The following account of the first harvest and thanksgiving observance at Plymouth colony in 1621 is from writings of two of the settlers, Gov. William Bradford and Edward Winslow, as compiled for "The Pilgrim Reader" by George F. Willison. The spelling is that of the original manuscripts.
YOU will understand that in this little time that a few of us have been here, we have builte seven dwelling houses, and four for the use of the Plantation, and have made preparation for divers others.
We set last spring some twentie acres of Indian corne and sowed some six acres of barley and peas. And according to ye manner of the Indians, we manured our ground with herrings, or rather shads (or rather, alewives), which we have in great abundance and take with great ease at our doors.
Our corne did prove well and - God be praised! - we had a good increase of Indian corne, and our barley indifferent good. But our peas not worth the gathering, for we feared they were too late sown. They came up very well and blossomed, but the sun parched them in the blossom.
They (the Pilgrims) began to gather in ye small harvest they had, and to fitt up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health & strength, and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus imployed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing aboute codd & bass & other fish, of which they tooke good store, of which every family had their portion.
All ye summer there was no wante. And now began to come in store of foule, as winter approached And besides waterfoule, there was great store of wild Turkies, of which they tooke many, besides venison. Besides, they had aboute a peck of meal to a person or now, since harvest, Indian corne to that proportion, which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not fained but true reports.
Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sente four men out fowling that so we might, after a more special manner, rejoyce together after we had gathered the fruit of our labours. These four, in one day, killed as much fowl as, with a little help besides, served the company almost a week, at which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our armes, many of the Indians coming amongst us. And amongst the rest, their greatest King, Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom, for three days, we entertained and feasted.
And they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the Plantation, and bestowed on our Governor and upon the Captaine and others.
And although it be not always so plentifull as it was at this time with us, yet, by the goodness of God, we are so farr from wante that we often wish you partakers of our plentie.