Friday, November 26, 2021

European Governments Economically Expanding into the Americas & Native American Wars


19C Print of U.S. Cavalry pursuing American Indians (artist unknown)

The American Indian Wars (also called American Frontier Wars, & the First Nations Wars) were fought by European governments seeking economic expansion into the Americas & by their colonists, & later by the newly formed United States & Canadian governments plus their settlers, against various American Indian & First Nation tribes. 

America's native people prior to the European invasion were a complex mixture of histories, alliances & conflicts. Humans are human, & some native tribes acted towards one another with the same brutality as the Europeans did towards them, & visa versa. Grudges & the lure of power were similar. It is believed that the colonists intentionally spread contagious diseases among the natives, usually through gifts of infected blankets or clothing. Measles & smallpox probably killed more natives than bullets & bayonets. The Native's "stone age" war technologies eventually succumbed to the deceptions & weapons of the Europeans. 

These particular conflicts occurred in North America from the time of the earliest European colonial settlements from the 17C until the early 20C. The various wars resulted from a wide variety of factors. These wars usually resulted in the sovereignty of combatants being either extended or lost; a massive native indigenous population decline; deportation & forced assimilation of indigenous tribes; many treaties, truces, & armistices made & then broken by combatants; & the establishment of "Indian reservations" in the United States & Canada.

The European political & economic powers & their colonies also enlisted allied Indian tribes to help them conduct warfare against each other's colonial settlements. 

After the American Revolution, many conflicts were local to specific states or regions & frequently involved disputes over land use; some entailed repeated cycles of violent reprisal.

As settlers spread westward across North America after 1780, armed conflicts increased in size, duration, & intensity between the European settlers & various Native & First Nation tribes. The climax came in the War of 1812, when major Indian coalitions in the Midwest & the South fought against the United States & lost. Conflict with settlers became less common & was usually resolved by treaty, often involving sale or exchange of territory between the federal government & specific tribes. 

The Indian Removal Act of 1830 authorized the American government to enforce Native American removal from east of the Mississippi River to Indian Territory west on the American frontier, such as the land that later became Oklahoma. The federal policy of removal was eventually refined in the West, as American settlers kept expanding their territories, to relocate native tribes to restricted land areas called reservations.


Barnes, Jeff. Forts of the Northern Plains: Guide to Historic Military Posts of the Plains Indian Wars. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books, 2008. 

Glassley, Ray Hoard. Indian Wars of the Pacific Northwest, Binfords & Mort, Portland, Oregon 1972 

Heard, J. Norman. Handbook of the American Frontier (Compilation of Indian-white contacts & conflicts) Scarecrow Press, 1987–98 

Volume 1: "The Southeastern Woodlands," 

Volume 2: "The Northeastern Woodlands," 

Volume 3: "The Great Plains," 

Volume 4: "The Far West,"

Volume 5: "Chronology, Bibliography, Index." 

Kessel, William and Robert Wooster. Encyclopedia of Native American Wars and Warfare (2005)

McDermott, John D. A Guide to the Indian Wars of the West. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998. 

Merrell, James H (1989). "Some Thoughts on Colonial Historians & American Indians" William and Mary Quarterly. 46 

Merrell, James H (2012). "Second Thoughts on Colonial Historians & American Indians" William and Mary Quarterly. 69 

Michno, Gregory F. Deadliest Indian War in the West: The Snake Conflict, 1864–1868, Caxton Press, 2007

Miller, Lester L, Jr. Indian Wars: A Bibliography US Army, 1988 online (lists over 200 books & articles)

Stannard, David. American Holocaust: Columbus and the Conquest of the New World, Oxford, 1992

Tucker, Spencer, ed. The Encyclopedia of North American Indian Wars, 1607–1890: A Political, Social, and Military History (3 vol 2012)

Wooster, Robert. The Military and United States Indian Policy, 1865–1903, Published 1995

The 1st Thanksgiving & The Long Term Treatment of Native Americans

1628 Matthäus Merian’s (1593-1650) Jamestown massacre of 1622, woodcut 

"The first Thanksgiving is a key chapter in America’s origin story – but what happened in Virginia 4 months later mattered much more.

"The Thanksgiving  events in Plymouth in 1621 that came to be enshrined in the national narrative were not typical. A more revealing incident took place in Virginia in 1622.

"Despite a death rate that reached 50% in some years, the English decided to stay. Their investment paid off in the mid-1610s when an enterprising colonist named John Rolfe planted West Indian tobacco seeds in the region’s fertile soil. The industry soon boomed.

"But economic success did not mean the colony would thrive. Initial English survival in Virginia depended on the good graces of the local Indigenous population. By 1607, Wahunsonacock, the leader of an alliance of Natives called Tsenacomoco, had spent a generation forming a confederation of roughly 30 distinct communities along tributaries of Chesapeake Bay. The English called him Powhatan & labeled his followers the Powhatans.

"Wahunsonacock could have likely prevented the English from establishing their community at Jamestown; after all, the Powhatans controlled most of the resources in the region. In 1608, when the newcomers were near starvation, the Powhatans provided them with food. Wahunsonacock also spared Captain John Smith’s life after his people captured the Englishman.

"Wahunsonacock’s actions revealed his strategic thinking. Rather than see the newcomers as all-powerful, he likely believed the English would become a subordinate community under his control. After a war from 1609 to 1614 between English & Powhatans, Wahunsonacock & his allies agreed to peace & coexistence.

"Wahunsonacock died in 1618. Soon after his passing, Opechancanough, likely one of Wahunsonacock’s brothers, emerged as a leader of the Powhatans. Unlike his predecessor, Opechancanough viewed the English with suspicion, especially when they pushed on to Powhatan lands to expand their tobacco fields.

"By spring 1622, Opechancanough had had enough. On March 22, he & his allies launched a surprise attack. By day’s end, they had killed 347 of the English. They might have killed more except that one Powhatan who had converted to Christianity had warned some of the English, which gave them the time to escape.

"Within months, news of the violence spread in England. Edward Waterhouse, the colony’s secretary, detailed the “barbarous Massacre” in a short pamphlet. A few years later, an engraver in Frankfurt captured Europeans’ fears of Native Americans in a haunting illustration for a translation of Waterhouse’s book.

"Waterhouse wrote of those who died “under the bloudy & barbarous hands of that perfidious & inhumane people.” He reported that the victors had desecrated English corpses. He called them “savages” & resorted to common European descriptions of “wyld Naked Natives.” He vowed revenge.

