Most Dedhamites will be spending this Thanksgiving sharing a meal with friends and family or watching a football game on TV. Two centuries ago, Thanksgiving was celebrated with different traditions, such as the annual “Turkey Shoot.” The shoot of 1822 is described by resident Herman Mann in his diary:
“A number of the marksmen of this village met this morning with their rifles for the purpose of recreation as well as improving themselves in gunnery. It was agreed to fire upon sides; and two of the reputed best gunners were designated to choose. Twenty-six dead turkeys had been procured by the Company and every man was to fire ten shots. The turkeys hit were to be retained and divided among the party who won them. A piece of ground was selected and the turkeys set off about 30 rods. There were nine gunners upon each side and the turkeys were all hit before five rounds were completed. Pieces of paper were then substituted and placed on a plank at the same distance. The party that hit the least number of marks were to defray the supper expenses of their opponents.”
In later years, the dead turkeys were replaced by clay pigeons. In 1895, the most successful shooter of the day was a woman named Miskay, who, according to the Boston Globe, won the first turkey shot for while competing against 12 others of “the sterner sex.”
Happy Thanksgiving to all from Dedham Tales!