[Found here. Click on the image for the secret bonus feature.]
In the early years of this country’s formation, Thanksgiving was celebrated intermittently as a time of a bountiful harvest, an insurance policy against winter starvation, and thanks were given to God. It wasn’t until 1863 that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.
Have a great Holiday, and I hope that the children and grandchildren still fight over the wishbone. –Bunk
In other words, “How the Hell did THIS happen?
In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.
There were several observations of Thanksgiving. Those who observed them thanked Providence that they survived the previous year and reaped a bounty crop large enough to hold them through the coming Winter – with some to share.
May we remember and revere the true purpose and intent of Thanksgiving.
[Image and quote from here.]
Although it’s not exactly a Thanksgiving story, it’s still appropriate in a way. It’s a vocal recording of my father’s half-brother as transcribed by his daughter. (All typos are mine).
Old Jimmy Stephens was born about 1765 or 1766, sometime along in there. Whether he was the only child or not I don’t know, but he and his family were living in South Carolina at the time of the Revolutionary War. South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina were pretty strongly Tory during the Revolutionary War and the Stephens family was pretty strongly Whig, which is anti-King [of England].
One day, a band of Tories stopped by the Stephens house and demanded the mother cook dinner. I suppose there must have been about twelve in this detail, all mounted, of course, and the mother started in and cooked a big dinner for these Tories. After they had eaten and satisfied themselves, they decided to leave, one of them said, “Let’s take this boy with us,” and that was my great, great, grandfather Jimmy Stephens, he was about twelve years old.
Well, they grabbed him to take him along.
His mother then grabbed him [Jimmy] and begged them not to take the boy away. One of the men picked up a rolling pin and knocked her down with it. Then, to intimidate the boy, they punched him in the breast with a horse pistol. The barrel of an old horse pistol like that was pretty thin around the muzzle due to the wear of the ramrod. Anyway, these Tories cut his breast up and he carried these scars to his grave.
The Tories took him with them and he, being a pretty smart boy, decided to get into the good graces of these Tories and watch for his chance to get away. To that end, he picked out the best and the fastest horse in the whole group. They made him feed, curry, water the horses, carry wood, etc., and finally they took him for granted. They never paid much attention to him, and one evening, after the men had a hard march and were just a little bit drunk, he left the watering of the horses until the last thing. When the time came, he mounted the fastest horse, drove all the rest of them away, and left this Tory band afoot. He made his way back to his home and they weren’t bothered anymore by the Tories.
I have often wondered if his father or any other men folks, his older brothers, were away at the Battle of Kings Mountain at this time; it would be interesting to find out.
When the Stephens family was still living in South Carolina, it’s unclear whether the person was Jimmy Stephens or not, but they were working at the edge of a clearing and heard their mother scream. The man looked around and saw an Indian up at the house. All he had was his axe, he let out and ran for the house. When he got up there, the Indian never moved, just looked at him and held out a bucket and pointed to the cow, so they gave him some milk and he [the Indian] left.
The sites of several old Cherokee towns can still be seen down around Ellijay, Georgia, on the creek bottom, and there is one old Cherokee townhouse there, though the timbers have fallen in. My friend, Lawrence Stanley, told me that the Indians would build a town and they would live in it until it got so dirty they couldn’t stand it, and then they would move on.
My grandfather told me that they started fires with flint and steel, he showed me one time how to do this. He took his pocket knife and with an arrowhead I had given him, struck fire with it. He told me when he was a boy, he used a flintlock rifle and about going barefoot in the winter time, and about not having any kind of a Christmas. Now all this was during the civil war when people almost starved to death in that part of the country.
Also, I want to insert something else: my grandfather used to tell about having to go out in the woods, chop down trees, cut up the wood, and chop the knots out of the planks. They had a box that they set by the fireplace, and when they wanted more light from the fireplace, they would throw a pine knot in. I suppose the same thing was done at my grandfather Stephens house, and all the other people, in that day and time.
[Family lore, transcribed by Barbara D. from audio tapes made by her father.]
Norman Rockwell approves.
It amazes me to think that in September 1620, 102 people were so fed up with the English monarchy that they were willing to risk a dangerous late-season voyage across the Atlantic (that lasted over two months at sea) to a new land to establish a free colony.
