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John Alden & Priscilla Mullins Biography


English origins of John Alden
The Courtship of Myles Standish
Early Land Divisions
The Move to Duxbury
Alden's Duxbury Houses
John Alden's Imprisonment in Maine
Further Records About the Aldens
John Alden's Estate
William and Alice Mullins
John and Priscilla's Children
Alden Genealogy through 3 generations

Alicia Crane Williams, Editor
Mayflower Families Through Five Generations, John Alden
Esther Littleford Woodworth-Barnes, Prime Researcher for the Alden Family

(reprinted with permission)  

English Origins of John Alden

John Alden was hired for a cooper, at South-Hampton, where the ship victuled; and being a hopfull young man, was much desired, but left to his owne liking to go or stay when he came here; but he stayed, and maryed here. (Bradford’s History, p. 443, The Mayflower Descendant vol. 1:228)

On 11 November 1620 John Alden joined with the other free adult male passengers of the Mayflower to sign the Compact whereby they agreed to make and abide by their own laws (Bradford’s History, 75; New Englands Memorial, p. 15-16)

That is all that is known about the origins of John Alden.  Efforts to locate his birthplace and parentage have so far been inconclusive.  Although he joined the Mayflower at Southampton, co. Hampshire, England, no records have been found of John in Southampton, and he was not necessarily a native of that place.

Several theories regarding the origins of John Alden were discussed in The Mayflower Descendant, vol. 39:111-121 and vol. 40:133-136.  Of these theories, the one with the most prospects is that of the Harwich Alden family.  A John Alden of Harwich married the daughter of William Russell, a merchant of that town.  When William Russell wrote his will on 1 August 1586, he mentioned his son-in-law John Alden who was at that time in captivity in Spain (these were the years just before the Spanish Armada when English and Spanish ships competed for rule of the seas).  He also mentions a number of children of John Alden.  Interpretation of Russell’s will seems to indicate that the captured John Alden had two sons named John.  John “the elder” was probably the child of an earlier, unknown, first wife; and John “the younger” was the child of William Russell’s daughter.  Other children of the captured John Alden were Peter, William and Thomas.  Any of these sons could have been the father of John Alden of the Mayflower.

The most appealing facet of the Harwich theory is that William Russell’s son Robert, brother of the Elizabeth Russell who married the captured John Alden, married the widowed mother of Captain Christopher Jones of the Mayflower.  Thus, if this theory is correct, Capt. Jones would have been this step-son of our John Alden’s great-uncle!  Certainly, this theory offers ample opportunity for John Alden to have learned about Captain Jones’s trip to New England and to gain the job of cooper/carpenter for the voyage.  Unfortunately, no records have been found in Harwich or the county of Essex of a John Alden who could be ours.  If Captain Jones was related to John Alden, William Bradford did not know if it when he wrote his history or he almost certainly would have mentioned the connection.

John, himself, left us no information about his past.  We estimate the year of his birth as 1598 using John’s own deposition and a broadside published upon his death.  In the deposition made on 6 July 1682 John stated he was “aged 83 yeers or thereabouts” (Plymouth Colony Records, Judicial Acts, Part 2, p. 32; The Mayflower Descendant vol. 3:120-121, which would indicate he was born between 6 July 1598 and 6 July 1599.  When John died on 12 September 1687, a broadside published to commemorate the occasion stated he was “about eight-nine years of age,” indicating he was born between 12 September 1597 and 12 September 1598 (The Mayflower Descendant, vol. 9:129).  Combining the two ranges results in an estimated birth date between 6 July and 12 September 1598 or thereabouts.

Thus John was a about twenty-two years old in 1620 and very likely had just finished an apprenticeship in cooperage or carpentry.  No letters, no family Bible, no journal, no writings survive for either John or Priscilla.  All that survives is the story of their courtship.