"Over the next decade, English soldiers launched a brutal war against the Powhatans, repeatedly burning the Powhatans’ fields at harvest time in an effort to starve them & drive them away.

"The Powhatans’ orchestrated attack anticipated other Indigenous rebellions against aggressive European colonizers in 17th-century North America.

"The English response, too, fit a pattern: Any sign of resistance by “pagans,” as Waterhouse labeled the Powhatans, needed to be suppressed to advance Europeans’ desire to convert Native Americans to Christianity, claim Indigenous lands, & satisfy European customers clamoring for goods produced in America.

"It was this dynamic – not the one of fellowship found in Plymouth in 1621 – that would go on to define the relationship between Native Americans & European settlers for over two centuries.

"Before the end of the century, violence erupted in New England too, erasing the positive legacy of the feast of 1621. By 1675, simmering tensions exploded in a war that stretched across the region. On a per capita basis, it was among the deadliest conflicts in American history."

Native American Heritage Day

Native American Heritage Day is a national holiday observed on the day after Thanksgiving in the United States.

President George W. Bush signed into law legislation introduced by Congressman Joe Baca (D-Calif.), to designate the Friday after Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day. The Native American Heritage Day Bill was supported by only 184 out of 567 federally recognized tribes, & designates who approved the Friday following Thanksgiving, as a day to pay tribute to Native Americans for their contributions to the United States.

The Native American Heritage Day Bill encourages Americans of all backgrounds to observe the day after Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day, through appropriate ceremonies & activities. It also encourages public elementary & secondary schools to enhance student understanding of Native Americans by providing classroom instructions focusing on their history, achievements, & contributions.

The United States House of Representatives originally passed H.J. Res. 62 on November 13, 2007. The bill was passed with technical adjustments by unanimous consent in the United States Senate on September 22, 2008. Then, on September 26, 2008, the House of Representatives unanimously voted to pass the legislation again, including the adjustments from the Senate. The legislation was signed into public law by the President on October 8, 2008.

There is conflict about the day chosen to honor Native Americans.  In addition to calling Thanksgiving the "National Day of Mourning," some Native Americans believe it is "poor taste" for Native American Heritage Day to be on Black Friday - "a day of greed & aggressive capitalism."

Thursday, November 25, 2021

How the "Mother of Thanksgiving" Lobbied Abraham Lincoln to Proclaim the National Holiday By Barbara Maranzani Nov 21, 2019

The author of the children's poem "Mary Had a Little Lamb" was persistent in arguing that establishing the national November holiday could help heal wounds from the Civil War.

Secretary of State William Seward wrote it & Abraham Lincoln issued it, but much of the credit for the Thanksgiving Proclamation should probably go to a woman named Sarah Josepha Hale. 

A prominent writer & editor, Hale had written the children’s poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” originally known as “Mary’s Lamb,” in 1830 & helped found the American Ladies Magazine, which she used a platform to promote women’s issues. In 1837, she was offered the editorship of Godey’s Lady Book, where she would remain for more than 40 years, shepherding the magazine to a circulation of more than 150,000 by the eve of the Civil War & turning it into one of the most influential periodicals in the country. 

In addition to her publishing work, Hale was a committed advocate for women’s education (including the creation of Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York), & raised funds to construct Massachusetts’s Bunker Hill Monument & save George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate.

The New Hampshire-born Hale had grown up regularly celebrating an annual Thanksgiving holiday, & in 1827 published a novel, Northwood: A Tale of New England, that included an entire chapter about the fall tradition, already popular in parts of the nation. While at Godey’s, Hale often wrote editorials & articles about the holiday & she lobbied state & federal officials to pass legislation creating a fixed, national day of thanks on the last Thursday of November. She believed that such a unifying measure could help ease growing tensions  &  divisions between the northern  &  southern parts of the country. Her efforts paid off: By 1854, more than 30 states & U.S. territories had a Thanksgiving celebration on the books, but Hale’s vision of a national holiday remained unfulfilled.

The concept of a national Thanksgiving did not originate with Hale, & in fact the idea had been around since the earliest days of the republic. During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress issued proclamations declaring several days of thanks, in honor of military victories. 

In 1789, a newly inaugurated George Washington called for a national day of thanks to celebrate both the end of the war & the recent ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Both John Adams  &  James Madison issued similar proclamations of their own, though fellow Founding Father Thomas Jefferson felt the religious connotations surrounding the event were out of place in a nation founded on the separation of church & state, & no formal declarations were issued after 1815.

The outbreak of war in April 1861 did little to stop Sarah Josepha Hale’s efforts to create such a holiday, however. She continued to write editorials on the subject, urging Americans to “put aside sectional feelings & local incidents” & rally around the unifying cause of Thanksgiving. And the holiday continued, despite hostilities, in both the Union & the Confederacy. 

In 1861 & 1862, Confederate President Jefferson Davis issued Thanksgiving Day proclamations following Southern victories. Abraham Lincoln himself called for a day of thanks in April 1862, following Union victories at Fort Donelson, Fort Henry & at Shiloh, & again in the summer of 1863 after the Battle of Gettysburg.

Shortly after Lincoln’s summer proclamation, Hale wrote to both the president & Secretary of State William Seward, once again urging them to declare a national Thanksgiving, stating that only the chief executive had the power to make the holiday, “permanently, an American custom & institution.” 

Whether Lincoln was already predisposed to issue such a proclamation before receiving Hale’s letter of September 28 remains unclear. What is certain is that within a week, Seward had drafted Lincoln’s official proclamation fixing the national observation of Thanksgiving on the final Thursday in November, a move the 2 men hoped would help “heal the wounds of the nation.”

After more than 3 decades of lobbying, Sarah Josepha Hale (& the United States) had a national holiday.

