William Bradford, Governor of Plymouth Colony

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William Bradford

Also Known As: "Gov. William Bradford of Plymouth Colony", "William Bradford lll", "William "Mayflower" Bradford"
Birthplace: Austerfield, Yorkshire, England
Death: Died in Plymouth, Plymouth, Massachusetts
Place of Burial: Plymouth, Plymouth, Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of William Bradford, II and Alice Briggs
Husband of Dorothea Bradford, "Mayflower" Passenger and Alice Bradford
Father of Lt. John Bradford; Maj. William Bradford, Jr., Dep. Gov. of Plymouth Colony; Joseph Bradford, of Plymouth and Mercy Vermayes
Brother of Margaret Bradford; Alice Bradford and Ann Wilbore
Half brother of Agnes Briggs and Robert Briggs, Jr.

Occupation: A separatist who immigrated to Holland about 1610. He went back to England in 1620 and then sailed from Plymouth, England, with the Mayflower Pilgrims. (9-6-1620) 2nd Gov. of Plymouth Colony., Fustian Maker, Governor of Plymouth Colony, weaver, writer
Managed by: Steve
Last Updated:

About William Bradford, Governor of Plymouth Colony

William Bradford

  • Birth: on or before 19 March 1589/90 - Austerfield, Yorkshire, England
  • Christened: 19 March 1589/90 - St. Helen's Chapel, Austerfield, Yorkshire, England
  • Parents: William Bradford, Alice Hanson
  • Spouses: Dorothy May, Alice Carpenter
  • Death: 9 May 1657 - Plymouth, Plymouth, Massachusetts
  • Burial: 12 May 1657 - Burial Hill, Plymouth, Plymouth, Massachusetts

William Bradford (c.1590 – c.1657) was an English Separatist leader in Leiden, Holland and in Plymouth Colony. He emigrated to the New World on the "Mayflower" in 1620, signing the Mayflower Compact, and then serving as Plymouth Colony Governor five times covering about thirty years between 1621 and 1657. His memoir, "of Plimouth Plantation," has been called "'an American classic' and 'the pre-eminent work of art' in seventeenth-century New England."

See more at Wikipedia, Pilgrim Hall Museum, Find A Grave Memorial# 124, about.com .....



  1. on 10 Dec 1613 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands to Dorothy May, b abt 1597, died Dec. 7, 1620, Cape Cod Harbor, (now Provincetown) MA. Records suggest she was the daughter of Henry May.
  2. on 14 Aug 1623 in Plymouth, Plymouth, MA to Alice Carpenter (1590-1670), widow of Edward Southworth. She was the daughter of Alexander Carpenter and Priscilla Dillen.

William and Dorothy had one child, a son:

  1. John Bradford; b. c 1615, Leyden, Holland; d. Sep. 7, 1679, Norwich CT. Married Martha Bourne; no known children.

William and Alice had three children:

  1. William Bradford b: 16 Jun 1624 in Plymouth, Plymouth, MA. Married 1) Alice Richards 2) Sarah Tracy, widow Griswold 3) Mary Atwood, widow Holmes
  2. Mercy Bradford b: 1627/1630 in Plymouth, Plymouth, MA. Married Benjamin Vermayes; no known children.
  3. Joseph Bradford b: 1627/1630 in Plymouth, Plymouth, MA. Married Jael Hobart.

A good genealogy link to follow as of 5 Oct 2013 is Pedigree of: William Bradford 1589/90-1657 by Phillips Verner Bradford. (EH)


Wikipedia maintains a list of the descendants of William Bradford who have achieved noteworthy standing in numerous fields.

Phillips V. Bradford, Sc.D. noted in 2005:

"From statistical analysis, I can estimate that there are about 4 million descendants of Gov. Wiliam Bradford of Plymouth in the US alive today. And, about 10,000 of us, still bear the family name."

biographical information

From Find A Grave Memorial# 124

William Bradford was a leader of the separatist settlers of the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts, and was elected thirty times to be the Governor after John Carver died. He was the second signer and primary architect of the Mayflower Compact in Provincetown Harbor. His journal (1620-1647), published as Of Plymouth Plantation. It was a handwritten journal detailing the history of the first 30 years of Plymouth Colony. Large parts of this journal have been republished a number of times.

Bradford, along with Edward Winslow and others, contributed material to George Morton, who merged everything into a book, published in London in 1622, nicknamed Mourt's Relation, which was primarily a journal of the colonists' first years at Plymouth.

Bradford is credited as the first to proclaim what popular American culture now views as the first Thanksgiving.

At an early age William was attracted to the "primitive" congregational church, in nearby Scrooby, and became a committed member of what was termed a "Separatist" church, since the church-members had wanted to separate from the Church of England. By contrast, the Puritans wanted to purify the Church of England. The Separatists instead felt the Church was beyond redemption due to unbiblical doctrines and teachings. When James I began to persecute Separatists in 1609, Wm. fled to the Netherlands, along with many members of the congregation. These Separatists went first to Amsterdam before settling at Leiden.

