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Thanksgiving's Early Roots Trace Back To Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - It's Thanksgiving and our thoughts turn to pilgrims, turkeys and Pittsburgh.

Why Pittsburgh?

"In 1758, General Forbes marched in with young George Washington and found the smoldering ruins of Fort Duquesne. And they named the place Pittsburgh. That's why Pittsburgh has an 'H' on the end of it and General Forbes said, 'We need a day of Thanksgiving,'" Heinz History Center President and CEO Andy Masich said.

Why a day of thanks?

"Thanksgiving for surviving the march across Pennsylvania, fighting the French and their Indian allies," Masich said.

And for ousting the French, who burned their fort and ran away.

So, what was on the dinner menu?

"They still had some salt pork and hard tack. They supplemented that diet with game and perhaps some turkeys and other waterfowl," Masich said.

Gathered at the table on that Nov. 26 were a wide array of people.

"Scottish Highlanders and British soldiers. There were their Indian allies among the Seneca, the Hurons, and, of course, there were the Virginians who came with Washington," Masich said.

While different regions had harvest festivals, this Thanksgiving stuck in the mind of the young colonel who would become America's first president.

"When Washington became president, he proclaimed a day of general Thanksgiving in 1789. He used the very same day that General Forbes had used in Pittsburgh - Nov. 26," Masich said.

Later, presidents followed Washington's Pittsburgh example until Congress formalized Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday of November in 1941.

No matter how you and your family celebrate Thanksgiving today, it's kind of cool to think one of the first Thanksgivings was held right here in Pittsburgh and led the way to the national celebration of this holiday.

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