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        The First Official Thanksgiving

        The First Official Thanksgiving offers evidence that the story of the Pilgrims having the First Thanksgiving is more myth than historical fact.

        To find out more about the First Official Thanksgiving, click here. 

        First Official Thanksgiving

        Most people think that Thanksgiving was first observed by the Pilgrims in 1621. It wasn’t. In 1619, a group of English settlers landed on the banks of the James River in Virginia and gave thanks for safe passage. This was America’s First Official Thanksgiving.

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        1) First Official Thanksgiving Introduction

        Most people think that Thanksgiving was first observed by the Pilgrims in 1621. It wasn’t. In 1619, a group of English settlers landed on the banks of the James River in Virginia and gave thanks for safe passage. This was America’s First Official Thanksgiving.

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        2) Nibley Papers Chronicle the Journey

        The Nibley Papers were accidentally uncovered by Dr. Lyon Tyler, son of President John Tyler, in 1931. They are the only known documents that chronicle the Berkeley expedition. The expedition’s long voyage on the Good Ship Margaret began on September 16, 1619.

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        3) Dr. Lyon Tyler

        In 1931, Dr. Lyon Tyler published an article about the Berkeley Hundred Thanksgiving in the Richmond News Leader. This was probably the first time others knew about this important historical event.

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        4) Reenactment of the First Official Thanksgiving

        On December 4, 1619, the settlers dropped anchor at the Berkeley site and rowed ashore. Then, as instructed by the London Company, the men knelt to pray and to give thanks for their safe passage.

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        5) Berkeley Plantation

        Dr. Tyler made his discovery known to his young neighbor, Malcolm Jamieson, owner of the Berkeley Plantation. Without his research and detection, this historically significant event may have never been uncovered.

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        6) Massacre of 1622

        Indian Chief Opechancanough led an uprising known as the Massacre of 1622. This abruptly ended the settlement of Berkeley and the annual celebration of Thanksgiving there.

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        7) Virginia Senator Wicker

        Virginia Senator John J. Wicker had a tremendous interest in the First Official Thanksgiving. In 1961, he proved to the Governor of Massachusetts the validity of Virginia’s claim by displaying the records to him.

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        8) Virginia Thanksgiving Festival

        In 1958, the Jamieson Family, owners of Berkeley, invited members of the Woodlief family to the plantation to observe Thanksgiving. That was the beginning of the Virginia Thanksgiving Festival which is held on the first Sunday in November each year.

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