Jean Ferris painting of the first Thanksgiving with turkey at the center.

Did the English Puritans and the Wampanoag eat turkey at the legendary first Thanksgiving? No one really knows, as no menus have survived. But the record of Edward Winslow, the chronicler of the Plymouth Colony, states that William Bradford sent out four men to go “fowling” before the meal, that is, looking to shoot some birds.

The colonists at the Plymouth Colony were Separatist Puritans or Brownists; they insisted their congregations be separate from the Church of England rather than try to reform it. In England they struggled against suppression for decades. Two early leaders, Henry Barrow and John Greenwood, were executed for their beliefs in 1593 under the Seditious Words and Rumours Act of 1581.

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