.  Roasted meat or fowl might be served with homemade bread. (The Bush Holley House had a great fireplace and beehive oven for baking.)  Pumpkin fritters (similar to hush puppies) would be served, as well as turnips and carrots glazed with maple syrup or honey.  Indian pudding was served for dessert. 

thanksgiving.jpg

Expanding on this thought, I believe local residents would feast on their home-grown agricultural products including apples, pears, peaches, potatoes, vegetables, poultry, sheep, pigs and dairy products.  Dumplings were popular (Dumpling Pond?) as well as shellfish such as oysters, clams and mussels. 

I would like to add that, since Greenwich was located on the main Post Road to Boston, travellers might enjoy a Thanksgiving meal at one of the many taverns in town.  And once Greenwich became a summer resort of sorts during the 1800s, they might choose to spend the holidays in town.  Ferry service probably brought people and supplies in for Thanksgiving.  Stores on Greenwich Avenue would stock up on dry goods in anticipation of the holiday.  Since churches were the main social centers for outlying villages such as Stanwich,  Round Hill and Banksville, people might share their Thanksgiving dinners there.  Specific ethnic groups (Italians, Polish, Dutch) might bring their own traditions to the community.

Today, many residents observe Thanksgiving in a different way.  Family members travel great distances to share a meal.  Some attend church services.  The Greenwich High School football game has become a Thanksgiving tradition.  Stamford has been holding a parade (usually the Sunday before) for over 20 years now.  Various groups volunteer at soup kitchens or donate food for the less fortunate.  Others have invited people, who would otherwise be alone, to share their Thanksgiving meal.  Until recently, local churches  held a Union (Ecumenical) Service. 

My family had our own tradtioins.  We would go to the local high school football game, then come home and watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Dad would carve the turkey.   One of us would take a turn saying grace.  During dessert, we would each name something we were thankful for.  Dad and I would play chess after the meal.  Someone would call long distance to relatives that couldn't be with us.  And the wishbone was removed so it could dry and be pulled in a few days.

Whatever your personal family Thanksgiving traditions, may you and your family have many blessings in life.  And may you end up with the longest part of the wishbone!

Have a Joyous and Happy Thanksgiving!


SOURCE

The Greenwich Time


 

 

Civic - Minded William E. Hall

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Many important and influential people have made Greenwich their home over the years. This is no doubt due to the proximity of New York City as well as our beautiful countryside.  One of these people was lawyer and business executive William Edwin Hall.

Mr. Hall was born in St. Mary's, Pennsylvania, on March 25, 1878.  His father was involved in a number of industries including lumber, coal, natural gas, public utilities and banking.  He attended Haverford and Lawrenceville schools preparing for college.  In 1900,  he received a PhD from Yale, and in 1903,  a LLB from Harvard.  After college, he was a member of several law firms.  A former Justice of the Supreme Court, the Honorable Martin L. Stover, was a senior partner at one firm.  William became  head of the Hall, Cunningham and Haywood law firm in New York City.

William Hall served on a number of corporate boards including the Trojan Powder Company, the Duriron Company, St Mary's National Bank, Speer Carbon Company, International Graphite and Electrode Company, Greenwich Trust and a host of others. No doubt his legal expertise was invaluable, and he was held in great esteem. When the war broke out in 1914, he served on the Commission for Relief in Belgium under Herbert Hoover.

Mr. Hall devoted a good part of his life to helping underpriveleged boys.  He became president of the Boys Clubs of America in 1916.  This included 350 clubs in 200 cities.  The clubs provided gymnasiums, vocational classes and libraries.  Dues were only a few cents a month.  He served as vice-president of the Crime Prevention Bureau of New York City from 1928 to 1933.  This group worked to prevent boys from becoming juvenile delinquents.  In 1928 he became a trustee for the Children's Aid Society.   

Hall received many honors for his efforts.  Harvard University presented him with an honorary degree in 1936.  That same year, he received a Gold Medal from the National Institute of Social Sciences.  The CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) awarded him the Medal of Champions. (By the way, he was an Episcopalian and a warden of Christ Church).  The Boy Scouts of America gave him the Silver Buffalo medal for his focus on improving the lives of young boys. Mayor LaGuardia presented him with the Boys' Exposition Gold Medal on behalf of his efforts. He also served on many professional boards such as the National Institute of Science, the Yale Club and the Greenwich Community Chest.  Locally he was a member of the Field Club, Round Hill Club and Boys Club.

