Wiliam Bradford

Wiliam Bradford

Leader of the Plymouth Colony, founder of the Thanksgiving holiday
Date of Birth: 19.03.1590
Country: USA

Biography of William Bradford

William Bradford, the leader of the Plymouth Colony and the founder of Thanksgiving, was born in 1590 in Austerfield, Yorkshire, England. Despite the small size of the town, with a population of no more than 200 people, Bradford's family owned a large farm and held a prominent and respected position in Austerfield. However, his childhood was marked by constant losses, which would greatly influence his future life.

After the death of his father, Bradford was sent to live with his stepmother and later was sent to live with his uncle after his grandfather passed away. During this time, Bradford became introverted and devoted a lot of time to reading, especially classical literature and the Bible. As a teenager, he became deeply involved with the Separatists, a radical sect of English Puritans who were religious dissenters. The leader of the organization was preacher Richard Clyfton.

Due to persecution from the authorities, the Separatists eventually moved from England to the Dutch Republic, where they were more tolerated. Bradford accompanied them to the Netherlands, as he had become a fervent supporter of the movement. In 1608, he arrived in Amsterdam and settled with the Brewster family. The community established itself in Leiden. In 1613, Bradford married Dorothy May, and they had their first child, John, in 1617. By this time, Bradford had become a successful farmer and had gained respect within the community.

In 1617, the community, which had struggled to establish itself in the Netherlands, began planning to move to the New World. After several years of negotiations and waiting for permission from the authorities, the Puritans finally obtained the right to settle in the Virginia Colony in North America in 1620.

On September 16, 1620, Bradford and his wife set sail on the Mayflower along with 102 other passengers. They left their young son behind with Dorothy's parents, as they were unsure if he would survive the arduous journey. The two-month voyage across the ocean was difficult, and not all of the passengers made it to the New World. Two people died during the journey.

On December 25, the colonists began building the Meeting House, marking the beginning of the settlement that would become known as Plymouth Colony. The colonists themselves would later be referred to as the Pilgrims, and this colony is recognized today in historical documents and books by that name. Bradford became the author of the Mayflower Compact, the first document concerning self-government in English colonies in the New World. Historians believe that this compact anticipated the Declaration of Independence by 150 years. Additionally, it was in Plymouth Colony that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621, organized by Bradford to lift the spirits of the colonists. The celebration was held together with neighboring Native American tribes. This holiday later became a national celebration after a proclamation by the first president of the United States, George Washington, in 1789.

Over time, William Bradford gained more influence among the colonists and became the governor of Plymouth Colony in 1621. His first wife, Dorothy, had passed away in 1620, and there are different accounts of her death. Some say she died during the harsh winter when the colonists had to live on the ship. Another version suggests that she took her own life, unable to cope with the sadness of leaving their son behind in the Netherlands. The first winter was exceptionally difficult for the Pilgrims, and half of them did not survive, including their former leader, John Carver, whom Bradford replaced as governor. Bradford served as governor for 11 years and later documented the settlement's history in his book, "Of Plymouth Plantation."

In 1623, Bradford remarried Alice Carpenter Southworth, and they had three children together: William, Mercy, and Joseph. He was deeply religious, self-taught in various subjects, and even learned Hebrew to study the ancient prophecies of the Lord.

William Bradford passed away on May 9, 1657, in Plymouth and was buried at Plymouth Burial Hill.