Courtship of Myles Standish

Priscilla Mullins was the daughter of William Mullins, also a passenger on the Mayflower with his wife Alice and son Joseph.  William, Alice and Joseph all died in the terrible sickness and deprivation of the first winter in Plymouth.  Priscilla, who as probably still too young to be married, was orphaned, her only surviving kin her brother and sister in England.  Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow celebrated the story of how Priscilla attracted the attentions of the newly-widowed Captain Myles Standish, who asked his friend John Alden to propose on his behalf only to have Priscilla ask, “Why don’t you speak for yourself, John?”  Most of the world draws its image of the Pilgrim story from Longfellow’s epic narrative poem, The Courtship of Myles Standish.  The basic story was apparently handed down in the Alden family and published by John and Priscilla’s great-great-grandson, Rev. Timothy Alden, in his Collection of American Epitaphs and Inscriptions in 1814 (264-271).  Rev. Timothy’s facts are not always correct (he was not born until 1736, fifty years after John’s death), and he embellishes in the typical style of his day, but his account of the famous courtship and description of John is as close to the original as we can get:

Mrs. Rose Standish, consort of Captain Standish, departed this life, on the 29 of January 1621.  This circumstance is mentioned as an introduction to the following anecdote, which as been carefully handed down by tradition.

        In a very short time after the decease of Mrs. Standish, the captain was led to think, that, if he could obtain Miss Priscilla Mullins, a daughter of Mr. William Mullins, the breach in his family would be happily repaired.  He, therefore, according to the custom of those times, sent to ask Mr. Mullins’ permission to visit his daughter.  John Alden, the messenger, went and faithfully communicated the wishes of the captain.  The old gentleman did not object, as he might have done, on account of the recency of Captain Standish’s bereavement. He said it was perfectly agreeable to him, but the young lady must also be consulted.  The damsel was then called into the room, and John Alden, who is said to have been a man of most excellent form with a fair and ruddy complexion, arose, and, in a very courteous and prepossessing manner, delivered his errand.  Miss Mullins listened with respectful attention, and at last, after a considerable pause, fixing her eyes upon him, with an open and pleasant countenance, said, prithee John, why do you not speak for yourself?  He blushed, and bowed, and took his leave, but with a look, which indicated more than his diffidence would permit him otherwise to express.  However, he soon renewed his visit, and it was not long before their nuptials were celebrated in ample form.

       Obviously, in addition to the inevitable distortions of stories told and retold over the years, the Rev. Alden had already taken some poetic license with the family story before Longfellow took over.  There would have been very little time between the death of Rose Standish on January 29th and the death of William Mullins on February 21st, if all of this took place while Mullins was still alive, and there is little chance even the flamboyant Captain Standish would have been courting Priscilla during those desperate months of sickness and starvation in the winter of 1621.  A grain of truth probably exists in the family tradition, but most of the story that found its way to Longfellow’s poem is pure imagination.

     The marriage date of John and Priscilla is also unknown.  They were certainly married at Plymouth.  We know that William Bradford’s marriage to Alice Carpenter 14 August 1624 was the fourth marriage in Plymouth Colony (The Mayflower Descendant, vol. 30:4).  The first was that of Edward Winslow and Susannah White in 1621.  Francis Eaton’s marriage to his second wife, Dorothy, maidservant to the Carvers, was possibly the second (TAG, 72:308-309).  John Alden and Priscilla Mullins is likely the third.

    Since Priscilla is not listed in the 1623 division of land (which probably took place in early 1623/4 – see below), it is assumed their marriage took place before that list was made and, therefore, John Alden’s share included that of his wife.  By the division of cattle in May 1627, the Aldens had two children, Elizabeth and John.  No birth records for any of the Alden children survive, but from the death record of Elizabeth Alden it appears she was born about 1624-5 and was the eldest child.  This places John and Priscilla’s marriage about 1623.  Since no birth or baptism for Priscilla has been found, we can only make a wild guess that she may have been about sixteen to eighteen in 1620, slightly too young to marry in the first year or two after she was orphaned.

       William Bradford’s account of the Increasings and Decreasings of the Mayflower passengers, written in 1650, states:

Mrs. Mullins and his wife, his son and his servant died the first winter.  Only his daughter Priscilla survived, and married with John Alden, who are both living and have eleven children.  with their eldest daughter is married and hath five children (Bradford’s History, 445; The Mayflower Descendant, vol. 1:9)

No further written record of Priscilla survives.  Bradford’s statement that she had eleven children (and that her eldest daughter had five by 1650) is contradicted by his marginal tally of “15” beside the entry.  Eleven children plus five grandchildren should have been “16.”  Only ten children have been identified.  If there were other children, they died unmarried and without heirs before John Alden’s estate was settled.

