Of Plymouth Plantation

Of Plymouth Plantation was written over a period of years by William Bradford, the leader of the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts. It is regarded as the most authoritative account of the Pilgrims and the early years of the colony which they founded.

The journal was written between 1630 and 1651 and describes the story of the Pilgrims from 1608, when they settled in the Dutch Republic on the European mainland through the 1620 Mayflower voyage to the New World, until the year 1647. The book ends with a list of Mayflower passengers and what happened to them which was written in 1651.

Of Plimoth Plantation First 1900
The front page of the Bradford journal


The document has carried many names. At the top of the original text is Of Plim̃oth Plantation,[a] but newer prints of the text often use the modern spelling, "Plymouth." The text of Bradford's journal is often called the History of Plymouth Plantation. In Wilberforce's text it is cited as History of the Plantation of Plymouth.[1] It is also sometimes called William Bradford's Journal. A version published by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (after the return of the manuscript from England in 1897) is titled Bradford's History "Of Plimoth Plantation" while labeled The Bradford History on the spine.[2] It has also been called The Mayflower, although it is not a ship's log and was written after the events.[2]

Bradford's material

Bradford, Edward Winslow, and others contributed material to George Morton, who merged everything into a letter which he published as Mourt's Relation in London in 1622.[3] It was primarily a journal of the colonists' first years at Plymouth.

The Bradford journal records the events of the first 30 years of Plymouth Colony, as well as the reactions of the colonists to those events, and it is regarded by historians as the preeminent work of 17th century America. It is Bradford’s simple yet vivid account that has made the Pilgrims what Samuel Eliot Morison called the "spiritual ancestors of all Americans".[4]

Bradford apparently never made an effort to publish the manuscript during his lifetime, but he did intend it to be preserved and read by others. He wrote at the end of chapter 6:

I have been the larger in these things, and so shall crave leave in some like passages following, (though in other things I shall labour to be more contract) that their children may see with what difficulties their fathers wrestled in going through these things in their first beginnings, and how God brought them along notwithstanding all their weaknesses and infirmities. As also that some use may be made hereof in after times by others in such like weighty employments; and herewith I will end this chapter.[5]

History of the manuscript

Bradford's original manuscript was left in the tower of the Old South Meeting House in Boston during the American Revolutionary War. British troops occupied the church during the war, and the manuscript disappeared—and remained lost for the next century. Some scholars noted that Samuel Wilberforce quoted Bradford's work in A History of the Protestant Episcopal Church in America in 1844, and the missing manuscript was finally discovered in the Bishop of London's library at Fulham Palace;[2] it was brought back into print in 1856. Americans made many formal proposals that the manuscript should be returned to its home in New England, but to no avail. Massachusetts Senator George Frisbie Hoar started an initiative in 1897, supported by the Pilgrim Society, the American Antiquarian Society, and the New England Society of New York.

Bishop of London Frederick Temple learned of the importance of the book, and he thought that it should be returned to America. But it was being held by the Church of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury needed to approve such a move—and the Archbishop was Frederick Temple by the time that Hoar's request reached England. The bishop's Consistorial and Episcopal Court of London observed that nobody could say for certain exactly how the book arrived in London, but he argued that the marriage and birth registry which it contained should have been deposited with the Church in the first place, and thus the book was a church document and the Diocese of London had proper control of it. The court, however, observed that the Diocese of London was not the proper repository for that information at the time when the Thirteen Colonies declared independence in 1776. So the bishop's court ordered that a photographic copy of the records be made for the court, and that the original be delivered to the Governor of Massachusetts.[2]

The Bradford journal was presented to the Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts during a joint session of the legislature on May 26, 1897. It is on deposit in the State Library of Massachusetts in the State House in Boston.[6] In June 1897, the state legislature ordered publication of the history with copies of the documents associated with the return.[2] In 1912, the Massachusetts Historical Society published a final authorized version of the text.

