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A Firsthand Account of the Pilgrims, the Mayflower, and the Plymouth Colony

One of the first pilgrims to make the journey to the New World was a man by the name of William Bradford.  Bradford was born in Austerfield, Yorkshire on March 19, 1590.  Orphaned at a young age, Bradford was raised by his two uncles who wanted him to help on the farm.  Because of illness, Bradford was unable and instead immersed himself in the Bible and literature.  As a teenager, he was introduced to Puritan theology and found himself actively involved in the Separatist movement which decided to cut all ties with the Church of England and attempts for reform.

The Separatists suffered religious persecution in England and after seeking refuge in Denmark, decided to head for the New World to start a colony where they would be free to worship as they choose, and to raise their children in the traditions of their heritage.

The pilgrims ventured into the blue horizon on board the Mayflower in September 1620 and arrived at Cape Cod in November 1620, after 65 days at sea.  Bradford was one of the first volunteers who went out to explore the land.  Bradford and the other pilgrims founded Plymouth Colony, making a sort of alliance with the native Pokanoket tribe.

William Bradford became governor of Plymouth after the previous governor suddenly died.  He remained governor for thirty years and created a record of the pilgrims and their experiences as they made their homes in the New World.  This record is now widely known as The History of the Plymouth Plantation and is the primary source from which we get our Thanksgiving history.

The L. Tom Perry Special Collections library has a 19th Century, sixth edition volume of this publication which presents a facsimile of the original manuscript (Call # 974.402 B72 1896).  It can be viewed in the reading room and would be well worth the visit as it gives a better sense of meaning to the Thanksgiving season.

Upper left and lower right images taken from William Bradford, History of the Plimoth Plantation: containing an account of the voyage of the ‘Mayflower’/ written by William Bradford one of the founders and second governor of the colony; now reproduced in facsimile from the original manuscript with an introduction by John A. Doyle, Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford (London: Ward and Downey Limited; Boston: Houghton Mifflin & Co., 1896).

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