St. Augustine, Florida ?First Thanksgiving

Mural showing life in first European settlement in St. Augustine in 1565 for Government House Museum in St. Augustine, Florida by Michael Rosato. Acrylic on canvas.

Recently received an email from the St. John’s (County) Cultural Council stating the first Thanksgiving occurred in St. Augustine, Florida in 1569. Here’s the email, I stand corrected. Read on, it is a fascinating account.

The First Real Thanksgiving: St. Augustine in 1565

Nov 24, 2020 SJCADMIN/

St. Augustine, Florida is the longest continuously inhabited European-founded city in the United States, and many historians have identified the meal following a celebratory mass in September 1565 as America’s first Thanksgiving feast.  

When Spanish Admiral Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles came ashore with 800 settlers, he asked that a meal of celebration was served from food provisions on the ship (yes, leftovers!) — cocido, a stew made from salted pork, garlic, and garbanzo beans, accompanied by hard sea biscuits and red wine. He invited the native Americans, the Timucua, from their Seloy village (located where the Fountain of Youth now stands). They would have contributed to the meal from their own food stores — wild turkey, alligator, venison, gopher tortoise, oysters, mullet, drum, sea catfish, maize (corn), beans, and squash. 

“It was the first community act of religion and thanksgiving in the first permanent settlement in the land,” wrote University of Florida professor emeritus of history Michael Gannon in his book, The Cross in the Sand.

According to the memoirs of Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales, who celebrated the Catholic mass, once “the feast day (was) observed … after mass, ‘the Adelantado (Menendez) had the Indians fed and dined himself.” 

This feast of Thanksgiving held on September 8, 1565, in St. Augustine, 56 years before the pilgrims of Plymouth enjoyed a meal together in gratitude of their first harvest.

Some historians argue that while America’s first Thanksgiving indeed took place in Florida, it actually occurred 40 miles further north and one year earlier than the one in St. Augustine when French Huguenots — Calvinists like the Pilgrims — held a service of thanksgiving and feasted with the Timucuans to celebrate the June 1564 establishment of Fort Caroline along the St. Johns River in present-day Jacksonville. “We sang a psalm of Thanksgiving unto God, beseeching him that it would please his Grace to continue His accustomed goodness toward us,” French explorer Rene Goulaine de Laudonnière wrote in his journal.

Other first Thanksgiving claims? A historical marker erected by the Texas Society of the Daughters of the American Colonists outside Canyon, Texas, states that Father Juan de Padilla conducted a thanksgiving service there in May 1541 for an army of 1,500 accompanying Spanish conquistador Francisco Vasquez de Coronado. Virginia and Maine have also put themselves forward as hosts of the nation’s first Thanksgiving in the years before the arrival of the Mayflower.

America’s Thanksgiving holiday was actually first recognized in 1843 by President Abraham Lincoln during the bitter struggle of the Civil War — on the last Thursday in November as a National Day of Thanksgiving, making it a national holiday. The President called on the “whole American people,” wherever they lived to unite “with one heart and one voice” in observing a special day of thanksgiving, and to “implore the interposition of the almighty to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it … to full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.”

President Franklin D. Roosevelt set the date for Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday of November in 1939 and it was approved by U.S. Congress in 1941. 

See recipes below from Jonathan Millen’s A Taste of St. Augustine: Recipes of the Ancient City for coquina clam broth, alligator pilau, and swamp cabbage.


This delicate broth is a gift of the sea. The tiny coquina clams burrow into the sand as the tide washes them ashore during the summer months. Once scooped from the sand, rinse the coquinas and place them in a pot with enough water to cover. Cook over medium heat until shells pop open (usually about 5 minutes). Strain broth and discard shells. Add a little butter and light cream to taste. Garnish with chopped parsley or chives to add color. No quantities are given, as the amounts are determined by the success of the coquina collector.


After 53 years of protection, the alligator has made a remarkable comeback and alligator meat is available again. Since the body meat is too tough, only the tail meat is used. The best way to prepare alligator tail is to slice the meat across the grain into 1/4- to ½-inch strips. While alligator tail is delicious lightly breaded and fried, try this dish that includes the datil pepper for a little kick of heat.

2lb. alligator tail, sliced or cubed
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 bay leaves
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 cup long grain rice
2 cups chicken stock
½ fresh datil pepper or 1 tsp pepper sauce
½ tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp dried thyme

Saute alligator meat in a small amount of olive oil until tender, and set aside. In a Dutch oven, cook onions, bell pepper and garlic in remaining oil until soft. Add tomatoes, bay leaves, datil pepper or sauce and seasonings and simmer over low heat for five minutes. Add chicken stock and well-rinsed rice and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the alligator meat, stir well, taste, and adjust seasonings. Simmer an additional five minutes to combine flavors.


If ever the opportunity of a fresh-cut cabbage palm presents itself, here is a recipe for fixin’ it. For most folks, getting to the heart is more trouble than it’s worth. For old-timers and Seminole Indians, it was a way of life. If you want a true Florida adventure, try making it yourself.

Remove boots from the palm and peel down to the heart. Break heart into bite-size chunks and soak in cold water until ready to cook. Chop some onions. Fry ½ lb. salt pork, cut into small pieces, in a skillet. Add a handful of onions and some butter and cook until onions are soft. In a Dutch oven melt a stick of butter. Add a generous amount of cabbage and a fourth as much onion. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add more cabbage and onion in the same proportion until the pot is half full. Cook over low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring to keep cabbage from burning. Serve when cabbage is tender.