      Priscilla died before her husband.  A nineteenth century account published by John A. Goodwin in The Pilgrim Republic in 1888 describes the mourners at the funeral of Governor Josiah Winslow in 1680 including “John Alden, with Priscilla still on his arm” (also New England Historical & Genealogical Register, vol. 51:429).  No contemporary corroboration of this statement has been found, and we can only state with certainty that she was alive when Bradford wrote is list in 1650 but dead by the time John’s epitaph was published in 1687 (for certainly if Priscilla had been living, the writer would have mentioned the famous widow).  Since no special notice was made of Priscilla’s death, we can probably assume she did not die very young nor under any strange circumstances.  Sadly, neither the birth, marriage, nor the death for one of America’s most famous women is known.

Early Land Divisions

            The 1623 division of land among the Plymouth colonists (probably made in early 1623/4) placed John Alden in the group that received land on the “north side of the towne.”  Others in this group were Edward Winslow, Richard Warren, John Goodman, John Crackston, Mary Chilton, Captain Myles Standish, Francis Eaton, Henry Cooper, and Humility Cooper (Plymouth County Records, vol. 12:4; Plymouth Colony by Stratton, 416).  The acreage that John Alden received is illegible in the original records, but was probably four acres – representing on share each for himself and Priscilla, and for her deceased parents William and Alice Mullins (Mayflower Quarterly Feb. 1974, 13).

        In 1626 Isaac Allerton negotiated an agreement between the Merchant Adventurers in England who had financed the Plymouth Colony, whereby 53 members of the colony (including John Alden) and five London men (called the “Purchasers”) were to pay L180 for all of the stocks, lands, and merchandise that belonged to the Company (The Mayflower Descendant, vol. 2:177; Plymouth Colony by Stratton, 419-20).  In May 1627 John Alden joined with William Bradford, Capt. Myles Standish, Isaac Allerton, Edward Winslow, William Brewster, John Howland, and Thomas Prence, to undertake (thus they ere called the “Undertakers”) the debt owed by the “Purchasers.”  In return, this group of eight men received the boats, furs, and other stores that had belonged to the Company as well as rights to trade for themselves for six years.  Payment was to be made in corn and tobacco (Of Plimoth Plantation, 194-195).

       The division of cattle made 22 May 1627 placed John Alden, Priscilla Alden, and their children Elizabeth and John in the fourth lot that “fell to John Howland & his company Joyned to him.”  The lot received “one of the 4 heyfers Came in the Jacob Called Raghorne” (Raghorne is a breed of cattle) (Plymouth County Records, 12:10; Plymouth Colony by Stratton, 422).

The Move to Duxbury

            The colonists began to spread out from Plymouth and settle on the land they had been granted.  At first, the families would end to their land during the summer and return to the Plymouth settlement during the winter where they could attend church.  The original Alden house in Duxbury was probably begun during the summers and by 1631 the family was staying longer, perhaps the whole year.  Bradford and others in Plymouth were worried about losing the families from the original settlement, and in April 1632 John Alden, Capt. Standish, Jonathan Brewster and Thomas Prence signed an agreement promising to bring their families back to Plymouth during the winter.  However, as Bradford later wrote, “First those that lived on their lots on the other side of the Bay, called Duxbury, they could not long bring their wives and children to the public worship and church meetings here, but with such burthen as, growing to some competent number, they sued to be dismissed and become a body of themselves” (Bradford’s History, 253).  thus the Alden family took up permanent residence in Duxbury.

The Alden grant in Duxbury was accessible by water from the bay and up the river, so that the whole length of the farm had water transportation.  The Green Harbor Path, running from Plymouth to Marshfield passed along the west end of the farm.  The bounds of the farm were described in a document dated 4 December 1637, but recorded in 1681 or later.

       The bounds of the land of Mr. John Alden of Duxbery, as it was layed out by Gov. Bradford, Mr. Edward Winslow, Joshua Pratt, and Edward Bangs.  It begines, for the breath of it, att a place where formerly an old pine tree stood, where now there is a gravelly hole, and from thence to a burnt walnut stump, and runinge for the length, and from thence to take its length unto a whie oake tree standing a little within the land of Phillip Delano deceased, the root of that tree still remaining, and from thence for the breadth att the had of the lott up to the old Greens Harbor Path; on the southerly side bounded with the meddow of the said John Alden in part and with the land of Experience Mitchell att the upper end (Plymouth County Records, vol. 1:71).

