The First Harvest-home In Plymouth

: Good Stories For Great Holidays


After prayer and fasting and a farewell feast, the Pilgrim Fathers left

the City of Leyden, and sought the new and unknown land. "So they lefte

ye goodly & pleasante citie," writes their historian 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

ye Heavens their deares
cuntrie, and 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 day.

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 full


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


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

merry together.

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


"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.