From 1879, a Thanksgiving tale of eating (urp!) people

It occured to me to wonder how our pioneer forefathers celebrated Thanksgiving, so I took advantage of the digital newspaper database to look up the Nov. 26 edition of the Ogden Junction, one of this fine paper’s predecessors.

Not a peep did I find. Thanksgiving wasn’t that big a deal in pre-Norman Rockwell days.

There was one story, however, a pickup from the Carthage (NY) Republican, which by coincidence is the newspaper of the town in which Joseph Smith was killed. It is entitled “A remarkable story of cannibalism” and I reproduce it herewith for your dining pleasure:

In 1869 Charles L. Smith left Carthage, having received the appointment of American Consul to Russia, with his residence ina  coty on the Amoor River in Siberia. He left in the summer, accompanied by his wife, whom he left with relatives in Chicago.

Arriving in San Francisco he learned that the last of the trading boats had left for the season. Being anxious to reach his destination, as he intende dengaging in the fur business, he took passage on a ship bound for Hong Kong, China, where he hoped to engage passage and reach his destination quicker than by waiting for the return of the traders.

Arriving at Hong Kong he became acquainted with a member of a New York firm, who offered him a chance to engage in business. He would not engage then, but pushed on as fast as possible to his destination, where he arrived in the spring of 1870. He remained several mothsn, and not being suited with the business or the country, returned to Hong Kong and accepted the offer before made to him.

Five men, including Smith, went on a trading expedition into the interior of the southern part of China, where they were successful, amassing large fortunes.

They returned to the coast on th eir homeward journey and engaged a Chinese junk to take them back to Hong Kong. When far out from the mainland the crew of the junk mutinied, robbed their passengers, and placed them on a desert island, with neither food nor drink. It was not long before starvation stared them in the face. For several days they had subsisted on a few berries they found on the island. Those were gone and no ship had come to the rescue.

When at last they could stand hunger and thirst no longer, they cast lots to see who should die. The lot fell on Smith, who before being put to death, requested that his companions should not let his wife know of the manner of his death if they were fortunate enough to return to America.

He was then put to death and eaten by his companions. A short time thereafter the men were rescued by a passing ship and came to America, to New York, where they reported Smith dead, none at the time but the members of the firm knowing the manner of his death. Two years ago a gentleman, who had been in correspondence with Smith during his lifetime, called on the New York firm and demanded the particulars. At first they refused, but afterwards decided to tell hi, provided he would keep it from Mrs. Smith. The promise has been kept. Mrs. Smith died in Chicago about two weeks ago, ignorant of the manner of her husband’s death. The story comes to us direct, and from such good authority that we are forced to believe it.

It is interesting that this story comes from the town in which Joseph Smith was killed, and the main character is also named Smith and also killed. Coincidence? Oh, absolutely!

But, seriosly, tell me, if newspapers still ran stuff like this, do you think they’d be having the circulation troubles we have today?

This entry was posted in Blogging the Rambler. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to From 1879, a Thanksgiving tale of eating (urp!) people

  1. “if newspapers still ran stuff like this, do you think they’d be having the circulation troubles we have today?”

    Only if they ran a full-page ad for Hufurkey

  2. Doug Thompson says:

    Joseph Smith was killed in Carthage, Illinois, land of Lincoln, Obama, Blago and Burris.

  3. Neal Humphrey says:

    Mark Twain wrote a hilarious short story titled “Cannibalism in the Cars.” The setting was a St. Louis to Chicago train stranded in a blizzard. They selected their, uh, meals by strictly following parliamentary procedure.

  4. Charles Trentelman says:

    Keeping with that theme, the only poem ever rejected by Punch magazine for being “too cannibalistic” is also my favorite.

    Makes you wonder what was enough:

    The Yarn of the ‘Nancy Bell’
    by W.S. Gilbert

    ‘Twas on the shores that round our coast
    From Deal to Ramsgate span,
    That I found alone on a piece of stone
    An elderly naval man.

