William Bradford

William Bradford was born in 1590 in a small farming community in England. Orphaned both from parents and grandparents, he and older sister Alice were raised by their uncle Robert Bradford. William was a sickly boy, and by the age of 12 had taken to reading the Bible. At the age of 18, he joined with the group of Separatists that fled from England in fear of persecution, arriving in Amsterdam in 1608.

By 1620, when a segment of the church had decided to set off for America on the Mayflower, Bradford and his wife Dorothy joined. While the Mayflower was anchored off Provincetown Harbor at the tip of Cape Cod, and while many of the Pilgrim men were out exploring and looking for a place to settle, Dorothy Bradford accidentally fell overboard and drowned.

Bradford was elected governor Plymouth in 1621, and was re-elected nearly every year thereafter. In 1623, he married the widowed Alice (Carpenter) Southworth. The marriage feast was similar to the "First Thanksgiving.” As the head of the government of Plymouth, Bradford oversaw the courts and the colony's finances, corresponded with investors and neighbors, formulated policy with regards to foreigners, Indians, and law, and had a very active role in the running of the entire Colony.

In 1630, Bradford started writing a history of the Plymouth Colony, which is now published under the title Plymouth Plantation. He continued writing his history of Plymouth through about 1651. Bradford's history is one of the primary sources used by historians, and it is the only thorough history of Plymouth Colony that was written by a Mayflower passenger. A number of letters, poems, conferences, and other writings of William Bradford, have also survived.

William Bradford died in May 1657, at the age of 68.

Source: William Bradford
Copyright © 1994-2017, MayflowerHistory.com. All Rights Reserved.

Back to top