Thanksgiving Celebration: Its History


Abraham Lincoln made the Thanksgiving Proclamation on October 3, 1863.  A purpose of the Proclamation was to unify the nation, which was in the midst of the Civil War.   Thanksgiving Day was to be the last Thursday of November.

abrahamlincolnCredit for the Thanksgiving holiday also goes to Sarah Josepha Hale, “the was the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, a popular magazine for women in 19th century America.” For years she campaigned for a Thanksgiving holiday and wrote a letter to President Lincoln encouraging it.

The Early History of Thanksgiving in America.

The earliest recorded history of  Thanksgiving in America is recorded in the book the History of Plymouth by William Bradford.  It was Bradford who declared “the celebration of Thanksgiving.”  Bradford was Plymouth’s second governor, a position he held for thirty years.  Bradford starts the story in 1606 when a group of people in Scrooby, England decided they had to escape the oppression of the Church of England and its regulations.  They moved to Holland.  Eventually the group left on the Mayflower and sailed to the New World seeking the freedom of religion.

The History of Plymouth tells of the challenges and hardships the people were willing to bear for individual liberty.  This group was called the Pilgrims.  Their story is riveting.  Upon arriving in the New World, while the Mayflower was docked and while William Bradford was on a scouting trip, his wife Dorothy fell off the Mayflower and drowned.  It has been questioned if it was an accident or when his wife saw the bleakness of the land gave up.  There are characters such as Massasoit, “the chief of the nearby Wampanoags, signed a treaty of alliance with the Pilgrims in the summer. In exchange for assistance with defense against the feared Narragansett tribe, Massasoit supplemented the food supply of the Pilgrims for the first few years.”

Let’s not forget Squanto.  Squanto lived in the Plymouth area and was kidnapped by the English and brought to England.  He lived in England for nine to ten years before coming back home.  He was then captured again and this time  taken to Spain where he was sold into slavery.  Catholic Fryers bought Squanto.  Squanto eventually made his way back home a few months before the Pilgrims arrived.  Squanto learned English and France.  Squanto became a friend of the Pilgrims and helped them survive the harsh New World.  Amongst other things, he taught the pilgrims how to fertilize the land with dead fish.

The first Thanksgiving celebration is said to have been in 1621.  Below is a writing from William Bradford in the English of his time.  Can you understand it.

Ye First Thanksgiving in Ye New World

By William Bradford

“I may not here omite how, notwithstanding all their great paines & industrie, and ye great hopes of a large cropp, the Lord seemed to blast, & take away the same, and to threaten further & more sore famine unto them, by a great drought which continued from ye 3 weeke in May, till about ye middle of July, without any raine, and with great heat (for ye most parte), insomuch as ye corne begane to wither away, though it was set with fishe, the moisture wherof helped it much.  Yet at length it begane to languish sore, and some ye drier grounds were partched like withered hay, part wherof was never recovered.  Upon which they sett aparte a solemne day of humiliation, to seek ye Lord by humble & fervente prayer, in this great distrese.  And He was pleased to give them a gracious and speedy answer, both to their owne, & the Indeans admiration, that lived amongst them.  For all ye morning, and greatest part of the day, it was cleare weather & very hotte, and not a cloud or any sign of raine to be seen, yet toward evening it began to overcast, and shortly after to raine, with shuch sweete and gentle showers, as gave them cause of rejoyceing, & blessing God.  It came without either wind or thunder, or any violence, and by degreese in yet abundance, as that ye earth was thorowly wete and soked therwith.  Which did so apparently revive and quicken ye decayed corne &  other fruits, as was wonderfull to see, and made ye Indeans astonished to behold; and afterwards The Lord sent them shuch weather as, through His blessing, caused a fruitfull rejoicing.  For which mercie (in time conveniente) they also set aparte a day of Thankgiving…”

I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving Day.

Fletcher Wilcox 2016 picture

Fletcher R. Wilcox is V.P. of Business Development and a Real Estate Analyst at Grand Canyon Title Agency.

He is author of His market analysis on residential real estate in Greater Phoenix has been mentioned in the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News, MarketWatch,, National Mortgage News, Arizona Republic and the Phoenix Business Journal. He has been a guest speaker on local radio and both local and national TV.

He teaches real estate agents strategies on marketing and instructs real estate classes in residential contract writing and Arizona title procedures.  Fletcher started snowboarding in 2006. He is not very good.

Fletcher may be reached at  602.648.1230










Earlier history of Thanksgiving in America.





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