History Timelines 1620s

Image above: Lithograph by Sarony and Major, 1846, of the landing on Plymouth Rock by William Bradford and the pilgrims with the Mayflower in the distance. Courtesy Library of Congress. Right: Painting of the Signing of the Mayflower Compact, 1899, Jean Leon Gerome Ferris. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

Mayflower Compact

Pre-Revolution Timeline - The 1600s


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  • 1621 Detail

    September/October 1621 - The first Thanksgiving celebration is held in the autumn for three days between the Pilgrims and members of the Wampanoag tribe, who had helped them settle and plant the colony's land.

    First Thanksgiving

    After the first hard winter for the Puritans at their settlement above Plymouth Rock, their relationship with the Wampanoag tribe continued to be peaceful. The six covenants written in the Treaty with the Indians in March 1621 by John Carver and chief Massasoit had brought peace. William Bradford had succeeded Carver as Governor in April 1621, the Indian Squanto had been living with the Puritans to teach them how to live in New England, and exclusive trading relations (fur and other goods) between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag were established.

    This also extended to other tribes in the area, including the Nausets, who, with a total of nine chiefs, signed a treaty in September 1621 with the Pilgrims after a show of force by Myles Standish convinced them of the value of an alliance both in trade and security. They pledged allegiance to King James.

    Securing the Peace, William Bradford's Journal

    Haveing in some sorte ordered their bussines at home, it was thought meete to send some abroad to see their new freind Massasoyet,and to bestow upon him some gratuitie to bind him the faster unto them; as also that hearby they might veiw the countrie, and see in what maner he lived, what strength he had aboute him, and how the ways were to his place, if at any time they should have occasion. So the 2. of July they sente Mr. Edward Winslow and Mr. Hopkins, with the foresaid Squanto for ther guid, who gave him a suite of cloaths, and a horsemans coate, with some other small things, which were kindly accepted; but they found but short commons, and carne both weary and hungrie home.

    The First Thanksgiving

    The exact date of the first Thanksgiving is not known, although it is thought that the first likely occurred in early October and not the traditional date in late November when it is now celebrated. Historians think the date was between September 21 and November 11. With peace between the tribes and the fifty-three remaining Pilgrims, a three day event was held to celebrate the harvest. Massasoit and ninety of his warriors attended and ate with the settlers. The feast was cooked by three Pilgrim women; Eleanor Billington, Elizabeth Hopkins, Mary Brewster, and Susanna White.

    Who were the Pilgrims who attended the first Thanksgiving? John Alden, Bartholomew Allerton, Isaac Allerton, Mary Allerton, Remember Allerton, Eleanor Billington, Francis Billington, John Billington, John Billington, Sr., William Bradford, Love Brewster, Mary Brewster, William Brewster, Wrestling Brewster, Peter Brown, Mary Chilton, Francis Cooke, John Cooke, Humility Cooper, John Crackston, Edward Doty, Francis Eaton, Samuel Eaton, Unknown First Name Ely, Samuel Fuller, Sr., Samuel Fuller, Richard Gardiner, John Goodman, Constance Hopkins, Damaris Hopkins, Elizabeth Hopkins, Oceanus Hopkins, Stephen Hopkins, Giles Hopkins, John Howland, William Latham, Edward Lester, Desire Minter, Richard More, Priscilla Mullins, Joseph Rogers, Henry Samson, George Soule, Myles Standish, Elizabeth Tilley, William Trevor, Richard Warren, Edward Winslow, Gilbert Winslow, Susanna White Winslow, Peregrine White, Resolved White, maidservant Dorothy.

    Accounts of the first Thanksgiving are scant, barely mentioned in the journal of William Bradford or his nephew Nathaniel Morton's book written thereafter as Secretary of the Plymouth Colony. The best recollection comes from a letter written by Edward Winslow, another settler, back to a friend in England, and repeated in the booklet, "Mourt's Relation."

    Winslow Account

    Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruits of our labor. 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 we 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.

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    The First Thanksgiving, William Bradford's Journal

    They begane now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fitte up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strenght, and had all things in good plenty; for as some were thus imployed in affairs abroad, others were excersised in fishing, aboute codd, and bass, and other fish, of which they tooke good store, of which every family had their portion. All the sommer ther was no wante. And now begane to come in store of foule, as winter aproached, 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, etc. Besids they had aboute a peck a meale a weeke to a person, or now since harvest, Indean coree tb that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largly of their plenty hear to their freinds in England, which were not fained, but true reports.

    Image Above: Painting of the first Thanksgiving, 1914, Jennie Brownscomb. Courtesy Library of Congress. Below: Plimoth Plantation, 2002. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Info source: "Of Plymouth Plantation," William Bradford's Journal, Early America's Digital Library; Plimoth Plantation; Pilgrim Hall Museum; "New England's Memorial," Nathaniel Morton, 1669; "Mourt's Relation," Edward Winslow and William Bradford; Wikipedia.

    Plimoth Plantation

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