“Did the Pilgrims really look like that?!”

The below article was written by my mom for her weekly newspaper column, “Walk with Me.”  Thought you’d enjoy it here.

Walk with Me, by Priscilla Wieck

I had planned to get back to writing this column in September and it is November already. That reality hit me when I opened an edition of the Terre Haute Tribune last week and saw an article headlined in huge print, “The Mayflower, 400 years later, famed ship’s legacy lives on.” All of a sudden I realized that we are deep into November and Thanksgiving is almost here. If I want to write anything about that day, I had better get busy. 

My name, Priscilla , is well known in the state of Massachusetts where I was born because of the often told romance of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. They were fellow voyagers on the Mayflower who were the first couple to wed in the New World. Every year when Thanksgiving came around, their story and those of Pilgrims, Native Americans and the good ship Mayflower were faithfully told and reenacted by a multitude of school children in hundreds of Massachusetts grade school classrooms .We were all made aware that our state bore the distinct privilege of holding the “First Thanksgiving” title.

Imagine my surprise to discover, when I read the Mayflower article in the Terre Haute Tribune Star, that quite a few of those stories were made up of rather unsubstantiated facts. For instance, an art print that hung in our classroom depicted the Pilgrim leader, William Bradford, standing beside Plymouth Rock ,one foot upon it as if he was coming ashore. In reality,Pilgrims first landed on some part of Cape Cod Bay and didn’t reach Plymouth and the rock until several weeks later. And the rock was way too large to set foot upon, anyway.

Many discrepancies in the story of the Pilgrims first Thanksgiving have been uncovered by contemporary historians. Yes, the native tribes instructed the settlers how to grow corn and beans but their arrival was too late to plant a crop to serve at the often re-enacted first feast. In fact, the Europeans spent most of year one living a miserable existence aboard the ship . And as for the art print we students revered showing Pilgrims walking to church in their Dutch influenced garb,neatly starched and ironed, through the snow, muskets and all, forget that!

Hmmm. Me thinks the first Thanksgiving Day gathering is a bit exaggerated here.

The arrival of the Europeans marked the beginning of a long period of enslavement and disease that nearly wiped out indigenous people of North America. More and more, historians are telling both sides of the story—the “foreigners” versus the Native Americans. Many of the childhood myths that we grew up hearing are no longer thought to accurate. Even the love story of John and Priscilla has had doubt cast upon it. I’ll still believe that one!

John and Priscilla, so devout . . . and tidy!

Here we are, 400 years after the Mayflower’s journey. Our country is now made up of such a mixture of people from different races , colors and ethnicities that I wonder if much of the story of the first Thanksgiving is relevant to our present diverse population. The Pilgrims did,however, leave us a legacy of setting aside a day every year to be thankful and that is a good thing. Perhaps this year, you may not think you have much to be thankful for. COVID 19 has entered into the very core of our being. Many have lost loved ones , lives and livelihoods have been disrupted and many families will not be able to gather together for the yearly homecomings.

Perhaps we should all, this year especially , be grateful for what we do have instead of what we can’t have. We all can look forward to a New Year full of promise for a vaccine that will allow us to live a more normal life. While we are waiting for that day ,we can still give thanks that we are here, we are alive,we have friends and family and we live in this great country of ours. The Pilgrims did something right, after all, so enjoy your day. And many blessings to you all.

“Give thanks, not just on Thanksgiving Day, but every day of your life. Appreciate and never take for granted all that you have.”—-Margaret Wright

Peace, Priscilla Wieck

About connieinchina

I have been in the Asia region for 30 years as an English language teacher. 28 of those have been spent with the Amity Foundation, a Chinese NGO that works in all areas of development for the Chinese people. Amity teachers are placed at small colleges throughout China as instructors of English language majors in the education field. In other words, my students will one day be English teachers themselves in their small villages or towns once they graduate. Currently, this is my 13th year in Luzhou Vocational and Technical College. The college is located in Luzhou city (loo-joe), Sichuan Province, a metropolis of 5 million people located next to the Yangtze River .
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1 Response to “Did the Pilgrims really look like that?!”

  1. Kate says:

    Thanks for sharing your mom’s recent article. She again brought a thoughtfulness to a timely topic. I did send our grandgirls a beautifully painted turkey sign to put on their new porch. I, also, sent them 2 of the types of Pilgrim figures of the kind she described and were on our grade school bulletin boards to decorate their windows. Fortunately, I know V/B will share with them the larger story of this holiday.
    We are greatly Blessed and content to isolate this holiday.

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