Thanksgiving Story in One Minute: Pilgrims, Squanto, Feast

The Pilgrims were a group of dedicated Christians who lived in a town called Scrooby in Nottinghamshire, England. This group included William Bradford, the future governor of Plymouth and William Brewster, a church leader. They wanted to worship their God according to the history of the church going back to the Apostle’s teaching in the first century. The Church of England was more traditional and required conformity to their order of worship. After struggling with conformity to the State’s idea of worship, this small group decided to “separate” from England. First. they moved to the Dutch Netherlands and settled in Leyden. They had religious freedom, but struggled with finding good work and were concerned about their children losing their language and nationality. They decided to adventure to the new world and contracted with a 43 year old English merchant named Thomas Weston- financed by the Council of New England. Their first ship, the Speedwell was leaky and they had to turn back. The second ship, the Mayflower, was 3 times larger with 102 passengers, but they got a late start. On a 65 day voyage 4 died before arriving to Plymouth. By the next summer, 50 more would be dead. On Monday, November 21, 1620, a shallop full of men would arrive somewhere between Captain’s Hill and The Rock to explore while the Mayflower remained moored in Provincetown Harbor. The men (Planters) on board had contracted to work for 7 years (with the Adventurers) for their passage. The first native to greet the Pilgrims was an Abenaki Sagamore named Samoset. He surprised the Pilgrims when he arrived in their village and began speaking broken English to them. Samoset learned to speak English from British fishermen up near what is now Maine. He went back to the tribe he was visiting and told Squanto that there were some nice people living where his tribe used to be, but they were doing everything wrong in planting their crops .(It is estimated that Squanto was born about 1580 near Plymouth, Massachusetts. In 1614, he was kidnapped by an English explorer named Thomas Hunt who brought him to Spain where he was sold into slavery. Squanto escaped and eventually returned to North America-having learned English along the way. Sadly, Paxtuxet, the place of Squanto’s tribe, had been wiped out by a plague about 4 years before he arrived back home.) The Pilgrims had settled there. Samoset was visiting the Wampanoag Chieftain Massasoit at the time of the first meeting. On March 16,1621, Samoset entered the encampment at Plymouth, greeted the colonists in English and asked for some beer. After spending the night with the Pilgrims, he left to return with the five others, who brought deerskins to trade. Since it was Sunday, they did not want to do business on the Sabbath day, but offered food to them and were hospitable. On March 22, 1621, Samoset brought back Squanto. Squanto would stay with the Pilgrims and would be their interpreter . He was considered a “special instrument of God”. He showed them how to grow corn so that it would be fruitful. He guided them to unknown places and never left them until his death. He told them how to use fish to replenish the exhausted soil. He showed them the brook that was full of fish in April and how to live off the land that he knew so well. In his last days, Squanto fell ill of Indian fever and asked the governor to pray for him that he might go to the Englishmen’s God in heaven. According to sources, the first Thanksgiving, in the Fall of 1621, included waterfowl, wild turkeys, fish, venison, and possibly some of the following items. The Pilgrim’s gardens were probably filled with cabbages, artichokes, carrots, cucumbers, collards, parsnips, turnips, beets, onions garlic, radishes, lettuce and spinach. They would grow seasoning herbs like sage, thyme, parsley, marjoram, and fennel. Both the natives and Pilgrim women grew beans and squashes like pumpkins. Cranberries, Concord grapes, and nuts like walnuts and chestnuts may have been on the menu as well. They also grew and dried blueberries and currants. There was much to celebrate that first full harvest season. It is believed that because munitions were fired to celebrate, that natives showed up too, and the celebration and unity continued between them. Peace would exist between the Wampanoag and Pilgrims for 24 years.

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