1816-18 Student Eliza Ogden writes of Thanksgiving at Litchfield Female Seminary in Connecticut

Litchfield Female Seminary in Connecticut

July I8, 1816, I arrived at Litchfield the 3rd of July. I went to Mrs Bull's to board. The next day I went to school in the afternoon, but I did not learn my lesson. Thursday I arose in the morning very early, ate breakfast, studied until the bell rang. I went to school, learned a lesson in Geography in the forenoon, in Grammar in the afternoon. Friday I was examined in the Elements of Geography. Saturday I learned a lesson in Geography, and was examined through the rules of the school. Sunday I attended Church, heard Mr. Beecher preach...he wished to have us all be good Christians. After meeting I went home, and in the evening went to Conference. After Conference I went home...and went to writing my Journal 
Dec. 1, 1816. Miss Pierce's school commenced the 27th of November on Wednesday. I was very glad to have school begin again, for I wish to improve all my time, as I am going home so soon. In the morning Mr. Brace called the girls to read and to have them explain upon what we read to show to him Saturday. In the afternoon I recited in the Elements and Geography. Mr. Brace said we must begin Elements again. Thursday was Thanksgiving day. I attended meeting. Mr. Beeeher preached an excellent sermon. Friday I recited my lessons in Elements and Geography.
Dec. 1, 1817. After spending a pleasant vacation in Litchfield, I entered school on Wednesday. I recited a lesson in Elements in the morning; did not miss. Thursday there was no school as it was Thanksgiving. I did not attend meeting. Friday morning arose very early, attended school, recited a lesson in Elements. I recited in Rhetoric in the afternoon. 

1771 Thanksgiving in the Diary of 10-yr-old Anna Green Winslow (1759-1780)

For the years 1771-1773  with notes by Alice Morse Earle 1895 

Anna Green Winslow (1759-1779) was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the daughter of Joshua Winslow (1726/27-1801) & his wife Anna Green (1728-1814). In 1770, at the age of 10, she was sent to a finishing school in Boston, where she lived with her aunt & uncle, Sarah & John Deming.  During her separation from her family, she kept a diary sporadically from November 1771 to May 1773. Her aunt encouraged the diary as a penmanship exercise & as a running letter to her parents. Most entries detail her daily routine. She writes of sermons; jokes; weather; entertainments; current fashions; & family matters. She records her practice at sewing, spinning, reading, & writing.

Winslow was reunited with her family in 1773, when Joshua Winslow moved them to Marshfield, Massachusetts. In 1775, he was exiled as a Tory; his family remained behind. Before the end of the Revolution, Anna Green Winslow died of tuberculosis in Hingham, Massachusetts. Her father moved to Quebec, where he became a Royal Paymaster. Anna was 20, when she died.
"Lady, by which means I had a bit of the wedding cake. I guess I shall have but little time for journalising till after thanksgiving. My aunt Deming1 says I shall make one pye myself at least. I hope somebody beside myself will like to eat a bit of my Boston pye thou' my papa and you did not (I remember) chuse to partake of my Cumberland performance. I think I have been writing my own Praises this morning. Poor Job was forced to praise himself when no man would do him that justice. I am not as he was. I have made two shirts for unkle since I finish'd mamma's shifts."

Spinning & Baking Thanksgiving Pies -1790 Diary of Weaver Elizabeth Fuller Age 14 Massachusetts

Pehr Hillström (1732-1816) A Young Woman Spinning

Elizabeth Fuller (1775-1856) was 14 years-old, when she started keeping a diary. She made regular entries from October 1790 through December 1792. She lived with her family on a farm in Princeton, Massachusetts.

Weaving is the process that creates all kinds of things, such as: clothes, towels, sheets, blankets, & sails to name a few. In early America almost all fabric was imported from England. Though England dominated the American market, the colonies had domestic producers, mostly in the northeast.  Some southern planters had their slaves make cloth, keeping agricultural laborers busy off-season & in bad weather. However, when trade in the United States became restricted during the period before & during the Revolutionary War, weaving not only became a necessity, but a patriotic duty.

The Boston Chronicle in April, 1766, wrote that women there "exhibited a fine example of industry, by spinning from sunrise until dark."  Spinning bees were held in early America to encourage the production of yarn to provide homespun fabric. In the 1760's these events became popular as a means to demonstrate opposition of the importation of heavily taxed British goods and for the mutual aid for those in their community.  The tradition continued after the conflict had ended.

However, spinning was a domestic chore not much practiced in colonial Virginia, as it was very time-consuming, and most cloth was imported. It would take 12 spinners of wool to keep a weaver busy at the loom, and 100 spinners of cotton to keep a full-time weaver busy. The technology of the spinning wheel dates to 500 B.C. in India.

Unmarried young women in rural New England during the 18C, often spent their days at home engaged primarily in textile production for both their own family's use & to trade for other items. Elizabeth Fuller washed, carded, & spun wool, while assisting with everyday chores such as making cheese & cooking.  The term spinster, once used to denote an occupation, began to refer to an unmarried woman in the 18C, as many continued to spend their days making textiles for the use of their extended families.
Platt Powell Ryder (American artist, 1821–1896) A Young Woman at Spinning Wheel

1790 Nov.

21 —Sabbath. Mr. Brown of Winchendon preached.

22 — Revd. Mr. Brown breakfasted with us this morning. He is an agreeable pretty man.

23 — Mr. Gregory killed a cow for Pa.

24 — We baked two ovensfull of pyes. — Mr. Nathan Perry here this eve.

25 — Thanksgiving to-day we baked three ovens full of pyes. There was no preaching so we had nothing to do but eat them. The pyes were a great deal better than they were last Thanksgiving for I made them all myself, and part of them were made of flour which we got of Mr. H. Hastings therefore we had plenty of spice.

From: Francis E. Blake, “Diary Kept by Elizabeth Fuller,” 
History of the Town of Princeton 1915

1777 Revolutionary War Thanksgiving Dinner + A Few Cookbooks


17-year-old Private Joseph Plumb Martin (1760-1850) recounted this memorable Thanksgiving meal in Pennsylvania with wry humor, and mentioned it several more times in his 1828 memoir.
"While we lay here there was a Continental thanksgiving ordered by Congress; and as the army had all the cause in the world to be particularly thankful, if not for being well off, at least it was no worse, we were ordered to participate in it. We had nothing to eat for two or three days previous, except what the trees of the fields and forests afforded us. But now we must have what Congress said - a sumptuous thanksgiving to close the year of high living, we had now nearly seen brought to a close. Well - to add something extraordinary to our present stock of provisions, our country, ever mindful of its suffering army, opened her sympathizing heart so wide, upon this occasion, as to give us something to make the world stare. And what do you think it was, reader? - Guess. - You cannot guess, be you as much of a Yankee as you will.  I will tell you: it gave each and every man half a gill [1/4 cup] of rice, and a table spoon full of vinegar!! 

"After we had made sure of this extraordinary superabundant donation, we were ordered out to attend a meeting and hear a sermon... I remember the text... “And the soldiers said unto him, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, ‘Do violence to no man, nor accuse anyone falsely.’” The preacher ought to have added the remainder of the sentence to have made it complete, “And be content with your wages." But that would not do, it would be too apropos; however, he heard it as soon as the service was over, it was shouted from a hundred tongues.

