November 22, 2007
Comtemporary Accounts of the 1621 Thanksgiving at Plimmoth
There are only two contemporary accounts of the 1621 Thanksgiving: First is Edward Winslow's account, which he wrote in a letter dated December 12, 1621. The complete letter was first published in 1622, and is chapter 6 of Mourt's Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth (see related post on Plimmoth Plantation source materials).
Our corn [i.e. wheat] did prove well, and God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn, and our barley indifferent good, but our peas not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sown. They came up very well, and blossomed, but the sun parched them in the blossom. Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.
The second description was written about twenty years after the fact by William Bradford in his History of Plymouth Plantation (see related post on Plimmoth Plantation source materials). Bradford's History was rediscovered in 1854 after having been taken by British looters during the Revolutionary War. Its discovery prompted a greater American interest in the history of the Pilgrims, which eventually led to Lincoln's decision to make Thanksgiving a holiday. It is also in this account that the Thanksgiving turkey tradition is founded.
They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercising in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports.
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Tracked on Nov 22, 2007 5:07:25 PM
This is a better source. http://www.13moon.com/Resources-articles-thanksgiving.htm
Posted by: Pastor Ezekiel | Nov 22, 2007 11:38:08 PM
Hmmm... I wonder where this narrative came from:
"...Faced with starvation, the colonists unanimously agreed to eat the Indians. For the next six months, they ate the Patuxets, the Narragansetts, and the Erectorsets almost to extinction. They justified their hideous crime by convincing themselves that the savages posed an imminent threat, and had arrows of mass destruction."
Perhaps their research is flawed?
Posted by: heldmyw | Nov 22, 2007 5:10:37 PM
Interesting, there was a religious thanksgiving for a safe year at the Berkley Plantation in Virginia in 1619 two years earlier.
I guess because they did not have turkey no one remembers it or just want to ignore it.
Posted by: Geoduck | Nov 22, 2007 4:24:29 PM
Thanks for this; very interesting. For obvious reasons I was wondering this morning about what the first Thanksgiving was like.
Posted by: Al | Nov 23, 2006 9:02:40 AM