The First Thanksgiving Was in Florida, Not Plymouth Rock

Stop stuffing the turkey! Stop mashing the potatoes! We've had it wrong all along, the first real Thanksgiving was not at Plymouth Rock in 1621. It was 50 years earlier in Florida.

The strife of our country's first colonists as they sailed on the Mayflower seeking religious freedom is a crucial part of our nation's history. And in 1621 when they feasted with the Wampanoag Indians over poultry and maize, it was a sign that the worst was over. Every fourth Thursday of November we re-create that initial Thanksgiving.

But, according to one author, it was on September 8, 1565 that the first Thanksgiving actually occurred in Florida.

See also: Craigslist Ad Pranks Broward Man About 100 Free Thanksgiving Turkeys

In 1513 Juan Ponce de Leon discovered Florida and declared the peninsula Spain's. The Spanish king then sent Pedro Menendez de Aviles to Florida to start a permanent territory. His fleet landed in modern-day St. Augustine and encountered the Timcuan Indians.

The Timcuan brought oysters and clams. The Spanish brought a dish of garbanzo beans and salted pork called cocido.

"[St. Augustine] is the oldest city in the nation," Robyn Giola, author of "America's REAL First Thanksgiving" says. "It doesn't matter what group is there. A lot of people think that only English history is valid."

Giola teaches at a school in Jacksonville. She was at a week-long teacher's workshop in St. Augustine and heard Dr. Michael Gannon, a researcher at the University of Florida, speak.

"[Dr. Gannon] proved that St. Augustine was the oldest city in the nation, it also made the Thanksgiving that took place then the first Thanksgiving," Giola explains in an email (she's currently teaching in Japan).

According to Giola, Dr. Gannon's findings was challenged by traditionalists and academics. He was even nicknamed the Grinch Who Stole Thanksgiving. But Giola understands that this is an integral part of not just our state's history, but our nation's history. She wrote her children's book in 2007 to help spread the word. It's currently available online, in most public librarys, and the governor's library.

"I love our traditional Thanksgiving and how it has grown to be a wonderful family day," Giola says. "But I also think there is room for recognizing the first Thanksgiving on September 8 with a bowl of cocido."

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Jess Swanson is a staff writer at New Times. Born and raised in Miami, she graduated from the University of Miami’s School of Communication and wrote briefly for the student newspaper until realizing her true calling: pissing off fraternity brothers by reporting about their parties on her crime blog. Especially gifted in jumping rope and solving Rubik’s cubes, she also holds the title for longest stint as an unpaid intern in New Times history. She left the Magic City for New York to earn her master’s degree from Columbia University School of Journalism, where she spent a year profiling circumcised men who were trying to regrow their foreskins for a story that ultimately won the John Horgan Award for Critical Science Journalism. Terrified by pizza rats and arctic temperatures, she quickly returned to her natural habitat.
Contact: Jess Swanson