First Thanksgiving in St. Augustine, Florida September 8, 1565


Staff member
staugustmass1.jpgThe reason that the Plymouth Plantation Thanksgiving is generally credited with being the first is because St. Augustine in 1565 was under Spanish rule, while Plymouth Colony belonged to the British in 1621. We were first. Sure, Massachusetts has its pilgrims, its Mayflower, its turkey and corn. But when it comes to Thanksgiving, Florida historians have been saying the same thing for years: It happened first in the Sunshine State — with Oysters, salt pork, sea biscuits and garbanzo beans. Right here on the CrackerCoast.

French and Spanish settlers arrived separately on Florida's northern coast, and each celebrated with prayer and a thanksgiving feast. It wasn't until 1621, that Pilgrims came to Plymouth.The Florida celebrations didn't become widely known until the second half of the 20th century, long after Abraham Lincoln's 1863 declaration that the last Thursday in November would be the national day of Thanksgiving.

Florida teacher chips away at Plymouth Rock Thanksgiving myth Gannon, 80, first laid out the premise of an earlier Thanksgiving in his scholarly book The Cross in the Sand in 1965, but few picked up on it. He says his mention of Menendez's meal was a "throwaway line that lay fallow for 20 years."
That was, until a reporter for the Associated Press in 1985 exposed Gannon's academic findings to the world, which caused what Gannon remembers as "a storm of interest. I was on the phone for three days straight."
Traditionalists, especially in New England, dubbed him "The Grinch who stole Thanksgiving."
Gannon took it with good humor.
"I became rather famous at the time for saying that by the time the Pilgrims came to Plymouth, St. Augustine was up for urban renewal."

[HR][/HR] Gannon thinks the word is finally, but slowly, getting out, but he's well aware that the victors write the history books. And history, once written, is hard to change.

"The English wrote the history and established the traditions," he says. "That's life. Get over it."
But Gioia believes the rising Hispanic population in America could spark interest in the nation's Spanish heritage and by association, Gannon's findings.
Meanwhile, Gioia is firing the next shot across the Mayflower's bow.
After Gannon's talk, she thought an illustrated book was the perfect way to tell the first Thanksgiving story to her students. It seems to have worked. With them, at least.

When Gioia recently asked her students who believes the first Thanksgiving was in Florida, every hand in her classroom flew up in the air.

Off the page and into the kitchen

Gioia, who serves her own family bean soup on the Sept. 8 anniversary, has her work cut out for her elsewhere, however. Even on the site where Menendez's Thanksgiving feast is believed to have been held.

"I always thought the first Thanksgiving was at Plymouth Rock," says Betty McDaniel, a gift-shop clerk at the Ponce de Leon Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, which sits next door to Nombre de Dios Mission, where Menendez landed and celebrated with the natives after a Catholic Mass.
Pedro Menendez de Aviles came ashore on Sept. 8, 1565. This is where he, 500 soldiers, 200 sailors, 100 civilian families and artisans, and the Timucuan Indians who occupied the village of Seloy gathered at a makeshift altar and said the first Christian Mass. And afterward, this is where they held the first Thanksgiving feast. The Timucuans brought oysters and giant clams. The Spaniards carried from their ships garbanzo beans, olive oil, bread, pork and wine.

After Juan Ponce de Leon discovered the peninsula, named it La Florida ("Land of Flowers") and claimed it for Spain in 1513, the Spanish Crown tried without success to permanently colonize the land. By 1564, the French had established a fort and colony on the nearby St. John's River. King Philip II named Menendez governor of Florida and commissioned him to establish a permanent settlement and gain control of the territory.st_augustine-early.jpg

After a failed attempt to cross the sea because of bad weather, Menendez landed at a harbor in Northern Florida on Sept. 4, 1565, that he named San Agustin (St. Augustine) in honor of the saint upon whose feast day, Aug. 28, he had first sighted land near Cape Canaveral.
The fleet's chaplain was a secular priest named Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales, who not only was the fleet's spiritual leader, but also kept a log describing the historic passage and landing.
"On Saturday the 8th, the general landed with many banners spread, to the sounds of trumpets and salutes of artillery," according to a translation of what Father Lopez wrote. "As I had gone ashore the evening before, I took a cross and went to meet him, singing the hymn 'Te Deum Laudamus.' The general, followed by all who accompanied him, marched up to the cross, knelt and kissed it. A large number of Indians watched these proceedings and imitated all they saw done."
The Spanish named the landing spot Nombre de Dios, or "Name of God," and it became missionary headquarters in the new land. Father Lopez was named pastor of the new settlement.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09326/1014871-37.stm
Guest: Thanksgiving began in St. Augustine

Guest: Thanksgiving began in St. Augustine By: Raphael Cosme Special to HISTORIC CITY NEWS For more than 300 years Americans have been celebrating Thanksgiving Day based on historical accounts of 1621 at Plymouth Rock Plantation, where the Pilgrims who boarded the Mayflower came to the New World to escape religious persecution in England. The settlers […]