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Five Kernels of Corn (the Thanksgiving Story)

Here is a story of gratitude. It’s taken from the book, Windows II: book for those with a heart for helping kids heal, by Dr. James Sutton ( The original source of the material was Marshall and Manuel’s book, The Light and the Glory (Fleming H. Revell, 1977). They did substantial research on the material included in the book. Often, they were allowed to access documents and journals not readily available to the public.

NOTE: To hear a reading of this story CLICK HERE.


On November 11, 1620, the Mayflower dropped anchor in a natural harbor on the inside of the northern tip of Cape Cod. There it stayed. The location was not the Pilgrims’ first choice; they had planned to settle near the mouth of the Hudson.

The area where the ship made landfall had belonged to the Patuxets, a fierce tribe that took intense delight in murdering anyone who would dare invade their territory. A sickness, however, had wiped them out, leaving their land free for the taking. (Other Indians, fearing “bad spirits,” would have no part of it.) The Pilgrims didn’t even have to clear fields for planting. They were alread there for them.

The nearest neighbors were the Wampanoags, a civilized tribe ruled by Massasoit. The chief and his people accepted the Pilgrims and helped them. Squanto, a lone survivor of the Patuxets, made his home with this new inhabitants and taught them how to survive in this new and challenging land.

Although the bounty of the summer of 1621 brought a time of heartfelt gratitude (the first Thanskgiving), the Pilgrims’ obligation to repay the backers who had financed their voyage left them dangerously close to starvation. Food stores had all but disappeared.

At one point, a daily ration of food for a Pilgrim was 5 kernels of corn. With a simple faith that God would sustain them, no matter what, they pulled through. History records that not a single one of them died from starvation that winter. Not a one.

The harvest of 1623 brought a surplus of corn, so much that the Pilgrims were able to help out the Indians for a change. So joyous were they that they celebrated a second Day of Thanksgiving and again invited Massasoit to be their guest.

He came, bringing with him his wife, several other chiefs and 120 braves. All sat down to a feast of 12 venison, 6 goats, 50 hogs and pigs, numerous turkeys, vegtables, grapes, nuts, plums, puddings and pies. But, lest anyone forget, all were given their first course on an empty plate.

They were each given 5 kernels of corn.


November 23, 2006 - Posted by | Inspirational, Special Occasions


  1. Great story, one which I had not heard before. True or not, there is a great lesson within this story. Thanks for sharing.


    Comment by tobeme | November 26, 2008 | Reply

  2. thanks for the story, will share it with the children in the morning (Sunday), as well as the grown children! God is so gracious, He blesses us all. Pastor Cindy


    Comment by Cindy Robinson | November 14, 2010 | Reply

  3. God bless you for passing this on to children. We will be using it in our Children’s Church hour using candy corn My husband put 5 kernels of real corn in a tiny plastic zip lock bag. He gave one to each person present at our community Thanksgiving service after his sermon that evening.


    Comment by Kay Deal | November 14, 2010 | Reply

  4. […] Thanksgiving traditions you and your family keep each year? My dad always read that story about the five kernels of corn. You know which one I mean? The one that truly is meaningful. But as a young kid still made you […]


    Pingback by Tidbit Tuesday #49 | Alyse French Photography | Houston-Based Wedding and Lifestyle Photographer | November 16, 2010 | Reply

  5. […] The busiest day of the year was November 25th with 391 views. The most popular post that day was Five Kernels of Corn (the Thanksgiving Story). […]


    Pingback by 2010 in review « It’s About Them | January 2, 2011 | Reply

  6. […] Click here to read about a Thanksgiving tradition that involves 5 kernels of corn. […]


    Pingback by Nov. 7 | Role of Journalism in America (1600 and 1700s) « Our Voice | November 7, 2011 | Reply

  7. […] can find the original story here and listen to it on audio here. If you have a poet in your midst they might enjoy reciting this […]


    Pingback by Five Kernels of Corn ~ Give Thanks! | | November 23, 2011 | Reply

  8. […] on to It’s About Them and read the story of Five Kernels of Corn. Give each troop member five pieces of candy corn. Take […]


    Pingback by Thankful for Character Building - Central Youth Network | October 27, 2014 | Reply

  9. Although this seems to be the most authentic account that I have been able to find, it makes it questionable with misspellings and grammatical errors.


    Comment by Teresa | November 21, 2015 | Reply

  10. I was not aware until a few years ago that I am a Mayflower descendent. I had never heard this story until this past Sunday when it was used for the children’s sermon. The speaker had done up little saran wrap packages with 5 kernels of corn, and I asked her for one. I realized that without those 5 kernels, I would not be here. We have had a rough month with a floated basement, a plumbing leak (unrelated) and this made me realize how ungrateful I am.

    Next year, I am sending my family 5 kernels of corn.


    Comment by Ann Jones | November 24, 2015 | Reply

  11. […] few years ago, I learned about the Five Kernels of Corn story, and a thoughtful idea to use that story during the Thanksgiving meal. To sum it up, you set […]


    Pingback by 5 Healthcare Kernels of Corn this #GratitudeWeek | | December 1, 2015 | Reply

  12. […] I would like to share with you a long-time tradition in our family. The following Thanksgiving story is true. I found this version of it here. […]


    Pingback by Five Kernels of Corn – | June 4, 2016 | Reply

  13. […] […]


    Pingback by Thanking God for All His Provisions | Doula Faith | November 24, 2016 | Reply

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