George Washington by Gilbert Stuart

William Bradford

Plymouth Colony Governor


William Bradford was the first governor of the Pilgrims, and served in that capacity for over 30 years. Bradford was born in England and became an orphan at an early age. He was sickly as a child and spent a lot of time reading, becoming a scholar. As a teenager, he traveled with the Separatists to Leiden, Holland.

Bradford was among the passengers on the Mayflower. He helped write the Mayflower Compact, which he also signed. Bradford loved journaling and wrote his chronicles of the colony in a journal titled Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647. He focused on private property and religious tolerance at Plymouth Plantation. Bradford maintained peace with the Native Peoples surrounding the colony, and was involved in the first Thanksgiving.

“Thus out of small beginnings greater things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing, and gives being to all things that are; and, as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many…”

“Nevertheless, to keep a good conscience, and walk in such a way as God has prescribed in his word, is a thing which I must prefer before you all, and above life itself.”

As governor of Plymouth Colony, Bradford helped draft the first laws of the land.


Bradford’s journal Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647 included two volumes.


Bradford and the Pilgrims relied on the Native Americans, most notably Squanto, for advice on how to plant corn, where to fish, and other survival techniques.

Aboard the Mayflower, people who followed the Separatist ideology were called, “Saints,” and voyagers who paid for passage regardless of religious affiliation were called, “Strangers.”

The journey aboard the Mayflower took more than two months due to terrible weather conditions.