  This description was amended under the date 1 January 1637/8 (Alden Family in the Alden House, 14):

         The bounds of the land of MR. John Alden att Duxburrow, as it was layed forth by Gov. Bradford, Mr. Edward Winslow, Joshua Pratt, Edward Bangs, as followeth: from an old pine tree by the meddow, which meddow was afterwards allotted unto mee, the said John Alden, and for the breadth of the said land buting upon and ranging along the said Blew Fish River to a burnt walnut stump; and from thence to a walnut tree ranging from the abovesaid stump west north west, which was sum tim after run by Joshua Prate and Phillip Delano, Senior, unto a white oake tree, standing a little within the bounds of Phillip Delanoes land, there being a stump or root of that tree still remaining, and from thence for the breadth att the head, up to Greens Harbour, old path; and on the southerly side of he land bounded ptly with my owne meddow, and with the land of Experience Mitchell towards the upper end.

Alden's Duxbury Houses

The first house built and occupied by John and Priscilla was a long, narrow house with a field stone foundation and a root cellar under the west end.  Archeological excavations made in 1960 by Roland Wells Robbins revealed the cellar stones and that the house was about 10 ½ feet in width and 38 feet in length (here the Aldens raised 10 children!).  Its size would have been similar to a modern mobile home, although the Alden house would have had a loft or second floor.  Evidence at the site of the old house proved that the old house had not burned, as many old stories claimed.  It had definitely been moved or dismantled.  The dimensions of the old house led Robbins to believe that it had been dismantled and moved up the hill to be incorporated as the kitchen, borning room, and buttery of the existing Alden House, which are exactly the same dimensions (Pilgrim John Alden’s Progress, 15).

The present Alden house was believed to have been built in 1653, a date reputedly found carved in one of the beams or boards of the house.  However, recent archeological work indicates the house may have been built sometime in the latter two decades of the 1600s.  It is still believed that beams from the original house were used in the construction of the newer one. Further research is being undertaken by the Alden Kindred of America, Inc., which owns and maintains the house.  The Alden house remained in the possession of members of the Jonathan2 Alden family until 1892 and was transferred to the Alden Kindred in 1907 (Alden Family in the Alden House, 128).

John Alden was on the 1633 list of Plymouth freemen among those admitted prior to 1 Jan 1632/3 (Plymouth County Records, vol. 1:3).  The tax list of 25 March 1633 assesses John Alden £1.4s.  The highest tax was assessed to Isaac Allerton (£3.11s.).  John Alden was assessed the same tax on the 27 March 1634 list (the highest then being Edward Winslow at £2.5s.) (Plymouth County Records, vol. 19, 27; Plymouth Colony by Stratton, 427-429).

In 1634 a list was made of all colony men able to bear arms (between the ages of 16 and 60).  “Mr. John Alden, Sen., John Alden, Jun., and Jos. Alden” were all listed for the town of “Duxborrow” (Plymouth County Records, vol. 8:187-196) Plymouth Colony by Stratton, 441).

John Alden's Imprisonment in Maine

            Also in 1634, John Alden found himself imprisoned in Boston as the results of an incident on the Kennebec River involving parties from the Massachusetts Bay Colony and Plymouth Colony.  The Bradford Patent gave Plymouth the right to settle and trade on the Kennebec River.  John Howland was in charge of the Plymouth trading post on the river in 1634 when a trading ship from the Piscataqua settlement, under John Hocking, attempted to horn in.  After they ignored his warnings to leave, Howland ordered their ship’s mooring lines cut.  Hocking shot and killed the man who cut the line, and one of the  Plymouth  men shot and killed Hocking.  John Alden had been in Kennebec bringing supplies to the post at this time, but was not a party to the shootings.  However, by the time he returned to Boston, a one-sided version of the news had arrived before him, and as he was the nearest Plymouth Colony representative at hand, Alden was arrested.  Captain Myles Standish was dispatched with letters from Thomas Prence, Governor of the Plymouth Colony to straighten out the officials in Boston. Prence was successful in convincing Governor Dudley that they had heard only half of the story, the part about Hocking having killed a man being omitted.  Alden was released, but the dispute over trading rights on the Kennebec continued acrimoniously between the two colonies (Bradford’s History, 263-265).

Further Records About the Aldens

 For a young man hired as a cooper, John Alden soon assumed a place of high responsibility in the Plymouth Colony, serving as an Assistant many times between 1632 and 1640 and 1650 to 1686.  He acted as Deputy Governor on two occasions when the Governor was absent. In March 1664/5 and October 1677; was Treasurer for three terms 1656 to 1658; and served on numerous committees and councils of war.  This extensive public service indicates that he must have been well educated.  Whether he received that education in England or from his fellow Pilgrims such as Winslow and Bradford is not known (Great Migration Begins, 1:21).