William Bradford's manuscript journal is a vellum-bound volume measuring ​11 12 by ​7 34 inches (292 × 197 mm). There are 270 pages numbered (sometimes inaccurately) by Bradford. The ink is slightly faded and has turned brown with age, but it is still completely legible. The pages are somewhat foxed, but otherwise the 400 year-old document is in remarkably good condition. Page 243 is missing, with a note from Prence that it was missing when he got the document.[2]

From the journal

(Describing the Pilgrims' safe arrival at Cape Cod aboard the Mayflower)

Being thus arived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees & blessed ye God of heaven, who had brought them over ye vast & furious ocean, and delivered them from all ye periles & miseries therof, againe to set their feete on ye firme and stable earth, their proper elemente. And no marvell if they were thus joyefull, seeing wise Seneca was so affected with sailing a few miles on ye coast of his owne Italy; as he affirmed, that he had rather remaine[d] twentie years on his way by land, then pass by sea to any place in a short time; so tedious & dreadfull was ye same unto him.
But hear I cannot but stay and make a pause, and stand half amased at this poore peoples presente condition; and so I thinke will the reader too, when he well considers ye same. Being thus passed ye vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before in their preparation (as may be remembered by yt which wente before), they had now no friends to wellcome them, nor inns to entertaine or refresh their weatherbeaten bodys, no houses or much less townes to repaire too, to seeke for succoure ...
Let it also be considered what weake hopes of supply & succoure they left behinde them, yt might bear up their minds in this sade condition and trialls they were under; and they could not but be very smale. It is true, indeed, ye affections & love of their brethren at Leyden was cordiall & entire towards them, but they had little power to help them, or them selves; and how ye case stode betweene them & ye marchants at their coming away, hath already been declared. What could not sustaine them but ye spirite of God & his grace? May not & ought not the children of these fathers rightly say : Our faithers were Englishmen which came over this great ocean, and were ready to perish in this willdernes; but they cried unto ye Lord, and he heard their voyce, and looked on their adversitie, &c. Let them therfore praise ye Lord, because he is good, & his mercies endure for ever. ...[2]

Bradford described the destruction by fire (pp. 425-426) of the Pequot's tribe's major village, in which at least 300 were burned to death:

[...] those that scaped the fire were slain with the sword, some hewed to pieces, others run through with their rapiers, so as they were quickly dispatched and very few escaped. It was conceived that they thus destroyed about 400 at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire, and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stink and scent thereof, but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave the prayers thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them.


  1. ^ The diacritic above the letter m indicates a doubling of the nasal consonant, implying the spelling Plimmoth.

See also


  1. ^ Wilberforce, Samuel (1844). A History of the Protestant Episcopal Church in America. London: James Burns. pp. 55–61.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Bradford's History "Of Plymouth Plantation". Boston: Secretary of the Commonwealth. 1900. pp. 94–97.
  3. ^ Mourt's Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, 1622, Part I. as transcribed by Caleb Johnson
  4. ^ Bradford, William (1952). Morison, Samuel Eliot, ed. Of Plymouth Plantation: Sixteen Twenty to Sixteen Forty-Seven. Rutgers University Press. p. 4. ISBN 9780394438955. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  5. ^ Of Plymouth Plantation, by William Bradford. Early Americas Digital Archive (EADA)
  6. ^ "History of Plimoth Plantation: manuscript, 1630–1650".

External links


Hobbamock was a Pokanoket pniese who came to live with the Plymouth Colony settlers during the first year of their settlement in North America in 1620. His name was variously spelled in 17th century documents and today is generally simplified as Hobomok. He is known for his rivalry with Squanto, who lived with the settlers before him. He was greatly trusted by Myles Standish, the colony's military commander, and he joined with Standish in a military raid against the Massachuset. Hobomock was also greatly devoted to Massasoit, the sachem of the Pokanoket, who befriended the English settlers. Hobomok is often claimed to have been converted to Christianity, but what that meant to him is unclear.

Isaac Allerton

Isaac Allerton Sr. (c.1586 – 1658/9), and his family, were passengers in 1620 on the historic voyage of the ship Mayflower. Allerton was a signatory to the Mayflower Compact. In Plymouth Colony he was active in colony governmental affairs and business and later in trans-Atlantic trading. Problems with the latter regarding colony expenditures caused him to be censured by the colony government and ousted from the colony. He later became a well-to-do businessman elsewhere and in his later years resided in Connecticut.

James Chilton

James Chilton (c. 1556 – 1620) was a Leiden Separatist passenger on the historic 1620 voyage of the ship Mayflower and was the oldest person on board. Upon arrival in the New World, he was a signer of the Mayflower Compact. James Chilton was one of the earliest to die that winter, perishing within the following month.

John Billington

John Billington (also spelled as Billinton) (c. 1580 – September 30, 1630) was an Englishman who travelled to the New World on the Mayflower and was one of the signers of the Mayflower Compact.

