Thanksgiving Day and the Father of American History: A Brief Story of Governor William Bradford of the Mayflower

mayflowerYou too may be a descendant of those who came over on the Mayflower. There were only 102 brave souls that landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620. But as of today, the Mayflower Society estimates that “Tens of Millions” descended from those brave souls. One half of those who arrived in Massachusetts that first Winter died including William Bradford’s first wife.

I am one of the fortunate who bear the name of Bradford given the fact that my 8th Great grandfather was William Bradford who governed the Plymouth Colony for over 30 years. I am descended through his second half Alice Carpenter and their son, also named William.

The trials those pilgrims faced were monumental from freezing cold wind and snow to attacks from native American Indian tribes to starvation and disease. My gratitude for their bravery, their independence, and their determination is massive. Even at that, they made not have made it but for an important treaty signed in the March of 1621 with Chief Massasoit of the Pokanoket tribe. They promised mutual protection The Treaty Read essentially as follows:

“If any did unjustly war against Massasoit, the Pilgrims would aid him; if any did war against the Pilgrims, Massasoit should aid them.”

Today more than ever, my thoughts turn gratefully to those who have made the 2013 version of the Bradford family possible. The blessings of living in this great nation surrounded by family, friends and terrific business colleagues is a gift I am only beginning to fully appreciate. But it started with one man 393 years ago who had the guts and vision to make a difference.

We can learn many lessons from the life of the man who was named the Father or American History by Moses Tyler for his role in the Pilgrim colonies as well as his extensive writings on the early colonies.

1. Be a Journal writer. William Bradford’s love of writing and leaving a legacy. As a small boy, with both of his parents dying before the age of 7, he turned to reading the Bible for comfort and out of intellectual curiosity.

2. Be a peacemaker – his early work in negotiating and living up to a key treaty with the Native Americans, was a cornerstone for the safe growth of the Plymouth colony and subsequent generations.

3. He was a leader that valued fairness and it contributed to his beloved leadership for 30 years in guiding Plymouth colony and establishing

4. A love of the almighty – He is quoted as saying that in his life he hoped to demonstrate the workings of divine providence for the edification of future generations.

5. He began his life’s work early. At the age of 18, he was one of the leaders of the Separatists who left England and the oppression of the Church of England and escaped.

6. Leaders are Readers – William Bradford had a deep and abiding love for reading whatever books he could access in his time.

And you talk about someone that had a hard life: Bradford’s childhood was marked by numerous deaths in the family. He was just over a year old when his father died. When he was four years old, his mother remarried and Bradford was sent to live with his grandfather. 2 years later, his grandfather died and he returned to live with his mother and stepfather. A year later, in 1597, his mother died. Bradford thus became an orphan at age 7. He was sent to live with two uncles.

The journey of Bradford and his Pilgrim followers encountered several major setbacks in trying to leave England most notably their betrayal by an English sea captain who had agreed to bring the congregation to the Netherlands but instead turned them over to authorities. Most of the congregation, including Bradford, were imprisoned for a short time after this failed attempt.

And where did the name Pilgrim come from? In Bradford’s journal, written years later, he described the departure of his band of colonists from the Netherlands

…”With mutual embraces and many tears, they took their leaves of one another, which proved to be the last leave to many of them… but they knew they were pilgrims and looked not much on those things, but lifted their eyes to heaven…”

I am grateful this day for the Pilgrims and their marvelous courage and examples!


Posted in Posted in Uncategorized  |  2 Comments

2 thoughts on “Thanksgiving Day and the Father of American History: A Brief Story of Governor William Bradford of the Mayflower”

  1. Hi David — I loved this post. I am also defended from Mayflower passengers; actually four. John and Joan Tilley whose daughter married passénger John Howland. Hope y are well. Best wishes for a joyous holiday season. Jonelle

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