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THE FIRST THANKSGIVING
HE summer days were full for the busy Pilgrims. In the
fields there were only twenty men and a few boys to do all
the work. There was corn to hoe, and there were gardens to
weed and care for. When time could be spared from this
work, there were barns to be built, and the fort to finish.
The brave men worked from morning till night preparing for
the next long winter. The sun and the rain helped them. The
crops grew wonderfully, and soon the hillsides were green
with growing corn, and wheat, and vegetables.
When the warm days of early summer came, there were sweet
wild strawberries on the sunny hills. A little later, groups
of boys and girls filled their baskets with wild raspberries
and juicy blackberries from the bushes on the edge of the
forest. Sugar was too scarce to be used for jellies and
preserves, but trays of the wild fruits were placed in the
sun to dry for winter use.
The fresh green of the wheat fields began to turn a golden
brown. The harvest was ripening. Before long the air rang
with the steady beat of the flail, as the Pilgrims threshed
their first crop of golden grain.
 Soon the corn was ready to be cut and stacked in shocks.
Then came the early frosts, and the Pilgrims hurried to
gather the sweet wild grapes from vines which grew over
bushes and low trees near the brook. The frost had opened
the prickly burs and hard brown coats of the nuts, and every
day Squanto went with a merry group of boys to gather
chestnuts, hickory nuts, beechnuts, and walnuts.
At last the harvest was all gathered in. The Pilgrims
rejoiced as they saw the bountiful supply of food for the
winter. Some of the golden ears of corn they hung above the
fireplace to dry for seed. The rest they shelled and buried
in the ground, as Squanto showed them how to do.
As the evenings grew longer and cooler, the Pilgrims often
went in to spend an hour or two at Elder Brewster's. The men
piled great logs upon the fire. Then the girls and boys drew
the chairs and benches nearer the huge fireplace, and all
would sit in the twilight and talk.
Sometimes they spoke of old times in England or Holland, but
usually it was of their work and the life in the new home.
On this November evening all talked of the harvest which had
just been stored away.
"Friends," said Governor Bradford, "God has blessed our
summer's work, and has sent us a bountiful harvest. He
brought us safe to this
 new home and protected us through the terrible winter. It is
fit we have a time for giving thanks to God for His mercies
to us. What say you? Shall we not have a week of feasting
and of thanksgiving?"
"A week of thanksgiving!" said the Pilgrims. "Yes, let us
rest from our work and spend the time in gladness and
thanksgiving. God has been very good to us."
So it was decided that the next week should be set aside for
the harvest feast of thanksgiving, and that their Indian
friends should be asked to join them.
Early the next morning Squanto was sent to invite Massasoit
with his brother and friends to come the following Thursday.
When he returned, a party of men took their guns and went
into the woods for two days of hunting. They would need many
deer and wild ducks to feed so large a company.
Far away in the forest they heard the sound of wild turkeys.
They hurried on in that direction, but the sound seemed as
far away as ever.
Squanto knew how to bring the turkeys nearer. He made a kind
of whistle out of a reed. When he blew it, it sounded like the
cry of a young turkey.
"Squanto blow. Turkeys come. Then Squanto shoot! Ugh!" said
the Indian, as he showed the Pilgrims his whistle.
 When the men came back from their hunt they brought a
bountiful supply of game, There were deer, rabbits, wild
ducks, and four large turkeys.
The next few days were busy ones in Plymouth kitchens.
There were the great brick ovens to heat, and bread to bake,
and game to dress.
"Priscilla shall be chief cook," said Mistress Brewster. "No
one can make such delicious dishes as she."
As soon as it was light on Wednesday morning, a roaring fire
was built in the huge fireplace in Elder Brewster's kitchen.
A great pile of red-hot coals was placed in the brick oven
in the chimney.
Then Mary Chilton and Priscilla tied their aprons around
them, tucked up their sleeves, and put white caps over their
hair. Their hands fairly flew as they measured and sifted
the flour, or rolled and cut cookies and tarts.
Over at another table Remember Allerton and Constance
Hopkins washed and chopped dried fruits for pies and
puddings. Out on the sunny doorstone Love Brewster and
Francis Billington sat cracking nuts and picking out the
plump kernels for the cakes Priscilla was making. What a
merry place the big kitchen was!
When the oven was hot, the coals were drawn out, and the
long baking pans were put in. Soon sweet, spicy odors filled
the room, and on the long
 shelves were rows and rows of pies, tarts, and little nut
In the afternoon all of the girls and boys took their
baskets or pails and went to the beach to dig clams. "Clams
will make a delicious broth. We shall need hundreds of
them," said Priscilla.
"The boys and girls . . . went to the
beach to dig clams"
While they were gone, some of the men brought boards,
hammers, and saws and built two long tables out-of-doors
near the common-house. Here the men would eat, and a table
would be spread in the elder's house for the women and
It was Thursday morning, and the Pilgrims
 were up early to prepare for the guests they had invited to
the feast of thanksgiving. The air was mild and pleasant,
and a soft purple haze lay upon field and wood.
