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Virginia Lays Claim To The First Thanksgiving

by @ 7:54 am on November 20, 2007. Filed under Exploring Virginia, Virginia

Forget those Pilgrims, the first Thanksgiving took place in Virginia:

In the Virginia story, recounted yesterday by Bush, Capt. John Woodlief, a survivor of the Jamestown settlement’s “starving time” who had returned to England, set sail from Bristol with 37 other settlers on the good ship Margaret to seek their fortune in the New World. After a violent storm blew them off course, they waded ashore Dec. 4, 1619 at what is now Berkeley Plantation. They opened their orders from their backers, which stated that they were to drop to their knees immediately and give thanks. Their landing date was to “be yearly and perpetually keept holy as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God.”

No one knows if they had anything other than old ship rations to eat. Historians surmise that they might have supped on roasted oysters and Virginia ham. The settlers didn’t stick around long enough to write it down or develop a tradition: They were wiped out in a Powhatan Indian uprising in 1622. From there, the Virginia Thanksgiving story faded from view, save for a handful of die-hard groups that have been hosting a celebration at Berkeley for decades.

“Few Americans remember much about Berkeley,” Bush said yesterday. “They don’t know the story of the Berkeley Thanksgiving.”

Don’t worry Bay State, you still have the Salem Witch Trials to your credit.

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