Interestingly enough, all that we know about this event comes from one brief paragraph from a slim little book now called “Mourt’s Relation”. While we have no idea who Mourt was (there have been several assumptions on the identity), it seems that both Edward Winslow and Governor William Bradford were authors of a number of articles from the book.
It was probably Winslow who wrote. “Our harvest being gotten in, our governour sent foure men on fowling, that so we might after a speciall manner rejoyce together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labours; they foure in one day killed as much fowle, as with a little helpe beside, served the Company almost a weeke, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Armes, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoyt, with some ninetie men, whom for three dayes we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deere, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governour, and upon the Captaine 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 farre from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plentie.”
From that small excerpt, we have (since the time of Abraham Lincoln, at least) made a number of assumptions. We can see from the passage above that the only foods mentioned were fowl (probably geese and duck…MAYBE turkey, and venison. Which means, sorry folks, no pumpkin pie, no cranberry sauce, apple pie, stuffing, mashed potatoes, or broccoli. In fact, potatoes were a fairly new commodity brought to Europe by the Spanish from South America. They were not widely known in the British Isles, what to speak of actually eating them.
The first Thanksgiving was a meeting of the native Wampanoag (actually it was Massasoit’s Pockanocket) and the English settlers we now cal “Pilgrims”. And it lasted for not just one day, but as we can see from the above quote it lasted three days! In actuality a thanksgiving had a much different meaning to the English of the 17th century. I’ll explore this in my next article about the first Thanksgiving.