 In 1636 and 1637 John Alden as assigned mowing ground for the year (Plymouth County Records, vol. 1:40, 56).  John Alden’s cattle mark recorded at Plymouth 15 November 1636 was “a peece like a long round cut” (Plymouth Town Recs, 1).  On 6 March 1636/7, “A parcel of land containing a knoll, or a little hill, lying over against Mr. Alden’s land at Blewfish River, is granted by the Court unto the said Mr. John Alden in lieu of a parcel of land taken from him (next unto Samuel Nash’s lands) for public use” (Plymouth County Records, vol. 1:51).  Bluefish River is a marshy brook in he eastern part of Duxbury.

On 5 February 1637/8 John was granted “certain lands at Green’s Harbor” (later Marshfield).  John Alden and Myles Standish were granted 300 acres “on the north side of the South River” on 2 July 1638, and John was granted “a little parcel of land … lying at the southerly side of his lot” on 3 September 1638 (Plymouth County Records, vol. 1:76, 191, 195).  The South River rises in Duxbury and flows through Marshfield to the sea.

           In 1638 Assistants Thomas Prence and John Alden were dispatched to Sandwich to settle a dispute over how that town’s granted land was to be divided (Plymouth Colony by Stratton, 65).

In October 1645 the General Court granted the inhabitants of Duxbury “a competent Porcion of lands about Saughtuckquett, towards the west, for a plantacon for them, and to have it foure miles every way from the place where they shall set up their center … and have nominated Captaine Miles Standish, Mr. John Alden, Georg Soul, Constant Southworth, Joseph Rogers, and Willm Brett to be feoffers in trust for the equall devideing and laying forth of the said lands to their inhabitants.”  These lands became known as Duxbury, New Plantation, incorporated in 1656 as the town of Bridgewater (Plymouth County Records, vol. 2:88, 2:101, 143; Plymouth Colony by Stratton, 79).

 Robert Hicks of Plymouth mentioned in his will dated 28 May 1645, a field on the north side of Plymouth that he had “lately purchased of Mr. John Aldin” (The Mayflower Descendant, vol. 8:144).  John Alden bought land from Edward Hall in 1651 (Plymouth County Records, vol. 1:73).

On 2 February 1657/8 John Copeland and William Braind, Quakers, were charged with verbally abusing John Alden and Thomas Southworth among others.  They were ordered to leave the colony, but either did not or returned, and on 8 February the two men were publicly whipped.  While Plymouth Colony’s treatment of Quakers was milder than Massachusetts Bay Colony, which hanged four, the Quakers were not welcomed in either place and were urged to move on.  In 1658 James Cudworth of Scituate, who had lost his position as head of the Scituate military company when he was accused of aiding Quakers, wrote to England to complain about the treatment Quakers were receiving.  In his letter he wrote, “Mr. Alden hath deceived the Expectations of many, and indeed lost the affections of such, as I judge were his Cordial Christian Friends; who is very active in such Ways, as I pray God may not be charged him, to be Oppressions of a High Nature.”  Apparently, Cudworth and others had expected Alden to be more sympathetic to the Quaker’s plight (Plymouth County Records, vol. 3:130, 115, 162; Plymouth Colony by Stratton, 91-92).

            “Liberty is granted unto Mr. John Alden to look out a portion of land to accommodate his sons withall, and to make report thereof unto the Court, so it may be confirmed unto him” on 3 June 1657 (Plymouth County Records, vol. 3:120).  At the Duxbury town meeting on 19 January 1659, the town granted to Mr. John Alden, Sen., “all that piece of common land, from the south of Philip Dillano’s” (Duxbury Town Records, p. 54).

           On 13 June 1660 John Alden was allowed “In regard that Mr. Alden is low in his state, and occasioned to spend much time at the courts on the country’s occasions, and so hath done this many years, the Court have allowed him a small gratuity, the sum of ten pounds …” (Plymouth County Records, vol. 3:195).  This did not mean that John was destitute, only that he was short on cash needed to travel on colony business.

