The Raynham Hall Museum in Oyster Bay is displaying from its collection the journal of 18th century Oyster Bay schoolmaster Zachariah Weekes.
On November 25, 1759, Weekes wrote in his journal, "Last Thursday, being a day set apart by our Governor for publick Thanksgiving."
"This is the very earliest mention of Thanksgiving in the colony of New York," said Claire Bellerjeau, a historian at the museum who made the discovery.
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Bellerjeau has since found other references to Thanksgiving in New York in late November 1759, including in a newspaper ad seeking a runaway slave.
The ad with the headline, "Crown-Point Run-away" stated, "In the afternoon of Thursday, the 22nd of November (the Day appointed for publick Thanksgiving) went away from the Sugar Houfe next the New Dutch Church, a Negro Man lately imported from Africa, named Crown Point."
Bellerjeau discovered a proclamation of Thanksgiving in Connecticut as far back as 1723.
Bellerjeau found that each colony celebrated Thanksgiving separately, but it was mostly done around the same time -- on a Thursday in late November. She said on those days, people were not to work but were to hold gatherings, and, in many cases, religious ceremonies.
The country moved toward a national celebration of Thanksgiving with proclamations by George Washington in 1789 and then by Abraham Lincoln in 1863.
Bellerjeau said in many ways, our modern celebration of Thanksgiving is similar to the way it has been celebrated for centuries.
"I think everyone in their own way at our Thanksgivings has a moment of reflection of expressing what they have in their life that's important to them and how thankful they are for those things," Bellerjeau said.
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