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Historically Speaking: Thanksgiving, and being thankful

Photo Courtesy of the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Archives The information on the photo reads, "Glen and Juanita Campbell, Wedding Day 12-20-1948."

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

By Janice Dunnahoo

Special to the Daily


It’s hard to believe, this year has gone by so fast and we’ve rolled around to the holidays again. It seems as though Thanksgiving is a lot of people’s favorite holiday, because after all, all you do is eat, and watch football. Besides cooking, doing the dishes, and putting away leftovers, there’s no muss, no fuss, and no decorating or cleaning up wrapping paper and boxes. Our Thanksgiving holidays of today are a bit different than they were at the turn of the century. First, I want to share a couple of stories written by Glenn Linville Campbell and his wife Juanita Betty Lou Holloway Campbell, who have given me permission to share their works. Lastly, a 1964 article from the Roswell Daily Record about Thanksgivings here, at the turn of the century.

I’m including these stories, only to show the contrast, and that we can be thankful for the ease of our lives today.

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“Papa Used Wit To Save Water

“After being gone from New Mexico for several years, living in Oklahoma and Texas, we moved back to New Mexico. Papa bought a house and one-half section of land five miles southeast of Kenna, New Mexico. It was known as the Jim Clubb place after a former owner. We were living there but still owned the old homestead several miles farther south.

“Papa decided to take Raymond, my older brother, and I, and do some work on the old place. We loaded the wagon with what we would need, tools, bed rolls, groceries, cooking utensils, and water. Water was always in short supply in that country.

“After camping the night at the old homestead, we were up early fixing breakfast, campfire going, coffee boiling, when Guy Howell, a rancher, and two of his cowboys, rode up to camp. They got off their horses, passing the time of day and eyeing that coffee pot. In this country you don’t turn anybody away from your camp, or a cup of coffee, but as I said before, water was precious, and in short supply. Papa was mixing dough for bread. He looked at Raymond and I and said, “You boys can wash your hands and face, but don’t get the water too dirty, we got to use it to make gravy.” Mr. Howell and his boys then said they had cattle to round up and didn’t have time for a cup of coffee. Papa used wit to save water!



“Our Old Stove

“In this day and age we hardly ever think about where our heating and cooling comes from. We just set the thermostat, and turn it on for instant heating or cooling. Recently, I read a book called “Shacham,” written by Emily Etsy, describing the old black cookstove her family used for cooking and heating on their farm in Upstate New York in the early 1900s. While reading, I could visualize our old stove and two others we had before it.

“I don’t know where daddy bought the stove to put in our house over in the hills, but we were glad to have it, especially in the winter time. It was black with a solid metal back extending up to a two door warming oven, above four holes in the stove cooking top. The doors on the warming oven opened down and were trimmed with white porcelain. The fire box on the left was rather small and narrow and had the two large holes on top, and two smaller holes were over the oven. We had to lift the lids, over those holes, with the lid lifter — handle — to place wood inside.

“The firebox had a narrow opening on the side to slide to adjust the airflow. The oven door was trimmed with white porcelain and had two racks and could hold a large turkey. On the right side of the oven was located a large water tank which we kept filled, so we could have hot water for cooking, dishwashing, bathing, etc.

“About twice a year, we rubbed the stove with blacking, which kept it from rusting and kept it looking shiny and new. My husband Glen told me his family made their blacking from hog lard and soot from inside the stove pipe. I think ours came in a can and we applied it with an old sock.

“During the summer we use the kerosene stove, a lightweight thing with a glass fuel tank on the left end and it had two burners. The oven was a metal box with the rack inside and could be laid over a burner for baking. The kerosene smelled awful and I didn’t trust that stove, as I expected it to collapse, or get knocked over.

“The cookstove we had at Mosier’s oil lease before moving to the hills, was green and cream colored and had four gas burners on the right and the top oven on the left, with four slender legs and no storage space. We thought we were really up town with that nice stove. It may have been sold when we moved, as was the electric wringer washer. We could not use them in the hills. These stoves would all be antiques now, and probably worth lots of money. I’m just glad I don’t have to use them anymore!

“Juanita Betty Lou Holloway Campbell”

Following is a copy of an article by Flora Whitman Miller of Roswell talking about Thanksgiving and what it meant to her, in a story published in the Nov. 25, 1964, issue of the Roswell Daily Record.

“‘Thanksgiving in Roswell’

“Thanksgiving in the year 1900 was not so different than from today. The dinners were bigger and we served more people, sometimes two dozen. The people were pretty much the same.

“Roswell in 1900 had five grocery stores. Food was much cheaper. Milk was 12 quarts for a dollar. We usually bought our turkeys from nearby farmers but an order could be placed with the butcher at the meat market.

Families dressed well for dinner, but differently than today. Women donned long dresses with high top shoes. The men dressed in suits usually of a dark color and fastened their shirts with collar buttons in front and back to hold detachable collars. Vests were an essential part of the man’s outfit.

The turkey and dressing were prepared in potbellied coal and wood-burning stoves. Water was brought into the home from one of the many flowing artesian wells.

“A favorite dessert was plum pudding, but of course we also had pumpkin pie and fruit cake.

“On Thanksgiving afternoon, the family would hitch up the horse and buggy — the first car did not come to this area until 1902 — and journey into the dirt streets to the homes of friends. Frequently there would be a reception in someone’s home, or we would just visit.

“So we see that 81 years ago, one of the most pleasant activities on Thanksgiving day was that of visiting one another. This makes for a strong, peaceful, and safe, community.

“Today, our lifestyles are different because of modern conveniences — let us be thankful for these also.

“But we must not forget how we need each other. Most of all, we must not forget the God of Heaven who gives us life. His guidelines for the most successful living are still found in his holy Scriptures.

“Here in Roswell, there are approximately 90 congregations who meet in their church every Sunday and Saturday. At least five of these congregations on Saturday.

“I, being a member of the Seventh-Day Adventist faith, and one who meets on Saturday, but I am as interested in helping preserve your liberty to worship on Sunday as you should be, to help me preserve my liberty to worship on Saturday.

“Religious freedom is one blessing we Americans should be thankful for on this Thanksgiving day. It is an important factor that keeps America strong.

Let us remember the words of the poet Philip B. Lord. Here is the last stanza of his poem:

‘Your Church & Mine’

You go to your church, and I’ll go to mine.

But let’s walk along together;

Our heavenly father loves us all,

So let’s walk along together.

The Lord will be at my church today,

but he’ll be at your church also;

You go to your church, and I’ll go to mine

But let’s walk along together!

Janice Dunnahoo is chief archivist at the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Archives. She can be reached at 575-622-1176 or at jdunna@hotmail.com.

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