The First Harvest Home in Plymouth
by W. DeLoss Love Jr.
After prayer and fasting and a farewell
the Pilgrim Fathers left the City of Leyden, and
sought the new and unknown land. "So they lefte
the goodly & pleasante citie,'' writes their
Bradford, "which had been ther resting place
near 12 years, but they knew they were pilgrimes
& looked not much on those things, but lift up
their eyes to the Heavens their dearest cuntrie,
quieted their spirits.''
When, after many vexing days upon the deep,
the pilgrims first sighted the New World, they
were filled with praise and thanksgiving. Going
ashore they fell upon their knees and blessed the
God of Heaven. And after that, whenever they
were delivered from accidents or despair, they
gave God "solemne thanks and praise.'' Such
were the Pilgrims and such their habit day by
The first winter in the New World was marked
by great suffering and want. Hunger and illness
thinned the little colony, and caused many
graves to be made on the near-by hillside.
The spring of 1621 opened. The seed was sown
in the fields. The colonists cared for it without
ceasing, and watched its growth with anxiety; for
well they knew that their lives depended upon a
The days of spring and summer flew by, and the
autumn came. Never in Holland or England had
the Pilgrims seen the like of the treasures bounteous
Nature now spread before them. The woodlands
were arrayed in gorgeous colors, brown,
crimson, and gold, and swarmed with game of all
kinds, that had been concealed during the summer.
The little farm-plots had been blessed by the
sunshine and showers, and now plentiful crops
stood ready for the gathering. The Pilgrims,
rejoicing, reaped the fruit of their labors, and
housed it carefully for the winter. Then, filled
with the spirit of thanksgiving, they held the first
harvest-home in New England.
For one whole week they rested from work,
feasted, exercised their arms, and enjoyed various
recreations. Many Indians visited the colony,
amongst these their greatest king, Massasoit, with
ninety of his braves. The Pilgrims entertained
them for three days. And the Indians went out
into the woods and killed fine deer, which they
brought to the colony and presented to the governor
and the captain and others. So all made
And bountiful was the feast. Oysters,
fish and wild turkey, Indian maize and barley bread,
geese and ducks, venison and other savory meats,
decked the board. Kettles, skillets, and spits were
overworked, while knives and spoons, kindly
assisted by fingers, made merry music on pewter
plates. Wild grapes, "very sweete and strong,''
added zest to the feast. As to the vegetables, why,
the good governor describes them thus:
"All sorts of grain
which our own land doth yield,
Was hither brought,
and sown in every field;
As wheat and rye,
barley, oats, beans, and pease
Here all thrive and they profit from them raise;
All sorts of roots and herbs in gardens grow -
Parsnips, carrots, turnips, or what you'll sow,
Onions, melons, cucumbers, radishes,
Skirets, beets, coleworts and fair cabbages.''
Thus a royal feast it was the Pilgrims spread
that first golden autumn at Plymouth, a feast
worthy of their Indian guests.
All slumbering discontents they smothered with
common rejoicings. When the holiday was over,
they were surely better, braver men because they
had turned aside to rest awhile and be thankful
together. So the exiles of Leyden claimed the
harvests of New England.
This festival was the bursting into life of a new
conception of man's dependence on God's gifts in
Nature. It was the promise of autumnal
Thanksgivings to come.