The First Official Thanksgiving

The First Official Thanksgiving tells  the story of what some historians might call the first “official, English-speaking” Thanksgiving held in the Americas. At a meeting in London in 1618, Sir William Throckmorton, George Thorpe, John Smyth and Richard Berkeley gathered to form the Berkeley Company and discuss a land grant in the new world, given to them by King James I. The four Englishmen were to create a settlement in Virginia to be known as Berkeley Hundred. They chose Captain John Woodlief of Buckinghamshire, a ship’s captain and a merchant trader who had been to the New World several times, to lead the expedition. Under Woodlief’s command, the good ship Margaret left England on September 16, 1619 and reached the New World in two and a half months. On December 4, 1619, after an arduous voyage, a group of 36 men came ashore on the banks of the James River in Virginia. The group’s charter required that the day of arrival be observed yearly as a “day of thanksgiving” to Almighty God for their safe passage to the New World. On that first day – a year before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock – Captain John Woodlief held the religious service of Thanksgiving. In 1931, Virginia history enthusiast Lyon Tyler (the fourth son of President John Tyler), accidently discovered the Nibley Papers in the New York Public Library, which recorded the historic 1619 voyage to the New World and the settlers’ first Thanksgiving prayer. Through dramatic re-enactment and interviews from Graham Woodlief, a descendant of Capt. John Woodlief, Karla K. Bruno, author and biographer of Dr. Lyon Tyler, Chief Stephen Adkins of the Chickahominy Tribe, and several other individuals, THE FIRST OFFICIAL THANKSGIVING challenges the long-held belief that America’s first Thanksgiving was held in Plymouth, Mass., and chronicles how the discovery of the Nibley papers led to a friendly rivalry between Virginia and Massachusetts about who can rightfully lay claim to the birth of America’s Thanksgiving holiday. airs 11/24 at 5 p.m.



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