The first Thanksgiving occurred in Virginia, not Massachusetts

November 26, 2020

The first Thanksgiving has always been credited to the pilgrims at Plimouth Rock in Massachusetts.  But the first recorded Thanksgiving actually occurred three years earlier 600 miles south in Virginia.  On September 16, 1619, the Good Ship Margaret which was only 35 ft. long and weighed 47 tons set sail  from Bristol England with 35 settlers commissioned to 8000 acres 30 miles west of Jamestown on the James River.   The land was given to the Virginia Company by King James and is the current site of Berkeley Plantation.

The crew was comprised of settlers, many of whom were craftsmen who were offered indentured status to settle at the site and carve out a working enterprise out of the wilderness.  The Margaret arrived at Berkley Hundred on December 4, 1619.  The 35 hearty souls who had traversed the North Atlantic on a 35 ft ship for two and a half months, came ashore with their luggage.  The instructions from the Virginia Company required Captain John Woodlief to immediately conduct a religious ceremony of Thanksgiving.

This was not a feast, but was simply designed to thank God for the group’s safe passage.  The religious service was continued on the anniversary of the landing until 1622.  This was not revealed until Dr. John Tyler, grandson of President Tyler discovered the Nibley Papers in the 1930s.

In 1958 a reenactment of the first Thanksgiving was held and has been conducted each year since that time.

You can read the story of the first Thanksgiving here.



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