"As we returned to our camp, we passed by our Commissary’s quarters, all his stores, consisting of a barrel about two thirds full of books of fresh beef, stood directly in our way, but there was a sentinel guarding even that; however, one of my messmates purloined a piece of it, four or five pounds perhaps. I was exceeding glad to see him take it, I thought it might help to eke out our thanksgiving supper; but, alas! how soon my expectations were blasted!—The sentinel saw him have it as soon as I did and obliged him to return it to the barrel again. So I had nothing else to do but to go home and make out my supper as usual, upon a leg of nothing and no turnips.

"The army was now [December 1777] not only starved but naked; the greater part were not only shirtless and barefoot, but destitute of all other clothing, especially blankets... But hunger, nakedness and sore shins were not the only difficulties we had at that time to encounter; --- we had hard duty to perform and little or no strength to perform it with.... we marched for the Valley Forge in order to take up our winter-quarters.  We were now in a truly forlorn condition, -- no clothing, no provisions and as disheartened as need be... a few days before Christmas."

A Narrative of some of the Adventures, Dangers and Sufferings of a Revolutionary Soldier; interspersed with anecdotes of incidents that occurred within his own observation.  Hallowell, ME: 1830. by Joseph Plumb Martin

The Life of Joseph Plumb Martin (1760-1850)
Joseph Plumb Martin (1760-1850) & Lucy Clewley Martin (1776 - 1857)

Born in Becket Massachusetts, at age 7, he was left in the care of his maternal grandparents in Connecticut. In June of 1776, he signed a short–term enlistment of 6 months. He returned to his grandparents’ farm that December, when his enlistment was up. After a winter at home he re-enlisted in April 1777. He served as a private in the 8th Connecticut Regiment, an element of General James Varnum's Brigade. In 1778, he was reassigned to the Light Infantry, & then in 1780, he was again reassigned to the Corps of Sappers & Miners & attained the rank of Corporal. Martin served until the close of the war & was present at Cornwallis’ surrender, capping his career at the rank of Sergeant. After his release from the army, he spent a year as a teacher in New York state before moving to Maine, where land was being offered to encourage settlement. In 1794, he married Lucy Clewley with whom he had 5 children. By 1818 Martin was destitute; his total property was assessed at $52 dollars. He applied for a veteran’s pension & was granted $96 a year. Martin also served for 25 years as town clerk of Prospect, Maine. He wrote several poems & songs, & about 1828 he wrote his memoirs entitled ‘A narrative of some of the adventures, dangers & sufferings of a revolutionary soldier; interspersed with anecdotes of incidents that occurred within his own observation.’  His journal is now considered one of the finest primary sources for study of the Continental Army soldier. Martin died peacefully at home at age 89.

Thanks to Pat Reber for sharing this narrative on her blog, Researching Food History - Cooking and Dining.

Colonial Era Cookbooks
1615, New Booke of Cookerie, John Murrell (London) 

1798, American Cookery, Amelia Simmons (Hartford, CT)

1803, Frugal Housewife, Susannah Carter (New York, NY)

1807, A New System of Domestic Cookery, Maria Eliza Rundell (Boston, MA)

1808, New England Cookery, Lucy Emerson (Montpelier, VT)

Helpful Secondary Sources
America's Founding Food: The Story of New England Cooking/Keith Stavely and Kathleen Fitzgerald Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

Colonial Kitchens, Their Furnishings, and Their Gardens/Frances Phipps Hawthorn; 1972

Early American Beverages/John Hull Brown  Rutland, Vt., C. E. Tuttle Co 1996 

Early American Herb Recipes/Alice Cooke Brown  ABC-CLIO  Westport, United States

Food in Colonial and Federal America/Sandra L. Oliver

Home Life in Colonial Days/Alice Morse Earle (Chapter VII: Meat and Drink) New York : Macmillan Co., ©1926.

A Revolution in Eating: How the Quest for Food Shaped America/James E. McWilliams New York : Columbia University Press, 2005.

Thomas Jefferson’s Complicated Relationship with Thanksgiving

Thomas Jefferson by John Trumbull (1756-1843) 1788 National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian
Thomas Jefferson’s Complicated Relationship with Thanksgiving 
The third president declined to participate in the tradition.

"Since the United States became a nation, people have come together to count their blessings, feast on bountiful foods & give thanks with family & friends...But there’s one president who refused to endorse the tradition: Thomas Jefferson.

"Ever since Jefferson first declined to mark the day in 1801, rumors have swirled that the 3rd president despised the event. But it was more complicated than that. For Jefferson, supporting Thanksgiving meant supporting state-sponsored religion, & it was his aversion to mixing church & state that earned him a reputation as America’s only anti-Thanksgiving president.

"In Jefferson’s time, Thanksgiving as a national holiday didn’t exist at all. The formal observance of Thanksgiving Day only began in 1863, when Lincoln proclaimed the holiday in response to the horrors of the Civil War. By then, the tradition of giving thanks as a nation had been in place since 1777, when Congress declared a national day of thanksgiving after America’s victory at the Battle of Saratoga. Afterward, presidents would proclaim periodic days of fasting, prayer & expressing gratitude.

"But not Jefferson. When he became president, he stopped declaring the holidays that George Washington & John Adams had so enthusiastically supported—and in 1802, he flirted with telling the nation why.

"Shortly after his inauguration, a Baptist group in Connecticut wrote a letter to Jefferson congratulating him on his election & expressing concern about the state’s constitution, which didn’t specifically provide for religious liberty. Baptists had long beenpersecuted in the colonies due to their emotional religious ceremonies, their decision to baptize adults instead of children, & their belief in the separation of church & state. The Baptist Association of Danbury wanted to be sure that they’d be protected under Jefferson’s presidency.

"Jefferson saw this as an opportunity to explain his views on state-sponsored religion. “I have long wished to find [an occasion to say] why I do not proclaim fastings & thanksgivings, as my predecessors did,” Jefferson wrote to his attorney general & friend, Levi Lincoln.

"At the time, Jefferson’s political enemies, the Federalists, loved to use his stance on the separation of church & state as a political cudgel, convincing Americans that he was an atheist who was making America less godly. Perhaps his response to the Baptists, which would be widely read, could make his views clearer & protect him against those slurs.

"In an early draft of the letter, Jefferson faced the Federalist accusations head-on, explaining that he considered declaring fasts or days of thanksgiving to be expressions of religion & that he opposed them because they were remnants of Britain’s reign over the American colonies.