          In June 1661 the Plymouth Court granted liberty to “Major Josiah Winslow and others the first born children of the jurisdiction of New Plymouth in reference unto an order or grant of the Court bearing date 1633 to purchase certain parcells of land for their accommodation; viz. a parcell next to the Massachusetts bounds, and another parcell between Namassakett and Bridgewater, and to make report thereof unto the Court that all such may be accommodated as aforesaid.”  The purchase was made in 1662 from Josiah Wampetuck, Sachem. Mr. Aldin was fourth on the list of those granted land in what was called the Purchade Purchase” (Pachade/Pochade/Pachage/Purchade Neck on the Nemasket River near the border of Middleborough and Bridgewater) and his lot was bounded “with two red Oak trees marked” (New England Historical & Genealogical Register, vol. 3:336).  In 1669 the court determined that the first tract should belong to those eight who had their allotments upon Pochade neck and to their heirs; and the second tract to those eight plus those who had their allotments on the east side of Nemasket River in Captain Southworth’s purchase.

            John was granted a “competency of land” at Namasskett, 7 Jun 1665, and 100 acres at Teticcut, 4 March 1673/4 (Plymouth County Records, vol. 4:95; 5:141).  Namasket and Titicut were villages in the area that became the town of Middleborough.

            At the Plymouth Court of General Sessions held in July 1667, Robert Finney was granted 100 acres “where mr Alden and Captaine Southworth hath land att Namassakett River, if it may be had there …” (Middleboro History, p. 545).

            Mr. John Alden was one of the members of a Council of War assembled at Plymouth in April 1667 to deal with threats from the French and Dutch, and the increasing problems with King Philip and the Narragansetts.  They commissioned officers of the military companies and arranged for military watches during any possibility of danger.  Plans for evacuation of women and children and orders of war for horse and foot soldiers were made.  When King Philip’s War broke out in 1675, John Alden was a senior advisor to Gov. Josiah Winslow (Plymouth Colony by Stratton, 102, 110).

         In 1675, “The Sixteen Shilling Purchase” was made by Constant Southworth and John Tompson (for £33) from the Indian sachems of Middleborough.  The largest purchase of land in that town, it included what is now the own of Lakeville running to the Dartmouth line.  John Alden was one of the 71 original proprietors of this purchase who were assigned lots on 21 November 1679.  John received the 15th lot (Middleboro History, p. 621).  The list of proprietors in Middleborough taken 28 Jun 1677 includes Mr. John Alden (Middleboro History, p. 551).

           On 6 July 1682 Mr. John Alden made a deposition to the Plymouth court (The Mayflower Descendant, vol. 3:120-121; Plymouth County Records, vol. 2:32):

   John Alden Esqr Aged 83 years or thereabouts Testifyeth and saith that I this Deponant being one of the first Comers into New England to settle att or about Plymouth which Now is about 62 yeers since Doth know and understand by Osamequine the Great Sachem of these pttes that then was; and alsoe from Divers other prsons both English and Indians That the little Iland lying Neare the southerly point of Mount Hope Neck. Called by the Indians Chessawanuck by the English hoge Iland Did then blonge and appertaine to the said Sachem Sachem Osamequin as the other lands adjacent upon the Maine then Did and that the said Iland was Called by the English att the Trading house att Sowamsett then belonging to the Companie of Plymouth Collonie, hog Iland, upon this ocation that the said Companies People att the said Trading house; had then the posession and Improvement of he said Iland by keeping hoggs for theire use thereon; and further I this Depondant Doe Testify that both the said Sachem Osamequin and Wamsitta his reputed Eldest son; Did Give Graunt Allianate Infeoffe and Confeirme the Iland aforesaid unto Richard Smith Now of Naragansett; The said Iland being thus posessed and Improved; att the pleasure of the Colonie of New Plymouth aforesaid, a long time before Rhode Island was Posessed or Improved by any English.

In lieu of a will, John distributed his real estate among his sons by a series of deeds.  On 8 July 1674, “for love and natural affection and other valuable causes and considerations,” John deeded to “David Alden his true and natural son all that his land both meadow and upland that belongs unto him situate or being at or about a place called Rootey Brook within the Township of Middleborough … excepting only one hundred acres,” totaling about 300 acres (Plymouth County Land Records, vol. 3:330).  Rootey Brook apparently flowed into the Nemansket River near Nemansket (Assawampsett) pond.

            On 1 April 1679 John gave to his son Joseph “all that my share of land. … within the township of Bridgewater (Plymouth County Land Records, 3:194).