John Howland

John Howland (c. 1592 – February 23, 1673) accompanied the English Separatists and other passengers when they left England on the Mayflower to settle in Plymouth. He was an indentured servant and in later years an executive assistant and personal secretary to Governor John Carver.He signed the Mayflower Compact and helped found colony. During his service to Governor Carver, Howland assisted in the making of a treaty with the Sachem Massasoit of the Wampanoag. In 1626, he was a freeman and one of eight settlers who agreed to assume the colony's debt to its investors in exchange for a monopoly on fur trade. He was elected deputy to the Plymouth General Court in 1641 and held the position until 1655, and again in 1658.

John Newcomen

John Newcomen was murdered by Mayflower passenger John Billington in 1630, making him the first white settler murdered by another white settler in Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts.

There are two principal recordings of the event written in the 17th century. The first is from Governor William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation.

This year John Billington the elder (one that came over with the first) was arraigned; and both by grand, and petty jury found guilty of willful murder; by plain and notorious evidence. And was for the same accordingly executed. This as it was the first execution amongst them, so was it a matter of great sadness unto them; they used all due means about his trial, and took the advice of Mr. Winthrop, and other the ablest gentlemen in the Bay of Massachusetts, that were then newly come over, who concurred with them that he ought to die, and the land be purged from blood. He and some of his, had been often punished for miscarriages before, being one of the profanest families amongst them; ... His fact was, that he waylaid a young man, one John Newcomen (about a former quarrel) and shot him with a gun, whereof he died.

The second account comes from William Hubbard's A General History of New England from the Discovery to MDCLXXX (17th-century manuscript first published in 1815).

So when this wilderness began first to be peopled by the English where there was but one poor town, another Cain was found therein, who maliciously slew his neighbor in the field, as he accidentally met him, as he himself was going to shoot deer. The poor fellow perceiving the intent of this Billington, his mortal enemy, sheltered himself behind trees as well as he could for a while; but the other, not being so ill a marksman as to miss his aim, made a shot at them, and struck him on the shoulder, with which he died soon after. The murtherer expected that either for want of power to execute for capital offenses, or for want of people to increase the plantation, he should have his life spared; but justice otherwise determined.

Thomas Morton, writing in New English Canaan (1637), also makes a brief reference to the event, nicknaming John Billington the "Old Woodman", and making a punning reference to Newcomen:

Old Woodman ... was choked at Plymouth after he had played the unhappy marksman when he was pursued by a careless fellow that was new come into the land

No further information about Newcomen's family is known for certain. The name "New comin" may have been a reference to his status as a newcomer to the Plymouth rather than a surname.

Leiden American Pilgrim Museum

The Leiden American Pilgrim Museum is a small museum in the Dutch city of Leiden dedicated to the Pilgrim Fathers (or simply Pilgrims). These Separatists or English Dissenters were religious refugees who had fled England to Amsterdam in 1608 and moved to Leiden the next year. They lived and worked in that city for about 12 to 20 years. In 1620, their emigration began. They left Leiden by canal, going to Delfshaven where they embarked on the "Speedwell," which took them to Southampton. But the "Speedwell" proved leaky and had to be sold, so they transferred to the Mayflower. The "Mayflower" undertook the famous voyage to New England in 1620 alone. In the 19th century the colonists' first harvest festival after their arrival at Plymouth Colony was identified as the origin of the annual Thanksgiving celebration in the United States.

The Leiden American Pilgrim Museum is housed in a building dating to about 1365-1370. The house is located at Beschuitsteeg 9, next to the bell tower of the Hooglandse Kerk church. The museum is operated by the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum Foundation and is open to the public Thursday through Saturday (1 to 5 p.m.).The museum presents extensive information about Pilgrim life in Leiden, together with the history of the medieval house itself. In the museum, a collection of furniture, books, and other material from Pilgrim times illuminates the lives of these people in England, Leiden, and New England. The museum illustrates its Pilgrim narrative with a collection of 16th- and 17th-century maps and engravings by Gerard Mercator, Adriaen Pietersz. van de Venne, and others.

In 2009, the 400-year anniversary of the Pilgrims' arrival in Leiden was marked with an exhibition and the publication of the book Strangers and Pilgrims, Travellers and Sojourners - Leiden and the Foundations of Plymouth Plantation. In 2011 the museum coordinated efforts to install a bronze memorial on the ruins of Leiden's Vrouwekerk, commemorating the history of the church and its connections with colonists of Plymouth Colony and New Netherland.

