The Dancing Puritan

Monday, November 25, 2013

Pilgrims, Indians, and a lady named Sarah

Almost 50 million Americans will travel fifty or more miles during the Thanksgiving holiday to visit with family and friends. With the growth of America since its founding has also come the scattering of families across the land. Thanksgiving Day calls families to journey "over the river and through the wood" to sit around the table, enjoy a meal, and remember days gone by. In the homes of Christians, Thanksgiving serves as another opportunity to recount the faithfulness of God and to give him thanks.

Message to Order
Several streams converged that have helped to form the Thanksgiving Day tradition that Americans celebrate on the fourth Thursday of November each year. Most prominent is the gathering of Pilgrims and Indians at Plymouth in 1621. This celebration followed a bountiful harvest and the best conditions that the Pilgrims had enjoyed since touching the shores of their new home. Soon after arriving at Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in November of 1620, the Pilgrims began exploring the New England coastline and they came face to face with the brutality of a North Eastern winter. With the cold, wind, snow, and rain and without adequate shelter, their suffering increased and their number was reduced. By April of 1621 only 51 of the original 102 settlers were alive. Out of the 51 there were only twenty men and eight women. The rest were children.

From their great grief came the provision of God. Friendship with the Indians was cultivated, vegetables were planted, trading was established, homes were built, and life improved. For three days in the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims gave thanks to God and with Indian friends that ate and danced. This celebration is the foundational event for our modern Thanksgiving Day.

Though there were days of thanksgiving at various times and for various reasons from the early days of the settling of America, there was missing a formally recognized National Day of Thanksgiving. That would change--primarily through the influence of a lady by the name of Sarah Josepha Hale.

Sarah Josepha Hale: Part One  
Sarah Hale

Sarah Hale was born in 1788 while memories of the Revolutionary War were still fresh on everyone's mind and the fires of patriotism were burning bright.

In their early years, Sarah and her brother were  homeschooled by their mother. College was not a possibility for a young lady in Sarah's day (later Sarah would help to open doors for women to receive a college education). Educational limitations were no match for Sarah's passion to learn. Though she had only a few books, she studied them intensely. She read the Bible and The Pilgrims Progress. Her brother Horatio instructed her from his college text-books and she was able to learn Latin, advanced math, and other disciplines.

By the time Sarah was 18 she was teaching school and her gifts were obvious. She as a faithful student, a devoted Christian and she was growing mightily in character.

At age 25, Sarah married a popular young lawyer named David Hale. He was a great encouragement to her and she loved him dearly. Both enjoyed reading. Sarah wrote:

We commenced, soon after our marriage, a system of study and reading, which we pursued while he lived. The hours allotted were from eight o'clock until ten--two hours in twenty-four. How I enjoyed those hours! In this manner we studied French, Botany . . . and obtained some knowledge of Mineralogy, Geology, etc., besides pursuing a long and instructive course of reading. In all our mental pursuits, it seemed the aim of my husband to enlighten my reason, strengthen my judgment, and give me confidence in my own powers of mind, which he esteemed more highly than I did. I equaled him in imagination, but in no other faculty. Yet the approbation which he bestowed on my talents has been of great encouragement to me in attempting the duties which were to be my portion. The Lady of Godey's: Sarah Josepha Hale by Ruth E. Finley.

Taken from Family Worship for the Thanksgiving Season.

Visit us tomorrow to learn how Sarah Hale was instrumental in our National Thanksgiving Day.