Use Me Hall.jpg

William E. Hall died on January 25, 1961 in Palm Beach, Florida.  He used his station in life to help improve the lives of those less fortunate than him.  His efforts no doubt changed the lives of many young men.

Greenwich has had many residents, who have been active in community service.  That's one thing that makes this a special community.  Thank you to Mr. Hall, and all the other residents, who work for the benefit of all.


SOURCE

Who's Who In Greenwich, Greenwich Time; 9/21/1942.

Historical Happenings

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Lecture: First World War
Wednesday - Nov 5 - 7 PM
Cole Auditorium - Greenwich Library

 
Judge James E. Baker will talk about the First World War
as part of the Historical Society's Distinguished Author
series.  Free.  Call (203) 869-6899 for more info.

 


Your German Ancestors
Saturday - November 15 - 10:30 AM
Cos Cob Library


Joseph Lieby will talk about researching your German
Ancestors.  Refreshments.  Free.

 


Vitally Vital Records
Saturday - November 22 - 10:30 AM
Cos Cob Library

 
Ms. Toni McKeen will tell you how to use vital records
to research your ancestors.  Refreshments.  Free.

 

The United Nations Controversy

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Last time, I wrote about the controversy involving the building of a World Headquarters for Xerox on King Street. This occured back in the 1970s.  However, there was another, bigger controversy that went back to 1946.  That was the controversy involving the creation of a site for the relatively new United Nations headquarters.

During December 1945 and January 1946, several newspapers announced that a United Nations Site Committee was looking at land in northwest Greenwich for a permanent home.  More specifically, the Greenwich-Stamford-North Castle area was being targeted.  Chairman Dr. Stoyan Gavrilovic of Yugoslavia was going to fly to London to report that the committee was recommending this general area as a preferred building site.


UN map792.jpg


PROPOSED SITE OF UN IN GREENWICH

SOURCE: ORAL HISTORY PROJECT

This revelation stunned the community, which had no idea that these plans were in the works.  One of the people, who lived in northwest Greenwich and would be affected by this project, was John L. Gray.  He was a lawyer and partner in a law firm with Wilkie Bushby.  Gray immediately contacted Bushby, and they organized a protest meeting to be held at the Country Day School.  The group originally adopted the name the "Committee for Preservation of the Community of Greenwich", but eventually changed its name to the Greenwich People's Committee.  The meeting held on January 31 attracted 250 people.  Bushby was elected chairman.  He and Gray wrote a letter to Dr. Gavrilovic explaining that building the site would seriously disturb the rural nature of Greenwich.  The meeting voted to approve the letter.  A petiton was also circulated.  By February 2, 930 people had signed the petition.  Another 400 would later add their signatures.

A committee was formed to lead the opposition which included Wilkie Bushby, John Gray, Amedee Cole, Jack Paton and Henry Kilburn.  They worked 7-nights a week in addition to working their regular day jobs.  By calling, writing and talking to individuals, the committee was able to raise $29,000 for operating (legal) fees.  Greenwich Library's Marie Cole and others volunteered to handle the clerical work.

As luck would have it, a Town Meeting was scheduled for February 5 in the Greenwich High School auditorium.  The committee asked the group to take up the UN issue.  Although the room could hold up to 1,000 people, the venue was overcrowded!  The meeting agreed to discuss the UN problem.  A resolution was proposed to oppose any site in or adjacent to Greenwich.  The bill was amended to provide for a referendum. The bill passed easily. Even the three Town Selectman were unanmimously opposed to a Greenwich site. The results were cabled to the President of the UN in London, the Secretary General, the UN Site Committee, American representatives to the UN, the Connecticut Secretary of State, the Governor of Connecticut and our Congressmen.  Believe it or not, none of these parties replied!

