Show Notes: Over The River

You can listen to the LIVE stream here.

One town in American hugely influenced our winter holidays.  Two self educated women led the efforts to make Thanksgiving a prominent holiday.  From Medford to Bedford Falls, these are some fascinating origin stories.

Over The River Lyrics

In my mind Mark Twain would sound like this southern gentleman, so I created a narration of Over The River with his voice.


Over the river and through the woods,
To grandmother’s house we go;
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh,
Through (the) white and drifted snow!

Over the river and through the woods,
Oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes and bites the nose,
As over the ground we go.

Over the river and through the woods,
To have a first-rate play;
Oh, hear the bells ring, “Ting-a-ling-ling!”
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!

Over the river and through the woods,
Trot fast, my dapple gray!
Spring over the ground,
Like a hunting hound!
For this is Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river and through the woods,
And straight through the barnyard gate.
We seem to go extremely slow
It is so hard to wait!

Over the river and through the woods,
Now Grandmother’s cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

Mark Twain on Thanksgiving, 1881

Mark Twain’s birthday November 30th.  On the occasion that that Thanksgiving fell on the last Thursday of month being the 30th, his birthday celebration was delayed.

Many Thanksgiving I Grew Up Driving By Fitch’s Bridge

Originally built in 1870.

Origins:  Thanksgiving As A National Holiday

Give thanks to Sarah Josepha Buelle Hale

Hale was a self educated woman who campaigned for years to make Thanksgiving a national holiday.  The day of celebration moved several times, and was even celebrated in April to honor the closure of the War of 1812.  Hale was a prolific writer, having published novels, edited and published magazines and children’s poetry.  Hale wrote Mary Had A Little Lamb. 

But Hale’s efforts went far beyond writing, and focused on promoting American culture.  She was among the leaders of a group of American editors who insisted on publishing American writers.   At the time, most magazines and literature was published in England and imported to American.  Hale wanted Americans to be represented.   In practical terms, this meant that she sometimes personally wrote half of the material published in the Ladies’ Magazine.  With respect to the preservation of American history, Hale also worked to preserve George Washington’s Mount Vernon plantation, as a symbol of patriotism that both the Northern and Southern United States could all support.  Hale raised $30,000 in Boston for the completion of the Bunker Hill Monument.  When construction stalled, Hale asked her readers to donate a dollar each and also organized a week-long craft fair at Quincy Market.  Hale was also for emancipation of the slaves and supported relocation to Liberia.

Her efforts to make Thanksgiving a national holiday was not an overnight success, as she had to petition several presidents with letter campaigns to achieve those ends.  Those presidents were Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, and Abraham Lincoln.  Lincoln in 1863 declared the final Thursday of November the official day of Thanksgiving.

Origins:  Over The River and Through The Woods

Over the River and Through the Wood: 7 Fun Facts

Written by Lydia Maria Child, it was set to music by an unknown musician. Child went to publish a children’s magazine with great distribution but lost popularity when she wrote to end slavery with no compensation to the slave owners book called Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans in 1833.

Prior to writing Over the River she gained fame in 1824 for writing a historical novel, Hobomok, A Tale of Early Times. The book dealt with a Salem, Mass., girl who marries an Indian, divorces and remarries an Episcopalian — controversial themes for the time. An article in the North American Review inspired her to write it, her first novel, which she finished in six weeks.

When Lydia Maria Child was 13, for example, President James Madison declared April 13, 1815 a day of national Thanksgiving for the end of the War of 1812. Not until Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving the last Thursday of November in 1863 did the date become fixed — and national.

Origins:  Medford MA Inspired TWO Holiday Songs


Mystic River is NOT an English name, it is originally “Mistick” from the Pawtucket Tribe.  Many of the Indians were stricken with infectious disease such as small pox that the Europeans brought with them from the Old World.  The Tarrantine tribe was the only indigenous group to not succumb to these diseases.  Sadly the Tarrantine were the most warlike, and waged campaigns on the other tribes when numbers were reduced.

Medford overlooks Bunker Hill, and is one of the founding centers of the Abolition movement.  Ironically Medford is where slaves for the colony were housed in a building called Tuft’s house owned by one of the founders of Harvard University.

Famous People Connected With Medford
  • Paul Revere road through Medford on his famous ride
  • Isaac Royall, one of the founders of Harvard
  • George Luther Stearns, abolitionist, founder of the Nation magazine with Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Fannie Farmer author of Fannie Farmer’s Cook Book
  • James Plimpton, inventor of roller skates in 1863
  • Amelia Earhart lived in Medford while working as a social worker
  • Elizabeth Short, The Black Dahlia.  She was the actress murdered in Hollywood
  • Michael Bloomberg, billionaire and former NYC mayor
  • NHL players Shawn Bates, Keith Tkachuk, Mike Morrison, David Sacco, and Joe Sacco.

Is The Name Bedford Falls Derived From Medford?

It’s A Wonderful Life was depicted in a New England town called Bedford Falls.  Fairly similar sounding names.

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