William Bradford, who succeeded [John] Carver as governor of the [Plymouth] colony, may well be said to have been one of its chief founders.
He was a native of Austerfield, a small village, within a walk of Scrooby, where, in his early days, was a Puritan congregation, presided over by a pastor of the name of Richard Clyfton, whose preaching exercised a great influence throughout the surrounding country, and deeply impressed the mind of Bradford, -- peculiarly susceptible to serious impulses. He was sprung from the ranks of the yeomanry, a class of small landed proprietors, among whom were to be found the best of the national characteristics of the English people, -- independence, industry, and manly self-respect. His parents died when he was quite young, leaving him a considerable inheritance for one in his station. Brought up to the labors, and receiving only the scanty education, of a farmer of that day, his natural thirst for knowledge and power of, intellect enabled him to acquire most of the learning of the age. He mastered Dutch, French, Latin, Greek, and even Hebrew; which he studied with earnestness, " that he might see with his own eyes the ancient oracles of God in all their native beauty." He adopted, with the earnest enthusiasm which was the great characteristic of his mind, the theological views of the Separatist divines, and moulded his life strictly in practice to his religious belief. Becoming, early in life, a leading man in the Puritan community of England, he left with the emigrants who fled to Holland, and finally became the venerated governor and historian of the infant State in America which he had so greatly assisted to found. He lived almost through the whole period of the English Commonwealth, and saw other flourishing colonies, the offspring of that at Plymouth, rising around him, and forming the germ of an immense nation; by all of whom he was regarded with the love and veneration due to a patriarch.
Gov. Bradford was twice married, -- first to Dorothy May, who accompanied him to America, but was drowned by the upsetting of a boat in Cape Cod Harbor, during his absence on one of the journeys of exploration. He subsequently married Mrs. Alice Southworth, to whom he is said to have been attached before leaving England, and who came over to Plymouth, on his invitation, to become his wife.
In the engraving of Burying Hill may be noticed an obelisk, erected some years since to his memory, over the spot where his body lies interred. Many of his descendants lie buried around him, -- among whom are his two sons; the gravestone of one being given below, as a specimen of the style which prevailed immediately after the first settlement of the colony.
1. "William Bradford," The Illustrated Pilgrim Memorial, 1863, page 12.