The First Thanksgiving
by Nora Smith
Nearly four hundred years ago, a great
many of the people in England
were very unhappy because their king would not let them
pray to God as
they liked. The king said they must use the same prayers
that he did;
and if they would not do this, they were often thrown into
perhaps driven away from home.
"Let us go away from this country," said
the unhappy Englishmen to
each other; and so they left their homes, and went far
off to a
country called Holland. It was about this time that they
began to call
themselves "Pilgrims." Pilgrims, you know, are
people who are always
traveling to find something they love, or to find a land
can be happier; and these English men and women were journeying,
said, "from place to place, toward heaven, their dearest
In Holland, the Pilgrims were quiet
and happy for a while, but they
were very poor; and when the children began to grow up,
they were not
like English children, but talked Dutch, like the little
ones of Holland, and some grew naughty and did not want
to go to church any
"This will never do," said
the Pilgrim fathers and mothers; so after
much talking and thinking and writing they made up their
minds to come
here to America. They hired two vessels, called the Mayflower
Speedwell, to take them across the sea; but the Speedwell
was not a
strong ship, and the captain had to take her home again
before she had
gone very far.
The Mayflower went back, too. Part of the Speedwell's
given to her, and then she started alone across the great
There were one hundred people on board
- mothers and fathers, brothers
and sisters and little children. They were very crowded;
it was cold
and uncomfortable; the sea was rough, and pitched the Mayflower
and they were two months sailing over the water.
The children cried many times on the journey, and wished
never come on the tiresome ship that rocked them so hard,
not let them keep still a minute.
But they had one pretty plaything to amuse them, for in
the middle of
the great ocean a Pilgrim baby was born, and they called
"Oceanus," for his birthplace. When the children
grew so tired that
they were cross and fretful, Oceanus' mother let them come
with him, and that always brought smiles and happy faces
At last the Mayflower came in sight of land; but if the
been thinking of grass and flowers and birds, they must
have been very
much disappointed, for the month was cold November, and
nothing to be seen but rocks and sand and hard bare ground.
Some of the Pilgrim fathers, with brave Captain Myles
their head, went on shore to see if they could find any
white people. But they only saw some Indians, who
ran away from
them, and found some Indian huts and some corn buried in
holes in the
ground. They went to and fro from the ship three times,
till by and by
they found a pretty place to live, where there were "fields
Then at last all the tired Pilgrims landed from the ship
on a spot now
called Plymouth Rock, and the first house was begun on
But when I tell you how sick they were and how much they
first winter, you will be very sad and sorry for them.
The weather was
cold, the snow fell fast and thick, the wind was icy, and
fathers had no one to help them cut down the trees and
church and their houses.
The Pilgrim mothers helped all they could; but they were
the long journey, and cold, and hungry too, for no one
had the right
kind of food to eat, nor even enough of it.
So first one was taken sick, and then another, till half
of them were
in bed at the same time, Brave Myles Standish and the other
nursed them as well as they knew how; but before spring
came half of
the people died and had gone at last to "heaven, their
But by and by the sun shone more brightly, the snow melted,
began to grow, and sweet spring had come again.
Some friendly Indians had visited the Pilgrims during
the winter, and
Captain Myles Standish, with several of his men, had returned
One of the kind Indians was called Squanto, and he came
to stay with
the Pilgrims, and showed them how to plant their corn,
and their pease
and wheat and barley.
When the summer came and the days were long and bright,
children were very happy, and they thought Plymouth a lovely
indeed. All kinds of beautiful wild flowers grew at their
were hundreds of birds and butterflies, and the great pine
always cool and shady when the sun was too bright.
When it was autumn the fathers gathered the barley and
wheat and corn
that they had planted, and found that it had grown so well
would have quite enough for the long winter that was coming.
"Let us thank God for it all," they said. "It
is He who has made the
sun shine and the rain fall and the corn grow." So
they thanked God in
their homes and in their little church; the fathers and
and the children thanked Him.
"Then," said the Pilgrim mothers, "let
us have a great Thanksgiving
party, and invite the friendly Indians, and all rejoice
So they had the first Thanksgiving party, and a grand
one it was! Four
men went out shooting one whole day, and brought back so
ducks and geese and great wild turkeys that there was enough
almost a week. There was deer meat also, of course, for
plenty of fine deer in the forest. Then the Pilgrim mothers
corn and wheat into bread and cakes, and they had fish
and clams from
the sea besides.
The friendly Indians all came with their chief Massasoit.
came that was invited, and more, I dare say, for there
were ninety of
They brought five deer with them, that they gave to the
they must have liked the party very much, for they stayed
Kind as the Indians were, you would have been very much
you had seen them; and the baby Oceanus, who was a year
began to cry at first whenever they came near him.
They were dressed in deerskins, and some of them had the
furry coat of
a wild cat hanging on their arms. Their long black hair
fell loose on
their shoulders, and was trimmed with feathers or fox-tails.
their faces painted in all kinds of strange ways, some
stripes as broad as your finger all up and down them. But
they wore, it was their very best, and they had put it
on for the
Each meal, before they ate anything, the Pilgrims and
thanked God together for all his goodness. The Indians
sang and danced
in the evenings, and every day they ran races and played
all kinds of
games with the children.
Then sometimes the Pilgrims with their guns, and the Indians
their bows and arrows, would see who could shoot farthest
and best. So
they were glad and merry and thankful for three whole days.
The Pilgrim mothers and fathers had been sick and sad
many times since
they landed from the Mayflower; they had worked very hard,
not had enough to eat, and were mournful indeed when their
died and left them. But now they tried to forget all this,
only of how good God had been to them; and so they all
together at the first Thanksgiving party.
All this happened nearly four hundred years ago, and ever
time Thanksgiving has been kept in our country.
Every year our fathers and grandfathers and great-grandfathers
"rejoiced together" like the Pilgrims, and have
had something to be
thankful for each time.
Every year some father has told the story of the brave
Pilgrims to his
little sons and daughters, and has taught them to be very
proud that the Mayflower came sailing to our country so