"But Levi Lincoln warned him that his words might be construed as a criticism of New England, where feast of thanksgiving had become a beloved tradition. After careful consideration, Jefferson decided to drop the reference from his letter. His public reply to the Danbury Baptists didn’t include a comment on public celebrations of thanksgiving. Rather, Jefferson told them he believed in “a wall of separation between Church & State.”

"Jefferson paid the political price for that edit. “Withholding from the public the rationale for his policy on thanksgivings & fasts did not solve Jefferson’s problem, ”writes historian James Hutson. Since the public didn’t know the reasoning behind his lack of thanksgiving proclamations, says Hutson, he remained vulnerable to Federalist attacks that accused him of godlessness.

"In fact, Jefferson had once declared a Thanksgiving of his own: In 1779, while serving as governor of Virginia, he declared a day of Thanksgiving & Prayer. In 1808, he explained why he had been willing to do so as governor, but not president. Jefferson believed he could not endorse such a holiday without running afoul of the First Amendment—and furthermore, he considered days of thanksgiving the responsibility of the states, not the federal government.

"For Jefferson, it was more important to maintain a strict separation of church & state than to cave in to the public’s love of giving thanks. But since he never explained himself in public, American citizens never got the chance to appreciate his principled stance on the holiday. Jefferson’s public silence on Thanksgiving spun out into a centuries-long rumor that he was a Turkey Day grinch—especially when his successor, James Madison, resuscitated the tradition in 1815."

1770s-80s Thanksgiving Dinners

Still Life with Apples and Walnuts 1772 by Luis Egidio Meléndez (1716–1780)

PROCLAMATION by the United States in Congress assembly: October 31, 1780
Whereas it hath pleased Almighty God, the Father of all mercies, amidst the vicissitudes and calamities of war, to bestow blessings on the people of these states, which call for their devout and thankful acknowledgments, more especially in the late remarkable interposition of his watchful providence, in rescuing the person of our Commander in Chief and the army from imminent dangers, at the moment when treason was ripened for execution; in prospering the labors of the husbandmen, and causing the earth to yield its increase in plentiful harvests; and, above all, in continuing to us the enjoyment of the gospel of peace;

It is therefore recommended to the several states to set apart Thursday, the seventh day of December next, to be observed as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer; that all the people may assemble on that day to celebrate the praises of our Divine Benefactor; to confess our unworthiness of the least of his favors, and to offer our fervent supplications to the God of all grace; that it may please him to pardon our heinous transgressions and incline our hearts for the future to keep all his laws that it may please him still to afford us the blessing of health; to comfort and relieve our brethren who are any wise afflicted or distressed; to smile upon our husbandry and trade and establish the work of our hands; to direct our public councils, and lead our forces, by land and sea, to victory; to take our illustrious ally under his special protection, and favor our joint councils and exertions for the establishment of speedy and permanent peace; to cherish all schools and seminaries of education, build up his churches in their most holy faith and to cause the knowledge of Christianity to spread over all the earth.
Done in Congress, the last day of October, 1780, and in the fifth year of the independence of the United States of America.
Kitchen Still Life Attributed to Martin Dichtl (1639-1710)

"This menu for a New England Thanksgiving dinner is taken from a letter written in 1779 by Juliana Smith to her 'Dear Cousing Betsey.'

Haunch of Venison Roast Chine of Pork
Roast Turkey Pigeon Pasties Roast Goose
Onions in Cream Cauliflower Squash
Potatoes Raw Celery
Mincemeat Pie Pumpkin Pie Apple Pie
Indian Pudding Plum Pudding
 Kitchen Still Life Peter Jakob Horemans ( 1700–1776 )

While it would be difficult to set forth a single 'traditional' Thanksgiving menu, the preparations related by Juliana Smith that went into this dinner were certainly typical of early New England Thanksgivings. 'This year it was Uncle Simeon's turn to have the dinner at his house, but of course we all helped them as they help us when it is their turn, & there is always enough for us all to do. All the baking of pies & cakes was done at our house & we had the big oven heated & filled twice each day for three days before it was all done & everything was GOOD, though we did have to do without some things that ought to be used. Neither Love nor (paper) Money could buy Raisins, but our good red cherries dried without the pits, did almost as well & happily Uncle Simeon still had some spices in store. The tables were set in the Dining Hall and even that big room had no space to spare when we were all seated.' Apparently roast beef was part of the tradition menu for this family, but 'of course we could have no Roast Beef. None of us have tasted Beef this three years back as it must all go to the Army, & too little they get, poor fellows. But, Nayquittymaw's Hunters were able to get us a fine red Deer, so that we had a good haunch of Venisson on each Table.' There was an abundance of vegetables on the table...Cider was served instead of wine, wiht the explanation that Uncle Simeon was saving his cask 'for the sick.' Juliana added that 'The Pumpkin Pies, Apple Tarts & big Indian Puddings lacked for nothing save Appetite by the time we had got round to them...We did not rise from the Table until it was quite dark, & then when the dishes had been cleared away we all got round the fire as close as we could, & cracked nuts, & sang songs & told stories."
American Heritage Cookbook and Illustrated History of American Eating & Drinking, Menus and Recipes, 
Helen McCully recipe editor [American Heritage Publishing Co.:New York] 1964 (p.416-417)
Pantry Still Life by candlelight 1630 - Georg Flegel (1566-1638)

The pioneering American surgeon Mason Finch Cogswell, born in 1691 in Canterbury, Connecticut, described a typical eighteenth century Thanksgiving meal in his 1788 journal...On Thanksgiving day...he attended church in the morning, ate a dinner afterward consisting of turkey, pork, pumpkins, and apple pies...Cogswell spent time with his fater, then sang gonts and ate apples and nuts in the kitchen with his stepsisters before going to bed."
Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving Recipes and History, from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie,
Kathleen Curtin, Sandra L. Oliver and Pilmoth Plantation [Clarkson Potter:New York] 2005 [(p. 30-31)
Stiil Life with Rabbit Anne Vallayer-Coster (1744–1818)

1789 George Washington gives America's 1st Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation

William Dunlap (1766-1839) Portrait of George Washington, c 1783

During the American Revolution, the practice of celebrating Thanksgiving in the USA continued. Colonial legislatures set aside days of prayer to recognize military victories against the British army. After British General John Burgoyne surrendered to the Americans at Saratoga, New York, in October 1777, the Continental Congress suggested that a national day be set aside to recognize the victory. Commander of the Continental Army, General George Washington agreed, proclaiming December 18, 1777 as the first national thanksgiving day. The Continental Congress supported similar thanksgiving proclamations through 1784.

