Mayflower Connections to Help Celebrate Thanksgiving, Part 1

Introduction: In this article – to help celebrate Thanksgiving – Melissa Davenport Berry writes about a Mayflower descendant and Civil War veteran giving a Thanksgiving message in 1918. Melissa is a genealogist who has a blog, AnceStory Archives, and a Facebook group, New England Family Genealogy and History.

“Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a more special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest King Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain, and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”

Letter of Edward Winslow, 11 December 1621, from Plymouth Colony to England

Illustration: portrait of Plymouth Colony Governor Edward Winslow, School of Robert Walker, 1651, from the collection of the Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Illustration: portrait of Plymouth Colony Governor Edward Winslow, School of Robert Walker, 1651, from the collection of the Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

In honor of this year’s celebration of Thanksgiving I would like to share a recollection message published in 1918 from a Civil War veteran, Captain Charles Carroll Doten of Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Doten was a Mayflower descendant of Francis Cooke, Hester Mahieu, Stephen Hopkins, Elizabeth Fisher, Edward Winslow, William Bradford, Mary Warren, John Tilley, Joan Hurst, and Edward Doty. [Note: various spellings Doten/Dotey/Dotten/Dowty.]

Photo: Captain Charles Carroll Doten (1830-1918), son of Samuel Doten and Rebecca Bradford. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library https://www.bpl.org/
Photo: Captain Charles Carroll Doten (1830-1918), son of Samuel Doten and Rebecca Bradford. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library https://www.bpl.org/

It is clear there was much to be thankful for that year, especially the Armistice of 11 November 1918 that ended WWI. As Capt. Doten noted: “Make merry… but do not forget to send up a prayer of thanksgiving to God in your own way.”

An article about Thanksgiving, Jackson Citizen Patriot newspaper article 27 November 1918
Jackson Citizen Patriot (Jackson, Michigan), 27 November 1918, page 9

This article reported:

How should America celebrate Thanksgiving this year – the most glorious since the first held here in Plymouth by the Pilgrim Fathers in 1621?

No American can answer this question more fittingly than Capt. Charles C. Doten of Plymouth, Mass., whose grandsire, Edward Doten, a London tanner, sat down with Myles Standish, John Alden, Priscilla Mullins, Gov. Bradford, the rest of the Mayflower Colony still alive, together with Massasoit and ninety of his Indian braves, to the first historic Thanksgiving dinner.

From his library window he can see the Plymouth Rock.

The old Yankee looked proud when I asked him to suggest a program for Thanksgiving, 1918.

“Never before in our history have the people of the United States,” began the captain, “had a better right to observe the honored custom of Thanksgiving in the same truly thankful spirit in which the first was celebrated, than they have this year.

“We have reaped the greatest and most bountiful harvest imaginable – the good will of all the freedom-loving people of the world.

“This month the American people, having been delivered from four years of agony, have a more exalted justification to observe Thanksgiving than did the Pilgrims. If I may be permitted to make a recommendation it would be:

“Make merry, have your feast, have your turkey, but do not forget to send up a prayer of thanksgiving to God in your own way, whatever that may be, that the seeds of democracy planted by the English settlers in the New World have sprouted and grown into a world force that has been powerful enough to overcome the noxious weeds of autocracy.”

Capt. Doten at the outbreak of the Civil War commanded the Plymouth company of the Old Colony regiment, first to enter the Confederate lines which destroyed the Norfolk navy yard.

“But for that brilliant stroke there might have been no United States today, and no world’s Thanksgiving. We saved the Union cause as gallant little Belgium saved the cause of the allies in 1914,” said Doten.

“Now we are one great, glorious nation. North and South, fighting side by side, helped to save the world for freedom.

“But I have one little regret. It is that our Plymouth boys of the Standish Guards who, as part of the 101st regiment of the New England division, were the first American soldiers to go over the top in France, will not be home to join us here, within sight of Plymouth Rock, in the greatest and grandest Thanksgiving Americans have ever known.”

Capt. Doten died on December 28 that year at the age of 88.

I thank him and the rest of the brave Minutemen: 3rd Massachusetts Volunteer Militia Regiment, the Standish Guards, and our troops serving today!

Happy Thanksgiving and may God bless you!

To be continued…

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Note on the header image: a photo of the first Thanksgiving reenactment at Plimoth Plantation, from “A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth; Mourt’s Relation,” by Dwight B. Heath. Credit: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

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