Hosted by Robin Sussingham
Many historians believe that the first Thanksgiving actually took place in Florida not Plymouth Rock. Some question whether it was with the Spanish or with the French who were in Florida half a century before the Pilgrims landed in New England.
Rodney Kite-Powell, historian and Director of the Touchton Map Library at the Tampa Bay History Center, shares that the first Thanksgiving may have taken place in Florida 56 years before the 1621 Pilgrim Thanksgiving in Plymouth Rock.
The late University of Florida professor Michael Gannon was the first to publish that the original Thanksgiving actually took place in Florida. He was labeled “the grinch who stole Thanksgiving” for this disruptive idea, but since the publication more are willing to concede that Spanish settlers broke bread with Native Americans long before some of the Plymouth Rock Pilgrims were even born.
Some historians believe the first Thanksgiving took place in September of 1565 between the Native Americans living in St. Augustine, Florida and a crew who sailed under Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. Menendez’s crew consisted of approximately 800 persons from a variety of European nations and was primarily Catholic. The Native American village in the St. Augustine area were led by Chief Seloy and part the Timucua nation.
Rodney shares that it’s unknown if the Native Americans brought food to the meal but it’s believed that if they did they would have shared indigenous foods, such as seafood, alligator, bear, gopher turtles, venison, turkey, and gourds. The crew would have served food that would have survived their month-and-a-half long journey from Spain, such as cocido, salted pork, red wine, and hardtack. Cocido is a stew made from garbanzo beans and possibly pork, garlic, saffron, cabbage and onion. Hardtack, sometimes called hardtack bread or hardtack crackers, are made of flour, water and sometimes salt and could last the long journey.
“The same reason we don’t think of a lot of things as first in Florida but in fact they are. That’s because this was a Spanish celebration and the Puritans and what we think of as the first Thanksgiving and the founding of Thanksgiving were English. We, the United States, grew out of the thirteen English colonies and so Florida history, Spanish history, even French history those stories just weren’t maintained as the history of our country was being written in the 19th century. The English stories won out,”