John Alden joined the Mayflower in England. At the time, he was about 21 years old. William Bradford writes that he "was hired for a cooper, at South-Hampton, where the ship victuled; and being a hopefull yong man, was much desired, but left to his owne liking to go or stay when he came here; but he stayed, and maryed here."
John Alden was a cooper, or barrel-maker, by trade.
John Alden married Priscilla Mullins, also of the Mayflower. The date of their marriage is not known. They were probably married by 1623 since Priscilla is not listed separately in the 1623 Division of Land. By the 1627 Division of Cattle, they were married and had two children, Elizabeth and John.
The legend of the rivalry between Miles Standish and John Alden for the hand of Priscilla Mullins was first published in Rev. Timothy Alden's 1814 Collection of American Epitaphs and Inscriptions. The story was popularized in the poem, The Courtship of Miles Standish, published by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1858. There is no documentation for the legend in the records of Plymouth Colony. For more information on "Love & Legend in Plymouth Colony," click here.
John and Priscilla Mullins Alden had 10 children: Elizabeth, John, Joseph, Sarah, Jonathan, Ruth, Rebecca, Mary, Priscilla, and David.
Alden became one of the Purchasers and Undertakers. He was an Assistant in the Colony government for many years and presided occasionally as deputy governor. He also served as colony treasurer and was a member of committees in charge of revising laws.
John Alden was one of the founders of Duxbury. He owned several pieces of property but seems to have deeded all his real estate to his children during his lifetime. John Alden died intestate (without a will), but we do have an inventory of the property he owned at his death (click here for John Alden's inventory).
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.
The Alden homesite in Duxbury contains the excavated foundations of the first Alden home (c1627) as well as the still-standing 1653 Alden House. The homesite was acquired in 1907 by the Alden Kindred of America (the Kindred is comprised of descendants of John and Priscilla Mullins Alden). There are two excellent books on the Alden homesite. 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. Dorothy Wentworth's The Alden Family in the Alden House concentrates on the 1653 Alden House and its residents.
You can visit the Alden House Museum web site here http://www.alden.org/
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