            On 1 January 1685[/6] John Alden, Sr., of Duxbury for “that real love and parental affection which I bear to my beloved and dutiful son Jonathan Alden” deeded all of his upland in Duxbury for which “see old book of grants and bounds of land anno 1637 folio 137,” and all other lands at Duxbury whether granted by court at Plymouth or town of Duxbury (Plymouth County Land Records, 6:53).

            On 13 January 1686[/7] “for that natural love and affection which I bear to my firstborn and dutiful son John Alden of Boston,” John Alden, Sr., of Duxbury, deeded 100 acres at Pekard Neck alias Pachague with one-eighth of the meadow belonging to that place, and one hundred acres at Rootey Brook (brother David Alden to have the first right of purchase if John, Jr., should wish to sell this hundred acres), together with a sixteen shilling purchase being the fifteenth lot, all in Middleborough, and one hundred acres, the first in a division of one thousand acres in Bridgewater (Plymouth County Land Records, 5:437). 

John Alden, Sr. of Duxbury, cooper, gave to sons Jonathan and David Alden five acres of salt marsh at Duxbury and “my whole proportion in the Major’s Purchase commonly so-called being the thirty-fifth part of said purchase” (The Mayflower Descendant, vol. 9:145; Plymouth County Land Records, 4:65).  The Major’s or Five Men’s Purchase had been bought by Major Josiah Winslow from sachem Tispequin in 1663 and consisted of a narrow tract on the east side of Nemasket River between the upper and lower Indian paths to Plymouth, extending to the Carver line (Middleboro History p. 600).

            John Alden died on 12 September 1687 by the old calendar.  His death was noted by Judge Sewell, “Monday, Sept. 12. Mr. John Alden, the ancient Magistrate of Plymouth, died” (Sewall Diary, 150), and in two broadsides printed to commemorate the passing of the last signer of the Mayflower Compact.  Reproductions of the broadsides were published in The Mayflower Descendant (vol. 9:129, vol. 34:39).  John and Priscilla were buried in the old Duxbury burying ground, but the exact location of their graves is not now known.  In the 1950s stones were erected by the Alden Kindred in an area where other Alden graves were marked.

John Alden's Elegy by Rev. John Cotton, Jr. (broadside printed in Boston, 1687)

John Alden's Estate

            Administration of the estate of Mr. John Alden of Duxbury was granted to Lt. Jonathan Alden on 8 November 1687.  Inventory was taken on 31 October 1687 by Lt. Jonathan Alden who made his oath on the day administration was granted to him.  It consisted entirely of moveables and totaled £49.17s.6d. (Plymouth Co Probate Records, vol. 1:10, 16; The Mayflower Descendant, vol. 3:10-11):

£ s d

Neate Cattell sheep Swine & one horse

13    
one Table one forme one Carpit one Cubert & coubert Cloth 15    
2 Chaires   3  
bedsteds Chests & boxes   15  
Andirons pot hookes and hangers   8 6
pots Tongs one quort kettle   10  
by brass ware 1 11  
by 1 ads 1s 6d & saws 7s   8 6
by Augurs and Chisells   5  
by wedges 5s to Coupers tooles 18 2s 1 7  
one Carpenters Joynters   1 6
Cart boults Cleavie Exseta   13  
driping pan & gridiorns   5  
by puter ware 1 pound 12s by old Iron 3s 1 15  
by 2 old guns   11  
by Table linen & other linen 1 12  
To beding 5 12  
one Spitt 1s 6d & baggs 2s   3 6
one mortising axe   1  
marking Iron a Case of Trenchers with other things   7  
hamen and winch exse   2 6
by one goume and a bitt of linnin Cloth   7  
by one horse bridle and Saddle      
     liberary and Cash  and      
     wearing Clothes 18 9  
by other old lumber   15  

           On 13 June 1688 the heirs of John Alden, Sr., of Duxbury, signed a release in favor of Jonathan Alden stating that they had received their portion of the estate.  Those signing were: Alexander Standish (in ye Right of my wife Sarah deceased), John Bass (in ye right of my wife Ruth, deceased), Mary Alden, Thomas Dillano, John Alden, Joseph Alden, David Alden, Priscilla Alden and William Paybody (Plymouth Co PR, 1:10, 16; The Mayflower Descendant, vol. 3:11).