List of Mayflower passengers

This is a list of the passengers on board the Mayflower during its trans-Atlantic voyage of September 6 – November 9, 1620, the majority of them becoming the settlers of Plymouth Colony in what is now Massachusetts. Of the passengers, 37 were members of the separatist Leiden congregation seeking to create a foundation of Christianity according to their own theology in the New World. The Mayflower launched with 102 passengers - 74 male and 28 female - and a crew headed by Master Christopher Jones. About half of these emigrants died in the first winter. Many Americans can trace their ancestry back to one or more of these individuals who, 'Saints' and 'Strangers' together, would become known as the Pilgrims.

Thirteen of the eighteen servants listed were attached to Leiden families, the other five were families who boarded in London. Four of those listed were small children, given over by Samuel More to Thomas Weston and then to agents John Carver and Robert Cushman, who assigned them to senior Mayflower Pilgrims to be classed as indentured servants. This was all due to scandal involving the children's mother and her husband Samuel's effort to dispose of the children by sending them away to the Colony of Virginia. Long ago, Richard More and his siblings were thought to have been parentless London street waifs, but in 1959 a 1622 document revealed their being the product of an adulterous relationship as the reason why the children were sent abroad on the Mayflower.


The Mayflower was an English ship that transported the first English Puritans, known today as the Pilgrims, from Plymouth, England, to the New World in 1620. There were 102 passengers, and the crew is estimated to have been about 30, but the exact number is unknown. The ship has become a cultural icon in the history of the United States. The Pilgrims signed the Mayflower Compact prior to leaving the ship and establishing Plymouth Colony, a document which established a rudimentary form of democracy with each member contributing to the welfare of the community. There was a second ship named Mayflower, which made the London to Plymouth, Massachusetts, voyage several times.

Mayflower Compact

The Mayflower Compact was the first governing document of Plymouth Colony. It was written by the male passengers of the Mayflower, consisting of separatist Puritans, adventurers, and tradesmen. The Puritans were fleeing from religious persecution by King James of England.

The Mayflower Compact was signed aboard ship on November 11, 1620. They used the Julian Calendar, also known as Old Style dates, which was ten days behind the Gregorian Calendar. Signing the covenant were 41 of the ship's 101 passengers while the Mayflower was anchored in Provincetown Harbor within the hook at the northern tip of Cape Cod.

National Monument to the Forefathers

The National Monument to the Forefathers, formerly known as the Pilgrim Monument, commemorates the Mayflower Pilgrims. Dedicated on August 1, 1889, it honors their ideals as later generally embraced by the United States. It is thought to be the world's largest solid granite monument.

Pilgrims (Plymouth Colony)

The Pilgrims or Pilgrim Fathers were the first English settlers of the Plymouth Colony in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Their leadership came from the religious congregations of Brownist Puritans who had fled the volatile political environment in England for the relative calm and tolerance of 17th-century Holland in the Netherlands. They held Puritan Calvinist religious beliefs but, unlike other Puritans, they maintained that their congregations needed to be separated from the English state church. They were also concerned that they might lose their cultural identity if they remained in the Netherlands, so they arranged with investors to establish a new colony in America. The colony was established in 1620 and became the second successful English settlement in America, following the founding of Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. The Pilgrims' story became a central theme in the history and culture of the United States.

Plymouth Rock

Plymouth Rock is the traditional site of disembarkation of William Bradford and the Mayflower Pilgrims who founded Plymouth Colony in 1620. The Pilgrims did not refer to Plymouth Rock in any of their writings; the first known written reference to the rock dates to 1715 when it was described in the town boundary records as "a great rock." The first documented claim that Plymouth Rock was the landing place of the Pilgrims was made by Elder Thomas Faunce in 1741, 121 years after the Pilgrims arrived in Plymouth. From that time to the present, Plymouth Rock has occupied a prominent spot in American tradition and has been interpreted by later generations as a symbol of both the virtues and the flaws of the first English people who colonized New England. In 1774, the rock broke in half during an attempt to haul it to Town Square in Plymouth. The top portion (the fragment now visible) sat in Town Square, was moved to Pilgrim Hall Museum in 1834, and was returned to its original site on the shore of Plymouth Harbor in 1880. Today it is ensconced beneath a granite canopy designed by McKim, Mead & White.


