History

Celebrating America

There are stories of the first Thanksgiving, known then as the Celebration of Harvest that we grew up with and what they teach in school. When I found out just recently that I did have an ancestor that actually came over on the Mayflower I was thrilled even though I know it wasn’t like we were taught (Familysearch.org)

After a 66-day voyage, the Mayflower arrived in New England on November 11, 1620. The Pilgrims had originally intended to settle near the Hudson River in New York, but the ship was forced to seek shelter at Cape Cod. It was late in the year and traveled around Cape Cod had been too difficult, so they decided not to sail on but to remain in Cape Cod Bay in New England.

Most of the adult men on ship signed a document known today as the Mayflower Compact that laid the foundation for the communities’ government (My ancestor being one of those signers).

After several weeks of the most able men searching for a suitable place to settle, they found what appeared to be an abandoned Wampanoag Indian community. Everything about the site made the area a favorable place to settle; that is, a plentiful water supply, good harbor, cleared fields with a location on a hill.

Although we were taught that the Pilgrims and Native Americans became friends they really were not, the Pilgrims mistreated the Native Americans and even stole their food.

The “First Thanksgiving” was the celebration of harvest in 1621 that lasted 3 days. There were 90 Wampanoag Natives and 53 Pilgrims.

In fact, others say the true origin of Thanksgiving was when the Massachusetts Colony governor John Winthrop declared a day to celebrate colonial soldiers who just slaughtered hundreds of Pequot people in what is now Mystic, Connecticut.

There were only 4 married woman, 5 adolescent girls, 9 adolescent boys, 13 young children and 22 men in attendance to this 1621 Thanksgiving with about 90 Native Americans.

Although Turkey was not the main dish served it was there for turkeys were plentiful but also quails, pigeons and partridges and different kinds of waterfowls. There were fish, beavers, and otters as well as nuts of sorts, plums and other fruits and a variety of flowers, roots, and herbs. The Native American brought deer to the feast. Let us not forget oysters, lobsters, and eels.

The next celebration did not happen again for the next decade.

Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving as a national holiday on October 3, 1863 with 17 years of prompting by Sarah Josepha Hale, the woman that wrote the child’s rhyme “Mary had a Little Lamb”

Nobody wants to think that the Puritans “Pilgrims” were bad people because after all, they left England for freedom to worship as they pleased because they were a Godly people. Little did anyone know that they would harm our Natives, steal their land, and slaughter innocent people for their own wealth. I do not know if my ancestor was a bad person, he died in the prime of his life in 1628, of what could have been a long illness but during his life he was a prominent person, a good person, and an essential part of the settling of our Pilgrim ancestors.

Here are some pictures of the Dioramas made by Danette, that depicts the first Thanksgiving Harvest.

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