Does the South have more ties to New England-focused Thanksgiving than realized?

Posted on November 26, 2013 by


Plimoth (Plymouth)… or Jamestown… or Berkeley Hundred?

A few years ago, I covered the complexities behind “who had the first Thanksgiving”, but there’s something else worth noting.

Despite a mindset among some that seems to distance both the Massachusetts Bay colonists from the Virginia Colony colonists, the lines that seem to have only been blurred over time, and over generations, need to be dusted-off. I suspect, in part, the blurring was courtesy of the post American Civil War years… when it was more convenient to think that the North and South had existed, prior to that time, in separate bubbles… and that it was the pool of Plymouth settlers that should be seen as the nucleus of the Northern folks, against whom the descendants of the Virginia colonists (not all, but many) fought, some two and a half centuries later.

In 2006, for example, a Thanksgiving greeting, issued by the then Sons of Confederate Veterans Commander-in-Chief, proclaimed…

The first Thanksgiving in this country was, in fact, celebrated at Jamestown, Virginia in December 1607. The Berkley Plantation’s charter required that the day of the colonist’s safe arrival, “.shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving..” The sour-faced Pilgrims were still thirteen years into the future.

“Sour-faced Pilgrims”?

Also, let’s keep in mind… family units weren’t present at either Jamestown’s event, or at Berkeley Plantation’s. Plymouth actually has both of them on that point. I suppose, perhaps, if you want to think of Thanksgiving as being, exclusively, among fellow men, in the man cave, watching football… without wives and children… then you’re somewhat on the path of accuracy… somewhat (with considerably more comfort, to be sure)… in emulating both of Virginia’s “original” Thanksgivings.

Nevertheless, I think what we see in that quote from 2006, is resentment felt among a few, for “Southern heritage” being forced, on the historical timeline, “into the back seat”. That’s not to say, however, that the views of one person or organization reflect sentiment that is prevalent among Southerners. Not at all.

Though there is no known likeness, this is an image of Brewster, as imagined.

Though there is no known likeness, this is an image of Brewster as imagined.

The reality is, while there are some who prefer to distance Southern heritage from Plymouth, there were certain connections between Plymouth and Virginia that need to be taken into consideration… and it’s actually a matter of blood relations. I only became aware of these because of my own lineage, which goes back, on one branch, to two Mayflower passengers… William Brewster and Isaac Allerton.

Though, via Brewster and Allerton, I am a Mayflower/Plymouth descendant, Brewster/Allerton connections to Virginia’s story is even larger, and is something that should be better understood… especially since descendancy from those two, leads to a few key figures emulated in Southern history.

I’ll try to push things along without going into all of the particulars…

William Brewster’s (1566-1634) daughter, Fear (1606-1634), married Issac Allerton (1586-1659). There’s a story in the middle of all of this (with ties to Roger Williams), but Isaac didn’t stay in Massachusetts, and moved to Connecticut. In turn, one of his sons, Isaac, Jr. (1627-1702), may have been born in Plymouth, but ended up in Westmoreland County, Virginia… where we have the all-important (at least in this particular case) Massachusetts Bay-Colonial Virginia link. One of his daughters, Sarah Elizabeth Allerton (1670-1731), married Hancock Lee (1653-1709), who was… yes… tied to THAT line of Lee family members (though Robert E. Lee wasn’t descended from the Brewster/Allerton connection, there were not so distant familial connections). A daughter of Hancock and Sarah, Elizabeth (1709-1753) married Zachariah Taylor (1707-1768)… and they had children, two of whom were Zachariah (1735-1815) and Richard (1744-1829). I’m descended from Zachariah… but I’m going to trace some lineage from Richard Taylor…

Confederate Gen. Richard "Dick" Taylor

Confederate Gen. Richard “Dick” Taylor

One of Richard Taylor’s sons was Zachary (1784-1850)… the 12th president of the United States, who, in turn, had a son… Richard (1826-1879)… who was, among other things, known as a Confederate general of note. For that matter, President Zachary Taylor’s daughter, Sarah (aka “Knoxie”, 1814-1835), was Jefferson Davis’ first wife.

Virginia’s Lee family, Richard Taylor, and Jefferson Davis… all having ties, either by blood or marriage, to those present at the Plymouth Thanksgiving.

So, why the “push-back” on the Plymouth Thanksgiving issue, when key persons in Southern history are descended and/or have rich ties to those “sour-faced Pilgrims”? Actually, the North and the South, from the 1600s to the American Civil War, did not exist entirely in their own “respective bubbles”. The Brewster/Allerton descendancy to folks in Virginia… and points even further to the South… is a reminder that they weren’t so far apart.