In 1623, a period of drought was answered by colonists with a proclamation of prayer and fasting. This prayer and fasting was changed to another thanksgiving celebration when rains came during the prayers. Later that year, Governor Bradford proclaimed November 29 as a time for pilgrims to gather and give thanks.
“Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, squashes and garden vegetables, and made the forest to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as he has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from the pestilence and granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.
Now I, your magistrate do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of nine and twelve in the daytime on Thursday, November ye 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three, and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Plymouth Rock, there to listen to ye Pastor and render Thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all his blessings.”
– Governor Bradford November 29, 1623
The most important and influential source of information about the Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony, this landmark account was written between 1630 and 1647. It vividly documents the Pilgrims’ adventures: their first stop in Holland, the harrowing transatlantic crossing aboard the Mayflower, the first harsh winter in the new colony, and the help from friendly Native Americans that saved their lives.
No one was better equipped to report on the affairs of the Plymouth community than William Bradford. Revered for his patience, wisdom, and courage, Bradford was elected to the office of governor in 1621, and he continued to serve in that position for more than three decades. His memoirs of the colony remained virtually unknown until the nineteenth century. Lost during the American Revolution, they were discovered years later in London and published after a protracted legal battle. The current edition rendered into modern English and with an introduction by Harold Paget, remains among the most readable books from seventeenth-century America.
Grade 6-10: This well-written biography of the Pilgrim leader will be a welcome addition to history collections. Very little has been written about him for a young audience; none of it is recent. Schmidt tells the story well, frequently quoting from the accounts of Bradford himself, as well as others. The archaic language in those citations requires a little effort, but shouldnt prove problematic. The author clearly presents Bradfords religious views and shows how those beliefs affected his life and actions and those of the Pilgrims. The care with which Schmidt approaches this aspect of his subject results in an objective presentation that informs without proselytizing. There are occasional lapses in chronology (on one page it is Monday, Dec. 21 as the Pilgrims go ashore; three pages later, it is Wednesday, Dec. 20 as they decide to stay where they have landed) but the story is otherwise clear. Black-and-white photographs (with reenactment photos so labeled), reproductions of prints and journals, and some simple maps are all well placed within the text. A brief bibliographic essay and some suggestions for further reading (mostly adult titles) complete the work. Most libraries will want to have this volume available for readers and researchers alike.Elaine Fort Weischedel, Turner Free Library, Randolph, MA