In 1789, Representative Elias Boudinot from New Jersey presented a resolution requesting that Congress persuade the now-President Washington to declare a thanksgiving observance in honor of the creation of the new United States Constitution. Congress agreed and passed the resolution creating a joint committee to make their request to the president.

Washington issued a proclamation on October 3, 1789, designating Thursday, November 26 as a national day of thanks. In his proclamation, Washington declared that the necessity for such a day sprung from the Almighty’s care of Americans prior to the Revolution, assistance to them in achieving independence, and help in establishing the constitutional government. Not ignoring the authority of state governments, Washington distributed his proclamation to the governors, requesting that they announce and observe the day within their states. Newspapers throughout the country subsequently published the proclamation and public celebrations were held. Washington himself marked the day by attending services at St. Paul's Chapel in New York City, and by donating beer and food to imprisoned debtors in the city.

The original Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation document was penned by William Jackson, secretary to the President, and only signed by George Washington. The declaration was announced in newspapers; and then the original was lost, probably on the move of the US capitol from New York to Washington, D.C. The original manuscript returned to its home in the capitol in 1921, when Dr. J. C. Fitzpatrick, of the manuscripts division of the Library of Congress, purchased the proclamation for $300 at auction from an art gallery in New York City. It was the 1st official presidential proclamation issued in the United States of America.

Thanksgiving Proclamation
New York, 3 October 1789
By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor-- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be-- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks--for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted--for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions-- to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually--to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed--to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord--To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us--and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789. Go: Washington

Earlier, as the nation was forming, Samuel Adams proposed at the Continental Congress on November 1, 1777, "It is therefore recommended - to set apart (a day) for the solemn thanksgiving and praise: That with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts and consecrate themselves to the service of their Divine Benefactor..."

17C Thanksgiving - 1621 Food at Plymouth

“And God be praised we had a good increase… Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”

Edward Winslow, Mourt’s Relation: D.B. Heath, ed. Applewood Books. Cambridge, 1986.

“They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which is place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck a meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports."

William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation: S.E. Morison, ed. Knopf. N.Y., 1952.

17C Thanksgiving - 1607 in Popham Colony in Maine

A highway-marker at Popham Colony, located in modern-day Phippsburg, Maine, marks a 1607 Thanksgiving in Popham Colony.  Fourteen years before the Pilgrims & the Wampanoag tribe feasted together, the short-lived settlement of Popham Colony held 2 celebrations considered by some to be thanksgiving observances. "The first occurred in September when the settlers encountered a native tribe (the Abenaki). Nine canoes arrived at the Popham settlement with about 40 people. The settlers gave them food & Skidwarres & one other Abenaki stayed the night," reports a researcher with the Maine Historical Society. "Later in October, 5 tribesmen arrived: Skidwarres, Nahandada & his wife, one other & a tribal leader named Amenquin. They feasted for 2 days with Popham & the others. The second day was Sunday, so they also joined the settlers in morning & evening prayers."  Captain George Popham, leader of the colony, died within a year of the 2 ceremonies. 

Maine’s Lost Colony : Archeologists uncover an early American settlement that history forgot
By Myron Beckenstein

Not far from Portland along Maine’s winding coast, someone has placed a neatly lettered sign on an otherwise undistinguished boulder. It reads: Popham Rock 1607. A play on Plymouth Rock 1620, some 200 miles south? Not entirely. A colony called Popham actually did precede the renowned Massachusetts settlement. “Popham was the cornerstone in the foundation of English America,” says Jeffrey P. Brain, 64, an archaeologist with the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, who is excavating the site of the forgotten colony. “The lessons learned were important to the later success of the Pilgrims.”  Popham’s value lies in its failure. Its remains...have been called one of the most significant archaeological sites in the country. Unlike Jamestown, Popham’s successful sister colony in Virginia, whose footprint changed as it developed, Popham represents a unique, undisturbed time capsule of a very early North American settlement.

"Each September since 1997, Brain has enlisted a few colleagues & some 30 volunteers & amateur archaeologists to work for 3 weeks at the mouth of the Kennebec River, about 25 miles northeast of Portland. This year’s team included an epidemiologist, an engineer, a nurse, a sociology professor & a historian from England. Popham was named after its principal financial backer, Sir John Popham, & his nephew George Popham, the colony’s president. It was founded about 20 years after Sir Walter Raleigh’s North Carolina colony disappeared in the 1580s, when, as the economic race with France & Spain heated up, England made another attempt to plant its flag in the New World. In 1606, James I granted a charter to a joint stock company to establish two colonies, one, Jamestown, on the southern Atlantic Coast, & the other, Popham, on the northern.  On May 31, 1607, about 100 men & boys set sail for the northerly destination. Discharged soldiers made up most of the colonists’ ranks, but shipwrights, coopers, carpenters & a smattering of “gentlemen of quality” rounded them out. About three months later, the group landed on a wooded peninsula where the Kennebec River meets the Atlantic Ocean, & began building Fort St. George. In December, with winter coming & food scarce, half of the colonists returned to England. The next fall, after erecting several buildings, the remaining 45 sailed home.

"Popham’s rediscovery came about by two events a century apart. In 1888, a researcher for an American diplomat happened upon a map of Fort St. George in government archives in Madrid. Drawn & signed by Popham colonist John Hunt, it was likely snatched, or copied, by a Spanish spy soon after it arrived in England in 1608. The only known detailed plan of an early English colony, the map contains sketches of trenched ramparts, a storehouse, a chapel & various buildings—in all, more than 15 structures. Though published in 1890, the map provoked little interest for 100 years, until Brain came upon a mention of the lost colony while vacationing in Maine.  At first “I thought it was some sort of local mythology,” he says. “But it was historically known, & I decided it was time to look for it archaeologically.”  Research led him to Hunt’s map, which took him to Sabino Head, a windy promontory on the Kennebec. Topographical features seemed to match Fort St. George’s modified star-shaped contours. Conducting a test excavation on the area in 1994, Brain & his team found a posthole after several weeks of digging. Baffled by not finding more postholes, he “fiddled with the map,” rotated it 20 degrees & came up with a dead-on match with the landscape. “It was a eureka moment,” he recalls. Soon the crew was “turning up one after another” of the three-foot-wide pine mold-filled holes, eventually 19 in all, outlining the 69-by-20-foot storehouse that Hunt had depicted on his blueprint almost 400 years before.

