Fall is all about family gatherings and delicious food! It’s also a great time to learn about the history of time-honored traditions such as Thanksgiving—and for that, we don’t need to travel very far. As it turns out, Ormond Beach foodies are just a drive or cruise away from the site of the very first Thanksgiving!
Well, sort of. Let us explain. Just read for the delicious details.
A hearty housewarming feast
Long before a pier jutted into the Atlantic waters off the coast of St. Augustine—and nearly 400 years before Ormond Beach became the Birthplace of Speed—Florida’s First Coast region was a natural expanse of sand, sea breeze and coastal scrub, the kind of untouched environment that you can still find today if you know where to look.
In 1565, hundreds of Spanish settlers arrived on the First Coast of Florida (then, La Florida) in the region they came to call San Agustín, or St. Augustine. To celebrate their safe passage, the settlers shared a Mass of Thanksgiving with the Seloy tribe who called the area “home.” St. Augustine’s first pastor, Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales, led the celebration and wrote that the Seloy tribe “imitated all they saw done,” suggesting a friendly meal among all in attendance.
The late University of Florida professor and author Michael Gannon described the meal as “the first community act of religion and thanksgiving in the first permanent settlement in the land,” and in fact, it preceded the more widely known Thanksgiving meal (shared by Plymouth settlers and Native Americans in New England) by more than 50 years! We don’t know exactly what that First Coast Thanksgiving looked like, but a historical painting from the State Library and Archives of Florida gives us an idea. It depicts crosses and a traditional religious ceremony, with guests including both Spanish settlers in traditional garb and inquisitive Native Americans, all against the familiar backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean at dusk.
But we know the important question you’re probably wondering…
What’s on the menu?
The first Thanksgiving may not have featured your favorite Thanksgiving flavors like warm, flaky dinner rolls or mashed potatoes—but what it lacked in these staples, it made up for in sailors’ eats like sea biscuits and stew, as well as, potentially, food from the local area that would have included everything from wild turkey to sea catfish, corn, beans, squash and more.
Step into Sunshine State history
If you’re interested in seeing the site of the first Thanksgiving for yourself, simply take a drive up from Ormond Beach to its First Coast neighbor of St. Augustine! There, you can visit the Mission of Nombre de Dios to see a commemorative cross that marks the spot of that inaugural meal. It’s a beautiful place to soak in the view and reflect on the long, winding history that led to you calling the Sunshine State “home” yourself! You can make the easy drive or, if you’re a seafarer, cruise up from Ormond Beach and approach St. Augustine from land just like the Spanish settlers did several centuries ago.
You can kick off your “pilgrimage” to the site of the first Thanksgiving with a delicious brunch at Peach Valley, Ormond Beach - East! Just like the settlers did all those years ago, you will be able to savor a flavorful meal made even better by being so close to the ocean breeze. After all, being so close to both nature and history is part of what makes our beachside home so truly one-of-a-kind.