 William and Alice Mullins

            William Bradford’s list of passengers on the Mayflower includes the family of William Mullins (The Mayflower Descendant, vol. 1:9):

            Mr. William mullines, and his wife; and 2 children Joseph and Priscila and a servant Robert Carter

            The fate of this family is given in Bradford’s list of Increasings and Decreasings (The Mayflower Descendant, vol. 1:13):

            Mr. Molines, and his wife, his sone, and his servant dyed the first winter.  Only his daughter Priscila survived, and married with John Alden, who are both living [in 1650] and have 11 [sic] children.

          The nuncupative (oral) will of William Mullins probably written 21 February 1621, the day of his death, and copied 2 April 1621 (reprinted here from The Mayflower Descendant, vol. 1:231-232):

            In the name of God Amen: I comit my soule to God that gave it and my bodie to the earth from whence it came.j  Alsoe, I give my goodes as followeth That Forty poundes in the hand of Goodman Woodes  I give my wife tenn poundes, my sonne Joseph tenn poundes, my daughter Priscilla tenn poundes, and my eldest sonne tenn poundes.  Alsoe I give to my eldest sonne all my debts, bonds, bills (onelye yt forty poundes excepted in the handes of Goodman Wood) given as aforesaid wth all the sotck in his owne handes.  To my eldest daughter I give tenn shillings to be paied out of my sonnes stock.  Furthermore that goodoes I have in Virginia as followoeth  To my wife Alice halfe my goodes & to Joseph and Priscilla the other halfe wquallie to be devided betweene them. I also have xxj dozen of shoes, and thirteene paire of bootes wch I give into the Companies handes for forty poundes at seaven years and if they like tham at that rate.  If it be thought to deare as my Overssers shall thinck good  And if they like them at that rate at the divident I shall have nyne shares whereof I give as followeth twoe to my wife, twoe to my sonne William, twoe to my sonne Joseph, twoe to my daughter Priscilla, and one to the Companie.  Allsoe, if my sonne William will come to Virginia I give him my share of land  furdermore I give to my twoe Overseers Mr John Carver and Mr Williamson, twentye shillings apiece to see this my will performed desiringe them that he would have an eye over my wife and children and be as fathers and friends to them; Allsoe to have a speciall eye to my man Robert wch has not so approved himselfe as I would he should have done.

           This is a Coppye of Mr Mullens his Will of all particulars he hathe given.  In witnes whereof I have sett my hande

                                                John Carver, Giles Heale, Christopher Joanes

            The will was carried back to England for probate by the Mayflower on her return voyage (ibid.):

            In the month of July Annon Domini 1621.  On the 23d day issued a commission to Sarah Blunden, formerly Mullins, natural and legitimate daughter of William Mullins, late of Dorking in the County of Surrey, but deceased in parts beyond the seas, seized &c., for administering the goods, rights and credits of the said deceased because in that will he named no executor. 

            Mullins will was discovered in the late 19th century by Henry F. Waters and published as part of his series, Genealogical Gleanings in England, in New England Historical & Genealogical Register, vol. 42:62-63.  The will proves that William died before his wife, son, and servant, who are all mentioned in the instrument, and that Alice and Joseph were still alive when the Mayflower sailed, or else Gov. Carver would have annexed a statement regarding the deaths of the two legatees.  The date of the copy of the will also proves that the Mayflower did not leave New England until after 2 April 1621.  The probate record proves that William Mullins resided at Dorking, co. Surrey.

            In 1612 William Mullins bought a holding in Dorking with a house and an acre and a half of land and outbuildings between West Street and Back Lane (now Church Street for £122 and took over a mortgage of £200.  He sold this to Ephriam Bothal in May 1919 for £280 (Dorking pamphlet).

            On 29 April 1616, a warrant was issued to bring “one William Mollins before heir Lordships.”  On 2 May he appeared before the Privy Council and was continued technically in their custody “untill by their Honours’ order hee be dismissed.”  While the reason for this arrest is not given, it was most probably associated with the religious controversies of that time.  The fact that he was a Dissenter may explain why William Mullin’s marriage record is not found in the Parish Register for Dorking, nor are the baptisms of his children.

            Claims of Huguenot and Plantagenet ancestry for William Mullins are entirely unsupported (see The Mayflower Descendant, vol. 44:39-44)

Biographical Summary of the Alden Children

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

Note: 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.

1. Elizabeth. 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 December 10, 1672. Lived in Duxbury until his death February 14, 1697. 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 October 12, 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 June 13, 1688.

8. Mary. No record of birth or marriage. Died after June 13, 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."