The very first Thanksgiving had lobster and no Indians
Second in a series of 10 previously unpublished essays by the late John Gould. The first column appeared Nov. 14 and is available at: www.csmonitor.com/gould.
In 1603, King Henry IV of France issued a patent to a gentleman known as the Sieur de Monts for that part of North America known already to the French as "Acadia."
It was a Micmac Indian word meaning "homeland." The patent to de Monts was for land between eastern Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, south to the Hudson River, and west to the Pacific Ocean. North America was still terra incognita then, and neither King Henry nor de Monts knew what he was talking about, but today a $10 bill won't get you a pail of any of it.
The patent became the colonial New France. King Henry supported his right to issue the patent on the previous explorations of Jacques Cartier, who had looked Canada over, started fisheries and peltries, and had
settlements at Tadoussac and Quebec well before St. Augustine, down in la Floride, had parking meters. Certainement!
By 1613 the French village of St. Sauveur on Maine's Mount Desert Island was busy-busy corning fish, with population enough to support two priests and keep milking cows. By that time the English recognized the French success in America and took steps. For a starter they sent a warship, which
made an unprovoked attack on St. Sauveur and demolished it.
A cannonball hit one of the priests and the other one, Father Biard, was kidnapped along with a cow. The cow spoke only French, and Father Biard was to take care of her until somebody aboard ship learned the language. But by that time the French were doing well, and the English decided that the best way to cope was to do as the French did and colonize.
So on March 31, 1605, the Archangel sailed for America under command of Capt. George Weymouth, who seems to have been an English naval officer at times but probably a bit of a pirate at others. He had been to America many times. His ship was well built for its purpose, had a considerable crew (including a historian named James Rosier), and was provisioned and outfitted fully.
The Archangel made landfall off Cape Cod on May 12. Then she went down the coast of "the Maine," which meant the mainland of North America, and specifically Monhegan Island, where British fish carriers had been loading cod for several summers.
Captain Weymouth surmised it would be wise to locate an English settlement near that area, which was near the fishing grounds, but also not too close to French settlements. The captain did much exploring, Rosier wrote glowing reports, and the mouth of the Sagadahock (Kennebec) River was chosen as a settlement site.
Then Captain Weymouth "kidnapped" five Indians to take back to England. One was the Pemaquid sachem Tisquantum, who never seemed unhappy about it, for he spent a jolly winter in the London home of Lord Chief Justice Popham, not a bad address, and he returned to Maine the next spring. Tisquantum (or Squanto) was the one who welcomed the Pilgrims to Plymouth in 1620 and was amazingly proficient in English.
As a result of Weymouth's voyage and other events, the British crown issued patents to companies that would trade in North America: the London Company and the Plymouth Company.
The former got Virginia and the latter got New England. The English naturally paid no attention to the fact that the French King had already given New England to de Monts.
On May 31, 1607, the Plymouth Company's vessels, the Gift of God and the Mary and John, sailed from Plymouth, England. They were well supplied with provisions and tools, and carried 120 men. The voyage was propitious. Debarkation came about Aug. 18, and we do know it was on a Saturday because the next day was Sunday. The colonists are not treated kindly by the historians.
Gathered off the streets of England, they were riffraff and scoundrels, so it is said. However, the expedition included a chaplain, Richard Seymour, and the men were under life-and-death control by the Plymouth Company right down to conduct and coinage.
When ordered to attend church services, they went. And on Sunday, the total colonial company came ashore by longboat and pinnace, and devoutly took part in a Christian service of thanksgiving, followed by a feast of thanksgiving cooked on the shore.
That's the way it was described by the Rev. Mr. Seymour. The first thanksgiving dinner in the New World was Maine lobster with steamed mussels and boiled dried peas. Some of the men found pearls in the mussels. No Indians attended.
Squanto might have come if he'd been invited, as he lived at the Indian village of Pemaquid, just a moccasin step upstream where he walked about with an ebony stick imitating London society. It would be 13 years yet before immigration reached the point that he could go into the welcoming business.