It was November of 1623. Three years before, the Pilgrims had left left their homes, jobs and extended families and braved a perilous voyage to a strange world to escape religious persecution in England. They survived the treacherous ocean voyage to come to a strange land and face a harsh climate without food or shelter.
Arriving without shelter and with little food or other provisions, they lost half of their number that first winter to the cold, sickness and starvation. Slowly the Pilgrims built dwellings and planted gardens and building the Massachusetts Pilgrim Colony, "Plymouth Plantation." The pilgrims learned much from their Native American friends about how to best plant crops in North American soil. However, the first two years their small food supplies were heavily rationed.
When the third year saw a bountiful harvest, peace with the Indians, and less sickness, Governor William Bradford and the Pilgrims felt the need and desire to thank God for their new life in a new land where they could worship the Lord without fear of persecution.
To All Ye Pilgrims
Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our conscience; now, I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November ye 29th of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three, and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor, and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.
--A Thanksgiving Proclamation Attributed to Governor William Bradford
From our archives 11/08/02