Alden #5590

John Alden (1599-1687)

Born in England.  Arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620 on the Mayflower and

Priscilla Mullins (1602-1688)

Born in England.  Arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620 on the Mayflower.

Alden 5590

George H. Boughton's "Priscilla and John Alden", ca. 1884

George H. Boughton’s “Priscilla and John Alden”, ca. 1884

Illustrations presenting the story of the “Pilgrims” and its imagery were popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and no subjects were more popular than John & Priscilla Alden, the Mayflower passengers whose love triangle with Miles Standish was popularized by the poem “The Courtship of Miles Standish” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (an Alden descendant).  Some of the many illustrations are posted in my John & Priscilla Alden picture gallery.  Of course, these pictures bear absolutely no known resemblance.  There are no contemporary portraits, and we have no idea of what they really looked like.

John Alden was born 1599 in England and died 12 Sep 1687 in Duxbury, Massachusetts.  He arrived in Massachusetts on the Mayflower in November 1620, and he is said to be the first person from the Mayflower to set foot on Plymouth Rock[1].  The Mayflower passengers were the earliest permanent European settlers in New England. According to William Bradford’s Of Plimoth Plantation, John Alden was hired as a cooper[2] in Southampton, England, just before the voyage to America.  He was one of the founders of Plymouth Colony and the seventh signer of the Mayflower Compact.  Distinguished for practical wisdom, integrity and decision, he acquired and retained a commanding influence over his associates, becoming the Governor’s Assistant, the Duxbury Deputy to the General Court of Plymouth, a member under arms of Capt. Miles Standish’s Duxbury Company, a member of Council of War, Treasurer of Plymouth Colony and Commissioner to Yarmouth.  He was also one of the founders of Duxbury, Massachusetts.  John Alden was the last male survivor of the signers of the Mayflower Compact, and with the exception of Mary Allerton, he was the last survivor of the Mayflower‘s company.

Memorial Bas Relief of the Signing of the Compact on Bradford Street in Provincetown, Massachusetts, below the Pilgrim Monument

There are several theories regarding Alden’s ancestry.  According to William Bradford’s Of Plymouth Plantation, he was hired as a cooper in Southampton, England, just before the voyage to America.  In The English Ancestry and Homes of the Pilgrim Fathers Who Came to Plymouth on the Mayflower in 1620, the Fortune in 1621, and the Anne and Little James in 1623, Charles Edward Banks suggested that John was the son of George and Jane Alden and grandson of Richard and Avys Alden of Southampton. England.  However, there are no further occurrences of the names George, Richard and Avys in his family, which would have been unusual in the seventeenth century.  Another theory is that John Alden came from Harwich, England, where there are records of an Alden family who were related by marriage to Christopher Jones, the Mayflower’s captain.  In this case, he may have been the son of John Alden and Elizabeth Daye.

The “First Thanksgiving” is an etiologic tale, a story told to explain and define the holiday through an account of its alleged origins. The New England Thanksgiving is thought to have originated in 1621 with the Pilgrims, so it is fitting that the modern holiday adopt the hospitable Pilgrims and their Native American guests as its symbolic patrons. Generations of artists and writers have used their stylized images to represent the holiday – painting by Jennie Brownscombe, “The First Thanksgiving” (1914), Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts

A scene from "The Courtship of Miles Standish", showing Standish looking upon Alden and Mullins during the bridal procession

A scene from “The Courtship of Miles Standish”, showing Standish looking upon Alden and Mullins during the bridal procession

John Alden married Pricilla Mullins, also a Mayflower passenger, in Plymouth, Massachusetts.  Pricilla was born about 1600 in Dorking, Surrey, England.  The exact date of their marriage is not known.  Priscilla Mullins’ parents, brother and the family man servant all died in the sickness that took so many lives the first year in Massachusetts, leaving her orphaned.  There were few houses in the settlement and only a few well people, so Priscilla undoubtedly just continued in the common house, taking her share of the nursing and cooking, with little time to brood over her situation.  She was one of the surviving women in that little band, part of a common family, bound together by common need, danger, and sorrows.  One can suppose she grew close to the other young members of the colony, to John Alden in particular.  He was constantly in and out of the houses, taking time from building houses to bring in the firewood and help with the heavy work.  There were days when the weather kept all indoors, time for the young men and women to talk about their lives and their futures. It was during this long and hard winter that John and Priscilla probably made wedding plans.  The first marriage in the colony was in May 1621, Edward Winslow and Susanna White, both recently widowed, and it is generally held that the second marriage was that of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, sometime later in that same year.