Bradford married his 1st wife, Dorothy in Amsterdam. While at Leiden, he supported himself as a fustian weaver. Shifting alignments of the European powers (due to religious differences, struggles over the monarchies and intrigues within the ruling Habsburg clan) caused the Dutch government to ear war with Catholic Spain, and to become allied with James I of England. Social pressure (and even attacks) on the separatists increased in the Netherlands. Their congregation's leader, John Robinson, supported the emerging idea of starting a colony. Bradford was in the midst of this venture from the beginning. The separatists wanted to remain Englishmen (although living in the Netherlands), yet wanted to get far enough away from the Church of England and the government to have some chance of living in peace. Arrangements were made, and Wm. with his wife sailed for America in 1620 from Leiden aboard the Mayflower.

On December 7, 1620, before the colony was established, Bradford's wife died. She died while the Mayflower was at anchor in Provincetown Harbor. However, there are no contemporary accounts of the circumstances of her death, only a later mention of drowning by Cotton Mather in Magnalia Christi Americana. Bradford included only brief mention of her passing in his own writing. There is a widely circulated story that she committed suicide because the Mayflower was a moored ship, but this is derived from a work of historical fiction published in the June, 1869 issue of Harper's New Monthly Magazine. This claims that they had decided to leave their young son in the Netherlands, and his wife was so stricken with sadness that she took her own life. Regardless of this fictional treatment, there is no proof of suicide.

The first winter in the new colony was a terrible experience. Half the colonists perished, including the colony's leader, John Carver. Bradford was selected as his replacement on the spring of 1621. From this point, his story is inextricably linked with the history of the Plymouth Colony.

William's 2nd wife Alice came to Plymouth aboard the "Anne" in July 1623 following the death of her 1st husband, Edward Southworth. They married and had 3 children. Alice helped raise John, the son of his 1st marriage. Alice's sons from her first marriage arrived in Plymouth sometime after 1627 and presumably lived with their mother and stepfather.

Wm. died at Plymouth and was interred at Plymouth Burial Hill. On his grave is etched:

"qua patres difficillime adept sunt nolite turpiter relinquere" "What our forefathers with so much difficulty secured, do not basely relinquish."

Colonial Governor William Bradford's English Origins

From http://heraldry.celticradio.net/printpage.php?type=family&id=78ernor

In 1575, there lived in Austerfield, Yorkshire County, England, one William Bradford. It has been found impossible to trace the family beyond this point but there is strong probability that this William Bradford was a relative of the celebrated preacher martyr, John Bradford, who was burned at the stake at Smithfield [Eng.], January 31, 1555, for his opposition to papacy. It has also been supposed that this William Bradford was a relative of a Bradford who participated in connections with Thomas Stafford, son of Lord Stafford, in a rebellion against the hated Queen Mary, for which he was executed at Tyburn, May 29, 1557.

There is evidently some reason why the founder of the family in this country, the celebrated Pilgrim, who will hereafter be known as [Governor] Gov. William, was always silent on the subject of his own family, notwithstanding his numerous writings on the early colonists.

It may be interesting to mention that the name of Bradford is supposed to have originated at a time when families were frequently called after places near their homes, and that the first family of this name lived near a "broad ford." The name is frequently spelled Bradfurth and Bradfourth, in the church records of England. The family of William Bradford, of Austerfield, belonged to a class called yeomanry, which was at that time next to the gentry, and had the right to use coats-of-arms. They usually owned [the] lands they occupied, and were, to use the language of today, farmers of large estates. This William Bradford has four children, viz.: William, Thomas, Robert, and Elizabeth. The dates of their birth are not known, but Robert was baptized June 25, 1561, and Elizabeth July 16, 1570. The oldest son, William, married Alice Hanson, June 21, 1584. She was the daughter of John Hanson, the only man in Austerfield at that time besides William Bradford who paid taxes to the crown. William Bradford and Alice Hanson had the following children: Margaret, born March 8, 1585; Alice, born October 30, 1587; and William the Pilgrim, baptized March 19, 1589/90. The Pilgrim's father died July 1591, leaving him an orphan. He went to live with his grandfather and upon the death of the latter in January 1595/96 was cared for by his uncles, Thomas, Richard (?) [??], and Robert Bradford.

Gov. William in his younger days was prevented from entering into the pursuits of his relatives by the state of his health, but having inherited a comfortable estate, he was well provided for. When 12 years old, he manifested great interest in the Scriptures and sought the company of Richard Clifton and other Puritan preachers. Profiting by their teachings, he soon embraced the Puritan faith. In 1607, Gov. William, in company with the other Puritans, moved to Holland, in order to be able to enjoy freedom of worship. While on his way, he was imprisoned at Boston, England, for a time on account of his religious belief. They first went to Amsterdam but soon moved to Lydon [Lyden]. At this place, Gov. William Learned the art of dyeing silk, and when he came of age, sold his estate in England and engaged in commerce.