Disease, scurvy, starvation and weather exposure took their toll, and half of them died before the following spring. In March of 1621, the survivors sought to establish Plymouth Rock, ventured ashore, and met an escaped British slave named Squanto who spoke English.
His first words to William Bradford were:
“Dude. This is a swamp. You f’d up. Y’all gonna die an’ stuff.”
Bradford replied, “Bro, WTF?”
“Here. Plant some of this, but put a fish under it.”
“Dude, no way.”
“Way. Just do it.”
“K. By the way, we got a plow.”
“Get out. You got a what? What you need a plow on a boat for?”
“We got one. You got an ox?”
“Ordered one on Amazon, but he ain’t showed up yet. They walk slow.”
“Cool. We’re gonna pop some pheasant for supper. Y’all wanna come?”
“Hell yeah. We’ll bag some Bambi and see you about 4.”
And the rest is history.
Have a great holiday, folks, and never forget the Reason for Thanksgiving.
[Image from here.]
“When I was 5 years old, my mom always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy.’ They told me I didn’t understand the assignment and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
Quoted from here. It’s one of my favorites, especially on a modern-day rarity when family and friends get together to share their blessings and to reminisce about what was and what could have been, and then, to discuss what might be. Keep your children happy always, but never depend on someone else to teach them. –Bunk
“Our harvest being gotten in, our governour sent foure men on fowling, that so we might after a speciall manner rejoyce together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labours ; they foure in one day killed as much fowle, as with a little helpe beside, served the Company almost a weeke, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Armes, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoyt, with some ninetie men, whom for three dayes we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deere, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governour, and upon the Captaine and others. And although it be not always so plentifull, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so farre from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plentie.”
Edward Winslow, Mourt’s Relation.
“They begane now to gather in ye small harvest they had, and to fitte up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health & strenght, and had all things in good plenty; fFor as some were thus imployed in affairs abroad, others were excersised in fishing, aboute codd, & bass, & other fish, of which yey tooke good store, of which every family had their portion. All ye somer ther was no want. And now begane to come in store of foule, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besids water foule, ther was great store of wild Turkies, of which they tooke many, besids venison, &c. Besids, they had about a peck a meale a weeke to a person, or now since harvest, Indean corn to yt proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largly of their plenty hear to their freinds in England, which were not fained, but true reports.”
William Bradford, Of Plimoth Plantation.
In Of Plymouth Plantation, William Bradford lists the Mayflower passengers and also tells us who died during the first winter of 1620/1621 and spring of 1621. No other ships arrived in Plymouth until after the “First Thanksgiving” celebration. The  Pilgrims at the “First Thanksgiving” are all the Mayflower survivors.
The following is a letter written by one Edward Winslow in 1621. It was included in “A Relation or Journal of the Beginning and Proceedings of the English Plantation Settled at Plimoth in New England, by certaine English Adventurers both Merchants and others,” referred to by scholars as Mourt’s Relation. While Winslow authored most of the book, George Mourt/Morton is presumed to be the London Publisher of the tome. ____________________________________________
A LETTER SENT FROM
New England to a friend in these parts, setting forth a brief and true Declaration of the worth of that Plantation; As also certain useful Directions for such as intend a VOYAGE into those Parts.
Loving, and old Friend,
Although I received no letter from you by this ship, yet forasmuch as I know you expect the performance of my promise, which was, to write unto you truly and faithfully of all things, I have therefore at this time sent unto you accordingly. Referring you for further satisfaction to our more large relations.
You shall understand, that in this little time, that a few of us have been here, we have built seven dwelling-houses, and four for the use of the plantation, and have made preparation for divers others. 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, 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.
We have found the Indians very faithful in their covenant of peace with us; very loving and ready to pleasure us; we often go to them, and they come to us; some of us have been fifty miles by land in the country with them, the occasions and relations whereof you shall understand by our general and more full declaration of such things as are worth the noting, yea, it has pleased God so to possess the Indians with a fear of us, and love unto us, that not only the greatest king amongst them, called Massasoit, but also all the princes and peoples round about us, have either made suit unto us, or been glad of any occasion to make peace with us, so that seven of them at once have sent their messengers to us to that end. Yea, an Isle at sea, which we never saw, hath also, together with the former, yielded willingly to be under the protection, and subjects to our sovereign lord King James, so that there is now great peace amongst the Indians themselves, which was not formerly, neither would have been but for us; and we for our parts walk as peaceably and safely in the wood as in the highways in England. We entertain them familiarly in our houses, and they as friendly bestowing their venison on us. They are a people without any religion or knowledge of God, yet very trusty, quick of apprehension, ripe-witted, just. The men and women go naked, only a skin about their middles.
