William Bradford Timeline
Timeline Description: William Bradford was a Separatist and a Pilgrim who traveled from England to America on the Mayflower. He is credited with being the author of the Mayflower Compact and served as the governor of Plymouth Colony.

Date Event
March 1590 William Bradford is born in Austerfield, England.

Alice Bradford gives birth to William Bradford in Austerfield, England. A year later, his father, also named William, dies.
1597 Bradford's mother dies.

With the death of his mother, Bradford is orphaned at the age of 7. He goes to live with his uncles to help with their farm but due to a lengthy illness, he spends much of his time reading literature and the Bible.
1602 Bradford becomes a follower of Reverend Richard Clyfton.

At the urging of a friend, Bradford goes to hear a sermon from Reverend Richard Clyfton. The reverend believes that the Church of England should "purify" by eliminating any traces of Catholicism. Bradford defies his uncles and attends Clyfton's sermons whenever he can.
1603 King James I takes the throne in England.

King James I becomes the King of England. He states that he will not tolerate any criticism of the Church of England.
1607 The Separatists begin discussions about breaking away from the Church of England.

British citizens who believe that the Church of England is corrupt begin secret meetings about breaking away from the Church. Many of these Separatists move to the Netherlands, where they can practice their own religion freely.
August 1608 Bradford goes to Amsterdam.

At the age of 18, Bradford goes in Amsterdam and stays with the Brewsters, a family of Separatists who have relocated there. Nine months later, Bradford joins the Brewsters when they move to Leiden.
1611 Bradford turns 21 years old and clams his family inheritance.

Now 21 years old and old enough to claim his inheritance, Bradford buys a house and starts work as a weaver.
December 10, 1613 Bradford marries 16 year-old Dorothy May.

Bradford marries his first wife, Dorothy May, in Amsterdam. Sixteen year-old Dorothy died four years later when she fell from the icy deck of the Mayflower less than a month after its arrival in America.
September 6, 1620 The Mayflower leaves England.

Bradford and his wife join approximately 100 other passengers on the Mayflower's voyage to America. The Separatists, servants, orphans, and other colonists who have been paid by investors intend to start a new British colony in Virginia.
November 11, 1620 Bradford helps write the Mayflower Compact.

After the Mayflower is forced north of Virginia and arrives in Cape Cod, Bradford helps write the Mayflower Compact. The covenant is signed by all male passengers before they leave the ship and serves as their promise to stick together in a "civil body politic" in the new colony.
December 1620 The Mayflower passengers arrive at present-day Plymouth.

After several days of exploration, the Mayflower passengers settle on the land now known as Plymouth, Massachusetts. The land had previously been the home of the Patuxet Indians, who were wiped out by disease brought to America from European explorers.
January 1621 Bradford becomes ill.

Like many of the colonists, Bradford became ill soon after arriving in America. Many of those colonists die and there are concerns that Bradford will die, too, but he survives. Captain Miles Standish helps care for Bradford during his illness.
April 1621 Bradford becomes governor of Plymouth Colony.

When Governor John Carver dies, Bradford is elected to be his replacement. He will serve as the governor of Plymouth for most of the remainder of his life.
1630 Bradford writes "Of Plymouth Plantation."

Bradford writes about the formation of the new Plymouth Colony and the people that lived there from 1621 to 1646 in "Of Plymouth Colony." It was not published until 1656, the year before he died.
May 9, 1657 Bradford dies in Plymouth.

Bradford succumbs to illness and dies in Plymouth. He is buried on Plymouth's Burial Hill, where a stone monument commemorating his life and achievements can be seen.