Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Maine Minutiae: The First Thanksgiving in Maine

The First Thanksgiving
Last week I wrote about the first Thanksgiving in the USA. It took place near El Paso, Texas. As I searched the internet for more history on Thanksgiving, I came a cross an article that chronicled the first Thanksgiving in Maine. This day of thanks took place several years before the Pilgrims held their Thanksgiving at Plymouth Plantation, Massachusetts in 1612.

English explorer George Weymouth had spent the summer of 1605 exploring the coast of Maine. Upon completing his mission, Weymouth returned to England where the news of his voyages excited many of his countrymen including several businessmen. A new venture to Maine was planned and Weymouth again set sail to the New World with about forty-five settlers. The group made landfall in Maine in Augusta, 1607 at the mouth of the Kennebec River at what is now Popham Beach. The article goes on to state "The settlement at Popham Beach lasted only 13 months, but historians Gould and Hatch document that the settlers having safely arrived from England, built their shelters and prepared for the coming winter, held a celebration of Thanksgiving in the fall of 1607, a full five years before Pilgrim’s first Thanksgiving."

The reason that the settlement at Popham Beach was so short-lived is chronicled thusly, "In the winter of 1608, the storehouse burned. That winter, the Popham settlement’s president, George Popham, nephew of Sir John Popham, died of unknown causes. Raleigh Gilbert--a relative of the maritime adventurer, Sir Walter Raleigh (or Ralegh)--succeeded Popham. The following spring, a ship bringing supplies to the Popham settlement also brought Gilbert news that his brother, John, had died in England leaving him a vast fortune. Gilbert returned to England in September of 1608, bringing with him the remainder of the settlers."

So that, in a nutshell is how the first Thanksgiving in New England came to be. With that, I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving with family and friends. Be sure to take time to really think of all the blessings you have to be thankful for.

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