For the temper of the air, here it agreeth well with that in England, and if there be any difference at all, this is somewhat hotter in summer, some think it to be colder in winter, but I cannot out of experience so say; the air is very clear and not foggy, as hath been reported. I never in my life remember a more seasonable year than we have here enjoyed; and if we have once but kine, horses, and sheep, I make no question but men might live as contented here as in any part of the world. For fish and fowl, we have great abundance; fresh cod in the summer is but coarse meat with us; our bay is full of lobsters all the summer and affordeth variety of other fish; in September we can take a hogshead of eels in a night, with small labor, and can dig them out of their beds all the winter; we have mussels and othus at our doors: oysters we have none near, but we can have them brought by the Indians when we will; all the spring-time the earth sendeth forth naturally very good sallet herbs: here are grapes, white and red, and very sweet and strong also. Strawberries, gooseberries, raspas, etc. Plums of three sorts, with black and red, being almost as good as a damson: abundance of roses, white, red, and damask; single, but very sweet indeed. The country wanteth only industrious men to employ, for it would grieve your hearts (if as I) you had seen so many miles together by goodly rivers uninhabited, and withal, to consider those parts of the world wherein you live to be even greatly burdened with abundance of people. These things I thought good to let you understand, being the truth of things as near as I could experimentally take knowledge of, and that you might on our behalf give God thanks who hath dealt so favorably with us.
Our supply of men from you came the ninth of November 1621, putting in at Cape Cod, some eight or ten leagues from us. The Indians that dwell thereabout were they who were owners of the corn which we found in caves, for which we have given them full content, and are in great league with them. They sent us word that there was a ship near unto them, but thought it to be a Frenchman, and indeed for ourselves, we expected not a friend so soon. But when we perceived that she made for our bay, the governor commanded a great piece to be shot off, to call home such as were abroad at work; whereupon every man, yea, boy that could handle a gun, were ready, with full resolution that if she were an enemy, we would stand in our just defense, not fearing them, but God provided better for us than we supposed; these came all in health, not any being sick by the way (otherwise than sea sickness) and so continue at this time, by the blessing of God; the good-wife Ford was delivered of a son the first night she landed, and both of them are very well.
When it pleaseth God, we are settled and fitted for the fishing business, and other trading; I doubt not but by the blessing of God the gain will give content to all; in the mean time, that we have gotten we have sent by this ship, and though it be not much, yet it will witness for us that we have not been idle, considering the smallness of our number all this summer. We hope the merchants will accept of it, and be encouraged to furnish us with things needful for further employment, which will also encourage us to put forth ourselves to the uttermost.
Now because I expect your coming unto us with other of our friends, whose company we much desire, I thought good to advertise you of a few things needful; be careful to have a very good bread-room to put your biscuits in, let your cask for beer and water be iron-bound for the first tire if not more; let not your meat be dry-salted, none can better do it than the sailors; let your meal be so hard trod in your cask that you shall need an adz or hatchet to work it out with: trust not too much on us for corn at this time, for by reason of this last company that came, depending wholly upon us, we shall have little enough till harvest; be careful to come by some of your meal to spend by the way, it will much refresh you. Build your cabins as open as you can, and bring good store of clothes and bedding with you; bring every man a musket or fowling-piece, let your piece be long in the barrel, and fear not the weight of it, for most of our shooting is from stands; bring juice of lemons, and take it fasting; it is of good use; for hot waters, aniseed water is the best, but use it sparingly; if you bring any thing for comfort in the country, butter or sallet oil, or both is very good; our Indian corn, even the coarsest, maketh pleasant meat as rice, therefore spare that unless to spend by the way; bring paper and linseed oil for your windows, with cotton yarn for your lamps; let your shot be most for big fowls, and bring store of powder and shot: I forbear further to write for the present, hoping to see you by the next return, so I take my leave, commending you to the Lord for a safe conduct unto us. Resting in Him,
Your loving friend,
E.W. [Edward Winslow]
Plymouth in New England this 11th of December, 1621.