The First Thanksgiving
Edward Winslow, who was a passenger on the Mayflower and a leader among the first settlers, attended the first Thanksgiving. He provided the earliest contemporaneous account of the feast in correspondence commonly referred to as “A Letter from New England to a Friend,” dated Dec. 11, 1621. The letter was published in the historic “Mourt’s Relation,” which chronicled the landing of the Pilgrims and their early interaction with the native Indians. The feast in 1621 was prompted by an abundant harvest, which Winslow notes. The sentiments Winslow expresses at the end of this excerpt are just as relevant today as they were 40 years ago.
“We set the last spring some twenty acres of Indian corn, and sowed some six acres of barley and peas, and according to the manner of the Indians, we manured our ground with herrings or rather shads, which we have in great abundance, and take with great ease at our doors. Our corn 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 have 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 [guns], 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.”