In 1620, Gov. William, in company with other Puritans, when to England from Holland and embarked in the Mayflower for America. In 1621, he was chosen Governor and re-elected every year until 1657 except the years 1633-34, 1636, 1638-44. In all, he served 30 years as governor, often against his wishes and during the five years he was not governor, served the colony in some capacity as a public officer. Gov. Bradford, according to Cotton Mather, was well acquainted with Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, particularly the latter. He spoke French and Dutch fluently, and well understood history, philosophy, and theology. He was the only historian of Plymouth Colony, and his "prose writings were above mediocrity." Gov. Bradford's manuscript history of Plymouth Colony, of two hundred and seventy pages, descended to his grandson, John, who presented it with some other manuscripts and a letter-book formerly belonging to the governor to the New England Library. These manuscripts were deposited in the tower of the old South Church, Boston, for safe keeping and so far as known were there when the city was taken by the British in 1775. It will be remembered that the British soldiers used this church as a riding school during their occupancy of the city.

When Boston was evacuated in the spring of 1776, Gov. Bradford's manuscript history of Plymouth Colony, and many other valuable documents, among them his letter-book, were missing. The letter-book was discovered in a grocery store at Halifax, Nova Scotia, some years after (a large portion of it having been destroyed) and sent to the Massachusetts Historical Society. The history could not be found, and it [was] supposed that it had been destroyed. Previous to 1775, several early colonial historians had mad extracts from this history and the tenor of these extracts was known by those well versed in early colonial history. In 1855, it was discovered by the Massachusetts historian, Rev. John S. Barry, that a volume entitled "A History of the Protestant Episcopal Church in America" by Samuel, Lord Bishop of Oxford, London, 1846, contained extracts from a manuscript in the Fulham Library similar to some of the above mentioned. The Fulham Library is a manor-house or palace, located in the village of Fulham, a few miles from London! This palace is the residence of the Lord Bishop of London. This discovery having been brought to the attention of the Massachusetts Historical Society, an agent was employed to examine the Fulham manuscripts. The result of the examination was that the manuscripts proved beyond a doubt to be the original history of Plymouth Colony written by Governor William Bradford's own hands. The Society had the manuscript opened and published. The publication was in 1856. The original manuscript still remains in the Fulham Library, England, and the agency by which it reached there from New England Library, Boston, is still unknown.

Gov. Bradford, while living in Holland, married Dorothy May, and English Puritan December 10, 1613. By this marriage he had one son who did not come over in the Mayflower, but in another vessel some years later. The Governor's wife, Dorothy, was drowned in Cape Cod harbor, December 17, 1620. August 14, 1623, the Gov. married Alice Carpenter Southworth, widow of Edward Southworth. Gov. Bradford died at Plymouth, May 9, 1657. His wife Alice died at the same place March 26, 1670, aged about 79 years.

English Separatist and leader of settlers at Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts


Type the following into your browser and you will see pictures of Gov. William Bradford's gravestone, with authentic details.

Gov William Bradford findagrave



William Bradford (c.1590 – 1657) was an English Separatist leader in Leiden, Holland and in Plymouth Colony was a signatory to the Mayflower Compact. He served as Plymouth Colony Governor five times covering about thirty years between 1621 and 1657. His journal, Of Plymouth Plantation, covering the period from 1620 to 1657 in Plymouth Colony is an important historic document.[2]

Contents [hide] 1 English Origins 1.1 Separatist congregation 1.2 In Leiden and London 2 Voyage preparations and the Speedwell 2.1 The Mayflower voyage 2.2 Anchored and first explorations at Plymouth Colony 2.3 Loss of first wife 2.4 Great sickness 2.5 Early service as governor 3 Literary works 4 Family 5 Will, death and burial 6 See also 7 Notes 8 References 9 Further reading 10 External links English Origins[edit]

The Manor House, Austerfield, South Yorkshire—birthplace of William Bradford William Bradford was born to William and Alice Bradford in Austerfield, Yorkshire, England, being baptized on March 19, 1589/90.[3] In a time when most were farmers of modest means,[4] the Bradford family owned a large farm and were considered wealthy and influential.[5]

According to surgeon and historical researcher George J. Hill, Bradford's grandfather was William Bradfurthe who had at least four children, including Bradford's father, and was likely of noble ancestry.[6]

Bradford's childhood was marked by numerous deaths in the family. He was just over a year old when his father died. When he was four years old, his mother remarried and Bradford was sent to live with his grandfather.[3] Two years later, his grandfather died and he returned to live with his mother and stepfather. A year later, in 1597, his mother died. Bradford thus became an orphan at age 7 and was sent to live with two uncles.[3]

His uncles wanted young Bradford to help on the farm and later noted in his journal that he suffered at that time from a "long sickness" and was unable to work. He instead turned to reading. He became familiar with the Bible and classic works of literature. This, too, is seen by some as a key factor in his intellectual curiosity and his eventual attraction to the Separatist Church.[7]

Separatist congregation[edit] When Bradford was 12 years old, a young friend invited him to hear the Rev. Richard Clyfton preach 10 miles away in All Saints Church, Babworth. Clyfton was a minister who believed that the Church of England ought to institute strict reforms to eliminate all vestiges of Catholic practices. Proponents believed this would result in a more pure Christian church. Bradford was inspired by Clyfton’s preachings, even though he was forbidden by his uncles, Bradford continued to attend his sermons.[8]

During one meeting Bradford befriended William Brewster, who was a bailiff and postmaster.[9] His residence was at Scrooby Manor, four miles from Austerfield. During frequent visits, Bradford borrowed books from Brewster, and Brewster regaled the young man with stories of the efforts about church reform taking place across England.[9]

When King James I took the English throne in 1603, he declared he would put an end to church reform movements, and deal harshly with radical critics of the Church of England.[10] By 1607, secret meetings were being held at Scrooby Manor and about 50 reform-minded individuals began to celebrate the Sabbath led by Richard Clyfton and Rev. John Robinson. This group decided that reform of the Church of England was hopeless and they would sever all ties, and became known as Separatists.

