Pat Shingleton: "The Mayflower and the First Thanksgiving"
Historian William Bradford and later the governor of Plymouth Plantation, chronicled the difficulties of the Pilgrim's crossing. The decision for the Pilgrims to land on the shores of Massachusetts was dictated by the weather. The small 180-ton ship, named The Mayflower, was sailing near the southeastern tip of Cape Cod on November 19,1620, expecting to hold its course and land in New York Harbor. With high winds and waves, the crew plotted another course, turning northward, picking up southerly winds and finding smoother sailing after rounding the northern tip of the Cape into the protected waters of the bay. Clear weather and favorable winds on November 20 kept The Mayflower on its northerly tack and it dropped anchor in the morning of the 21st in Provincetown Harbor after 65 days at sea. The winter of 1620-1621 was "a calm winter, such as was never seen here since" wrote Thomas Dudley of Massachusetts Bay. Details as to subsequent winters during the first decade of settlement at Plymouth are sketchy. Journals that were returned to England may have been slanted toward favorable weather conditions, possibly designed to not only please sponsors, but to persuade other settlers to come to America. Almost half of the original passengers and crew of the Mayflower encountered disease during the first winter on the shores of Massachusetts and Cape Cod Bay. Many stayed on the Mayflower, anchored a mile offshore and weather permitting, went ashore each day to build adequate shelters. As for the Thanksgiving menu, the Pilgrims may have enjoyed wild fowl, venison, seal, wheat flour, Indian corn, pumpkin, peas, beans, onions, lettuce, radishes, carrots, plums, grapes, chestnuts, and acorns. Seasonings included liverwort, leeks, dried currants, and parsnips.