An interesting legend of the rivalry between the Mayflower Captain Miles Standish and John Alden for the affections of Priscilla Mullins was related in Rev. Timothy Alden’s Collection of American Epitaphs and Inscriptions (published 1814).   The story was later popularized in the poem, “The Courtship of Miles Standish”, published by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow[3] (an Alden descendant) in 1858.  It is evident that the poet had access to historical records, but he did not feel constrained to follow the literal course of events.  Rather, he wove the narrative around an old family tradition, and for dramatic effect, he compressed several years of incidents into a very short time frame in 1621.  Longfellow used his imagination to flesh out the characters in his love triangle.  Miles Standish appears as a swash-buckling hero, brave but inarticulate and somewhat peevish.  Handsome young John Alden is torn between his devotion to the Captain and his love for the Pilgrim maiden.  Priscilla, despite her domestic virtues, speaks her mind in the manner of a modern feminist.  Longfellow could tell a romantic tale, and in so doing, he made the names of these three Pilgrims household words for generations of schoolchildren grew up with Longfellow’s poetry.  There is no documentation for the legend in the records of Plymouth Colony.

John Alden died at Duxbury, Massachusetts on 12 Sep 1687.  Both he and his wife, Priscilla Mullins, were buried in the Miles Standish Burial Ground[4].  He made no will, having distributed the greater part of his estate among his children during his lifetime. John and Priscilla had the following children who survived to adulthood: Elizabeth Alden, John Jr. (accused during the Salem witch trials), Joseph, Priscilla, Robert, Jonathan, Sarah, Ruth, Mary, Rebecca and David.  They have the most descendants today of all the pilgrim families, including Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams[5], Henry Wadsworth Longfellow[6], Ralph Waldo Emerson[7] and many other well known figures in American history.

When John Alden died in 1687, his passing was noted in at least two printed “broadsides”, copies of which may be viewed — > HERE.

John Alden and Priscilla Mullins had ten known children[8] with a possible eleventh dying in infancy.  It is presumed, although not documented, that first three children were born in Plymouth, and the remainder in Duxbury.  In order of birth, the children are listed and briefly described below:

  1. Elizabeth Alden. Married William Pabodie, a civic and military leader of Duxbury where all thirteen of their children were born.  They moved to Little Compton, Rhode Island where Elizabeth died in 1717 at the age of about 94.  Their descendants were prominent in settling areas of Rhode Island and Connecticut.  From Elizabeth’s line comes the one individual most credited with spreading the fame of John and Priscilla far and wide, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in his “Courtship of Miles Standish”.
  2. John. Moved to Boston and married there Elizabeth (Phillips) Everill, widow of Abiel Everill.  They also had 13 children.  He was a mariner and became a naval commander of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  He was a member of the Old South Church of Boston and his ancient slate headstone is embedded in the wall there.  Perhaps the best-known event of his life is when, on a trip to Salem, he was accused of witchcraft, spending fifteen weeks in a Boston jail.  He escaped shortly before nine of the other “victims” were executed.  He was later exonerated.
  3. Joseph. Moved to Bridgewater where he was a farmer on land purchased earlier from the Indians by his father and Myles Standish.  He married Mary Simmons.  They had a total of seven children.  Joseph died sometime after 1696/7.
  4. Sarah. Her marriage to Myles Standish son, Alexander, puts to rest any idea of a long-standing feud between the Aldens and the Standish clan.  In fact, there is much evidence to suggest that John and Myles remained lifelong friends or, at the minimum, associates.  Sarah and Alexander lived in Duxbury until Sarah’s death sometime before June 1688.  Alexander subsequently married Desire Doty, a twice-widowed daughter of Pilgrim Edward Doty.  They had seven and possibly eight children.  The Duxbury house where they lived still stands.
  5. Jonathan. Married Abigail Hallett on 10 Dec 1672.  Lived in Duxbury until his death 14 Feb 1697.  He was the second owner of the Alden House, which he received from his father.  The house then passed to his own son, John.  Six children.  We gain a little insight into his life when, at his funeral oration, Jonathan was described as …a sincere Christian, one whose heart was in the house of God even when his body was barred hence by restraints of many difficulties which confined him at home.
  6. Ruth. Married John Bass of Braintree where they lived and had seven children.  Of the more illustrious descendants of this union came Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams.  Ruth died on 12 Oct 1674.
  7. Rebecca. Married Thomas Delano of Duxbury by 1667, a son of Philip Delanoye, one of the original settlers of Duxbury.  They had nine children. Died in Duxbury sometime after 13 Jun 1688.
  8. Mary. No record of birth or marriage. Died after 13 Jun 1688.
  9. Priscilla. Same information as for Mary.
  10. David. Married Mary Southworth, daughter of Constant Southworth.  Died sometime during 1718 or 1719.  Six children.  A man described as “a prominent member of the church, a man of great respectability and much employed in public business.”