The weekly meetings of the Separatists attracted the attention of the Archbishop of York, and many members of the congregation were arrested in 1607.[4] Brewster was found guilty of being "disobedient in matters of religion" and was fined. Some members were imprisoned and others were watched, according to Bradford, "night and day" by those loyal to the archbishop.[4] Adding to their concerns, the Scrooby congregation learned that other Separatists in London had been imprisoned and left to starve.[11]

When the Scrooby congregation decided in 1607 to leave England illegally for the Dutch Republic (where religious freedom was permitted), William Bradford determined to go with them. The group encountered several major setbacks in trying to leave England, most notably their betrayal by an English sea captain who had agreed to bring the congregation to the Netherlands but instead turned them over to authorities.[12] Most of the congregation, including Bradford, were imprisoned for a short time after this failed attempt.[13] By the summer of 1608, however, the Scrooby congregation, including 18-year-old William Bradford, managed to escape England in small groups and relocated to Leiden in the Dutch Republic.

In Leiden and London[edit]

A modern view of the city of Leiden featuring the Hooglandse Kerk William Bradford arrived in Amsterdam in August 1608. Having no family with him, Bradford was taken in by the Brewster household. The Separatists, being foreigners and having spent most of their money in attempts to get to the Dutch Republic, had to work the lowest of jobs and live in poor conditions. After nine months, the congregation chose to relocate to the smaller city of Leiden.[14]

Bradford continued to reside with the Brewster family in a poor Leiden neighborhood known as Stink Alley.[15] Conditions changed dramatically for Bradford, however, when he turned 21 and was able to claim his family inheritance in 1611. Bradford bought his own house, set up a workshop as a fustian weaver, and earned a reputable standing.[16]

In 1613, Bradford married Dorothy May, the daughter of a well-off English couple living in Amsterdam. The couple was married in a civil service, as the Separatists could find no example of a religious service in the Scriptures.[17] In 1617, the Bradfords had their first child, John Bradford.[18]

In 1619 William Bradford sold his house in Leiden and in March 1620 appears in tax records in London being taxed for personal property at the Duke’ Place, Aldgate. Aldgate was an area of London known to be the residence of numerous Hollanders as well as many religious dissenters. Some familiar Mayflower names of families living in the area included Allerton, Tilley, Sampson and Hopkins. And early in 1620 a family who were acquaintances of the Bradfords in Leiden were also their London neighbors and would play a major part in William Bradford’s life in a few years. They were Edward and Alice (Carpenter) Southworth and their two sons who were residing at Heneage House, the Duke’s Place, in Aldgate. Southworth was a highly respected leader of the Leiden group and would die in 1621/22 with his wife Alice coming out to Plymouth on the Anne in 1623 to become the wife of widower William Bradford.[19]

Voyage preparations and the Speedwell[edit] By 1617, the Scrooby congregation began to plan the establishment of their own colony in the Americas.[20] Although the Separatists could practice religion as they pleased in the Dutch Republic, they were troubled by the fact that, after nearly ten years in the Netherlands, their children were being influenced by Dutch customs and language. Therefore, the Separatists commenced three years of difficult negotiations in England to seek permission to settle in the northern parts of the Colony of Virginia (which then extended north to what would eventually be known as the Hudson River).[21] The colonists also struggled to negotiate terms with a group of financial backers in London known as the Merchant Adventurers. By July 1620, Robert Cushman and John Carver had made the necessary arrangements and approximately fifty Separatists departed Delftshaven on board the Speedwell.[22]

It was an emotional departure. Many families were split as some Separatists stayed behind in the Netherlands, planning to make the voyage to the New World after the colony had been established. William and Dorothy Bradford left their three-year-old son John with Dorothy's parents in Amsterdam, possibly because he was too frail to make the voyage.[22]

According to the arrangements made by Carver and Cushman, the Speedwell was to meet with the Mayflower off the coast of England and both were destined for the northern part of the Colony of Virginia. The Speedwell, however, proved to be not structurally sound to make the voyage and some of the passengers were transferred aboard the Mayflower making for crowded conditions. Joining the Scrooby congregation were about 50 colonists who had been recruited by the Merchant Adventurers for their vocational skills which would prove useful in establishing a colony.[23] These passengers of the Mayflower, both Separatist and non-Separatist, are commonly referred to today as "Pilgrims." The term is derived from a passage in Bradford's journal, written years later, describing their departure from the Netherlands:

