Everyone is writing about Thanksgiving, but what do we really know?
The Indians and the Pilgrims sharing a great feast to celebrate the harvest is the popular tale. There is evidence of a different story, a love story to be exact.
Several years before I wrote my first book, I visited Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. It’s a pretty place on the Connecticut-Massachusetts line. They have an excellent collection of historical items.
In the museum was a display of letters written by the children and grandchildren of the original settlers. The Pilgrims didn’t leave many personal writing, probably since they had no spare time or energy for simple pleasures. Or maybe their letters were sent back to Europe.
I spent several hours reading the missives. They described incredible hardship and fortitude by a people who didn’t understand how terrible the conditions would be. Since the spelling, language and writing were all in a manner suited to that age, they were difficult to understand.
Then I found it. The truth about Thanksgiving and what they were celebrating.
Do you remember the story of Squanto teaching the Pilgrims to plant corn? Popular writing says he did it out of the goodness of his heart. Guess what? The truth is Squanto was a lovelorn suitor for the hand of a widowed Pilgrim lady.
Indian culture demanded he show his future in-laws that he could feed the family. Squanto was under the mistaken belief the Pilgrims were one family. Remember they called each other brother and sister?
So what did he do? He taught them how to provide for themselves.
The letters say he married his fair lady. Other letters mention several marriages. Many died that first winter and those left were starving. In those harsh, desperate times I bet those women thought themselves blessed.
The biggest quandary was what to call their children. Were they Indians? Or Pilgrims? The solution seemed to be to call them what they desired.
As a love story, it can’t be beat.
And those letters were on loan and no longer on display.