"Archaeologists are still not sure how many of the map’s structures were actually built, but so far, in addition to the storehouse, they’ve located parts of the trench wall & the “Admirals howse,” & they have leads on the buttery, a storehouse for wine & liquor. During the second week of this year’s dig, Kathy Bugbee, a retiree from Southport, Maine, unearthed an inch-long piece of decorated stoneware. A digger for seven years, she recognized the brown glazed fragment as part of a Bellarmine jug, a German-made container used throughout Europe to store liquor in the 16th & 17th centuries. In his on-site cache of artifacts, Brain found a wedge of Bellarmine that he had assembled from other fragments two years earlier. Bugbee’s find slid easily into a gap in the piece to reveal a medallion motif. The jug’s embossed seal reads: “1599.”  In addition to Bellarmine, the site has yielded other ceramics, clay tobacco pipes, glass trading beads, bullets & tools, including a caulking iron, used in shipbuilding. The Popham settlers did succeed in constructing the Virginia, a small but durable vessel that would take them back to England & later make other transatlantic voyages. At the admiral’s house, the archaeological team turned up shards of delftware, more Bellarmine, fancy buttons, bits of etched wine glasses & jet beads—all reflecting the occupants’ upper-class rank...

"The main reason for abandoning the colony, Brain theorizes, was a loss of leadership. Only one member of the group, George Popham, is known to have died at Fort St. George. (Jamestown lost more than half of its 120 settlers the first year.) But he was the colony’s president, & on February 5, 1608, Raleigh Gilbert took command. Just 25, Gilbert was, according to one investor, “desirous of supremasy,” “a loose life,” with “litle zeale in Religion.” Six months later, a resupply ship brought Gilbert news that he had inherited a title & an estate back in England. When Gilbert decided to return to England to collect, the others headed back with him. “They were headless, so to speak,” Brain says. “English society was very stratified; people needed leaders.” Bad relations with the Indians, the fear of another severe winter & the area’s lack of easily exploitable resources, such as gold or other precious metals, also affected the decision to abandon Popham.

"Most of the returned settlers disappeared into history; a few crossed the Atlantic again to try their hand at Jamestown. The Pilgrims who arrived 12 years later, landing at Plymouth, had obviously learned some lessons from Popham. “They settled farther south in a milder climate that was more familiar to them & more conducive to agriculture,” says Brain. “They tried harder to work with the Indians. They also brought women & children. “Luck had a lot to do with these early ventures,” Brain adds, explaining that Jamestown, too, almost failed. Hit hard by disease & starvation, the 50 or so remaining settlers abandoned the colony in the spring of 1610 & were sailing home when they encountered a relief fleet & a new governor, who ordered them back to Jamestown."

Who was Edward Winslow who wrote about the 1st Plymouth Thanksgiving & the Supportive Native Americans?

Portrait of Edward Winslow(1595-1655) Pilgrim Hall Museum

On December 11, 1621, Plymouth colonist Edward Winslow (1595-1655) wrote a letter to a friend back in England  He summarized the Pilgrim's 1st year in early America & praised the life-saving friendships with the Native Americans.

Letter of Edward Winslow, 11 December 1621 ... We set the last spring some 20 acres of Indian corn, & sowed some 6 acres of barley & peas, & according to the manner of the Indians, we manured our ground with herrings or rather shads, which we have in great abundance, & take with great ease at our doors.  Our corn did prove well, & God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn, & our barley indifferent good, but our peas not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sown, they came up very well, & blossomed, but the sun parched them in the blossom; our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent 4 men on fowling, that so we might after a more special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruit of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the company almost a week, at which time amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, & among the rest their greatest King Massasoit, with some 90 men, whom for 3 days we entertained & feasted, & they went out & killed 5 deer, which they brought to the plantation & bestowed on our governor, & upon the captain, & others...We have found the Indians very faithful in their covenant of peace with us; very loving & ready to pleasure us: we often go to them, & they come to us; some of us have been 50 miles by land in the country with them; the occasions & relations whereof you shall understand by our general & more full declaration of such things as are worth the noting, yea, it hath pleased God so to possess the Indians with a fear of us, & love unto us, that not only the greatest king amongst them called Massasoit, but also all the princes & peoples round about us, have either made suit unto us, or been glad of any occasion to make peace with us, so that 7 of them at once have sent their messengers to us to that end, yea, an Fle at sea, which we never saw hath also together with the former yielded willingly to be under the protection, & subjects to our sovereign Lord King James, so that there is now great peace amongst the Indians themselves, which was not formerly, neither would have been but for us; & we for our parts walk as peaceably & safely in the wood, as in the highways in England, we entertain them familiarly in our houses, & they as friendly bestowing their venison on us.  They are a people without any religion, or knowledge of any God, yet very trusty, quick of apprehension, ripe-witted, just, the men & women go naked, only a skin about their middles...all the winter we have mussels & othus at our doors: oysters we have none near, but we can have them brought by the Indians when we will...Your loving Friend E.W.    

The Plymouth Hero You Should Really Be Thankful for This Thanksgiving. Without Edward Winslow, we probably wouldn’t even be celebrating the holiday

Smithsonian Magazine by John Hanc November 21, 2016

Almost everything we know about the Pilgrim Thanksgiving in 1621 is based on a letter by Edward Winslow.  But more interesting than the letter’s content is its author, a figure largely missing from the Thanksgiving story.

Edward Winslow—diplomat, printer, author, trader & politician (some might even call him a social scientist & a public relations practitioner)—was one of the most important, & today, perhaps least remembered, leaders of the group of separatists called Pilgrims. Without Winslow, Plymouth—and indeed, the New England colonies—might not have survived.

“He was hugely significant,” says Rebecca Fraser, a British historian whose book about the Winslow family will be published next year. “He was one of those people who have so much energy. He needed to be striding around doing lots of things."

The prominent Boston theologian & writer Cotton Mather, writing in 1702, referred to Winslow as a “Hercules” for his strength & fortitude in dealing with multiple challenges facing the Plymouth settlement & later, New England as a whole. Winslow faced down Native American tribes hostile to the colonists & their allies & confronted warring political & economic factions on the other side of the Atlantic. In those latter battles, the ones fought in the corridors of power & the court of public opinion back in England, Winslow was the equivalent of a modern-day lobbyist.

"Winslow was the designated defender of New England's reputation," says Donna Curtin, executive director of Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts. "It wasn't in the political interest of Plymouth or Massachusetts Bay to be viewed as fractious or repressive by authorities back in England,.”