"We could not have had a more beautiful day for our feast,"
thought Miles Standish, as he climbed the hill to fire the
Just then wild yells and shouts told the astonished
Pilgrims that their guests had arrived. Down the hill from
the forest came Massasoit, his brother, and nearly a hundred
of his friends, dressed in their finest skins, and in
holiday paint and feathers.
The captain and a number of other men went out to welcome
the Indians, and the women hurried to prepare breakfast for
"The women hurried to prepare breakfast for them"
Squanto and John Alden built a big fire near the brook, and
soon the clam broth was simmering in the great kettle.
The roll of the drum called all to prayers, for the Pilgrims
never began a day without asking God's blessing upon it.
"The white men talk to
the Great Spirit," Squanto explained to Chief Massasoit.
"They thank Him for His good gifts." The Indians seemed to
understand, and listened quietly to the prayers.
Then all sat down at the long tables. The women were soon
busy passing great bowls of clam broth to each hungry guest.
 piles of brown bread and sweet cakes; there were dishes of
turnips and boiled meat, and later, bowls of pudding made
from Indian corn.
While they were eating, one of the Indians brought a great
basket filled with popped corn and poured it out upon the
table before Elder Brewster. The Pilgrims had never seen pop
corn before. They filled a large bowl with this new dainty
and sent it in to the children's table.
When breakfast was over, there was another service of
thanksgiving, led by Elder Brewster. Then Governor Bradford
took his friends to the grassy common where they would have
A number of little stakes were driven into the ground, and
here several groups of Indians and Pilgrims played quoits,
the Indians often throwing the greater number of rings over
Then the savages entertained their friends with some
wonderful tests in running and jumping. After this Governor
Bradford invited the Indians to sit down on the grass and
watch the soldiers drill on the common.
The Indians sat down, not knowing what to expect next, for
they had never before seen soldiers drill. Suddenly they
heard the sound of trumpets, and the roll of drums. Down the
hill marched the little army of only nineteen men, the flag
of old England waving above their heads.
To right and to left they marched, in single
 file or by twos and threes, then at a word from the captain,
fired their muskets into the air. The Indians were not
expecting this, and some sprang to their feet in alarm.
Again came the sharp reports of the muskets. Many of the
Indians looked frightened. "Have the white men brought us
here to destroy us?" they asked.
"The white men are our friends; they will not harm us,"
Hardly had he finished speaking when there came a deep roar
from the cannon on the fort. The sound rolled from hill to
hill. At this the Indians became more and more uneasy. They
did not enjoy the way the white men entertained their
Some thought of an excuse to leave the village. "We will go
into the forest and hunt," they said. "We will bring deer
for the white men's feast."
Captain Standish smiled as he saw the Indians start for the
forest. "They do not like the thunder of our cannon," he
But the next morning the five Indians returned, each
bringing a fine deer.
Saturday was the last day of the feast. How busy the women
were preparing this greatest dinner! Of course the men and
boys helped too. They dressed the game, brought water from
the brook, and wood for the fire.
 There were turkeys, stuffed with beechnuts, browning before
the fire. There were roasts of all kinds, and a wonderful
stew made of birds and other game.
"The Indians had never seen such a feast"
And you should have seen the great dishes of
purple grapes, the nuts, and the steaming puddings.
The table seemed to groan under its load
of good things. The Indians had never seen such
 a feast. "Ugh!" said Massasoit, as he ate the puffy
dumplings in Priscilla's stew. "Ugh! The Great Spirit loves
his white children best!"
So the happy day ended, and the Indians returned to their
wigwams. The Pilgrims never forgot their first Thanksgiving
day. Each year when the harvests were gathered, they would
set aside a day for thanking God for his good gifts, and
for years their Indian friends joined in this feast.
"Have you cut the wheat in the blowing fields,
The barley, the oats, and the rye,
The golden corn and the pearly rice?
For the winter days are nigh."
"We have reaped them all from shore to shore,
And the grain is safe on the threshing floor."
"Have you gathered the berries from the vine,
And the fruit from the orchard trees?
The dew and the scent from the roses and thyme,
In the hive of the honeybees?"
"The peach and the plum and the apple are ours,
And the honeycomb from the scented flowers."
"The wealth of the snowy cotton field
And the gift of the sugar cane,
The savory herb and the nourishing root—
There has nothing been given in vain."
"We have gathered the harvest from shore to shore,
And the measure is full and brimming o'er."
"Then lift up the head with a song!
And lift up the hand with a gift!
To the ancient Giver of all
The spirit in gratitude lift!
For the joy and the promise of spring,
For the hay and the clover sweet,
The barley, the rye, and the oats,
The rice, and the corn, and the wheat,
The cotton, and sugar, and fruit,
The flowers and the fine honeycomb,
The country so fair and so free,
The blessings and glory of home."
AMELIA E. BARR.