    His hair was weedy, his beard was long,
    And weedy and long was he,
    And I heard this wight on the shore recite,
    In a singular minor key:

    “Oh, I am a cook and a captain bold,
    And the mate of the Nancy brig,
    And a bo’sun tight, and a midshipmite,
    And the crew of the captain’s gig.”

    And he shook his fists and he tore his hair,
    Till I really felt afraid,
    For I couldn’t help thinking the man had been drinking,
    And so I simply said:

    “O, elderly man, it’s little I know
    Of the duties of men of the sea,
    But I’ll eat my hand if I understand
    How ever you can be

    “At once a cook, and a captain bold,
    And the mate of the Nancy brig,
    And a bo’sun tight, and a midshipmite,
    And the crew of the captain’s gig.”

    Then he gave a hitch to his trousers, which
    Is a trick all seamen larn,
    And having got rid of a thumping quid,
    He spun this painful yarn:

    “‘Twas in the good ship Nancy Bell
    That we sailed the Indian sea,
    And there on a reef we come to grief,
    Which has often occurred to me.

    “And pretty nigh all o’ the crew was drowned
    (There was seventy-seven o’ soul),
    And only ten of the Nancy’s men
    Said ‘Here!’ to the muster-roll.

    “There was me and the cook and the captain bold,
    And the mate of the Nancy brig
    And the bo’sun tight, and a midshipmite,
    And the crew of the captain’s gig.

    “For a month we’d neither wittles nor drink,
    Till a-hungry we did feel,
    So we drawed a lot, and accordin’ shot
    The captain for our meal.

    “The next lot fell to the Nancy’s mate,
    And a delicate dish he made;
    Then our appetite with the midshipmite
    We seven survivors stayed.

    “And then we murdered the bo’sun tight,
    And he much resembled pig,
    Then we wittled free, did the cook and me,
    On the crew of the captain’s gig.

    “Then only the cook and me was left,
    And the delicate question, ‘Which
    Of us two goes to the kettle?’ arose
    And we argued it out as sich.

    “For I loved that cook as a brother, I did,
    And the cook he worshipped me;
    But we’d both be blowed if we’d either be stowed
    In the other chap’s hold, you see.

    “‘I’ll be eat if you dines off me,’ says Tom,
    ‘Yes, that,’ says I, ‘you’ll be,’ –
    ‘I’m boiled if I die, my friend,’ quoth I,
    And ‘Exactly so,’ quoth he.

    “Says he, ‘Dear James, to murder me
    Were a foolish thing to do,
    For don’t you see that you can’t cook me,
    While I can — and will — cook you!’

    “So he boils the water, and takes the salt
    And the pepper in portions true
    (Which he never forgot) and some chopped shalot,
    And some sage and parsley too.

    “‘Come here,’ says he, with a proper pride,
    Which his smiling features tell,
    ‘ ‘Twill soothing be if I let you see,
    How extremely nice you’ll smell.’

    “And he stirred it round and round and round,
    And he sniffed at the foaming froth;
    When I ups with his heels, and smothers his squeals
    In the scum of the boiling broth.

    “And I eat that cook in a week or less,
    And — as I eating be
    The last of his chops, why, I almost drops,
    For a wessel in sight I see!

    “And I never grin, and I never smile,
    And I never larf nor play,
    But I sit and croak, and a single joke
    I have — which is to say:

    “Oh, I am a cook and a captain bold,
    And the mate of the Nancy brig,
    And a bo’sun tight, and a midshipmite,
    And the crew of the captain’s gig!”

  5. Michael Trujillo says:

    If I’d drawn the short straw, as Smith did, I would have vociferously demanded “How about the best 2 out of 3?”

  6. sandyshoes says:

    Sorry, but I had to do a double take on the Carthage, Il comment. His name isn’t Howard, but he almost seems to have placed the blame on Joseph Smith’s death on Obama. I just couldn’t figure out how this turned political so fast.

  7. ctrentelman says:

    illinois is the home to many people, some jerks, some not. I am positive that that is all that writer meant. After all, Utah was home to both Brigham Young AND several serial killers and financial fraud artists — surely nobody would confuse them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>