Winslow's unique background more than qualified him for the job. Most of the Pilgrims were yeoman farmers, with little formal education. Not Winslow. Born in 1595, he was educated in an Anglican cathedral school where the students spoke Greek & Latin, & he may have attended university in Cambridge. He then became an apprentice printer in London, although he left  before he had completed his training. “I suppose he was inspired by the last book he worked on,” says Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs, director of the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum in the Netherlands. That book, he says, was what we might now call a travel memoir by an Englishman who had spent time in Europe.

Possibly influenced by Puritan literature, Winslow ended up in Holland, a refuge for many English separatist groups, including the congregation that formed a new community in the Dutch university town of Leiden. “As far as we know, he wasn’t involved with a separatist church until he got to Leiden,” says Bangs, who also authored a biography of Winslow.

In Leiden, young Winslow worked with William Brewster, a printer & prominent member of the group. He immersed himself in the theology & goals of the Pilgrims who decided, after a decade in Holland, that their best hope for creating the kind of religious community they aspired to could be found in the New World. Winslow was one of the 102 passengers on the Mayflower. Later, he wrote a stirring account of the ship's arrival on distant shores after a fearful Atlantic passage: Falling in with Cape Cod, which is in New England, & standing to the southward for the place we intended, we met with many dangers & mariners put back into the harbor of the Cape, which was the 11th of November, 1620: Where considering winter was come, the seas dangerous, the season cold, the winds high & being well-furnished for a plantation, we entered upon discovery & settled at Plymouth: Where God please to preserve & enable us.

That preservation was made possible by the local Wampanoag people, whom the Pilgrims befriended. Here, Winslow played a critical role. He was a natural diplomat, a keen observer & inherently curious. “He really is interested in learning more about the Wampanoag people & their beliefs & customs,” says Curtin “Not only does he observe their life ways, but he records them.”

“You’ll find out more about the Indians from Winslow than almost anyone else,” agrees Bangs. Notably, he was also willing to re-assess his attitudes based on what he learned from the indigenous people he met. “In the first year, he thought they had no concept of religion at all,” says Bangs. “In the next year or two, though, he had a more elaborate idea of what they thought in philosophic & religious terms & he corrected what he said.”

In his best-selling 2006 book Mayflower, historian Nathaniel Philbrick praises a detailed, first-person description of wigwams co-written by Winslow & William Bradford; “a modern anthropologist would have a hard time outdoing the report,” he writes.

When the Wampanoag sachem, or leader, Massasoit—himself a skilled diplomat—first visited the hardscrabble Plymouth settlement, Winslow was chosen from among the English settlers to walk out & greet him personally. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship; one that would prove critical to the stability of the colony. “[Winslow] had a terrific relationship with Massasoit,” says Fraser. The friendship was forged in a dramatic way. When the chief was seriously ill, Winslow—who had no medical training—walked to his village & reportedly nursed him back to health using a time-honored remedy: chicken soup. “There’s a wonderful relation by Winslow about going to Massasoit’s home & making chicken broth for him,” Fraser says. “It’s very tender.”

Like most Pilgrims, Winslow suffered personal loss in the early years of the settlement. His first wife Elizabeth died in March, 1621. Barely six weeks later, Winslow married Susanna White, whose husband had died as well. It was the first marriage in the new colony & produced five children.

In terms of his career, Winslow went further & higher than anyone else from the Plymouth settlement. He was the man selected first by Plymouth, & later by the emerging new Massachusetts Bay Colony to the north, to be the colonists’ liaison with London. In 1624, he returned to England to represent the interests of his fellow Pilgrims.

Though the Pilgrims were far from their native shores, the Plymouth colony was still affected by the mother country. Fish & furs needed to be sent back to help pay off their debts to those who had helped underwrite the cost of the journey. Many fellow separatists had remained in England & Holland—what would become of them? Would they join the new religious community founded by their friends in the new world? If so, how…and who would pay for it?

The colonists had other far-off struggles, too. There were conflicts with a rival colony in Maine, formed soon after the founding of Plymouth. There were denominational issues about church membership that needed to be addressed by Puritan authorities back home. And most important of all was the looming tussle between Parliament & the sovereignty, held by James I, whose attitudes towards the Pilgrims & their ilk had inspired them to leave England in the first place. The dispute between the Pilgrims & the crown finally exploded into the English Civil War two decades after the Pilgrims first landed.

Edward Winslow found himself in the midst of this roiling, complex political drama. His first mission was to sort out a boundary dispute in the wilds of Maine. "A settler named John Hocking had been killed by the Plymouth settlers because he went onto a part of the Kennebec River which belonged to the colony." Fraser explains. "Winslow had to apologize to Lord Saye, who was one of the founders of the Piscataqua settlement."

He had other business, too. Winslow published a number of pamphlets defending & promoting the New England colonies. After the English Civil War, when at first Parliament & later, in 1653, Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protectorate, Winslow’s entreaties on behalf of the colonists were more warmly received than before. Cromwell recognized Winslow’s talents & appointed him to number of important committees, including one overseeing the confiscation of property from royalty. Soon, Winslow found himself doing everything from inventorying palaces to hearing the grievances of aristocrats who felt they had been unfairly treated.

Winslow’s 17th-century equivalent of jet-setting diplomacy didn’t always sit well with his friends back in Plymouth. In 1646  as Winslow headed for England yet again, William Bradford, Plymouth's governor & Winslow's close friend, grumbled that he had done so without permission. And Winslow's open-mindedness had limits. In 1645, Curtin notes, "he opposed a remarkable proposal to establish full religious freedom for all faiths in Plymouth despite his own experience of religious toleration as an exile in Holland."

Winslow’s star appeared to be reaching its zenith when, in 1655, he was sent by Cromwell to the West Indies as part of a military expedition aimed at establishing English settlements there. He had been designated by Cromwell to be the new governor of Jamaica.  “That was an enormously powerful position,” Bangs says.

But he never made it to the new colony. During the voyage, Winslow took ill & died at sea.

While Edward Winslow did indeed travel more widely & in higher circles than the rest of his original group of settlers from Plymouth, he seems to have remained at heart, a god-fearing Pilgrim, & never lost his pride in what he & his fellow dissenters had accomplished with their small settlement on the edge of a vast new continent. Plymouth was a community, he wrote, “not laid upon schism, division or separation, but upon love, peace & holiness; yea, such love & mutual care of the Church of Leyden for the spreading of the Gospel, the welfare of each other & their posterities to succeeding generations, is seldom found on earth.”