...With mutual embraces and many tears, they took their leaves of one another, which proved to be the last leave to many of them...but they knew they were pilgrims and looked not much on those things, but lifted their eyes to heaven, their dearest country and quited their spirits...[24]

The Mayflower voyage[edit] Main article: Mayflower

Signing the Mayflower Compact 1620, a painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris 1899 The Mayflower departed Plymouth, England on September 6/16, 1620. The small, 100-foot ship had 102 passengers and a crew of 30-40 in extremely cramped conditions. By the second month out, the ship was being buffeted by strong westerly gales, causing the ship‘s timbers to be badly shaken with caulking failing to keep out sea water, and with passengers, even in their berths, lying wet and ill. On the way there were two deaths, a crew member and a passenger, but the worst was yet to come after arriving at their destination when, in the space of several months, almost half the passengers perished in cold, harsh, unfamiliar New England winter.[25]

On November 9/19, 1620, after about 3 months at sea, including a month of delays in England, they spotted land, which was the Cape Cod Hook, now called Provincetown Harbor. And after several days of trying to get south to their planned destination of the Colony of Virginia, strong winter seas forced them to return to the harbor at Cape Cod hook, where they anchored on November 11/21. The Mayflower Compact was signed that day, Bradford being one of the first to sign.[25][26]

Anchored and first explorations at Plymouth Colony[edit] Up to this time, Bradford, aged 30, had yet to assume any significant leadership role in the colony. When the Mayflower anchored in present-day Provincetown Harbor and the time came to search for a place for settlement, Bradford volunteered to be a member of the exploration parties.[27] In November and December, these parties made three separate ventures from the Mayflower on foot and by boat, finally locating what is now Plymouth Harbor in mid-December and selecting that site for settlement. During the first expedition on foot, Bradford got caught in a deer trap made by Native Americans and hauled nearly upside down.[28] During the third exploration, which departed from the Mayflower on December 6, 1620, a group of men including Bradford located present-day Plymouth Bay. A winter storm nearly sank their boat as they approached the bay, but the explorers, suffering from severe exposure to the cold and waves, managed to successfully land on Clark's Island.[29]

During the ensuing days, they explored the bay and found a suitable place for settlement, now the site of downtown Plymouth, Massachusetts. The location featured a prominent hill (now known as Burial Hill) ideal for a defensive fort. There were numerous brooks providing fresh water. Also, the site had been the location of a Native American village known as Patuxet; therefore, much of the area had already been cleared for planting crops. The Patuxet tribe, between 1616 and 1619, had been wiped out by plagues resulting from contact with English fishermen—diseases to which the Patuxet had no immunity.[30] Bradford later wrote that bones of the dead were clearly evident in many places.[31]

Loss of first wife[edit] When the exploring party made their way back on board, he learned of the death of his wife, Dorothy. The day after he had embarked with the exploring party, Dorothy fell over the side of the Mayflower and drowned.[32] Bradford recorded her death in his journal.[33]

Great sickness[edit] The Mayflower arrived in Plymouth Bay on December 20, 1620. The settlers began building the colony's first house on December 25. Their efforts were slowed, however, when a widespread sickness struck the settlers. The sickness had begun on the ship.[34]

On January 11, 1621, as Bradford was helping to build houses, he was suddenly struck with great pain in his hipbone and he collapsed. Bradford was taken to the "common house" (the only finished house built then) and it was feared he would not last the night.[35]

Bradford recovered but many of the settlers were not so fortunate. During the months of February and March 1621 sometimes two or three people died a day. By the end of the winter, half of the 100 settlers had died.[36] In an attempt to hide their weakness from Native Americans who might be watching them, the settlers buried their dead in unmarked graves on Cole's Hill and made efforts to conceal the burials.[37] During the epidemic, there were only a small number of men who remained healthy and bore the responsibility of caring for the sick. One of these was Captain Myles Standish, a soldier who had been hired by the settlers to coordinate the defense of the colony. Standish cared for Bradford during his illness and this was the beginning of a bond of friendship between the two men.[38] Bradford would soon after Carver's death be elected governor and, in that capacity, he would work closely with Standish. Bradford had no military experience and therefore would come to rely on and trust Captain Myles Standish advice on military matters.[39]

Early service as governor[edit] On March 16, the settlers had their first meeting with the Native Americans who lived in the region when Samoset, a representative of Massasoit, the sachem of the Pokanoket, walked into the village of Plymouth. This soon led to a visit by Massasoit himself on March 22 during which the leader of the Pokanoket signed a treaty with John Carver, then Governor of Plymouth. The treaty declared an alliance between the Pokanoket and Plymouth and required the two parties to aid each other militarily in times of need.[40] Bradford recorded the language of the brief treaty in his journal. He would soon become governor and the clause of the treaty that would occupy much of his attention as governor pertained to mutual aid. It read, "If any did unjustly war against [Massasoit], we would aid him; if any did war against us, Massasoit should aid us."[41] This agreement, although it secured for the English a desperately needed ally in New England, would result in tensions between the English and Massasoit's rivals, such as the Narragansett and the Massachusett.[42] In April 1621, Governor Carver collapsed while working in the fields on a hot day. He died a few days later. The settlers of Plymouth then chose Bradford as the new governor, a position he would retain for most of the rest of his life.[43]

