A Celebration of the 400th Anniversary of the First Thanksgiving

Many of you know that I recently released a book called The Last Pilgrim, the story of Mary Allerton Cushman, the oldest surviving passenger on the Mayflower. She died in 1699 at the age of 82, having seen the entire history of the Plymouth Colony, which was subsumed in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1692.

The book has received a ton of five-star reviews on Amazon and was long-listed for the Devon and Cornwall International Novel Prize.

Over the next few weeks, I will post on how and why I came to write the book (especially since many of you know me as a mystery writer), how I chose Mary Allerton as my main character and some interesting facts about the Pilgrims that are not generally known. I hope you enjoy this lead-up to the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving.

First, I grew up in Plymouth. As a child, I took classes in Pilgrim arts and crafts at the Harlow House (also called the Old Fort House because it was built with the beams of the original fort at the top of Leyden Street) and marched in the Pilgrim’s Progress on Saturdays several times, playing various women and children.

I was also one of the first tour guides at what was then called Plimoth Plantation but has been renamed Plimoth-Patuxet to recognize the contribution of the Wampanoag tribe of Patuxet to the survival of the Pilgrim. Plimoth-Patuxet is a living history museum that now depicts the colony as it was in 1623-1627. I took classes my senior year in high school, with the requisite testing, in order to be accepted as a tour guide.

Plimoth Plantation was built on the site of the old Hornblower estate on Warren Avenue, just three doors down from the house where I grew up. Henry Hornblower, the owner,  came from a fairly rich family, and the old mansion that stood at the top of the hill, where the fort is situated now, was a summer home. I used to play there in the summers after it was closed and rowed on the nearby pond. The topography of the estate was very similar to the site of the original Pilgrim village, so it made a perfect site for the re-creation. This site, and the property on which my old home stands, is land originally owned by Elizabeth Warren, who arrived on the Anne in 1623. More about this remarkable woman later.

Over time, I came to realize there were practically no books about Pilgrim women. But without women, the Plimoth colony would not have survived. So, many years later, after I had retired, I finally found the time and energy to write about those women, one in particular.

In my next post, I will tell you how I came to choose Mary Allerton.



35 thoughts on “A Celebration of the 400th Anniversary of the First Thanksgiving”

  1. Lovely idea, Noelle. I didn’t realise we were approaching the 400th anniversary. Quite a time for celebration. I’m glad I stayed in Plymouth, if only for a few days, and can appreciate the places you speak about more.

  2. Noelle, I enjoyed my visit to Plimoth Plantation in 1986 immensely (I think I’ve told you that before). The actor playing a pioneer (I think she was spinning yarn?) asked me where I was from. I said New Zealand and she was bound of course to say “Never heard of it” because Europe hadn’t discovered it yet!

  3. I loved The Last Pilgrim, Noelle. I learned so much reading your book. It’s clear your love for this era of history and your connection to it is long standing. Wonderful post.

    1. Thanks, MC. I’m thinking of writing another historical novel about the Revolutionary War – another rather local event for someone growing up in Massachusetts.

      1. Oh, please do! I am fascinated by that time period in history and have several nonfiction books dedicated to it in my library, as well as a few novels. I would LOVE to add your fictional take on it. I say go for it!

    1. I have to admit I was living there in my mind while writing the book. But my ancestor came to the Gloucester area in 1627 as an apprentice boat builder.

  4. petespringerauthor

    I remember reading about your book before you had released it, Noelle, and knew I had to read it. So glad I did. In my opinion, that period was one of the most exciting times in our history. Talk about courage.

  5. A wonderful post Noelle and what a wonderful celebration. 400 hundred years is a short span of time in the context of human evolution, but how far the world has come in that time. Having read and loved The Last Pilgrim, I appreciate how tough the New World was for these men and women, even if they survived the voyage, but I can’t help think that in many respects if they were popped into our world for a day, they might request a return ticket! I will share in the Thanksgiving Day blogger daily..hugsx

  6. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – Thanksgiving November 25th 2021 – #Writerstips D.G. Kaye, #RoundUp Carol Taylor, #Pilgrims Noelle Granger, #Gratitude365 Pete Springer, #Canada Rebecca Budd | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  7. Oh my gosh, I’m so happy for you and the success of this book, Noelle. Yay! And a fun little history of how you became interested and involved in the story of the Pilgrims. I love how it all came together. Happy Thanksgiving.

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