They originally had two ships: the Speedwell and the Mayflower. The Speedwell could not make the trip so all 102 of them left for North America in the Mayflower. They were to head to a place previous Pilgrims had landed: in the northern part of Virginia Territory near what is today New York. However, they arrive off the coast of what we know today as Cape Cod, Massachusetts, 66 days later and with much sickness. Their first winter was disastrous and they lost more than one –half of their number. Forty-one of them, led by William Bradford, signed the Mayflower Compact where they committed themselves to God and to the advancement of the Christian faith and to create a settlement there rather than trying to find the place of their original destination. Even though so many of their group had died, they were committed to continue on. As if in confirmation of their decision, their first meeting of a Native American was one of the Abenaki Indian tribe who actually understood English. He then later returned with Squanto of the Pawtuxet tribe who also spoke English and taught them how to plant and harvest corn, how to collect maple sap, fish, and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped them forge a peace treaty with the local Wampanoag tribe, a peace treaty that lasted for nearly 50 years.
That next Fall, they and their new allies of the Wampanoag tribe gathered together and had a feast for 3 days. It is not known exactly what this feast consisted of but it is known that the Pilgrims went on a “fowling” mission and the Native Americans brought deer. It is likely that the meal was of what the Native Americans would eat and prepare. From that time forward, various settlements and then various states would hold periodic days of thanksgiving and fasting but none of these were coordinated among these groups and/or states. Sarah Josepha Hale, a noted magazine editor and author, lobbied for 36 years to Senators and Congressmen to make a national holiday for such an event. Not until 1863 did this happen when President Abraham Lincoln, at the height of the Civil War, declare the last Thursday in November as a national day of thanksgiving. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in 1941, moved the holiday up a week to try to spur the economy but met great public opposition. Therefore, in 1943 he assigned Thanksgiving Day to be the fourth Thursday in November. As time went on, traditions became associated with Thanksgiving: parades and eating turkey and cranberry sauce. It has become a time for family to get together and enjoy each
The base is octagonal but has four major buttresses that project out from the center. On these are figures that represent the principles upon which the Pilgrims founded their Commonwealth. The central and highest figure is that of Faith with her right hand pointing toward heaven and her left hand clutching the Bible. The other four figures starting from the east going counter-clockwise are principles which are produced from Faith: Liberty, Morality, Law and Education. Under Liberty is Tyranny Overthrown and Peace; under Morality stands Prophet and Evangelist; under Law stands Justice and Mercy; and under Education are Youth and Wisdom. On the face of each of the buttresses, under the figures, are marble scenic reliefs from Pilgrim history: Landing (under Freedom), Embarcation (under Morality), Treaty (under Law), and Compact (under Education). On the faces of the main pedestal are inscriptions. On the right and left panels are the names of those who came over in the Mayflower. The front panel has the following inscription:
National Monument to the Forefathers. Erected by a grateful people in remembrance of their labors, sacrifices and sufferings for the cause of civil and religious liberty.
On the rear is a quote from Governor William Bradford:
“Thus out of small beginnings greater things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing and gives being to all things that are; and as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many, yea in some sort to our whole nation; let the glorious name of Jehovah have all praise."
This monument was built to remind us all of the principles upon which the Pilgrims used to lay the foundation for what was to become the United States of America. It was formed so that we would never forget the Pilgrims or upon what the nation’s foundation was built. This monument has been featured in the film Monumental which traces the history of the Pilgrims, the reason for their coming to America and the Biblical ideals they upheld to establish the foundation of a great nation.
Therefore, this Thanksgiving, if you are a citizen of the United States, give thanks for our founding fathers and the ideals on which they based our country's foundation. It has made our country to be great. Then pray that you will continue to uphold these principles. What if you are not a citizen of the U.S. and perhaps your country was not founded on such principles? Then you can start at home with these principles. After all, our country was not a country when the Pilgrims began laying the foundation. They were just a group of families, but they had a profound vision for their descendants' future. You can do the same and start with your own family. The first Thanksgiving was small and has grown into a great nation. Your small family can also grow into a large influence of countless future generations. They started in their own families with faith in God, liberty for everyone, morality to God's standards, and education of their children in all of these principles in their own family and then instituted these ideals into the nation's foundation. We can continue to do the same. God blessed their efforts; he will also bless ours. I trust your Thanksgiving this year is one of proud reflection and thanks.
History of the Bible