On February 7th, an engineering report on Banksville, North Greenwich, Long Ridge and North Castle was completed.  This area was determined to have a favorable climate, was easily accessible to New York City for cultural events, and offered fine beaches along Long Island Sound.  It was also close to Westchester Airport.  This area was the favorite choice.  The site would be called the "Free City of the United Nations".  A new railroad spur line would be built to run along Lake Avenue to Banksville.  A four-lane highway was proposed, and a large sewage facility would have to be built .  The effluent would be discharged into the Mianus and Byram Rivers, as well as Horseneck Creek.  A residential and business section was planned, and an auditorium would be built for 5,000 people.  Other facilities included a hotel for 3,000 people, central heating and power plants, parking lots, churches, schools, hospital, sanitation and health departments, fire and police facilities and some residences!  A plan was put forth that suggested local residences could lease their homes to UN personnel.  The jewel of the project would be a 12-story administration building which would be designed like the Pentagon.  It would house some 50,000 people.  The site would mimic a moderate-sized city!

UN Man793.jpg

CURRENT LOCATION OF UN ON EAST SIDE OF NYC

SOURCE: GOOGLE

The original date for the referendum turned out to be George Washington's Birthday.  Since the committee leaders were afraid a lot of people would be out of town due to the holiday, the vote was rescheduled for Saturday, March 2.  Three polling places were open for 6 hours (as opposed to the usual 12).  It was a rainy day, which sometimes limits the turn out.  Nonetheless, about 7,500 voters turned out.  Seventy-three percent (or 5,505) voted against the site selection.  The general consensus was that people felt the site would change the character of the town.  A statement was issued shortly after the vote which indicated that the people didn't want the site in Greenwich, but that the people did support world peace and believed in the purpose of the organization.

There were a few people, however, who were in favor of the UN locating its site in Greenwich.  One was the First Selectman of Stamford, who no doubt saw a business advantage for his city.  Some real estate people saw increased sales as a plus.  Surprisingly, the church community was rather mute on the subject.

On March 6th and 7th, members of the Greenwich and Stamford committees met with Dr. Gavrilovic to report on the referendum.  They clarified their position, stressed their support for the UN and refuted the claim that they opposed peace.  The success of the UN was not dependent on location, they stated.  Furthermore, the site should be located so as not to disturb any sizable community of homeowners. 

On July 10, 1946, it was announced that the UN Site Committee was looking at alternate sites in Monroe, Ridgefield, Amawalk and Peekskill.  Greenwich residents heaved a collectivesigh of relief!  They thought they had dodged a bullet.  Then in October of that year, a Stamford group tried to get the UN to reconsider and build in the Greenwich; but the UN must have made up its mind because shortly after they voted to locate in Manhattan.  John D. Rockefeller donated land on the East Side - the site of its present location.

UN aerial799.jpg

AERIAL PHOTO OF UNITED NATIONS COMPLEX IN MANHATTAN

SOURCE:  GOOGLE

On December 24th, the Greenwich People's Committee refunded 30% of the $29,000 it had raised to fight the plan.  This was a very pleasant Christmas present for many Greenwich residents!  With its work being completed, the committee disbanded.  It had achieved its goal of preserving Greenwich's rural character.

Some people played Devil's Advocate after the dust settled.  What would have happened if concerned citizens hadn't taken an interest and formed a committee?  Would the UN now be located in northwest Greenwich?  Would there be railroad lines and major highways passing through Greenwich?  Would Greenwich become part of a great metropolis?  Or would the UN not have moved here due to the great expense?  We'll never know.  One thing's for sure: the action of concerned citizens in town played an important role in the outcome. 

SOURCE

The United Nations Site Controversy: Gray, J.L.; Greenwich Library Oral History Project, 1976.


Historical Happenings

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ASCH Conference: Work and Working People in Connecticut
Saturday - November 1 - 8:30 AM - 3:30 PM
Capitol Community College

This Association for the Study of Connecticut History conference will cover the working life of residents in various industries.  More information at:

http://asch-cthistory.org/contact2  or e-mail info@ASCH-cthistory.org


Story Barn:  Victory
Friday - October 17 - 6:30 PM
Greenwich Historical Society

As part of the Greenwich Reads Together program, several speakers will
talk about their experiences based on the concept of victory.
Call 203-869-6899 for more information.

 


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