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First Thanksgiving Was in Florida?

Was the First Thanksgiving in Florida?

Just to add to all the historical confusion and speculation, there are a substantial number of historians who suggest the first “Thanksgiving” was in Florida on American soil. The feast was actually 55 years before the Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth in 1621!

Here is what we know –

  • Pedro Menéndez de Avilés arrived in Florida in 1565.
  • Pedro claimed the area he landed in for God and Spain. He named the land St. Augustine.
  • The fleet’s chaplain, Father Francisco Lopez, erected a cross that Menendez kissed as part of the ceremony to thank God for safe passage to the new world.
  • On September 8, 1565, the explorers celebrated with a feast of thanksgiving. Historians consider this the first Thanksgiving in Florida and the new world.
  • Menendez invited “Indians” that we now call Native Americans to the feast. They were members of the Timucuan tribe.
  • There is a lot of speculation as to the menu for the first Thanksgiving in Florida. If they used what was on board their ships, the meal was of hard biscuits, garbanzo beans and perhaps salt pork. If the Native Americans contributed to the feast, it most likely would have been venison, oysters, mullet, wild turkey or turtle.
  • There is plenty of documentation to prove this Thanksgiving feast occurred.
First Thanksgiving in Florida - Pedro Menendez
Pedro Menedez de Ailes is given credit for hosting the first Thanksgiving in Florida.
From the log of Menedez, he wrote the following upon landing –

“I sent on shore with the first 200 soldiers two captains – Juan Vincent, a brother of the Captain Juan Vicente, and Andres López Patiño, both old soldiers, in order to throw up a trench in the place most fit to fortify themselves in and to collect there the troops that were landed so as to protect them from the enemy if he should come upon them.” – PEDRO MENENDEZ DE AVILES, SEPTEMBER 1565

At the time, the Spanish and French were battling for superiority in the quest for new lands. Menedez’s men found no enemies onshore, but did find the settlement of the Seloy tribe, an offshoot of the Timucuans.

The First Thanksgiving Was in Florida – Just a Beginning for Spain

We have written about St. Augustine many times, even calling it “the most historic city in America”.  There stands a cross today on the prospective site where Pedro Menendez may have kissed the cross.
The settlement of St. Augustine was the beginning of Spanish dominance in “LaFlorida”, as they called it, for several hundred years. This base of operations was used to expand Spain’s influence from Mexico to St. Augustine. History provides us a glimpse of that dominance tincluding the Spanish Trail.

Cross of the First Thanksgiving in FloridaOf course, no evidence exists that any such “Thanksgiving” celebration continued with any permanence throughout the years. But this lack of historical continuance of a feast of thanks applies to the Pilgrims of Plymouth in 1621 also. In fact, it wasn’t until some 200 years later before “Thanksgiving” was resurrected that President Lincoln proclaimed a Thanksgiving Day in 1863.

We live here, so we prefer to believe the first Thanksgiving was in Florida!

Here is a video reenactment of what Pedro Menéndez de Avilés supposedly celebrated.

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