Historical Accounts of the Pilgrims' First Thanksgiving
At length, autumn being far advanced, and their first summer’s harvest of Indian corn being gathered in, they fitted their houses, and made their arrangements against the coming winter. And now, while some were employed in service abroad, and some in fishing, to furnish for each family a goodly supply, others again were engaged in hunting, procuring, among other game, water fowl, wild turkey, and venison. Of meal, or Indian corn, one peck a week for each person was the apportioned supply. Of other meal, or wheat, they had none; nor had they any mill for grinding; therefore their corn must be pounded or mashed by their own hands. Yet even this supply, being deemed sufficient for the present colonists, caused some of them to write home to their friends, in England, in more glowing terms than was prudent or warrantable. The effect was, that these descriptions of plenty induced subsequent emigrants to come without bringing with them their needful stores.
The provision for the little colony being secured for the ensuing winter, their governor set apart a day for public thanksgiving. Accordingly, with the fruits of their labors, the thankful feast was prepared, that all might in a special manner rejoice together, under a grateful sense of their tokens of divine mercy. It was their first thanksgiving or harvest festival in the New World. And we may well conjecture what were the feelings, and what the theme of the Elder, as, assembled in their “Common House,” he led the devotions of these worshipers, and spoke to them with words befitting the occasion.
The occasion was likewise improved, as a fit time, to interest and favorably influence the neighboring Indians. “Among other recreations,” says Winslow, “we exercised our arms; many of the Indians coming amongst us, and with them came their greatest King, Massasoit, accompanied by some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted. They also went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation, and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And though 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 wish our friends partakers with us.”
This we are brought to the conclusion of the first year’s trials, hardships, and sufferings of the pilgrim company, with the loss of life, and the temporary relief.
Source: Ashbel Steele, Chief of the Pilgrims: Or the Life and Time of William Brewster (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co, 1857), pp. 269-270.
We set the last Spring some twenty Acres of Indian corn, and sowed some six acres of Barley & Peas, and according to the manner of the Indians, we manured our ground with Herins or rahter Shadds, which we have in great abundance, and take with great ease at our doors. Our Corn did prove well & 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 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.
… E[dward] W[inslow]
Plymouth, in New-England, this 11th of Decmeber, 1621.
Source: Mourt's Relation or Journal of the Plantation at Plymouth, Henry Martyn Dexter, editor (Boston: Jim Kimball Wiggin, 1865; reprint of 1622 original), pp. 132-133.
We have observed toward the close of Chapter III of the Second Book, that the Pilgrims at Plymouth rejoiced in an abundance of food in the autumn of 1621, the first year of their settlement. Thereby their hearts were filled with gratitude, and after the fruits of their labors had all been gathered, the governor sent out huntsmen to bring in supplies for a general and common thanksgiving. That was the first celebration of the great New England festival of Thanksgiving, now annually held in almost every State and Territory of the Union in the month of November. Great quantities of wild turkeys and deer were gathered at Plymouth, and for three days the Pilgrims indulged in rejoicing, firing of guns and feasting – entertaining, at the same time, King Massasoit and ninety of his dusky followers, who contributed five deer to the banquets. Seven substantial houses had been built during the summer; the inhabitants were in good health; a few emigrants from England had come in a second ship, and there were happy homes in the wilderness the ensuing winter.
Source: Benson Lossing, Our Country. A Household History of the United States (New York: Johnson, Wilson & Co., 1875), p. 372.