Front Matter Our Country Long Ago The Barbarous Indians The Mounds Where the Northmen Went The Northmen in America Queer Ideas Prince Henry the Navigator Youth of Columbus Columbus and the Queen "Land! Land!" Columbus and the Savages Home Again Columbus Ill-treated Death of Columbus How America Got its Name The Fountain of Youth "The Father of Waters" The French in Canada French and Spanish Quarrels The Sky City Around the World Nothing but Smoke Smith's Adventures The Jamestown Men Smith Wounded Pocahontas Visits England Hudson and the Indians The Mayflower Plymouth Rock The First Thanksgiving Snake Skin and Bullets The Beginning of Boston Stories of Two Ministers Williams and the Indians The Quakers The King-Killers King Phillip's War The Beginning of New York Penn and the Indians The Catholics in Maryland The Old Dominion Bacon's Rebellion A Journey Inland The Carolina Pirates Charter Oak Salem Witches Down the Mississippi La Salle's Adventures Indians on the Warpath Two Wars with the French Washington's Boyhood Washington's Journey Washington's First Battle Stories of Franklin Braddock's Defeat Wolfe at Quebec England and her Colonies The Stamp Tax The Anger of the Colonies The Boston Tea Party The Minutemen The Battle of Lexington Bunker Hill The Boston Boys The British leave Boston Declaration of Independence A Lady's Way of Helping Christmas Eve The Fight at Bennington Burgoyne's Surrender Winter at Valley Forge The Quaker Woman Putnam's Adventures Indian Cruelty Boone in Kentucky Famous Sea Fights The "Swamp Fox" The Poor Soldiers The Spy A Traitor's Death Two Unselfish Women Surrender of Cornwallis British Flag hauled down Washington's Farewell

Story of the Thirteen Colonies - Helene Guerber

The First American Thanksgiving

Early in the spring the Pilgrims were startled, one day, by the voice of an Indian saying: "Welcome, Englishmen." Looking up, they saw a savage named Samoset, who had boldly walked into their village to greet them with words learned from English fishermen.

The Pilgrims received Samoset so kindly that he came back on the morrow with Squanto, who told the colonists that the Indian chief Massasoit wished to make friends with them. A meeting was appointed, and when Massasoit appeared, a few days later, Standish received him. The drums were beaten loudly, and the Pilgrim soldiers gravely escorted the Indian chief to their principal log hut, where Governor Carver was waiting for them.

Here all the choice articles of the Pilgrims had been gathered together to make a fine show, and a rug and green cushion were laid on the floor for Massasoit to sit upon.

After smoking the calumet, or "pipe of peace," together, the Indian chief and the Plymouth governor—with the help of their interpreters—made a treaty, whereby they promised not to harm but to help each other, and to trade in a friendly spirit.

The Indians now walked freely in and out of the village, where they ate and drank so much that the Pilgrims' scant stock of provisions grew rapidly less. Edward Winslow, one of the Pilgrims, therefore took occasion, on returning Massasoit's visit, to tell him that the Indians were to come to Plymouth only when they bore messages from him. To make sure that the right Indians would always be well treated, Winslow gave Massasoit a ring, which was to serve as passport for his men.

Were you to read Winslow's description of his visit to the Indian chief, you would be greatly amused. Massasoit had no provisions in his wigwam, so he and his guests went to bed hungry. Besides, Winslow and his men had to sleep side by side with the dirty chief and his squaw, and they were so crowded by other Indians that they were very uncomfortable indeed.

In April the Mayflower  went back to England; but although the Pilgrims had suffered so sorely during the winter, they all wrote brave letters to send home, and not one of them asked to go back. After the Mayflower  had sailed away Governor Carver fell ill and died, so William Bradford was elected to take his place. This Bradford made so good a ruler that he was elected again and again, and during the next thirty-six years he was head of the colony nearly all the time.

Squanto soon became a great favorite with the Pilgrims. He played with the children, taught the boys to trap game, and told the settlers to plant their corn as soon as the leaves of the white oak were as large as a mouse's ear. He also taught them to put a fat fish in each hill, to serve as manure for the growing grain, because the ground around there was very sandy.

The colonists now worked diligently, making their fields and gardens over the graves of their dead companions, so that no hostile Indians should ever find out how many had died, or dig up their bones. The crops being all planted, the Pilgrims went on building, made friends with nine Indian chiefs, and traded briskly with the savages for furs.

But day by day the stock of provisions brought from England grew less and less, until they finally saw with dismay that it would be entirely exhausted long before their corn was ripe. So they were put on such scant rations that it is said they sometimes had only six grains of corn for a meal! As they were not good hunters or experienced fishermen, they lived almost entirely on shellfish, Elder Brewster piously giving thanks to God for supplying them with "the abundance of the seas and the treasures hid in the sand."

Although the winter had been very damp, the summer proved so dry that it soon seemed as if the Pilgrims' crops would perish for want of rain. A day of fasting and prayer was therefore appointed, and for nine hours the Pilgrims besought God to help them. Some Indians, hearing that they were going to pray for rain, watched the sky anxiously, and when it finally clouded over and a gentle rain began to fall, they remarked in awe-struck tones that the God of the white men had evidently heard their prayers.

The first Thanksgiving Dinner


Ten days of moisture which followed the day of prayer assured a plentiful harvest, which was safely gathered. The Pilgrims were so grateful for this mercy that they set a day in which to give thanks. After a solemn service they held a great feast, to which Massasoit and ninety other Indians were invited.

At this dinner they ate wild turkeys shot by the colonists, venison supplied by the savages, and pies which the Pilgrim mothers made from yellow pumpkins, as they had no apples. During the next three days all the young people indulged in games and athletic sports, in which the Indians also shared. After this "Thanksgiving Day," as the Pilgrims named it, a feast like it was kept every year in New England. This custom gradually spread from there over the whole country, until now the day is observed in all the states of our Union. The President, who appoints the day, generally chooses the last Thursday in November.