The John Alden House is a historic house museum that was purportedly home to John and Priscilla Alden.  It is located at 105 Alden Street in Duxbury, Massachusetts[9].  The home was still in possession of their descendants of the seventh generation, and is now a National Historic Landmark.  It was built in about 1653 and is open to the public as a museum.  It is run by the Alden Kindred of America, an organization that provides historical information about him and his home, including genealogical records of his descendants.

A more detailed article on the history of the Alden House Historic Site is — > HERE.

The photos in the gallery below (taken in 2008) were taken by ronaldc, who has generously granted permission for their use here:

Alicia Crane Williams has written a superb article on John and Priscilla Mullins Alden. “John and Priscilla, We Hardly Know Ye,” America History Illustrated, Vol. 23 No. 8 (December 1988), gives an excellent and readable overview of what is known about the Aldens.  Ms. Williams has also done extensive work on the English background of John Alden and published “John Alden: Theories on English Ancestry” in The Mayflower Descendant, Vol. 39 No. 2, July 1989.

John Alden, Jr. grave marker at Old South Church in Boston, discovered in about 1870 – Note that his marker denotes him as “John Alden, Senior” even though as the son of Pilgrim John Alden we refer to him as “Junior”. The inscription reads “Here lyeth the body of John Alden, Senior, aged 75 years, Deceased March 14-1701-2.”

John Alden Jr.[10] (about 1623 – 4 Mar 1701), was the eldest son was the son of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins.  He was a sea captain, a merchant in Boston and a charter member of Rev. Samuel Willard’s Third Church in Boston[11].  The gravestones were discovered in about 1870 on the south side of Eliot Street between Washington and Tremont in “confused heap”, according to accounts written at the time.  The stones were possibly brought there from an earlier cemetery at a different location.  John Alden Jr.’s gravestone was later given to Old South Church, where it was embedded in the wall of the portico in the third and present church building that the congregation moved to in 1875.  John Jr. had been among the founders of the first Old South Meetinghouse in 1669.  He was accused of witchcraft during the famous “Salem Witch Trials” of 1692.  He was imprisoned for a time before escaping, and he was not one of the unfortunates who paid for the public’s mass hysteria with their lives[12]. He escaped to Duxbury, where he stayed with friends until, as he later said, the public had reclaimed the use of its reason.  When he returned, he was cleared by proclamation.

Monument to Elizabeth (Alden) Pabodie, “the first white woman born in New England” – Elizabeth’s current monument, erected in June 1882, incorporates her original headstone. William’s marker, “recut by the Colonial Daughters of the 17th century,” is to the left of his wife’s as you face the United Congregational Church. The current church building, originally just a plain meeting house, was not erected until 1832.

The eldest child of John Alden and Pricilla Mullins is Elizabeth Alden, born 31 May 1624 in Duxbury, Massachusetts.  During her lifetime and after, she was known as “Betty” Alden.  According to the inscription on her grave marker in the Old Commons Burial Ground in Little Compton, Rhode Island, she was “the first white woman born in New England”.  Three or four years prior to her birth, on 2 Nov 1620, a boy was born to William and Susanna White on board the Mayflower in Provincetown Harbor.  His name was Peregrine White.  However, he is not the first European child known to have been born in the New World.  The ill-fated Virginia Dare, born on Roanoke Island (today part of North Carolina) in 1587 is said to be the first baby born in America of English parents.  (We can also go all the way back to the year 1007 or so when Norse sagas say that a Viking woman named Gudrid Thorbjarnardottir gave birth to the first European baby in North America, a son named Snorri, somewhere along the Vinland coast).

An interesting article, “Betty Alden: First-Born Daughter of the Pilgrims” is posted on the website of Sakonnet Historical (© 2015 Brown Center for Public Humanities, the Tiverton Public Library, and the Little Compton Historical Society), which can also be viewed — > HERE (in case the original link is no longer functional).

Elizabeth died 31 May 1717 in Little Compton, Newport, Rhode Island.