The elected leadership of Plymouth Colony at first consisted of a governor and an assistant governor. The assistant governor for the first three years of the colony's history was Isaac Allerton. In 1624, the structure was changed to a governor and five assistants who were referred to as the "court of assistants," "magistrates," or the "governor's council." These men advised the governor and had the right to vote on important matters of governance, helping Bradford in guiding the evolution of the colony and its improvised government.[44][45] Assistants during the early years of the colony included Thomas Prence, Stephen Hopkins, John Alden, and John Howland.[46]

Literary works[edit]

The front page of the Bradford journal William Bradford's most well-known work by far is Of Plymouth Plantation. It was a detailed history in manuscript form about the founding of the Plymouth colony and the lives of the colonists from 1621 to 1646.[47] Bradford's journal is described as a retrospective account of his recollections and observations. The first work was written in 1630; the second was never finished, but "between 1646 and 1650, he brought the account of the colony's struggles and achievements through the year 1646."[48] As Walter P. Wenska states, "Bradford writes most of his history out of his nostalgia, long after the decline of Pilgrim fervor and commitment had become apparent. Both the early annals which express his confidence in the Pilgrim mission and the later annals, some of which reveal his dismay and disappointment, were written at about the same time."[47] In Of Plymouth Plantation, Bradford drew deep parallels between everyday life and the events of the Bible. As Philip Gould writes, "Bradford hoped to demonstrate the workings of divine providence for the edification of future generations."[48]

In 1888 Charles F. Richardson referred to Bradford as a "forerunner of literature" and "a story-teller of considerable power;" Moses Coit Tyler called him "the father of American history."[49] Many American authors have cited his work in their writings; for example, Cotton Mather referenced it in Magnalia Christi Americana and Thomas Prince referred to it in A Chronological History of New-England in the Form of Annals. Even today it is considered a valuable piece of American literature, included in anthologies and studied in literature and history classes. It has been called an American classic and the pre-eminent work of art in seventeenth-century New England."[49] The Of Plymouth Plantation manuscript disappeared by 1780,[50] "presumably stolen by a British soldier during the British occupation of Boston" and reappeared in Fulham, England.[48] Philip Gould states, "In 1855, scholars intrigued by references to Bradford in two books on the history of the Episcopal Church in America (both located in England) located the manuscript in the bishop of London's library at Lambeth Palace."[48] A long debate ensued as to the rightful home for the manuscript. Multiple attempts by United States Senator George Frisbie Hoar and others to have it returned proved futile at first. According to Francis B. Dedmond, "after a stay of well over a century at Fulham and years of effort to [e]ffect its release, the manuscript was returned to Massachusetts" on May 26, 1897.[51]

Bradford's journal, even though it did not become Of Plymouth Plantation, was also published. It was contributed to another work entitled Mourt's Relation which was written in part by Edward Winslow, and published in England by one of Bradford's contemporaries. Published in 1622, it was intended to inform Europeans about the conditions surrounding the American colonists at the Plymouth Colony. As governor of the Plymouth Colony, his work was considered a valuable contribution and was thus included in the book. Despite the fact that the book included a large amount of Bradford's work it is not typically referenced as one of his significant works due to the fact that it was published under someone else's name.

Bradford's Dialogues are a collection of fictional conversations between the old and new generations. In the Dialogues, conversations ensue between "younge men" and "Ancient men," the former being the young colonists of Plymouth, the latter being "the protagonists from Of Plymouth Plantation" (Sargent 413).[52] As Mark L. Sargent states: "By bringing the young from Plymouth Plantation and the ancients from Of Plymouth Plantation into 'dialogue,'...Bradford wisely dramatizes the act of historical recovery as a negotiation between the two generations, between his young readers and his text."[52] Today, only a small portion of the Dialogues remain; however, a modified copy made by Nathaniel Morton exists.


Provincetown, Massachusetts memorial to Pilgrims who died at sea or on board the Mayflower in Cape Cod Harbor in Nov./Dec. 1620 William Bradford married:

Dorothy May in Amsterdam, Holland on December 10, 1613. Their marriage record indicates she was 16 years old and was from Wisbech in Cambridgeshire. The record also notes a Henry May, who may have been her father. William and Dorothy had one son. Her death and memorial: On December 17, 1620, Dorothy fell from the deck of the Mayflower into the icy waters of Cape Cod Harbor, where the ship was anchored, and drowned. This was while her husband was with others on an expedition ashore. She was one of four Mayflower passengers who died between Dec. 4/14 and 8/18, 1620, including Edward Thomson, Jasper More (age 7 years), and James Chilton. William Butten, who was the first to die, did so on November 16. They are all commemorated on two cenotaphs in Provincetown - one at Winthrop Street Cemetery and one at the Mayflower Passengers Who Died At Sea Memorial. Their burial places ashore are unknown and may have been unmarked in those very early days after the Mayflower landing. The death of these five persons was just a precursor of the deaths to come, consuming about half the Mayflower company in that first bitter winter of 1620-1621.[53] Alice (Carpenter) Southworth, age about 32, in Plymouth on August 14, 1623. She had arrived on the ship Anne some weeks earlier. Alice was the widow of Edward Southworth. She was one of five daughters of Alexander and Priscilla Carpenter of Wrington, co. Somerset in England, all being of Leiden about 1600. Alice brought two sons to her marriage – Constant, born about 1612, and Thomas, born about 1617. Alice and William had three children. She died in Plymouth on March 26, 1670 and was buried on Burial Hill in Plymouth near her husband's stone.[54][55][56][57] Child of William and Dorothy Bradford:

