Land of the Brave

William Bradford

Colonial America - Land of the Brave

Short Biography about William Bradford

This article contains a short biography and fast facts and information about the early American colonist, William Bradford.

Who was William Bradford and why was he famous?

William Bradford was famous as one of the Pilgrim Fathers and a leader of the Plymouth Settlement who travelled on the Mayflower ship to America. William Bradford was the elected Governor of the Plymouth Settlement for 30 years.

Facts about William Bradford
The following facts about William Bradford provide interesting facts and an overview and description of the life and times and his involvement in the early colonization of America and the Plymouth Settlement.

When was William Bradford born? He was born in 1552. Where was William Bradford born? He was born in Austerfield, Yorkshire, England. He came from a wealthy farming family and was well educated. Both his parents died when he was young and he had an unsettled childhood moving from one relative to another

William Bradford was 12 years old when he was highly influenced by the preaching of an enthusiastic Puritan minister called Richard Clyfton.

William Bradford met many other Puritans (Separatists) who believed in a pure Christian church, with no vestige of the Catholic religion. One of the Separatists was an older man, a church elder, called William Brewster who befriended William. William Brewster lived at Scrooby Manor, which was only 4 miles away from Austerfield.

In 1602 Scrooby Manor became a meeting place for the dissenting Puritans. The congregation who met at Scrooby Manor were persecuted by Tobias Matthew, Archbishop of York and some were imprisoned for their religious beliefs. The Scrooby separatists decide to leave England and moved to Holland to escape religious prosecution.

In 1613, he married Dorothy May, the daughter of a well-off English couple living in Amsterdam and the couple had a son called John in 1617. The congregation, having read the book by American colonist John Smith , made the decision to leave Europe and set their sights on New England

William Bradford was highly enthusiastic about moving to the New World. By 1619, 2 ships called the Mayflower and Speedwell, were leased to take the Scrooby separatists to North America. Many of the Scrooby Puritans had decided to leave some of their families behind in Holland until homes had been prepared in the new colony. The Bradfords were no exception, and they left their 3 year old son with his grandparents.

September 6, 1620: The Mayflower left Plymouth bound for North America. There were 102 passengers on board, living in cold, and dark conditions. The voyage on the crowded Mayflower would take 66 days. The passengers were not all Puritans and the voyagers fell into 2 groups referred to as the "Strangers" and the "Saints".

The "Saints" and the "Strangers" realised that if they didn't work as a group, they could all die in the wilderness so they came to an agreement on how they would live in the new colony - the document was signed by the men and was called the Mayflower Compact.

The signers of the Mayflower Compact served as the initial government of the colony by electing a governor, enacting laws and admitting others to membership. The notion, or idea, of self-government had been established in the American colonies by the signing of the Mayflower Compact.

In November of 1620 the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Bay. One of the leading Puritans, John Carver, was elected the first governor of the Plymouth Settlement

The conditions were terrible and the colonists had to find a way to survive. Some of the men including William Bradford volunteered to explore the surrounding areas - an extremely dangerous task

The first expedition was made on foot and William Bradford was injured when he was caught in a deer trap that had been laid by Native Indians. The next two expeditions were made on the Mayflower and once again William Bradford volunteered.

December 6, 1620: The explorers located present day Plymouth Bay and found some land that had been previously cleared by Native Indians.

When William Bradford returned to tell his wife the news he discovered that she had died whist he was on the expedition - some say she fell overboard, others that she committed suicide.

December 20, 1620: The colonists moved to the site of the settlement and started to build the first house on Christmas Day.

A terrible epidemic hit many of the colonists including William Bradford. He was helped to recover by the man who would become his great friend - Myles Standish. 45 of the 102 Pilgrims died that first winter and were buried on Cole's Hill

March 16, 1621: The first formal contact, led by their Governor John Carver, with the Native American Indians. The colonists, pledged peace with Wampanoag Native American Indians led by Chief Massasoit.

April 1621: Governor John Carver collapses and dies. 30 year old William Bradford is elected Governor of the Plymouth Settlement

July 1621: The Native American Indians taught the colonists farming techniques and helped them to survive in the colony.

November 1621: The first Thanksgiving was a sad and solemn affair. Only 53 pilgrims were alive to give thanks to God. Only four adult women had survived to celebrate the First Thanksgiving

Governor John Carver retained his elected role as Governor for nearly 30 years. He was helped in the position by other elected colonists.

By 1623 there were 32 houses and 180 residents at the Plymouth Settlement

In 1630 the Massachusetts Colony was established

William Bradford was admired by Governor John Winthrop of the Massachusetts Colony, with whom he frequently met to discuss common problems.

William Bradford suffered from a long illness during the winter of 1656-1657, and died one day following his prediction that he would soon expire

William Bradford (1590-1657), one of the Pilgrim Fathers, did not have his extraordinary history, "Of Plymouth Plantation, " published until 1856.

1691: The Plymouth Settlement was de-established 1691.

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