Thanksgiving Gone Wrong

The Pilgrims began arriving in Massachusetts Colony in 1620. They continued arriving in ships by fleet after fleet. One of my ancestors was a mate on some of the early voyages. Near the end of the Pilgrim era he became a captain in his own right. So to speak of his maritime career he is termed “mariner.” Less often he is termed Pilgrim or Immigrant.

John Hodges married in London. The chapel of his baptism and marriage burned down in the fire of 1666. As a child he may have played around London Bridge and skated behind the bridge in winter. His office when in England was a pub near the area known as Wapping.

Shortly after marrying and starting a family he shipped as a sailor or mate and started his maritime career. John’s second son was born in the colony in 1623 or earlier. Humphrey, in late court testimony, gave his age indicating being born in 1620 or 1621. That would make him a new-born or one-year-old at the time of the first Thanksgiving. He would have been handed from Pilgrim mother to Pilgrim mother so his own mother could eat and help with the cooking.

John Hodges and his son Humphrey settled in the Mystic River area. They carried goods for the English colony and the Indian village. The village of four to eight hundred men, women and children may have become a significant portion of the Hodges family trading business. John acquired many parcels of land in the area.

While the Massachusetts colony was growing with immigrants and births, trouble was brewing back in England. The persecution that had driven the Pilgrims way had swung like a pendulum. In Spain the Inquisition continued to persecute Christians and Jews. In Scotland John Knox had been preaching to incite riots against Catholics up to about 1560. Not long after the Pilgrims left England and other parts of Europe, the Puritans overcame the English government. There was a reign of terror in England until the Puritans could be expelled. The refugee Puritans poured into Massachusetts swelling the Pilgrim population. The Puritans also brought their army.

In 1637, a few local Indians took revenge on a family of dishonest English traders. The English leaders came to the local sachem and demanded that he turn over the killers. He did not. The English decided they would avenge themselves on the entire village. The two militias, Pilgrim and Puritan, supplemented by the Puritan army attacked the village at two o’clock in the morning supplemented by two jealous Indian tribes who coveted the land of the village.

It was a massacre. It was the first time the new colony considered that might makes right. In 1986 a conservative American President decided right makes might and gave the descendants of the victims a casino. It was the first of the Indian casinos.

There are some unresolved issues. First the myths about survivors differ. There may in fact have been no survivors. The Indians on site years later may be descendants of the enemy tribes that attacked the locals. If so the President’s gift of a casino amounts to supporting terrorism.

Second, some of the English owned land was probably sold at a loss. Other parcels were never accounted for. Normally collateral damage in military acts is exempt from reparations. There normally is no recompense for loss of land value or loss of trade. Two things may turn the tide in the Pilgrims case. Some of the land of the English neighbors has never been transferred. This suggests a civil remedy to return that land to the rightful descendants.

Thirdly, the gift of the casino by the American government for a case involving an action by the colonial government suggests a case for the descendants to proceed against the government under equal protection. Isn’t it wonderful to live under a government of law instead of a government of men?

Happy Thanksgiving, America!

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