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
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
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
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.