The John Alden Broadsides

When John Alden died on 12 Sep 1687 (old style), his passing was noted in at least two printed “broadsides”, which are reproduced below:

John Alden broadside - printed at the time of his death

John Alden broadside – printed at the time of his death

John Alden broadside - printed at the time of his death

John Alden broadside – printed at the time of his death

Broadsides were single pages of news published by independent printers.  Eventually broadsides like these grew to become the newspapers we know today.  The broadsides issued on the death of John Alden are important not only for their poems celebrating his historic life, but because they are two of the three surviving records with the exact date of John Alden‘s death.

Although John Alden and his famous wife Priscilla Mullins have been the subjects of historical tales and lore for three and a half centuries, there is still much we do not know about them.  We do not know when or where either John or Priscilla was born.  We do not know when or specifically where they were married.  We do not know when Priscilla died.  And we do not know exactly where either is buried.

How can this be?  Many records from the early years of Plymouth Colony were either lost or destroyed.  We know that John and Priscilla were married and had two children (Elizabeth and John) by 22 May 1627 when they are all listed in the division of cattle.  Therefore, they were probably married by 1623 or 1624, but the record of their marriage is lost.  We know that John Alden was born circa 1598-1599, but his origins are still being investigated.  Several theories have been proposed; none has been documented.  The most popular theory involves an Alden family in Harwich, England, which is related by marriage to Christopher Jones, Captain of the Mayflower, but this remains only a theory.  Priscilla‘s parents are known because they were also passengers on the Mayflower, but the record of her birth or baptism has not been found.  Priscilla was definitely living in 1650 and she is said by one undocumented source to have been living in 1680 and attended Governor Josiah Winslow’s funeral, but we have not been able to find any primary source for this assertion.  No exact death date can be determined for Priscilla. Although John and Priscilla are certainly buried in the churchyard at Duxbury, the original grave markers (which were probably made of wood) have long ago disappeared.  The present stones in the cemetery, erected by the Alden Kindred in John and Priscilla’s memory, are only placed in rough approximation of the gravesites, based on their son Jonathan’s grave.

Thus, the only anniversary date we are able to celebrate for either of our famous ancestors is the date of John‘s death.  Because there has been a change in the calendar since 1687, the actual date in the new style is September 22.  We urge all Alden descendants to remember their esteemed forebears on this date.

The broadside pictured on the front of this sheet was supplied courtesy of the Boston Athenaeum.  The initials J.C. at the bottom of the broadside stand for John Cotton of Plymouth.

Issued by Alden Kindred of America, Inc., Duxbury, Massachusetts, 1987
Revised and reprinted 1989

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