John was born in Leiden, Holland, about 1617. He married Martha Bourne by 1650 but had no known children. He died in Norwich, Connecticut, sometime before September 21, 1676. Children of William and Alice Bradford:

William was born on June 17, 1624 in Plymouth and died there on February 20, 1703/4. He was buried on Burial Hill in Plymouth. William married: 1. Alice Richard after April 23, 1650 and had ten children. She died in Plymouth on December 12, 1671. 2. Sarah (____) Griswold about 1674 and had one son. 3. Mary (Wood) Holmes about 1676 and had four children. Mercy was born before May 22, 1627 and may have been dead before her father's 1657 will as she was not mentioned. She married Benjamin Vermayes on December 21, 1648 in Plymouth but had no known children.[58] Joseph was born about 1630. He married Jael Hobart on May 25, 1664, in Hingham and had three children. He died in Plymouth on July 10, 1715.[58] Will, death and burial[edit] William Bradford had delayed writing his will in hopes that he could obtain the services of his friend, Thomas Prence. But "feeling himself very weak and drawing on to the conclusion of his mortal life," he made out a nuncupative will on the day of his death. In it he stated that his sons John and William had already been provided with lands from his estate and requested that his son Joseph be made "in some sort equal to his brethren out of my estate." He further requested, “My further Will is that my Dear and loving wife Alice Bradford shall be the sole Executrix of my estate.”[59]

William Bradford died on May 9, 1657 and was buried on Burial Hill in Plymouth where a large stone monument exists in memory of William Bradford's life.

The estate inventory for William Bradford was taken on May 22, 1657.[58][60]

See also[edit] List of descendants of William Bradford (Plymouth governor) Notes[edit] Jump up ^ Abrams, 150. Jump up ^ The fast and thanksgiving days of New England by William DeLoss Love, Houghton, Mifflin and Co., Cambridge, 1895. ^ Jump up to: a b c Schmidt, 6. ^ Jump up to: a b c Schmidt, 17. Jump up ^ Schmidt, 4. Jump up ^ Mayflower Quarterly v. 79, No. 4, p.p. 328-341 Jump up ^ Schmidt, 7. Jump up ^ Schmidt, 8 ^ Jump up to: a b Schmidt, 9. Jump up ^ Schmidt, 12. Jump up ^ Goodwin, 12. Jump up ^ Schmidt, 21. Jump up ^ Goodwin, 27. Jump up ^ Schmidt, 33 Jump up ^ Schmidt, 35. Jump up ^ Philbrick, 17. Jump up ^ Schmidt, 37 Jump up ^ Goodwin, 38. Jump up ^ Mayflower Quarterly, vol. 79, no. 4 December 2013, p. 333 Jump up ^ Schmidt, 40. Jump up ^ Philbrick, 19 ^ Jump up to: a b Philbrick, 23. Jump up ^ Philbrick, 25. Jump up ^ Bradford quoted in Schmidt, 51. ^ Jump up to: a b Eugene Aubrey Stratton, Plymouth Colony: Its History and People, 1620-1691, (Salt Lake City: Ancestry Publishing, 1986), p. 413 Jump up ^ George Ernest Bowman, The Mayflower Compact and its signers, (Boston: Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1920). Photocopies of the 1622, 1646 and 1669 versions of the document pp. 7-19. Jump up ^ Schmidt, 80. Jump up ^ Schmidt, 69. Jump up ^ Philbrick, 70-73. Jump up ^ Philbrick, 79. Jump up ^ Philbrick, 80. Jump up ^ Philbrick, 76. Jump up ^ Doherty, 73. Jump up ^ Goodwin, 114. Jump up ^ Philbrick, 85. Jump up ^ Schmidt, 88. Jump up ^ Philbrick, 90. Jump up ^ Haxtun, 17 Jump up ^ Philbrick, 114. Jump up ^ Philbrick, 99. Jump up ^ Goodwin, 125. Jump up ^ Philbrick, 114. Jump up ^ Schmidt, 97. Jump up ^ Goodwin, 159. Jump up ^ Stratton, 145. Jump up ^ Stratton, 151, 156, 281, 311 ^ Jump up to: a b Wenska, 152 ^ Jump up to: a b c d Gould, 349 ^ Jump up to: a b Wenska, 151. Jump up ^ Morison, Samuel Eliot (1952). Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647. Knopf. pp. xxx. ISBN 978-0394438955. Jump up ^ Dedmond, Francis B (1985). "A Forgotten Attempt to Rescue the Bradford Manuscript". The New England Quarterly (Boston: Colonial Society of Massachusetts and Northeastern University) 58 (2): 242–252. doi:10.2307/365515. ISSN 0028-4866. ^ Jump up to: a b Sargent, 413. Jump up ^ Memorial of Dorothy Bradford Jump up ^ Memorial for Alice (Carpenter) Southworth Bradford Jump up ^ Mayflower Quarterly, v. 79, no. 4, pp. 328, 334 Jump up ^ Charles Edward Banks, The English Ancestry and Homes of the Pilgrim Fathers: who came to Plymouth on the Mayflower in 1620, the Fortune in 1621, and the Anne and the Little James in 1623 (Baltimore, MD.:Genealogical Publishing Co., 2006) p. 117 Jump up ^ Eugene Aubrey Stratton. Plymouth Colony: Its History and People, 1620–1691, (Ancestry Publishing, Salt Lake City, UT, 1986) p. 258 ^ Jump up to: a b c A genealogical profile of William Bradford, (A collaboration between Plymouth Plantation and New England Historical Genealogical Society) [1] Jump up ^ Mayflower Quarterly, vol. 79, no. 4, p. 338 Jump up ^ Memorial of William Bradford References[edit] Abrams, Ann Uhry (1999). The Pilgrims and Pocahontas: Rival Myths of American Origin. Boulder: Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-3497-7. Doherty, Kieran (1999). William Bradford: Rock of Plymouth. Brookfield, Connecticut: Twenty-First Century Books. ISBN 0-585-21305-4. Goodwin, John A. (1920) [1879]. The Pilgrim Republic: An Historical Review of the Colony of New Plymouth. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. OCLC 316126717. Gould, Philip (2009). "William Bradford 1590-1657". In Lauter, Paul. The Heath Anthology of American Literature: Beginnings to 1800 A. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. pp. 348–350. ISBN 0-618-89799-2. Haxtun, Annie A. (1899). Signers of the Mayflower Compact. Baltimore: The Mail and Express. OCLC 2812063. Philbrick, Nathaniel (2006). Mayflower: A Story of Community, Courage and War. New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-311197-9. Sargent, Mark L. (1992). "William Bradford's 'Dialogue' with History". The New England Quarterly (Boston: Colonial Society of Massachusetts and Northeastern University) 65 (3): 389–421. doi:10.2307/366325. ISSN 0028-4866. Schmidt, Gary D. (1999). William Bradford: Plymouth's Faithful Pilgrim. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. ISBN 978-0-8028-5148-2. Stratton, Eugene A. (1986). Plymouth Colony: Its History & People, 1620–1691. Salt Lake City: Ancestry Incorporated. ISBN 0-916489-13-2. Wenska, Walter P. "Bradford's Two Histories: Pattern and Paradigm in 'Of Plymouth Plantation'". Early American Literature (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press) 13 (Fall 1978): 151–164. ISSN 0012-8163.

