The Word Ministries
There are multiple references to the fall or harvest celebration that we know today as the "First Thanksgiving." It is not known exactly when the event occurred, but some historians believe it took place sometime between September 21 or 22 when a group of Plymouth men returned from Massachusetts, and November 9, 1621, when the ship Fortune arrived on American shores. Three alternate sources are cited below, but the validity (or exact wording of any source document) is not certain.
The first reference to a national holiday of Thanksgiving having been declared in the United States by declaration of the new Continental Congress was issued in November, 1777. The text is also included below.
Notice that regardless of the question of any source's authenticity, in only one instance was the act of thanksgiving not mentioned in conjunction with God (neither was it condemned) and in no case was the occasion of thanksgiving ever cited as having been declared solely to give thanks to the Indians for their help.
Our corn did prove well, and, God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn, and our barley indifferent good, but our peas not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sown, They came up very well, and blossomed, but the sun parched them in the blossom.
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, among 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 upon 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.
Source: Edward Winslow,
Dec. 11, 1621, in A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth (Mourtís
Relation: A Relation or Journal of the English Plantation settled at
Plymouth in New England, by certain English
They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwelling 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 this place did abound when they 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 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.
Source: William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation. Samuel Eliot Morison, ed. New York: Knopf, 1952. p.20
Third Source (1676?)
The Holy God having by a long and Continual Series of his Afflictive dispensations in and by the present War with the Heathen Natives of this land, written and brought to pass bitter things against his own Covenant people in this wilderness, yet so that we evidently discern that in the midst of his judgments he hath remembered mercy, having remembered his Footstool in the day of his sore displeasure against us for our sins, with many singular Intimations of his Fatherly Compassion, and regard; reserving many of our Towns from Desolation Threatened, and attempted by the Enemy, and giving us especially of late with many of our Confederates many signal Advantages against them, without such Disadvantage to ourselves as formerly we have been sensible of, if it be the Lord's mercy that we are not consumed, It certainly bespeaks our positive Thankfulness, when our Enemies are in any measure disappointed or destroyed; and fearing the Lord should take notice under so many Intimations of his returning mercy, we should be found an Insensible people, as not standing before Him with Thanksgiving, as well as lading him with our Complaints in the time of pressing Afflictions:
The Council has thought meet to appoint and set apart the 29th day of this instant June, as a day of Solemn Thanksgiving and praise to God for such his Goodness and Favour, many Particulars of which mercy might be Instanced, but we doubt not those who are sensible of God's Afflictions, have been as diligent to espy him returning to us; and that the Lord may behold us as a People offering Praise and thereby glorifying Him; the Council doth commend it to the Respective Ministers, Elders and people of this Jurisdiction; Solemnly and seriously to keep the same Beseeching that being persuaded by the mercies of God we may all, even this whole people offer up our bodies and souls as a living and acceptable Service unto God by Jesus Christ.
Declared by the Continental Congress following Burgoyne's Defeat at Saratoga.
November 1, 1777
"Forasmuch as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for benefits received, and to implore such further Blessings as they stand in Need of: And it having pleased him in his abundant Mercy, not only to continue to us the innumerable Bounties of his common providence; but also to smile upon us in the Prosecution of a just and necessary War, for the Defence and Establishment of our inalienable Rights and Liberties...It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive Powers of these United States, to set apart Thursday, the eighteenth Day of December next, for the Solemn Thanksgiving and Praise: That at one Time and with one voice, the good People may express themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor... And it is further recommended, That servile labour, and such Recreations, as, though at other Times innocent, may be unbecoming the Purpose of this Appointment, be omitted on so solemn an Occasion."