Arkansas Governor Thomas Drew

In October of 1847, Arkansas’ third governor, Gov. Thomas Drew, issued Arkansas’ very first Thanksgiving proclamation.

The proclamation set aside Thursday, December 9, 1847, as a day of thanksgiving.

In his proclamation, Gov. Drew highlighted the many blessings Arkansas had enjoyed—including Arkansas’ great people, abundant crops, prosperity, and good health.

He concluded by calling on Arkansans to thank God for these blessings.

Below is a copy of Gov. Drew’s proclamation.

Whereas, an all wise and merciful Providence has dispensed blessings of the most bountiful and diversified character among the people of this state, in the abundance of the various agricultural crops, the universal prosperity of our people and their unexampled good health, it is deemed worthy of a greatful people to make public manifestation of their sense of the renewed obligations under which we have been placed, by the appointment of a day of general THANKSGIVING throughout the state.

Be it known, therefore, that I, Thomas S. Drew, Governor of the State of Arkansas, have appointed Thursday, the 9th day of December next as a day of THANKSGIVING, which is hereby proclaimed and recommended to the good of people in every county and town in the state as a fit day and proper time to acquit ourselves, each and every one, of a high and praiseworthy duty to the Bountiful and Merciful Providence.

Given under my hand at Little Rock and to which is affixed the Great Seal of the State of Arkansas, this 12th day of October, 1847, and the Independence of the United States the seventy-second year.

By the Governor,
Thomas S. Drew

Gov. Drew’s proclamation is significant, because it came at a time when Thanksgiving was not formally recognized by Congress or the President. It was up to each state to decide whether or not to recognize Thanksgiving.

Of course, here’s the million dollar question everyone always asks when we talk about that first Thanksgiving: What did Arkansans eat?

I’m a little sorry to say it wasn’t turkey or cherry pie.

The Department of Arkansas Heritage writes that families likely ate “bacon, fresh beef, mutton, fresh pork, veal and geese. Butter, eggs, cheese and honey were abundant, and potatoes, onions, beets, apples and turnips were sold by the bushel.”

Because states like Arkansas recognized Thanksgiving year after year, the federal government eventually made it an official holiday for the entire nation.

It’s good to know Arkansas played a part in the history of one of the most important holidays that our country observes all year.