Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007

Quick, now. Who were the first settlers in America?

No, no. Besides the "Native" Americans.

The first to stay around for awhile. To plant. To Harvest. Dare I say it - procreate. Maybe even ferment a few hops?

Gimme me your best guess.

The Pilgrims, you say? Plymouth, Massachusetts? Late in 1620?

Not even close.

Even the English had established a colony in Jamestown (Virginia) in 1607 a full thirteen years earlier.

Having now spent some time in Florida, Pat and I now know that St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied European-established city, and the oldest port, in the continental United States, established in 1565, FIFTY-FIVE YEARS before the "Pilgrims". And, having just returned from Hilton Head, we now know that Beaufort (South Carolina) beat St. Augustine by three years but has not been "continuously occupied". Details, details...

However, I'm guessing that the average man on the street (not a woman, of course, they're much smarter), would say "Pilgrims", or maybe just "Pilgrim" if they've recently seen a John Wayne movie. Particularly at Thanksgiving our thoughts are all with the KU Jayhawks (tough one, guys)... oops, I mean, our thoughts are with those "Pilgrims" who celebrated, if not the first Thanksgiving, one of the first (the first perhaps being at Berkeley Plantation, Virginia, in 1619). The "Pilgrims" made it a tradition, however, and so here we are today, fat, debauched (debauched?), and happy...

Things you may have known but have probably forgotten about the "Pilgrims":

- The people who would come to be known as the Pilgrims attempted to leave England in 1607, not for America, but for Amsterdam. They chartered a boat but it turned out to be a "sting" operation and all were arrested upon boarding.

- In a second departure attempt in the spring of 1608, arrangements were made with a Dutch merchant to pick up church members along the Humber estuary at Immingham near Grimsby, Lincolnshire. The men had boarded the ship, at which time the sailors spotted an armed contingent approaching. The ship quickly departed before the women and children could board; the stranded members were rounded up but then released without charges.

- In July 1620, after successfully establishing themselves in the Netherlands, the Pilgrims decided to give America a shot. They purchased two ships, the Speedwell (ever heard of that one?) and, (ta, da) the Mayflower. Soon after departing, the Speedwell crew reported that their ship was taking in water, so both ships were diverted to Dartmouth, Devon. There it was inspected for leaks and sealed, but a second attempt to depart also failed, bringing them only so far as Plymouth, Devon. It was decided that Speedwell was untrustworthy, and it was sold. It would later be learned that crew members had deliberately caused the ship to leak, allowing them to abandon their year-long commitments. The ship's master and some of the crew did transfer to the Mayflower for the trip to America.

- The reduced party finally sailed successfully on September 6, 1620. Initially the trip went smoothly, but under way they were met with strong winds and storms. One of these caused a main beam to crack, and although they were more than half the way to their destination, the possibility of turning back was considered. Using a "great iron screw" (probably a piece of house construction equipment) brought along by the colonists, they repaired the ship sufficiently to continue. One passenger, John Howland, was washed overboard in the storm but caught a rope and was rescued.

It's really a pretty fascinating story and you can read more here. For more on Thanksgiving, see here.

And so, in conclusion, I must say how very thankful I am for my wife, my life, my child, my grandchildren, my parents, my grandparents, the producer, the director, the writers, the stagehands... Uhhh. Got carried away there.

But this Thanksgiving I am probably most thankful that after ten days in ICU with a very, very nasty case of pneumonia, my brother is back home again and on the mend. Get well soon, bro...

1 comment:

goprairie said...

I don't think we have any idea how crummy it was when people were persecuted for their religious practices. And I don't think we have any idea how crummy it was to sail on those ships. What a huge gamble. And I don't think we have a clue how it was to live here before we had electricity and machines and cars and roads and phones and all that. Thanks for reminding us a little bit about those things.