Thanksgiving time again! When you're old, like me, the months fly by. I've always loved poetry, and wonder if our children ever read or much less write poetry anymore. Maybe they do it in the form of a text. These text poems would certainly be short as three letters can be a whole sentence in a text. I ran across my “Lines to Live By” book of poetry that a friend gave me. Casually looking at the date it was given, 1972, my mind started counting. Oh, my, could it be 47 years ago! First, we'll have a little history lesson on Thanksgiving and then I'll share a poem from my book.
Did you know? Florida, Texas, Maine and Virginia all claim to be the site of the first Thanksgiving ceremonies. There are historical documents to support the claims of each of these locations.
On Sept. 8, 1565, Pedro Menendez de Aviles landed in Florida. The priest with the expedition, Father Francisco Lopez, claimed Florida for God and Spain. Members of the Timucua tribe and 800 Spainards celebrated mass of thanksgiving for their safe arrival.
In 1598, Juan de Onate and his party celebrated a day of thanksgiving for the survival of their expedition including game and fish provided by the Mansos natives of the region. A mass of thanksgiving was said by the Franciscan missionaries in the group. Onate read “La Toma,” the taking, declaring the land for King Philip II of Spain. A sign outside Canyon, Texas, claims that the Spanish explorer Coronado had a feast of Thanksgiving there in 1541, but no journals or supporting documentation has been found for this date.
If you don't like the Spanish history in America, then consider Maine. The Popham Colony held a harvest feast with Abenaki people in 1607. This settlement was abandoned the next year.
In Jamestown, Virginia, in 1609, the settlers had dwindled from 490 to 60 people. In spring of 1610, rations arrived and a thanksgiving prayer service was held. Through a series of fires and uprisings Jamestown was reduced to such a small community that they moved to what became Williamsburg and only Jamestown Island historic site remains.
The Berkeley Company settled east of Richmond, Virginia, Dec. 4, 1619, and celebrated a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God, reading from the Book of Common Prayer. King James I had decreed that on every anniversary of the group's arrival the company should have prayers of thanksgiving. This continued for three years, until the settlement was attacked by native Powhatans and 347 settlers were killed, and the settlement abandoned.
These all pre-dated the celebration at Plymouth, MA, but good publicity and a woman knocking on the door 24/7 until you give her what she wants still works. In this case it was Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, a writer and editor. She wrote to five presidents, Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan, and finally Lincoln before being successful when legislation was passed in 1863, establishing a national holiday of Thanksgiving.
They took away what should have been my eyes (but I remembered Milton's Paradise).
They took away what should have been my ears (Beethoven came and wiped away my tears).
They took away what should have been my tongue (but I had talked with God when I was young).
He would not let them take away my soul, Possessing that, I will possess the whole.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!