As night falls on the southern end St. George Street in St. Augustine, a time-tested belief comes to life.
“The first Thanksgiving that involved a feast and lots of local food and inviting the local people, the Timacuan Indians here in St. Augustine to be part of it. and that’s our Thanksgiving,” remarks Kathleen Deagan, Ph.D., the distinguished research curator emerita at the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida.
This may cause purists and historians to choke on their pumpkin pie — Could St. Augustine have been the real sight of the first Thanksgiving? Dr. Deagan believes so.
“Most of us associate our early history and our founders of the English colonies of Jamestown and of Plymouth, and really the first settlement was here in St. Augustine in 1565,” Dr. Deagan says.
She made a career out of digging up history from St. Augustine’s 450-year-old past. Many of her findings are now on display in the exhibition”First Colony: Our Spanish Origins.”
“It never ceases to astonish people the first thanksgiving meal was smoked meat and fish. Ham. Garbanzo beans. Red Wine. Olives and Olive oil. There wasn’t any corn as far as we know, no turkeys, no mashed potatoes, no pecan pie for sure!” Dr. Deagan says with a laugh.
In the exhibit, you can peek at the artifacts Dr. Deagan and her teams discovered. History comes alive with a multitude of touch-screens and interactive exhibits that are anything but old.
“It’s a story of multiculturalism. A lot of exchange among native Americans and Europeans and Africans. And it was a rich and different sort of story that I think reflects a lot of what America is today,” Dr. Deagan concludes.
“We hope that they’ll understand that our history is even richer than most people think.”