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Not the usual tradition
Local family embraces its pilgrim roots
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Gwen Linton dresses up for her family’s annual Thanksgiving dinner. - photo by Submitted


Thanksgiving for many may be about food, family and football.

But one Cumming family has taken on some additional Thanksgiving traditions based on a rich American heritage.

In fact, pilgrims and American Indians still share a feast at the Linton household.

The local family, which this year will celebrate with relatives in Ohio, wears costumes representing the original Thanksgiving.

The annual tradition began when Steve Linton, a descendant of Mayflower pilgrim John Howland, began dressing up in the traditional garb of his ancestor.

Each year at the Thanksgiving table, grandpa Linton, who lives in Pennsylvania, tells stories about Howland, who is perhaps best known for being rescued after falling off the side of the ship.

Daughter-in-law Michelle Linton said a family member got an idea to surprise him after several Thanksgivings of his costumed dinner appearance.

About six years ago, all the dinner guests donned headdresses and American Indian garb as they sat at the table before Steve Linton made his usual grand entrance, she said.

“He was quite surprised,” Michelle Linton said. “[Now] that’s the tradition. We have the pilgrims and the Indians. It’s kind of grown to full costume.”

Gwen Linton, her mother-in-law, said her husband had always known about his pilgrim genealogy since his uncle had proved the lineage to become a member of the Mayflower Society.

The couple recently completed the time-intensive work of obtaining birth, death and marriage certificates to earn their own place in the official group, Gwen Linton said, and plan to take it a step further and join the John Howland Society.

“We’ve always been sort of interested in history,” she said. “Somewhere along the line, Steve came up with a colonial costume. This just sort of grew into, well it’s Thanksgiving, so I guess I’ll be John Howland.”

Last year, Gwen Linton said her costumed husband, who always gives the meal’s blessing, recited a prayer from official John Howland literature:

“May you have no frost on your spuds, no worms on your cabbage. May your goat give plenty of milk and if you inherit a donkey, may she be in full.”

Added Gwen Linton: “The whole thing just gets sillier and sillier by the year and we love it.”

Daughter-in-law Michelle Linton agreed that the traditions tend to keep expanding.

During the family’s Thanksgiving gathering in Cumming a few years ago, Michelle Linton said some of the foods were cooked like they were back in the Pilgrims’ time — in cast iron pots over a bonfire.

This year’s gathering will include a 5K run in New Albany, Ohio, where brother-in-law Andrew Linton lives.

Since the local Lintons are busy and usually away during the much-anticipated Atlanta Thanksgiving half-marathon, they decided to start up their own contest up North. Participants will chase down a costumed turkey for prizes.

Michelle Linton’s son, Cody Matheson, received the honor of being the hunted turkey.

The extended Linton family always gathers for the holiday (usually in Pennsylvania), and this will be the first time in Ohio.

Gwen and Steve Linton hope to soon relocate to Cumming, where they plan to carry on their own family Thanksgiving traditions and, of course, some that most families share on the American holiday.

Gwen Linton said she always makes “more food than anybody’s ever going to eat” and is thankful for the day she gets to share with her family and friends.