William Bradford (1590-1657)

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Early Governor of Plymouth Colony settler (1620) from the Mayflower

Vital StatisticsEdit

Famous Mayflower pilgrim and governor of the Plymouth Bay Colony. Credited for establishing the 1st Thanksgiving in America.

  • Son of William Bradford (1564-1591) and Alice Hanson (1562-1597)
  • Born March 19, 1590 in Austerfield, Yorkshire, England - Manor House
  • Died May 9, 1657 in Plymouth, Massachusetts
  • 1st Married to Dorothy May (19 Mar 1590-07 Dec 1620)
  • 2nd Married to Alice Carpenter (03 Aug 1583-26 Mar 1670)

Biography Edit

The 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 (1620–47), was published as Of Plymouth Plantation. Bradford is credited as the first to proclaim what popular American culture now views as the first Thanksgiving.

William Bradford was born on March 19, 1590 near Doncaster, in Austerfield, Yorkshire. At an early age, he 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.

On December 7, 1620, before the colony was established, Bradford's wife died. Dorothy Bradford 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.

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 Bradford's second wife, Alice Carpenter Southworth, came to Plymouth aboard the Anne in July 1623 following the death of her first husband, Edward Southworth.[4] Governor Bradford married Carpenter on August 14, 1623 at Plymouth. Bradford and Carpenter had three children, William, Mercy, and Joseph. Alice also helped to raise John, the son of his first marriage; Alice's sons from her first marriage, Constant and Thomas, arrived in Plymouth sometime after 1627 and presumably lived with their mother and stepfather.[5]

William Bradford died at Plymouth, and was interred at Plymouth Burial Hill. On his Grave is etched: "qua patres difficillime adepti sunt nolite turpiter relinquere" “What our forefathers with so much difficulty secured, do not basely relinquish.”

Family of William Bradford and Dorothy May Edit

Family of William Bradford and Alice CarpenterEdit

Famous DescendantsEdit

  • Serena Armstrong-Jones, Viscountess Linley, wife of David Armstrong-Jones, Viscount Linley
  • The Baldwin brothers; (Alec, Daniel, William, and Stephen) American actors
  • Ambrose Bierce - American dystopian novelist and satirist
  • Gamaliel Bradford (1768-1824),- American Revolutionary War officer, and his descendants, including Gamaliel Bradford (1863-1932), American biographer and journalist
  • Robert F. Bradford, - American lawyer, Republican Party strategist, and Governor of Massachusetts from 1947 to 1949
  • William Bradford (1624-1703), military commander of the Plymouth forces during King Philip's War[citation needed]
  • William Bradford (1729-1808), American physician, lawyer, and U.S. Senator from Rhode Island[citation needed]
  • William Bradford (painter), American painter, photographer, and explorer
  • James G. Carter, American congregational minister, Massachusetts State Representative, and pioneer of Normal schools and public education
  • Julia Child, - American entrepreneur and chef of French and French-influenced cuisine
  • Frederic Edwin Church, American landscape painter
  • Frank Nelson Doubleday, American publisher, and his descendants, including Nelson Doubleday, Nelson Doubleday, Jr., and Russell Doubleday
  • George Eastman, American inventor and the founder of the Eastman Kodak Company
  • Clint Eastwood, American film actor, director, and producer
  • Charles Dana Gibson, - illustrator, best known for his "Gibson girl" drawings
  • Edward "Ned" Lamont, American businessman and Democratic Party politician
  • John Lithgow,[22] American actor and philanthropist
  • Jan Masaryk,[23] Czechoslovak diplomat and politician
  • George B. McClellan, - Civil War general, Governor of New Jersey, Democratic opponent of Abraham Lincoln in the 1864 United States presidential election
  • Thomas Pynchon, - American short story writer and novelist
  • Christopher Reeve, American film actor and political activist
  • William Rehnquist, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1972 to 1986 and Chief Justice of the United States from 1986 until his death in 2005
  • Deborah Sampson, female member of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War
  • Benjamin Spock, - child care specialist and author
  • Adlai Stevenson III, - United States Democratic Senator representing Illinois from 1970 to 1981, two-time candidate for Governor of Illinois
  • Alfred Sturtevant, American geneticist
  • Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr.,- publisher of the New York Times since 1992
  • Charles Sumner,[34] American statesman and Republican Party politician
  • Noah Webster,[35] American educator, journalist, and lexicographer noted for his Webster's Dictionary
  • Sheldon Whitehouse, Senator from Rhode Island
  • William Collins Whitney - American financier and politician, and his descendants, the Whitney family
  • Rob Bradford - Aviation Maintenance Tech, winner of the 2000 Golden Wrench Award for Aviation Maintenance Excellence.
  • Ronald J. Carpenter - Author, served in the armed forces and political activist.

Bradford's Passenger ListEdit

From his own hand, the listing of passengers of the 1620 Mayflower

William Bradford, and Dorothy, his wife; having but one child, a son, left behind, who came afterward.


Bradford kept a handwritten journal detailing the history of the first 30 years of Plymouth Colony. Large parts of this journal were published as Of Plymouth Plantation, and have been republished a number of times. (It is currently in print as ISBN 0-07-554281-1.) 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.

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