November 21, 2012
The First Thanksgiving: Primary Sources
Our knowledge of the first Thanksgiving rests on shaky grounds. We have two accounts, which may be of the original holiday
In a letter to a friend, dated December 1621, Edward Winslow wrote: "Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a more 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, among other Recreations, we exercised our Arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest King Massasoit, with some 90 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."
The following is from Governor Bradford:
"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 exercised 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."
NOTE : The Mayflower arrived in Plymouth in December of 1620. No further ships arrived in Plymouth until immediately after that "First Thanksgiving" - the Fortune arrived in November of 1621. One of the passengers on the Fortune, William Hilton, wrote a letter home that November. Although he was not present at that "First Thanksgiving," he does mention turkeys. Click HERE for William Hilton's letter.
These sources appear on the Pilgrim Hall Museum website.
November 21, 2012 | Permalink