To preserve our trees, please cut cabbages from palms that are growing in dense clusters, or from construction sites where they are to be removed. The best cabbage comes from trees that are from eight to twelve feet tall.



The first American Thanksgiving began in 1619 in Virginia. Here 38 English settlers celebrated thanks and appreciation for making a successful journey across the Atlantic Ocean. It is believed they shared their celebration with Native Americans and turkey was served.

While George Washington initially began this day of thanks and prayer, it did not become an official holiday till 1863. In the midst of Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed this holiday to be celebrated in November of each year.

Since that time Canada, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Liberia, Germany, and Japan have also marked this holiday. While not all celebrate in November the theme of giving thanks for the blessings received is a common thread.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Dia de Muertos: Day of the Dead

My daughter and beau are currently celebrating this holiday in Mexico. November 1st is All Saints Day, and November 2nd is All Souls Day in the Christian Church calendar. 3,000 years ago this holiday began in Central Mexico as a way to celebrate through food and drink with deceased relatives souls. Masking is a big portion of this festival as is decorating Mexican cities.

Some pictures of the city adorned for this festival..

More of Mexico City visit, sorry don’t have the name for this site, but sure looks great..

Looks like it was quite a 40th birthday!

Halloween 2022

Halloween began over 2000 years ago with the Celts. Thanks to the Irish for this holiday! It was known as the Festival of Samhain which honored and worshipped their ancestors. It is now observed in countless countries with parties and costumes. Some Christians celebrate through church services and light candles on the graves of the dead. Others celebrate by eating vegetarian foods.

Halloween is also known as:

All Hallowe’en
All Hallows’ Eve
All Saints’ Eve


And…whatever you do to celebrate – Have Fun! Stay Safe! and Enjoy!




Haunted House – St. Augustine County Jail

For the last several years there has been a haunted house at the former St. Augustine County Jail. Built in 1953, this jail replaced the former jail in downtown St. Augustine which is on the city trolley tour.

Always fascinated by jails and prisons, (as in a former life I was a NYS Prison administrator), couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit this facility. Even though it was decked in Halloween attire remnants of bathrooms, cells, and the like were still visible.

The facility incarcerated hundreds of demonstrators during the 1960 Civil Rights Movement, and while no longer in use for its stated purpose it has become a pivotal player on the St. John’s County Freedom Trail.

The jail is next to the elections office where I was doing poll work. So.. after my enjoyable 12 hour day assisting close to 900 citizens to vote decided to stop by. Have you voted? Let’s hope so! Democracy is in the balance.

The area outside the haunted house had many costumed characters, jumping booths for children, decorated sheriff cars, and food venues.

The haunted house allowed no photos with 6 to 7 customers entering every 2 minutes for a 10 minute romp guided by sheriff staff. It was a very creative and scary with ghosts and goblins hiding around every corner, and occupying each cell.

Once the visit ended there were even costumed characters outside to chase patrons on their way.

Fun for all!


Wanted to know what good cause the $20 fee was going to so inquired. The gal said most of the money would sponsor the sheriff’s police dogs. They need bullet proof vests, and special training. I mentioned how Bedford Hills Correctional Facility has a program where the female inmates train these dogs. Said thiswould be a good idea for a program for Florida inmates. She was aware of the program, and I went on my way not wanting to offend. Because as the bumper sticker states –

“We don’t care how you do in the North.”

Later as I walked away I began to sadly think how important it is for sheriff officers to have a police dog and why would they have to have a fund raiser for this rather than a designated budget item? Then I thought of how governor desantis spent $12 million on shipping Texas immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard, and another $5.7 million on voter police in Florida, for few voter irregularities.

Wouldn’t the money be better spent on dogs to protect the sheriff’s?


Isn’t the republican party the law and order party or so they say?

Something to think about.

Happy Birthday to Barack and me.

Today is my birthday. I share the day with former President Barack Obama. As Leos we are similar, and learning more of the former president through documentaries and the like I find we also have shared interests. He is a profound writer and I like to blog. Ha!Ha!

On our birthday I wish him happiness and a fabulous day. His keen direction, wit, and strong leadership is very missed by me, fellow Americans and as I travel, the rest of the world.

So, let me raise a glass to you, our former president, a man who did a job well done.

Fun Facts For the Fourth

Isn’t our Flag beautiful?

Happy 243rd birthday, America! Isn’t it wonderful to live in the greatest country in the world. We are blest. So, raise a glass, light a firecracker, start a barbeque and get this day underway. Enjoy. And here are a few tidbits to consider as you raise that glass…

  • Americans will consume 150 million hotdogs on July 4th.
  • The favorite sides for this day are potato salad and potato chips.
  • American’s will spend $1.6 billion on beer for the day.
  • Families will spend $100 on this holiday.
  • 14,000 sites nationwide will send off fireworks.
  • Macy’s fireworks cost $6 million with $1 billion spent nationally.
  • Congress allowed fireworks as of July 4, 1777.
  • There is no evidence to prove Betsy Ross designed the flag.
  • The American flag on the moon is bleach white. After 40 years in that atmosphere who wouldn’t be?
  • Flags on military uniforms glow in the dark.
  • In 1958, Robert Heft from Ohio, designed a flag to include Alaska and Hawaii. He got a B-, later President Eisenhower converted it to an A.
  • The final text of the Declaration was July 4th which is why we celebrate today, however, it wasn’t signed till August 2, 1776.
  • Famous July 4th birthdays: Malia Obama, Ann Landers, (columnist), Neil Simon, (playwright), and President Calvin Coolidge.

So, stop reading, get out there, and enjoy the day. Happy 4th of July.