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Plymouth Colony

Seal of Plymouth Colony of Plymouth
Seal of Plymouth Colony
Map of Plymouth Colony showing town locations
Map of Plymouth Colony showing town locations
Status English colony
Capital Plymouth
Common languages English
Puritan, Separatist
Government Monarchy
Legislature Plymouth General Court
• Established
• Part of the Dominion of New England
• Disestablished
Succeeded by
Province of Massachusetts Bay

Plymouth Colony was an English colony in North America. It existed from 1620 to 1691. At its height, Plymouth Colony occupied most of the southeastern part of the modern state of Massachusetts.

The first settlement of the Plymouth Colony was at New Plymouth. This settlement served as the capital of the colony. It is today the modern town of Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Separatists and Anglicans (together, the "Pilgrims") founded the colony. With Jamestown and other settlements in Virginia Colony, it was one of the earliest successful English colonies in North America. It was the first sizable permanent English settlement in the New England region.

The colony made a treaty with Chief Massasoit. This helped to make the colony a success. The colonists played a role in King Philip's War. The colony merged with the Massachusetts Bay Colony and other territories in 1691. Together they formed the Province of Massachusetts Bay.

Plymouth holds a special role in American history. Many of the Plymouth colonists left England for a place to worship in their own way. The social and legal systems of the colony became tied to their religious beliefs, as well as English custom. Many of the people and events surrounding Plymouth Colony have become part of American folklore. These include Thanksgiving and Plymouth Rock.

First Thanksgiving

Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth (1914), Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts
Thanksgiving at Plymouth, 1925, Brownscombe
Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, Thanksgiving at Plymouth (1925), National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.

The first Thanksgiving was actually a solemn ceremony in 1623 of praise and thanks to God for the colony's good fortune, in response to the arrival of additional colonists and supplies. That event probably occurred in July and consisted of a full day of prayer and worship and probably very little revelry.

The event now commemorated in the United States at the end of November each year is more properly described as a harvest festival. The original festival was probably held in early October 1621 and was celebrated by the 53 surviving Pilgrims, along with Massasoit and 90 of his men. Three contemporaneous accounts of the event survive: Of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford; Mourt's Relation probably written by Edward Winslow; and New England's Memorial by Plymouth Colony Secretary (and Bradford's nephew) Capt. Nathaniel Morton. The celebration lasted three days and featured a feast that included numerous types of waterfowl, wild turkeys and fish procured by the colonists, and five deer brought by the Indians.

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