A Love Story: Alice Carpenter and William Bradford

The Carpenter family could easily be over looked, but their long history in England alone would be enough to remember the family. We’ll address the British history, but the story of our Carpenter family has to start with Alice Carpenter.

Carpenter Family
(from Stiehm-Burton-Schutt
Family) Connects to Bradfords

“The widow Alice Carpenter Southworth (c 1590-3-1679) was the daughter of Alexander Carpenter, a Pilgrim who chose to stay in Holland; and she was the widow of Edward Southworth, a silk worker & religious Separatist who left England to settle in Holland, where he died in 1621.

In Holland, young Alice Carpenter had been courted by both William Bradford (1590-1657) & Edward Southworth. According to family tradition, Alice’s parents urged her to marry Edward, as he was supposedly related to royalty. Alice & Edward were married in Leiden, Holland, on May 28, 1613. They had 2 sons, Constant born in 1615, & Thomas born in 1616.

William Bradford, born in Yorkshire, England, had become attracted to the thinking of the Separatist church. Puritans wanted to Reform the Church of England; the Separatists believed the Church was beyond redemption due to teaching unbiblical doctrines.

When King James I began to persecute English Separatists in 1609, Bradford fled to the Netherlands, along with many members of the congregation. These Separatists went first to Amsterdam, before settling at Leiden. Bradford, rejected by Alice Carpenter, married his first wife, Dorothy May on December 10, 1613, in Amsterdam. While at Leiden, he supported himself as a cordoroy weaver.

It was the intention of the growing young Southworth family to sail for the British American colonies along the Atlantic; and they were in London, for several months before the Mayflower embarked for Plymouth in 1620. For some reason, perhaps because Edward was ill, the Southworths did not sail with their friends on the Mayflower. Edward died in 1621.

The young Bradford family did make the voyage. While the Mayflower was anchored off Cape Cod in Provincetown Harbor, and William had gone exploring for a site to settle, his wife Dorothy May Bradford, somehow fell off the brig & drowned on December 7, 1620, leaving Bradford a widower with one son, John, born about 1617.

Alice Carpenter Southworth Bradford
Alice Carpenter Southworth Bradford

When widower William Bradford, learned that Edward Southworth also had died, he wrote to Alice back in England asking her to marry him. She arrived on the ship Anne on July 14, 1623, leaving her boys behind with relatives. On August 14, 1623, Alice and Governor Bradford were married by Assistant Governor, Isaac Allerton.

The marriage of William Bradford & Alice Carpenter Southworth was noted in a letter written by Captain Emmanuel Altham of the ship Little James to his brother back in England, Sir Edward Altham on September, 1623. Alice had arrived on the ship Anne, and Altham had arrived 10 days later on the Little James. The ships set sail for Plymouth at the same time, but parted company at sea. Both vessels were carrying some of the wives and children of persons already in the colony, who had been left behind in Leiden, when the Mayflower departed in 1620. . . .

By June of 1624, Governor Bradford & his bride had son William, who
would later become Deputy Governor of the colony. Bradford would remain governor of the colony for 31 years, being re-elected each year. Although he was not university educated, he spoke several languages, including Greek & Hebrew. Alice would have access to his library, which was extensive. She would be there as Bradford kept a handwritten journal detailing the history of the first 30 years of Plymouth Colony. Large parts of this journal were published as Of Plymouth Plantation.

Alice sent to England for her children Constant & Thomas Southworth who arrived at Plymouth sometime after 1627. They would join their mother & stepfather plus the 3 children from their marriage: William, Mercy & Joseph.

William & Alice would have a long marriage together, from 1624 until Bradford died in 1657. After Bradford’s death, the widow Alice actively took part in selling & transfering parcels of land in the towns of Plymouth, Sandwich, & Yarmouth.

Alice died in 1670. Her death was noted in the Records of Plymouth Colony. “On the 26th day of March, 1670, Mistris Allice Bradford, Seni’r, changed this life for the better, haveing attained to fourscore years of age, or therabouts. Shee was a godly matron, and much loved while shee lived, and lamented, tho aged, when shee died, and was honorabley enterred on the 29th day of the month aforsaid, att New Plymouth.””

from Barbara Wells Sarudy, 17C Women.


2 Replies to “A Love Story: Alice Carpenter and William Bradford”

  1. Thank you for providing this interesting historical information. I am currently on a journey of discovery on the Southworth name. Anticipate finding more information within this program and possibly others O do not know about at this time.

  2. Thank You, A well written article. Alice Carpenter. Alice, through her uncle William, is connected to “William Carpenter of Rehoboth” (spouse Abagail Briant) and then, through marriage, to “William Carpenter of Providence”
    The connections are detailed in various books (all available on https://archive.org)
    A genealogical history of the Rehoboth branch of the Carpenter family in America (Amos B Carpenter 1898),
    History and genealogy of the Carpenter family (Daniel Hoogland Carpenter 1901)
    The Arnold memorial William Arnold of Providence 1587-1675 (E S Arnold 1935)

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