Elizabeth married William Pabodie (or Paybody or Peabody) on 26 Dec 1644.  William was born about 1620[13] in St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England. They settled in Duxbury, Massachusetts, close to other Mayflower families, including the Brewsters and Standishes.  He was a member of Captain Miles Standish’s company of defenders of the settlement at Duxbury in 1643.  He was also a deputy to the General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1654-63 and 1670-82.  William served as town clerk in Duxbury, succeeding Alexander Standish, and he held other jobs at various times as well, including yeoman, boatman, planter, and surveyor.  When he became Duxbury town clerk, the town records having been destroyed in a fire, he very carefully recorded his own marriage and the births and marriages of his thirteen children.  Interestingly, one of the thirteen, Priscilla, died at only three months old and the next girl child was given the same name.

William Pabodie was one of the original purchasers in 1673 of portions of “Saconett,” lands that would become Little Compton, Rhode Island, and he also, along with Constant Southworth, performed the surveying work behind the purchases.  Around 1684 William and Elizabeth moved to Little Compton (then still part of Plymouth Colony), and several of their children and grandchildren followed and established their own families there.  William traded on his employment experience in Duxbury to become Little Compton’s first town clerk, a position that he held well into his old age.  He also served as a schoolteacher.  Around 1690, William and Elizabeth built a home in Little Compton (“Betty Alden House”, 561 West Main Road, Little Compton, Rhode Island).

William died on 13 Dec 1707, and Elizabeth followed him ten years later, at the age of ninety-three or ninety-four.  Her obituary in the Boston Newsletter said in part, “She was exemplary, virtuous and pious, and her memory is blessed.  She left a numerous posterity.  Her granddaughter Bradford is a grandmother.”  In fact, it’s estimated that at the time of her death she had eighty-two grandchildren and 556 great-grandchildren!

Pabodie Grave Inscriptions (Commons Burial Ground, Little Compton, Rhode Island):

Little-Compton_The-CommonsWhile in the Old Commons Burial Ground, also be sure to check out the grave of the “Indian Fighter” Col. Benjamin Church.  He is considered the father of American ranging and was the captain of the first Ranger force in America (1676).  Church was commissioned by the Governor of the Plymouth Colony, Josiah Winslow to form the first ranger company for King Philip’s War.  He later employed the company to raid Acadia during King Williams War and Queen Anne’s War.  Church designed his force primarily to emulate Indian patterns of war.  Toward this end, he endeavored to learn to fight like Indians from Indians.  Americans became rangers exclusively under the tutelage of the Indian allies. (Until the end of the colonial period, rangers depended on Indians as both allies and teachers).  Church developed a special full-time unit mixing white colonists selected for frontier skills with friendly Indians to carry out offensive strikes against hostile Indians and French in terrain where normal militia units were ineffective.  His memoir,  Entertaining Passages Relating to King Philip’s War (available for download in my Family History Library), was published in 1716 and is considered the first American military manual.

Benjamin Franklin Wilbour, in his Notes on Little Compton (1970), speculated that Elizabeth never learned to read or write, “for when her husband’s estate was settled, she signed by making her mark, drawn like a capital E about an inch in length.”

The children of Elizabeth Alden and William Pabodie, all recorded at Duxbury, Massachusetts are John (1645-1669[14]), Elizabeth (1647- ), Mary (1648- ), Mercy (1649- ), Martha Pabodie (1651-1712), Pricilla (1652-1652), Pricilla (1653-1724), Sarah (1656-1740), Ruth (1658- ), Rebecca (1660- ), Hannah (1662- ), William (1664- ) and Lydia (1667- ).

Martha Pabodie was born 24 Feb 1651 in Duxbury, Massachusetts and died 23 Jan 1712 in Little Compton, Newport, Rhode Island.  On 4 Apr 1677 she married Samuel Seabury in Duxbury, Massachusetts.  Samuel had first been married to Patience Kemp[15].  He was born 10 Nov 1640 in Boston, Massachusetts and died 5 Aug 1681 in Duxbury, Massachusetts.  After Samuel’s death, Martha remarried William Fobes about 1682 and had the following children with him: Elizabeth (1683-1760), Constant (1686-1771), Mary (1689-1712) and Mercy or Marcy (1694-1712).  William Fobes and Martha moved to Little Compton, Newport, Rhode Island, and that may be where the younger Seabury children were raised.

Martha Pabodie and Samuel Seabury had the following two children of record at Duxbury, Massachusetts:

  1. Joseph Seabury, born 8 Jun 1678 and died 22 Aug 1755 at Little Compton, Newport, Rhode Island.  On 25 Sep, 1701 at Little Compton, he married Phebe Fobes (or Smith), who died there on 21 Apr 1715.  He subsequently married  Mary Ladd, who died at Tiverton, Rhode Island on 26 Feb 1734.
  2. Martha, born 23 Sep 1679 and died after 3 May 1747, probably at Little Compton.

