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THE FIRST HARVEST-HOME IN PLYMOUTH
BY W. DE LOSS LOVE, JR. (ADAPTED)
 AFTER prayer and fasting and a farewell feast, the Pilgrim
Fathers left the City of Leyden, and sought the new and
unknownland. "So they lefte yt 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 dearest cuntrie, and quieted
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
 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 harvest.
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
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.