William Bradford (1590-1657)
As a boy in England, William Bradford was caught up in the fervour of the Protestant Reformation and became a dedicated member of the Separatist Church, the “left wing” of Puritanism, when only 12. Seven years later he joined a group of nonconformists who migrated to Holland (1609) in search of religious freedom. William Bradford was a leader of the separatist settlers of the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts, and was elected thirty times to be the Governor after John Carver died. He was the second signer and primary architect of the Mayflower Compact in Provincetown Harbor. His journal (1620–47), published as Of Plymouth Plantation. Bradford is credited as the first to proclaim what popular American culture now views as the first Thanksgiving. Bradford kept a handwritten journal detailing the history of the first 30 years of Plymouth Colony. Large parts of this journal were published as Of Plymouth Plantation, and have been republished a number of times.