John and Priscilla (Mullins) Alden
John Alden was born about 1598 in England and died September 12, 1687 in Duxbury, Massachusetts. It is believed that he was born between July 6 and September 1598 because of statements he made as to his age (that being he was 83 on July 6, 1682 and that he was 89 on September 12, 1687). He married in Plymouth, Massachusetts about 1622 (perhaps May 12, 1622) Priscilla Mullins who was born about 1601 in Dorking, Surrey, England. Pricilla died February 05, 1687/88 in Duxbury, Massachusetts. Priscilla died before John. We know she was alive when Gov. Josiah Winslow died in 1680 as an account speaks of "John Alden, with Priscilla still on his arm" attended the funeral.
No one really knows for sure who John Alden's parents were or where exactly he was from. Although he joined the Mayflower at Southampton, England, no records have been found to John in Southampton. Possibly the best theory is that John Alden came from Harwich, Essex, England. There was a sea-faring Alden family living there. This family was related, by marriage, to Christopher Jones, who was the captain of the Mayflower. The Alden Society says tells it like this, "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 Mayflower Descendants says that "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." A cooper was a barrel maker and this statement also seems to imply that John had perhaps intended just to make the voyage and then planned to return to England after seeing after business, but decided to stay.
John joined the others in signing the Mayflower Compact on November 11, 1620, agreeing to make and abide by their own laws.
Much has been made of the romance between John and Priscilla. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - himself a John Alden descendant - wrote the epic poem, The Courtship of Myles Standish. Also we have an account written by a great-great-grandson, Rev. Timothy Alden. Both have a lot of fiction in them, but the basic premise must have been correct. Rev. Alden writes, "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, 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." Some things that seem to be not logical is that we know William Mullins died February 21, 23 days after Rose Standish, and it hardly seems that courtship would have been Myles top priority that first hard winter. This is a very short time for this all to have taken place. Evidence also seemed to point out that Pricilla was too young to marry at the time of her father's death. But, I think, the basic story of John going to bid for his friend Myles and Pricilla being much more enchanted with the handsome John, thereby seeking his affections, is probably true.
It is believed that John and Priscilla's was probably the 3rd wedding in Plymouth. Since Priscilla is not listed in the 1623 division of land, it is assumed their marriage took place before that list as made. By May of 1627, at the time of the division of cattle, 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 lends evidence that Priscilla was probably 16-18 in 1620, slightly too young to marry in the first year or two she was orphaned.
Bradford's list states that the Alden's had 11 children, but only 10 have been identified. The ten known children are: 1) Elizabeth born about 1623-1625 died May 31, 1717 and married William Parodie 2) John born about 1626 and died March 14, 1701 and married Elizabeth Phillips 3) Joseph born after May 22, 1627 and died February 8, 1696/7 and married Mary Simmons 4) Sarah born after May 22, 1627 and died before June 13, 1688 and married Alexander Standish 5) Jonathan born about 1632 and died February 14, 1696 6) Ruth who died October 12, 1674 and married John Bass 7) Rebecca born before 1649 and died after June 13, 1688 and married Thomas Delano 8) Mary 9) Priscilla 10) David born about 1646 and married Mary Southworth
In 1626, fifty three 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. 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.
The colonists began to spread out from Plymouth and settle on the land they had been granted. At first, the families would tend 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 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!). 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 itself, built in 1653 and probably including part of the 1628 first Alden house, stands on a knoll on
the original Alden land, the old farm grown to woodlot now but the house almost unchanged from Pilgrim times.
This house remained in the possession of members of the Jonathan2 Alden family until 1892 and was transferred to the Alden Kindred in 1907.
Some random interesting facts. John Alden was on the 1633 list of Plymouth freemen among those admitted prior to January 1, 1632/3. ….. 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". …... John Alden's cattle mark recorded at Plymouth 15 November 1636 was "a peece like a long round cut" (Plymouth Town Recs, 1). ….. 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. Apparantly John was not as sympathetic to the Quaker's plight as one might have thought.
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, fish 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 Moses Talbot, 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, via the Massachusetts Bay Colony 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).
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 (like in April 1667 when the War Council 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). 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 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)
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
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 September 12, 1687 by the old calendar. He lived longer than any of the other signers of the Mayflower Compact. 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 ere published in The Mayflower Descendant (vol. 9:129, vol. 34:39). John and Priscilla were buried in the old Duxbury burying ground, but he 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.
An inventory taken of the Estate of the late deceased Mr. John Alden October 31, 1687 showed the following:
Neate Cattell sheep Swine & one horse 13
one Table one forme one Carpit one Cubert & coubert Cloth
2 Chaires 5 . .
bedsteds Chests & boxes 15
Andirons pot hookes and hangers . . .8 6
pots Tongs one quort kettle . . 10
John Alden's Inventory and the Settlement of his Estate 11
by brass ware . I: 11. .
by 1 ads 1s 6d & saws 7s . . . 8 . 6
by Augurs and Chisells . . . 5 . .
by wedges 5s to Coupers tooles l£ 2s . 17 . .
one Carpenters Joynters . . . 1 .6
Cart boults Cleavie Exseta . . 13 . .
driping pan & gridirons . . . 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 Is 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
weareing Clothes 18 .9 . .
by other old lumber . 5
This commemorative broadside was issued for John Alden just a short time after his death on 12 September 1687. The author of this poetic tribute is thought to be John Cotton, and the elegy ends with the initials J.C. There is also another broadside, of unknown authorship, made for John Alden after his death.
Alden Kindred of America
Caleb Johnson web site