You Thought Thanksgiving Started In New England?

Did you know that the first official English speaking Thanksgiving in the new world didn’t happen in New England? It actually happened in Virginia.

In 1963 President Kennedy recognized Berkeley Plantation as the site of the first official Thanksgiving when the small ship the Margaret landed at Harrison Landing on the James River (upstream from Jamestown) in 1619, carrying 38 men after a perilous journey from England.


On December 4, 1619, 38 English settlers arrived at Berkeley Hundred, which comprised about 8,000 acres on the north bank of the James River, near Herring Creek, in an area then known as Charles Cittie, about 20 miles upstream from Jamestown, where the first permanent settlement of the Colony of Virginia had been established on May 14, 1607.

The group’s charter required that the day of arrival be observed yearly as a “day of thanksgiving” to God. On that first day, Captain John Woodlief held the service of thanksgiving. As quoted from the section of the Charter of Berkeley Hundred specifying the thanksgiving service: “We ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.”

berkeley-hundredThe first Thanksgiving was a religious celebration — an occasion to thank God — that featured only a modest meal. It wasn’t until two years later, in 1621, that Thanksgiving was expanded to include a banquet by the Pilgrims in Massachusetts.

The Harrison family bought the property at Berkeley in the 1690s and constructed the first shipyard in the New World. Berkeley, the home of two presidents (William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison), was built in the 1720’s. It’s also known where, during the Civil War, Taps was written and first played on the bugle.

There you go! Your history lesson for the day!

From our house to yours, have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving day. 🙂


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