3825. William13 Bradford {Govenor} was born in Austerfield, Yorkshire, England 19 March 1589. William died 19 May 1657 in Plymouth Colony, Plymouth, MA, at 68 years of age. His body was interred May 1657.

He married twice. He married Dorothea May 18 November 1613 in Leiden, South Holland, Netherlands. Dorthea was born 19 March 1596 in Wisbeach, England. Dorthea died 7 December 1620 in Cape Cod Harbor, Provincetown Harbor, at 24 years of age. He married Alice Carpenter 14 August 1623 in Plymouth Colony, Plymouth, MA. Alice was born about August 1590 in Wrington, Somerset, England. Alice was the daughter of Alexander Carpenter and Priscilla (Druscilla). Alice died 26 March 1670 in Plymouth, Plymouth, MA. Her body was interred 29 March 1670 in Plymouth, Plymouth, MA.

The early years of Bradford's life are described by Cotton Mather in his book Magnalia Christi Americana first published in 1702:

Among those Devout People was our William Bradford, who was Born Anno 1588. in an obscure Village call'd Austerfield, where the People were as unacquainted with the Bible, as the Jews do seem to have been with part of it in the Days of Josiah; a most Ignorant and Licentious People, and like unto their Priest. Here, and in some other Places, he had a Comfortable Inheritance left him of his Honest Parents, who died while he was yet a Child, and cast him on the Education, first of his Grand Parents, and then of his Uncles, who devoted him, like his Ancestors, unto the Affairs of Husbandry. Soon and long Sickness kept him, as he would afterwards thankfully say, from the Vanities of Youth, and made him the fitter for what he was afterwards to undergo. When he was about a Dozen Years Old, the Reading of the Scriptures began to cause great Impressions upon him; and those Impressions were much assisted and improved, when he came to enjoy Mr. Richard Clifton's Illuminating Ministry, not far from his Abode; he was then also further befriended, by being brought into the Company and Fellowship of such as were then called Professors; though the Young Man that brought him into it, did after become a Prophane and Wicked Apostate. Nor could the Wrath of his Uncles, nor the Scoff of his Neighbours now turn'd upon him, as one of the Puritans, divert him from his Pious Inclinations.

. . . Having with a great Company of Christians Hired a Ship to Transport them for Holland, the Master perfidiously betrayed them into the Hands of those Persecutors; who Rifled and Ransack'd their Goods, and clapp'd their Persons into Prison at Boston, where they lay for a Month together. But Mr. Bradford being a Young Man of about Eighteen, was dismissed sooner than the rest, so that within a while he had Opportunity with some others to get over to Zealand, through Perils both by Land and Sea not inconsiderable; where he was not long Ashore ere a Viper seized on his Hand, that is, an Officer, who carried him Unto the Magistrates, unto whom an envious Passenger had accused him as having fled out of England. When the Magistrates understood the True Cause of his coming thither, they were well satisfied with him; and so he repaired joyfully unto his Brethren at Amsterdam, where the Difficulties to which he afterwards stooped in Learning and Serving of a Frenchman at the Working of Silks, were abundantly Compensated by the Delight wherewith he sat under the Shadow of our Lord in his purely dispensed Ordinances. At the end of Two Years, he did, being of Age to do it, convert his Estate in England into Money; but Setting up for himself, he found some of his Designs by the Providence of God frowned upon, which he judged a Correction bestowed by God upon him for certain Decays of Internal Piety, whereinto he had fallen; the Consumption of his Estate he thought came to prevent a Consumption in his Virtue. But after he had resided in Holland about half a Score Years, he was one of those who bore a part in that Hazardous and Generous Enterprize of removing into New England, with part of the English Church at Leyden, where at their first Landing, his dearest Consort accidentally falling Overboard, was drowned in the Harbour; and the rest of his Days were spent in the Services, and the Tmptations, of that American Wilderness.
William Bradford came on the Mayflower with his wife Dorothy (May), leaving son John behind in Holland. Dorothy fell off the Mayflower and drowned when it was anchored in Provincetown Harbor. This was an accidental drowning. The story of the suicide comes from a fictional story published in a national magazine in 1869. For further information on this hoax, see Mayflower Descendant 29:97-102 ; and the additional conclusive proof it was a hoax in 31:105.