2nd Signer of the "Mayflower" Compact
William Bradford (c.1590 – c.1657) was an English Separatist leader in Leiden, Holland and in Plymouth Colony. He emigrated to the New World on the "Mayflower" in 1620, signing the Mayflower Compact, and then serving as Plymouth Colony Governor five times covering about thirty years between 1621 and 1657. His memoir, "of Plimouth Plantation," has been called "'an American classic' and 'the pre-eminent work of art' in seventeenth-century New England."

1.on 10 Dec 1613 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands to Dorothy May, b abt 1597, died Dec. 7, 1620, Cape Cod Harbor, (now Provincetown) MA. Records suggest she was the daughter of Henry May. 2.on 14 Aug 1623 in Plymouth, Plymouth, MA to Alice Carpenter (1590-1670), widow of Edward Southworth. She was the daughter of Alexander Carpenter and Priscilla Dillen.

William's 2nd wife Alice came to Plymouth aboard the "Anne" in July 1623 following the death of her 1st husband, Edward Southworth. They married and had 3 children. Alice helped raise John, the son of his 1st marriage. Alice's sons from her first marriage arrived in Plymouth sometime after 1627 and presumably lived with their mother and stepfather.


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William Bradford, Governor of Plymouth Colony's Timeline

March 19, 1589
Austerfield, Yorkshire, England
March 19, 1589
Austerfield, South Riding of Yorkshire, England
Age 18
Went to Holland and joined Separatist Pilgrims
Age 19
Age 27
Leiden, Rhynland (Present South Holland), Holland, Republiek der Zeven Verenigde Nederlanden
June 10, 1620
Age 31
Leyden, Sud Holland, Netherlands

Winslow quite soon became a leading member of the English exiles meeting as the Leiden church group. On June 10, 1620, Winslow was one of four men – the others being William Bradford, Isaac Allerton and Samuel Fuller, who wrote a letter representing the Leiden congregation to their London agents John Carver and Robert Cushman regarding the terms upon which the Pilgrims would travel to the America. The trip preparations became quite taxing on everyone’s patience and pocket-book due to the various Thomas Weston financial schemes that used up what monies they had and as author Nathaniel Philbrick wrote: “..during preparations to sail for America, the Pilgrims demonstrated an extraordinary talent for getting duped