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Giving Proper Thanks

Departing from the world of wills, I wanted to explore Thanksgiving’s history. It isn’t what we’ve been taught.

When we were all children, art class was replete with pilgrim’s hats and turkeys of some variety. Facts surrounding it included:

  • Mayflower Pilgrims arrived in 1620 from England
  • They celebrated their first successful harvest in 1621
  • Pilgrims invited the Wampanoag Indians to join them
  • The feast was a departure from their usual thanksgiving service of prayer

The issue with this is that Virginia’s Berkeley Plantation had already offered the first thanksgiving on December 4, 1619.  A day for Thanksgiving services was codified in the Charter of Berkeley Hundred, which was the original name of the plantation.

There were other firsts associated with Berkeley. Built by Benjamin Harrison IV, two of his descendents became quite distinguished. Benjamin Harrison signed the Declaration of Independence while William Henry Harrison became president. Not being without their beverages, the first whiskey was distilled there in 1621 by a priest. The bugle music, “Taps” was written and played on the property by the James River.

In general, Lincoln’s 1863 Proclamation set the day as the last Thursday of November as an attempt to offer a joint national event to the North and the South during the Civil War. The South refused to celebrate and a national holiday wasn’t realized until after Reconstruction. Later, In an attempt to bring an economic boost to the country, FDR’s 1941 proclamation reset the date to the fourth Thursday of November.

I visited Berkeley Plantation not all that long ago with a great group of colleagues and look forward to returning. There is a certain peacefulness enjoyed walking this property.

For further information, visit their web page; but, better yet, pay it a visit.  www.berkeleyplantation.com/

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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One Response

  1. What a nice thought, Ruth. Thanks so much for sharing this! Have been missing you! I hope you are feeling well. Joe

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