Hello from sunny Boston!
I’m just sending a quick little “postcard” to all my blogger friends! This week I’m on hiatus in Boston and Plymouth, Massachusetts! Taking a vacation with my parents (hope Dad packed his butt soap) touring the sites and visiting the land and home of our pilgrim ancestors! Joe and I went 2 years ago, but the ‘rents have never been, so I’m playing tour guide this time. We’ll be visiting Plimoth Plantation and the Jabez Howland House, one of two surviving homes in the country where a Mayflower pilgrim lived, one who just happens to be our ancestor! We’re descendants of John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley who made the treacherous voyage across the Atlantic in 1620.
Knowing my family, I’m sure I’ll return with lots of stories. Here’s hoping no one gets lost on the subway, breaks their nose at the aquarium, or poops their pants in a native wigwam.
Wish you were here!
The Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick
One of the most significant acts of kindness that showed the alliance between the natives and pilgrims was Thanksgiving, more likely referred to by the attendees as a Harvest Celebration. It lasted three days and was put together by about 6 women, two of them teenagers. The pilgrims invited their Wampanoag friend, Massasoit who brought with him his wives and honored soldiers. The natives taught the pilgrims games and shared some food from their hunts, but the reality is they nearly ate the pilgrims out of house and home. Nonetheless, were it not for the stolen supplies from the burial mounds, the pilgrims wouldn’t have survived the first year. Each owed the other greatly.
Thanksgiving and the story of the pilgrims is very dear to my heart because I am a descendant of two pilgrims who crossed over on the Mayflower. John Howland came over as an indentured servant with the colony’s first governor, John Carver, but Carver and his wife perished that first year. Howland became a respected member of Plymouth’s colony and helped begin a fur trade expedition further north. After a year or so settled he married fellow Mayflower passenger, Elizabeth Tilley, who had lost both her parents that first year around the age of 14 or 15. They raised 10 children and are the most prominent Mayflower ancestors known because they survived to old ages. Most descendants today come from the Howland family, and John is my 15th great-Grandfather. My family stems from the tree of his eldest child, a daughter, Desire. Last summer, I made a trip to Boston, Massachusetts and took a day train into Plymouth and toured Plimoth Plantation, a living museum that recreates the historical houses and people of the Mayflower crossing. It’s one of the most moving and fascinating history tours I’ve ever been on. The plantation also includes boarding the Mayflower II, a replica ship actually sailed from England to Massachusetts in a symbolic journey.
I was also able to visit the Jabez Howland house, a home built by John Howland’s son that is one of two remaining homes built and inhabited by an original Mayflower pilgrim. Entering the home of my ancestor was an indescribable experience. I imagined the days he lived out with his family, the winters he survived, the memories he had of those early days, and most of all his courage.
Honestly, I barely touched the surface of the story of the pilgrims and those first 50 years after settling. Philbrick does an exceptional job of telling a captivating story of “courage, community, and war.” I encourage everyone to learn the real story of the people involved in creating a national holiday of thanksgiving through reading his book. And if you’re ever out east in the Boston area, definitely take a trip into Plymouth and visit the Plimoth Plantation and Mayflower II. It’s a totally interactive site and historically acclaimed. They are learning new information all the time.
For more info on John Howland or the first years of the pilgrim’s settlement, check out my guest post, A Thanksgiving to Remember, at David Walker’s blog.
What questions do you have? Are you surprised by the reality of the first Thanksgiving? Did you know at that time that eels were the dinner delicacy, and lobster was the throw away food? What traditions does your family celebrate this time of year? Have you ever traced your family tree and been surprised who’s shown up there?
Happy Thanksgiving, Readers, from my family to yours!