After the death of John Carver in April 1621, Bradford was elected governor of the Plymouth Colony, and continued in that capacity nearly all his life. In 1623 he married Alice (Carpenter) Southworth, widow of Edward Southworth. A description of the marriage is found in a little-known letter written by a visitor to Plymouth Colony, Emmanuel Altham, in 1623:

Upon the occasion of the Governor's marriage, since I came, Massasoit was sent for to the wedding, where came with him his wife, the queen, although he hath five wives. With him came four other kings and about six score men with their bows and arrows--where, when they came to our town, we saluted them with the shooting off of many muskets and training our men. And so all the bows and arrows was brought into the Governor's house, and he brought the Governor three or four bucks and a turkey. And so we had very good pastime in seeing them dance, which is in such manner, with such a noise that you would wonder. . . . And now to say somewhat of the great cheer we had at the Governor's marriage. We had about twelve pasty venisons, besides others, pieces of roasted venison and other such good cheer in such quantity that I could wish you some of our share. For here we have the best grapes that ever you say--and the biggest, and divers sorts of plums and nuts which our business will not suffer us to look for.

William Bradford died in 1657, having been governor of the Plymouth Colony for almost the entire period since 1621. Cotton Mather in his Magnalia Christi Americana wrote that William Bradford:

. . . was a Person for Study as well as Action; and hence, notwithstanding the Difficulties through which he passed in his Youth, he attained unto a notable Skill in Languages; the Dutch Tongue was become almost as Vernacular to him as the English; the French Tongue he could also manage; the Latin and the Greek he had Mastered; but the Hebrew he most of all studied, Because, he said, he would see with his own Eyes the Ancient Oracles of God in their Native Beauty. He was also well skill'd in History, in Antiquity, and in Philosophy; and for Theology he became so versed in it, that he was an Irrefragable Disputant against the Errors, especially those of Anabaptism, which with Trouble he saw rising in his Colony; wherefore he wrote some Significant things for the Confutation of those Errors. But the Crown of all was his Holy, Prayerful, Watchful and Fruitful Walk with God, wherein he was very Exemplary. At length he fell into an Indisposition of Body, which rendred him unhealthy for a whole Winter; and as the Spring advanced, his Health yet more declined; yet he felt himself not what he counted Sick, till one Day; in the Night after which, the God of Heaven so fill'd his Mind with Ineffable Consolations, that he seemed little short of Paul, rapt up unto the Unutterable Entertainments of Paradise. The next Morning he told his Friends, That the good Spirit of God had given him a Pledge of his Happiness in another World, and the First-fruits of his Eternal Glory: And on the Day following he died, May 9, 1657 in the 68th Year of his Age. Lamented by all the Colonies of New England, as a Common Blessing and Father to them all.

William Bradford wrote Of Plymouth Plantation, chronicling the history of the Plymouth Colony, and the events that led up to their leaving England for Holland, and later to New England. William Bradford also wrote part of Mourt's Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, and he recorded some of the important letters he wrote and received in a letterbook which still partially exists. Nathaniel Morton's 1669 book, New England's Memorial also records a poem written by William Bradford on his deathbed. There are also two elegy poems written in 1657 after Bradford's death--the first elegy poem is anonymous, and the second elegy poem was written by Josias Winslow.

The Pilgrim Hall Museum has in its collection William Bradford's armchair, and his Bible.


1. Mayflower Families in Progress: William Bradford for Four Generations, by Robert S. Wakefield, General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 4th edition 1994.

2. Mourt's Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims in Plymouth, by William Bradford and Edward Winslow, first published London 1622.

3. Of Plymouth Plantation, by William Bradford, written c1630-c1654.

4. New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 83:456-461, 84:5-11 (English ancestry of William Bradford)

5. Three Visitors to Early Plymouth, Sydney V. James editor, Plimoth Plantation 1963 (Emmanuel Altham's letter)

6. Mayflower Descendant 29:114-121 (Partial reprint of Magnalia Christi Americana).

William Bradford Govenor and Alice Carpenter had the following children:

child + 2403 i. William12 Bradford was born 17 June 1624.

child 3826 ii. Mercy Bradford was born in Plymouth Colony, Plymouth, MA 1627. Mercy died 21 December 1645 at 18 years of age. She married Benjamin Vermayes 25 May 1648 in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

child 3827 iii. Joseph Bradford was born in Plymouth, Plymouth, MA 1630. Joseph died in Plymouth, Plymouth, MA. His body was interred July 1715. He married Jael Hobart 25 May 1664 in Hingham, Jones River, Kingston, Mass.

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