By Jennifer Uhlarik
Welcome--and Happy Thanksgiving to each of you!
Most everyone has heard the story of what is touted as the First Thanksgiving on American soil. In case you haven’t, the very abbreviated story goes that the Pilgrims sailed “across the pond” from England and settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620. After a very hard winter, the Pilgrims planted corn with the help of the Wampanoag Indians in 1621. At the successful harvest that fall, the Pilgrims and the local Indians held a great feast, which included turkey, fresh vegetables, and fruits, and they all gave thanks to God for safely seeing them to the New World, helping them through that first winter, and allowing them to learn to live in their new surroundings.
But was this truly the first Thanksgiving on American soil? Some historians say no, that it happened fifty-six years earlier and some twelve hundred miles further south in St. Augustine, Florida.
That’s what some say.
|Pedro Menendez de Aviles|
Last month, I told you about the building of the Castillo de San Marcos—the oldest masonry fort in America, which stands guard along the bank of the Matanzas River in St. Augustine. If you read that post, you’ll recall the name Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles. He was the Spanish admiral who brought eight hundred colonists to this new area in order to give Spain a colony in the New World where its treasure fleet could defend itself and Spain’s North American territories against other European powers.
As the story goes, on September 8, 1565, Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles waded ashore in what would become St. Augustine—to the fanfare of cannon fire and trumpets. On dry land, the admiral kissed a cross Father Francisco Lopez held out toward him, then gave a brief speech in which he proclaimed the land for God and country. The good Father then led the newcomers in an impromptu Catholic Thanksgiving mass. The whole while, members of the Timucua tribe stood by and watched the events. When, not long afterward, Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles proposed a feast, the Spanish colonists gathered what stores they still had aboard their ships, and the Timucuan Indians filled in with alligator, bear, wild boar, turkey, oysters, shrimp, and the various vegetables they grew, like beans, squash, and pumpkins.
So was this the first real Thanksgiving in America?
If you go back even one year earlier and just a few miles north of St. Augustine,
Rene Goulaine de Laudonniere
there was an earlier Thanksgiving feast. In what we now know as Jacksonville, Florida, a group of French Huguenots led by explorer Rene Goulaine de Laudonniere wished to celebrate the founding of Fort Caroline. It was June 30, 1564. The fort would stand on a bluff overlooking the banks of what we now call the St. Johns River. Once again, the Timucuan Indians stepped in and provided food to supplement the meager supplies of the French Huguenots, much the same as with the St. Augustine feast. They sang psalms, offered prayers of thanksgiving, and asked God to continue His goodness toward them.
So was the 1564 feast the first American Thanksgiving?
It’s so hard to say. Explorers had been coming to this land even before this point, and it’s entirely possible that someone may have beat the French Huguenots to the punch, even as they beat the Spanish to the punch…just as the Spanish beat the Pilgrims. But one thing we can be sure of, this land has seen many people groups come across her shores, and many of them have paused to thank God for His many blessings.
It’s Your Turn: What are you thankful for this year?
Award-winning, best-selling novelist Jennifer Uhlarik has loved the western genre since she read her first Louis L’Amour novel. She penned her first western while earning a writing degree from University of Tampa. Jennifer lives near Tampa with her husband, son, and furbabies. www.jenniferuhlarik.com
COMING MARCH 1, 2022
Love’s Fortress by Jennifer Uhlarik
A Friendship From the Past Brings Closure to Dani’s Fractured Family
When Dani Sango’s art forger father passes away, Dani inherits his home. There, she finds a book of Native American drawings, which leads her to seek museum curator Brad Osgood’s help to decipher the ledger art. Why would her father have this book? Is it another forgery?
Brad Osgood longs to provide his four-year-old niece, Brynn, the safe home she desperately deserves. The last thing he needs is more drama, especially from a forger’s daughter. But when the two meet “accidentally” at St. Augustine’s 350-year-old Spanish fort, he can’t refuse the intriguing woman.
Broken Bow is among seventy-three Plains Indians transported to Florida in 1875 for incarceration at ancient Fort Marion. Sally Jo Harris and Luke Worthing dream of serving on a foreign mission field, but when the Indians reach St. Augustine, God changes their plans. However, when Sally Jo’s friendship with Broken Bow leads to false accusations, it could cost them their lives.
Can Dani discover how Broken Bow and Sally Jo’s story ends and how it impacted her father’s life?
(NOTE: This blurb does not yet match bookseller’s descriptions, but it IS the same book).