Pniese refers to certain elite warriors of the Algonquin people of Eastern Massachusetts - specifically of the Pokanoket tribe of the Wamponoag - in seventeenth-century New England. They "were warriors of special abilities and stamina (it was said a pniese could not be killed in battle) who were responsible collecting tribute for his sachem." Philbrick names Hobbamock of the Pokanokets, and one of sachem Massasoit's men, as pnieses.

According to Philbrick, both Hobbamock and Squanto (the shortened name for Tisquntum) were named after Indian spirits of darkness. Squanto has a prominent place in the founding history of Plymouth Plantation.

While Philbrick specifically mentions Squanto as not being a pniese, an article by Charles C. Mann in The Smithsonian Magazine implies that he was, and gives information about pniese training. The training was more rigorous than that of his friends, "for it seems that he was selected to become a pniese, a kind of counselor-bodyguard to the sachem." Pniese were expected to learn the art of ignoring pain, by, for instance, "running barelegged through brambles," and by fasting, "to learn self-discipline. After spending their winter in the woods, pniese candidates came back to an additional test: drinking bitter gentian juice until they vomited, repeating this process over and over."

Speedwell (1577 ship)

Speedwell was a 60-ton pinnace that, along with Mayflower, transported the Pilgrims and was the smaller of the two ships. A vessel of the same name and size traveled to the New World seventeen years prior as the flagship of the first expedition of Martin Pring.

Thanksgiving (United States)

Thanksgiving is a national holiday in the United States, celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. It originated as a harvest festival. Thanksgiving has been celebrated nationally on and off since 1789, with a proclamation by George Washington after a request by Congress. Thomas Jefferson chose not to observe the holiday, and its celebration was intermittent until the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, when Thanksgiving became a federal holiday in 1863, during the American Civil War. Lincoln proclaimed a national day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens," to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November. Under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the date was changed to the fourth Thursday in November, an innovation that endures to this day. Together with Christmas and the New Year, Thanksgiving is a part of the broader fall–winter holiday season in the U.S.

The event that Americans commonly call the "First Thanksgiving" was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in October 1621. This feast lasted three days, and—as accounted by attendee Edward Winslow—it was attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims. The New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating "thanksgivings"—days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of a drought.

Thomas Granger

Thomas Graunger or Granger (1625? – September 8, 1642) was one of the first people hanged in the Plymouth Colony (the first hanged in Plymouth or in any of the colonies of New England being John Billington) and the first known juvenile to be sentenced to death and executed in the territory of today's United States. He was a servant to Love Brewster, of Duxbury, in the Plymouth Colony of British North America. Graunger, at the age of 16 or 17, was convicted of "buggery with a mare, a cow, two goats, divers sheepe, two calves, and a turkey", according to court records of 7 September 1642.Graunger confessed to his crimes in court privately to local magistrates, and upon indictment, publicly to ministers and the jury, being sentenced to "death by hanging until he was dead". He was hanged by John Holmes, Messenger of the Court, on September 8, 1642. Before Graunger's execution, following the laws set down in Leviticus 20:15 ("And if a man shall lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast"), the animals involved were slaughtered before his face and thrown into a large pit dug for their disposal, no use being made of any part of them.An account of Granger's acts is recorded in Gov. William Bradford's diary Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647. Granger's crime represents the colonies' first recorded act of bestiality.

William Bradford (governor)

William Bradford (c. 19 March 1590 – May 9, 1657) was an English Puritan separatist originally from the West Riding of Yorkshire in Northern England. He moved to Leiden in Holland in order to escape persecution from King James I of England, and then emigrated to the Plymouth Colony on the Mayflower in 1620. He was a signatory to the Mayflower Compact and went on to serve as Governor of the Plymouth Colony intermittently for about 30 years between 1621 and 1657. His journal Of Plymouth Plantation covered the years from 1620 to 1657 in Plymouth.

William Butten

William Butten was a young indentured servant of Samuel Fuller, a long-time leader of the Leiden Church. Butten died during the voyage of the Mayflower while traveling with Fuller, who had been appointed doctor for the group. At that time, children and young men were routinely rounded up from the streets of London or taken from poor families receiving church relief to be used as laborers in the colonies. Butten was sick the entire voyage and died at sea when near the coast of New England.

American colonial documents
Richard Hakluyt
Plymouth Colony
Connecticut Colony
Other passengers
Native American associates

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.