The lineage of Joseph Seabury and Mary Ladd is continued under the heading of John Seabury (1622-1649).


[1] Addison, Daniel Dulany. The Life and Times of Edward Bass, First Bishop of Massachusetts. Houghton, Mifflin, 1897.

[2] As such, John cannot be assumed to be a member of either the “Leyden Group” or the “London Group” to whom most of the passengers belonged.  His reasons for migration were not necessarily of a religious nature, as was the case for many on the voyage.  Additional information is located under the heading of William Mullins.

[3] My 4th cousin 6x removed.

[4] The Myles Standish Burial Ground (also known as Old Burying Ground or Standish Cemetery) in Duxbury, Massachusetts is, according to the American Cemetery Association, the oldest maintained cemetery in the United States.

[5] My 3rd cousin 8x removed and 4th cousin 7x removed, respectively.

[6] My 4th cousin 6x removed.

[7] My 6th cousin 3x removed.

[8] Zachariah Alden and Henry Alden have both been incorrectly identified as sons of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins in various publications. For information on the genealogy of Henry Alden, see Mayflower Descendant 43:21-29,133-138; 44:27-30,181-184.

[9] The Alden home site in Duxbury contains the excavated foundations of the first Alden home (c1627) as well as the still-standing 1653 Alden House. There are two excellent books on the Alden home site: Pilgrim John Alden’s Progress: Archaeological Excavations in Duxbury by Roland Wells Robbins focuses on examining the remains of the no-longer-standing house of 1627 and The Alden Family in the Alden House by Dorothy Wentworth concentrates on the 1653 Alden House and its residents.

[10] My 9th g-grand uncle.

Samuel Willard (1640-1707)

[11] Reverend Samuel Willard (1640-1707) was a Colonial clergyman. He was born in Concord, Massachusetts, graduated at Harvard in 1659 and was minister at Groton from 1663 to 1676, whence he was driven by the Indians during King Philip’s War. The Reverend Willard was pastor of the Third Church, Boston, from 1678 until his death. He strenuously opposed the witchcraft trials, and served as acting president of Harvard from 1701 until his death. Willard published many sermons, and a folio volume entitled A Compleat Body of Divinity was published posthumously in 1726. Willard’s parents were merchant Simon Willard and Mary Sharpe, who had emigrated from England to New England in 1634, settling first in Cambridge. In 1635, with Rev. Peter Bulkley, they helped establish the town of Concord, Massachusetts, where Samuel was born the sixth child and second son. At the age of fifteen, Willard entered Harvard College in 1655, graduating in 1659, and was the only member of his class to receive an M.A. In 1663, Willard began preaching in Groton, Massachusetts, then at the very frontier of the Massachusetts colony. The town’s first minister, John Miller, had become ill, and when he died, the congregation asked Willard to stay, and he was officially ordained in 1664. Groton was destroyed on 10 Mar 1676 (during King Philip’s War), and the 300 residents abandoned the town. Willard and his family removed to Charlestown, Massachusetts, where he became pastor of Third Church. Members of the congregation included a variety of influential members of the colony: John Hull, Samuel Sewall, Edward Rawson, Thomas Brattle, Joshua Scottow, Hezekiah Usher, and Capt. John Alden (the son of John and Priscilla Alden of Plymouth).

[12] From June through September of 1692, nineteen men and women, all having been convicted of witchcraft, were carted to Gallows Hill, a barren slope near Salem Village, for hanging.  Another man of over eighty years was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges.  Hundreds of others faced accusations of witchcraft.  Dozens languished in jail for months without trials.  Then, almost as soon as it had begun, the hysteria that swept through Puritan Massachusetts ended.

[13] On 9 Jun 1681 William made a deposition stating he was aged about 61 (Suffolk Files #3347, copied from Plymouth Court Records).

[14] On 18 Nov 1669 a Coroner’s Jury found that he rydeying on the road, his horse caryed him underneath a bow of a young tree and violently forcing his head into the body thereof brake his skull, which we doe judge was the cause of his death.

[15] Children of Samuel Seabury and 1st wife Patience Kemp, born of record at Duxbury, Massachusetts: Elizabeth (1661- ), Sarah (1663- ), Samuel Jr. (1666- ), Hannah (1668 1700), John (1670-1671), Grace & Patience, twins (1673-1673, both died in infancy).


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