Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mayflower Heroes

When the Pilgrims founded their first colony in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620, they sat down to a pensive ceremony after the first crops had been harvested to thank God for preserving them through the early hardships in a new land.

Today, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I would like to share a passage from a book titled Mayflower Heroes (1931) by Gleason L. Archer. I didn't know anything about Mr. Archer before deciding to do this post but, I was lucky enough to find a bit of information about him at Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts. Rightfully so I suppose, since he was the founder of the university and its first president.

Gleason Leonard Archer was born on October 29, 1880 in Great Pond, a remote outpost in northeastern Maine. Although his parents John Sewell Archer and Frances Williams Archer were descendants of the original Mayflower settlers, the Archer family was poor...source

Dedicated to his father John Sewell Archer, I would like to begin with a passage from the Preface:

This book may truthfully be said to have originated in the air. It owes its existence to a series of radio broadcasts on Early Colonial History, delivered by the author in April and May of 1930, a series called "founding a Nation." Because of these radio talks the Century Company graciously invited the author to prepare a complete story of the early days of Plymouth Colony...To picture for the reader the Pilgrim Fathers as living, breathing human beings, battling with the great problems of pioneer life, has been the author's constant endeavor in writing this story of the beginnings of Plymouth Colony. Every story herein contained and every scene depicted has its basis in one or more authentic sources of information. It has been necessary, of course, to reconstruct these stories and scenes in order to clothe them with life, because the early chroniclers all to often disposed of great happenings by a brief sentence or two.

Chapter XXX The First Thanksgiving

After the return of the Standish party from the highly successful expedition to the harbor where Boston was later to be founded, the colony settled down to the pursuits of peace. The prospect of a bountiful harvest rendered necessary the construction of more places for storage of food. With his usual forceful handling of the affairs of the colony, Governor Bradford had already laid plans for the construction of three additional public storehouses. All of the energies of the colony were directed to this end.

The pleasant September days now resounded to the happy hum of industry. The ring of the axes in the near by forest carried a message of its own. Hope was in every heart and good cheer became vocal among the settlers. The Pilgrims, those who had survived after nearly fourteen years of hardship, had found at last not only religious liberty but also a new experience in daily living. It filled their souls with gratitude to God and with goodwill to their fellow-men. In a letter written to a friend in England in November, 1621, Edward Winslow declared, "I never in my life remember a more seasonable year than we have 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 summer is but coarse meat with us. Our bay is full of lobsters all 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 clams at our doors."

Governor Bradford, coming as he did from a long line of tillers of the soil, felt welling up within him a desire to mark in a signal manner the completion of this first harvest in America. Elder Brewster and the chief men of the colony were taken into his confidence. From their deliberations sprang one of the principle festivals now observed by the American people, our annual Thanksgiving Day...

Not only did Governor Bradford proclaim this celebration for his own people, but he sent a special invitation to Massasoit and his chief men to come to Plymouth, that they may rejoice together in the culmination of the first year of the Pilgrims in the new land. In preparation for this mammoth Thanksgiving party the governor sent men for fish, lobsters, and clams. He sent four men with a boat for wild-fowl.

Massasoit arrived with some ninety of his followers. Immediately he caught the spirit of the festival and resolved to do his share to make it a success. With some of his most skillful hinters he returned to the forest and killed five fat deer. Others killed wild turkeys, thus beginning the tradition of the Thanksgiving bird...Governor Bradford and his band of huntsmen filed solemnly into the little square. Massasoit was master of ceremonies. A buck deer was brought forward and laid at the feet of Governor Bradford. Another was deposited at the feet of Captain Standish. Wild turkeys found even wider distribution.

Governor Bradford ordered the feast prepared. The culinary skill of Indians and of white men were joined in this endeavor. "A sweet savor unto the Lord" indeed ascended from the two chief hills of Plymouth. The Indian host was encamped across the brook. But this was no one day celebration. For three days it lasted. Indian games of skill were exhibited for the benefit of the whites...This visiting hoard of Indians had probably never in their lives known such ample and varied fare. It bred in their simple hearts a great affection for the white men who had come to live as their neighbors and friends.

FYI: Tomorrow is Gingerbread Day. You have to see the poem I posted for Gingerbread Day. It includes a recipe for Fairy Gingerbread!
  • 1. The First Thanksgiving
  • 2. Massasoit
  • 3, The Real First Thanksgiving (by Andrew Smith, editor of the Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink)
  • 4. Thanksgiving Recipes from America's Past
  • 5.Thanksgiving Trivia To Amaze Your Friends
  • 6. Turkey Trivia: Should We Be Grateful?
  • 7. Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloons


  1. I knew you'd have a cool Thanksgiving post! I was right!

  2. Hi Duckie,
    Hope you had a fulfilling Thanksgiving! Don't forget to check out the Fairy Gingerbread! recipe posted on my other blog. It's too cute!

  3. Wonderful post. Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving. Now I'm off to check out the Fairy Gingerbread.

  4. Thank you for this post- quite fun to read. I always enjoyed teaching about the first Thanksgiving when I taught 2nd grade.

  5. Thank you Louise for this article chronicling the Thanksgiving in America. Indeed it is a wonderful tradition in America, which i wish we also had here in the Philippines. I always learn a lot by reading your articles. Your research is admirable, and your quotes from your source fascinating.It would be great tosee your writings compiled in a book. It will be a bestseller!
    Keep up the good work, and Happy thanksgiving to you and your loved ones!

  6. Belated Happy Thanksgiving, Louise. I enjoyed this post - one of my favorite trips ever was to Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts. You really get a sense of how the Pilgrims lived as the "residents" are in character all the time. It's a fascinating slice of "living history" similar to what you recount here.

  7. Hi Kathy,
    Hope you had a fabulous Thanksgiving and a relaxing vacation. Enjoy the Fairy Gingerbread!

    Hi Recipe Girl,
    Thanks for dropping in. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. I think this book was written for school age children.

    Dear Dennis,
    You are much to generous with your words. I think I will just stick to blogging although, I would love to design a calendar of food dates.

    Oh my T.W. For some reason, gee I wonder why, it doesn't surprise me that you got to experience the Plimoth Plantation. I will have to check your previous posts. Right now, I'm just waiting to see how your Thanksgiving in Tennessee went. "Marvelous" I'm sure:)

  8. Thank you for posting your article.

  9. Thank you for posting your article.


Through this wide opened gate,
none came too early,
none returned too late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise