WILLIAMSBURG, November 20, 1779.
By his Excellency THOMAS JEFFERSON, Esq; Governor or Chief Magistrate of the Commonwealth of VIRGINIA. PROCLAMATION. Whereas the Honourable the General Congress, impressed with a grateful sense of the goodness of Almighty God in blessing the greater part of this extensive Continent with plentiful harvest, crowning our arms with repeated successes, conducting us hereto safely through the perils with which we have been encompassed, and manifesting in multiplied instances, his divine care of these infant States, hath thought proper, by their act of the 20th day of October last, to recommend to the several States, that Thursday, the 9th of December next be appointed a day of public and solemn Thanksgiving and Prayer.
Virginia Gazette (Clarkson & Davis) November 20, 1779
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Services of thanksgiving,were held sporadically from the earliest days of individual colonies. Virginia claims that the true first Thanksgiving took place at Berkeley Plantation in 1620, a year before the more famous one at Plimouth Plantation in Massachusetts. Governor Jefferson's proclamation in 1779 preceded President George Washington's proclamation that November 26, 1789 should be marked as a day of "national thanksgiving". Abraham Lincoln formally designated the last Thursday in November as the official Thanksgiving in 1863. Franklin Roosevelt changed the designation to the fourth Thursday in November in 1939. Regardless of the date, thanksgiving services are based on the ancient harvest festivals that are part of the cultures and religious observnaces throughout the world.
Sources: Encyc. Americana