Six Characters in Search of a Blogger


3.3 The Man Who Wrote About It: Edward Winslow
November 26, 2008, 9:30 am
Filed under: Who Was at the First Thanksgiving? | Tags: , , ,

As we all prepare for our holiday meals this Thanksgiving Eve, busily shopping, chopping, and cooking, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about how an elaborate meal became the centerpiece of this national holiday.

Yes, there was the creative interpretation of Sarah Josepha Hale, who conceived the celebration (at least as we know it today) back in the mid-19th Century–turkey, trimmings, and all.  But we also have to thank one of the original Pilgrims, a man named Edward Winslow, for giving us the idea in the first place;  for it was he who described the original gathering in a letter sent to England in December of 1621.  And just those few lines of text helped to inspire one of our nation’s most cherished traditions.

Edward Winslow

Edward Winslow

Winslow, although he was one of the leaders of the fledgling society in Plymouth, and served several times as governor of the colony, is not one of the better-known Pilgrims from our history books.  Within the colony, he played several ambassadorial roles, acting as a trade representative with local tribes, and, later, traveling back and forth to England to represent Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay Colony interests (essentially, to defend trading rights and religious freedoms/rule of law.)  He returned to England toward the end of his life, where he served in minor offices under Oliver Cromwell, and died en route to the West Indies in 1655, where on Cromwell’s orders he was going to advise military leadership about strategies in the area. 

Beyond this service to both colony and country, however, Winslow’s most prominent legacy seems to be held in those two paragraphs he used to describe the first harvest in Plymouth.  So it seems appropriate to close the post with it now:  

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 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, among 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 upon 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.

I hope you and yours are “partakers in plenty” this holiday weekend.  (But not so much it makes you sick.)  Wherever you are, enjoy!

I am now off to shop, shop, and cook…

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