The First Thanksgiving
By Kristine Vick
CBN.com -- In 1619, two years before the colonists arrived in Massachusetts, a band of English
settlers landed in Virginia, at what is now known as the Berkeley plantation.
History says the travelers immediately fell to their knees to thank God for their
safe arrival. Here is a closer look at the role these settlers had in shaping
what we know today as Thanksgiving.
Most people think of the Pilgrims
on Thanksgiving day: 1622, the Mayflower, Squanto and his tribe sharing a feast
with the Puritans at Plymouth Rock.
But the children at Stonebridge School
in Virginia present a different picture. With colonial hats and feathered headbands,
these children re-enact what it must have been like back in the 1600s, marking
the events surrounding the first Thanksgiving at a very different time and place.
all began on the shores of Cape Henry in Virginia. In 1607, the first English
colonists arrived: 105 English men and boys, and 39 sailors, among them the Reverend
Robert Hunt. He was the first minister in America. According to Jamestown site
historian, Dianne Stallings, he was instrumental in establishing the protestant
faith in the new world.
Following a mandate from the king of England, Hunt
pitched a cross and led the men in prayer on the beaches of Cape Henry.
Hunt would have had the Book of Common Prayer as well as the Bible," says
Stallings. "And this would be a general prayer of thanksgiving that would have
been read at that period of time."
Titled simply, the "General Thanksgiving",
this prayer, in one of it's various versions , reads as follows:
God, Father of all mercies, we thine unworthy servants do give thee most humble
and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all men.
bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our
Lord Jesus Christ, for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory."
two weeks the men combed the shores of the James River, scouting out the perfect
place for their new settlement. Finally they decided on Jamestown.
to Stallings, the settlers came for three reasons: God, glory, and gold.
was very concerned that the protestant faith be established in the new world,
and, of course, they were dedicated to the fact that they wanted to Christianize
the Indians," she says.
Perhaps the most famous Indian at the settlement
was Pocahontas. Through her the Powhatan Indians and the colonists made peace.
She would bring the colonists food, and some historical accounts say she even
saved Captain John Smith's life from her own people. Eventually, Pocahontas was
held hostage by the colonists. It was then that she converted to Christianity
and married one of the Jamestown leaders, John Rolfe. She was baptized into the
Christian name, Rebecca.
Through Pocahontas, the settlers saw their goal
of spreading the protestant faith begin to come to fruition. Years later she returned
to England with her husband. Sadly, at just 22 years old, she died. It was two
years after Pocahontas' death that another group of English colonists landed in
Virginia. After ten weeks at sea, they finally landed at the Berkeley Plantation.
Virginia Historians claim that this is where the real first Thanksgiving took
place. The plantation sits just a few miles from the original Jamestown settlement.
Virginia Company had directives given to the settlers and the directives were
that upon landing, they were to give thanks and every year thereafter make it
an annual celebration in thanks to the Lord for a safe passage," says Barbara
Awad, president of the Virginia Thanksgiving Festival.
was about seventeen months before the pilgrims landed in Plymouth. And while the
Pilgrims celebrated with a feast, much like the traditional meal Americans eat
on Thanksgiving, the settlers at Berkeley Plantation had a meager meal.
wasn't quite the abundant festival, the cornucopia that we usually see on Thanksgiving,"
Historians say their feast included bacon, peas, cornmeal cakes,
and cinnamon water. But regardless of the menu, to these settlers, the first Thanksgiving
was much more than turkey and pumpkin pie. It was all about prayer.
More from CBN.com's Thanksgiving Resources Page
Spirit Behind '76
Washington's Prayer Journal
Looks at U.S. History and Asks: 'What If?'
More Church History on the Spiritual Life Channel
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