10 Historical Untruths About the First Thanksgiving

The Pilgrims Held the First American Thanksgiving
The modern Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes -- none of which was was on the original menu. In fact we might not even be commemorating the first Thanksgiving. Comstock/Thinkstock

A small, but vocal group of historians and state tourism officials claim that the first Thanksgiving didn't happen in Massachusetts and wasn't orchestrated by the Pilgrims. There are other contenders for the prize of "first Thanksgiving."

In Texas, some say the first Thanksgiving was held in the city of San Elizario, near El Paso on the Mexican border. Each year, residents commemorate a huge thanksgiving feast celebrated by Spanish explorers marking their arrival on the banks of the Rio Grande River in April 1598. That would have been about 23 years before the Pilgrim-Wampanoag shindig in Plymouth, for those counting. The story goes that Juan de OƱate's 500-person expedition marched from southern Chihuahua for 50 days, almost dying from hunger and thirst in the process. Upon reaching the river, they rested for another 10 days and celebrated their new digs with a feast [sources: Shenkman, Kingston].

Others say the first Thanksgiving happened in the Old Dominion. Supporters of this version of the holiday's history point to Virginia's Berkeley Plantation as the birthplace of American Thanksgiving. Here, in 1619, 38 English settlers sponsored by the London Company supposedly toasted the arrival of their ship, the Margaret,on dry land [source: Shenkman].