Sitting in my comfortable home with plenty of food just a few steps away, it’s hard for me to imagine the hardships of the early pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock November, 1620. The conditions must’ve been horrendous, both on the Mayflower and in carving out a settlement in the dead of winter.
One hundred and two passengers set sail from England in a cramped ship that had little room for breathing, much less eating and sleeping. One adult male died enroute. But one child was born during the long voyage, a baby boy who was named Oceanus.
An unmarried passenger, John Howland, fell overboard during the voyage and was miraculously rescued. Here’s an odd fact—if he had drowned, we wouldn’t have had President George Bush Sr., President George W. Bush, President Teddy Roosevelt’s first lady, or Humphrey Bogart. They directly descended from John Howland. How wild is that? I’ve always heard that only six degrees separates each of us. Must be true. Five years after arriving in Plymouth, John married Elizabeth Tilly who had lost both parents within a few months of landing. John and Elizabeth ended up siring ten children and 82 grandchildren before they died.
Also John Alden, another on board, was a descendant of John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Vice President Dan Quayle. Seems these pilgrims contributed quite a lot to the presidential office!
But back to their arrival in November, 1620, you can imagine how glad they must’ve been to have seen land. I know how squirmy I get in the car during a four hour trip. These people endured 66 days of nothing but water and pounding, gigantic waves. Most of the time, seawater soaked their bedding and clothing. It would’ve been extremely difficult to stay dry. Seeing that shoreline could only have renewed their hope. They just didn’t know what lay in store for them and how much strength and determination it would take.
In four months over half of them died. By March only 47 colonists were left. By the time they saw November, only four adult women out of eighteen who started out had survived. It’s a proven fact that none of the colonists would have made it if it hadn’t been for the generosity and compassion of the Native Americans who provided food and taught them how to live off the land. Oh, the thanks the settlers must’ve given!
In November of 1621, Governor William Bradford of Plymouth Colony declared a day of Thanksgiving and prayer to celebrate the pilgrim’s first harvest and that was our first Thanksgiving.
From written account, they had roasted venison, turkey that was probably boiled or stewed. And for vegetables, squashes, carrots, cabbages and onions. They had no potatoes at that time. Corn was probably in the form of meal and not on the cob and used to make bread. Pumpkin, if they had it, was cooked into a pudding and not made into a pie. Honey and maple syrup was the only sweetener available. They had no cranberry sauce either. It wasn’t the most scrumptious feast, but I’m sure they were grateful for each morsel.
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Now we get to celebrate it again this Thursday. I hope when we sit down to our heavily-laden table that we remember the pilgrims and their Native American friends—their sacrifices and the resiliency of the human spirit. It’s a time to give thanks for what we have and a time to remember our service men and women who are far from home.
I’m thankful for freedom to come and go as I wish, for the food I eat, and especially for the love of family and friends. What are you thankful for?