Hiram Perry's

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Hiram Perry's

Subject: Old Thanksgiving truth. . .
Date: Fri, 17 Nov 100 00:55:57 GMT

Soon the old Thanksgiving story will be told again and again. But here is a major problem. .the first Thanksgiving was not held at Plymouth like so much history, that part of the Thanksgiving story is false.

This country's first Thanksgiving was held in Jamestown, Virginia more than a decade before the Plymouth Colony even left England. It was a religious ceremony observed a year (about) after these Colonists landed on their own "Plymouth Rock", a point of land known today as Cape Henry, on the Virginia coast.

These Virginia colonists had a lot to be thankful for. In 1609 they had numbered 490 people. After a dreadful winter, only 60 people were alive. Nine years later, on December 14, 1619, Thanksgiving services became a regular celebration. On that date a handful of settlers at Berkeley Hundred on the James River, formerly called their celebration Thanksgiving and voted to hold this celebration each year thereafter. By contrast, it is known that the Plymouth Colony did not have any decree or plan for annual Thanksgiving festivals. .accounts of a gleeful Thanksgiving at Plymouth.

I am something of a student of the Plymouth Colony and the only account of the first Thanksgiving was written by Colonist Edward Winslow on December 11, 1621 to a friend in England. I quote: " Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent 4 men on fowling, so that we might, after a more special manner, rejoice together after we had gotten those fruits of our labors. They 4 in one day killed as much fowl as with a little help beside several the company a week. At which time amongst the recreations we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us and an angst their greatest king, Massasoit, with some men whom for three days we entertained and feasted. And they went out and killed deer which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our Governor and upon the Captain and others."

This, of course, is a literal copy of Edward Winslow's letter and as you can see, what was than the 'King's English'. One of the great 20th century historians has been Samuel Eliot Morrison. He wrote (rather edited) an amazing account of the Plymouth Colony entitled "Of Plymouth Plantation". As close as it could possibly be, this book is a copy of William Bradford's writings on the Plymouth Colony, It is a word for word copy. For years Bradford was the Plymouth Colony's Governor.

About the period preceding this Thanksgiving with the indians. Bradford speaks only of the Colonists catching plenty of fish. "all the summer there was no want. As winter approached, of which this place did abound. And besides water fowl, there was a great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many besides venison, etc. Besides they has a peck of meal a week per person or more such harvest, Indian corn in that proportion".Some of Bradford's writing is a bit difficult to read, but this is a faithful copy of his 'Kings English'.

Massasoit along with Squanto were friendly Indians. Both spoke English to one degree or another. Squanto, it seems had been taken as a slave to Europe and by some means or other, gotten back to this country.

Bidwell, in his agricultural history of New Englandm calls Squanto and Massasoit the first agricultural advisors in this country. They knew how to plant and establish a stand of corn - one of the reasons the Plymouth Colony had such a success with their first planting of corn. They, as Bradford writes, had 'a peck of meal per person each week'. That, along with wild turkeys venison and fish, made mighty good eating in 'those days'.

And it may be an error to believe that in the next two centuries, Thanksgiving was celebrated with any great regularity, as though it is observed from time to time here and in Virginia.

In the middle 1800s, New England clergymen enraged southerners when they used Thanksgiving Day as a time to deliver abolitionist sermons. This so irritated one Virginia governor that he wrote. "Thanksgiving has aided other causes and made psssible the preaching of Christian politics".

Today's annual Thanksgiving was decreed by Abraham Lincoln. It may have been one of the few things the North and South could agree on at the time.

Hiram Perry 6 Miles Road, Newburgh, Maine 04444