In celebration of Thanksgiving 2018 readers are referred to the posts for 2016, “Thanksgiving, William Bradford, 1590-1657,” and 2017, “The First Thanksgiving, Edward Winslow, 1621.” Neither post has taken into account the CSPAN3 episode of History TV in which it is contended that the first English giving of thanks actually took place in Berkeley, Virginia in 1619. Berkeley is located about thirty miles up the James River from Jamestown. To view the episode online follow the link, “1619 Thanksgiving at Berkeley, Virginia.” The video is about twenty-six minutes long and is presented by the president of the Virginia Thanksgiving Festival, Graham Woodlief, a descendant of Captain John Woodlief who was the leader of the English expedition of thirty-five colonists that landed at the site of Berkeley. The case Mr. Woodlief makes is a good one, but the Virginia Thanksgiving Festival has an uphill battle given the long history of remembering Pilgrims, Squanto, funnel-like firearms, quaint black-and-white clothing, and shoes decorated with large buckles. Union President Abraham Lincoln established the remembrance when he issued the “Thanksgiving Proclamation” in 1863 in the midst of the Civil War and when the fighting ended the former Confederacy came to appreciate the day. As the years have passed giving thanks has evolved into a sleep-inducing feast of turkey, dressing, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, and other foods in abundance which are augmented with parousing parades and viewing athletic competitions. One aspect of Mr. Woodlief’s presentation is an emphasis on the Berkeley expedition having given thanks to God, which should not be forgotten as celebrants feast and approach the sin of gluttony (don’t hear much about that sin nowadays).
Unfortunately, the author of Presbyterians of the Past has exhausted his research time allotment for this week preparing the recent post, “Thomas Creigh, 1808-1880,” so maybe for Thanksgiving 2019 more information can be provided concerning the Virginia-Massachusetts question.