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By Joan Reed Miller

Date of birth: about 1598, probably Harwich, Essex, England
Baptized: unknown
Marriage: Priscilla Mullins, about 1623, Plymouth, MA
Children: Ten (10)
1. Elizabeth b. about 1624, married William Pabodie
2. John, married Elizabeth (Phillips) Everill
3. Joseph, married Mary Simmons
4. Priscilla
5. Jonathan, married Abigail Hallett
6. Sarah, married Alexander Standish
7. Ruth, married Joan Bass
8. Mary
9. Rebecca, married Thomas Delano
10. David, married Mary Southworth
Death: 12 Sep 1687, Duxbury, MA
Burial Site: Myles Standish Burying Ground, Duxbury, MA

 

'Priscilla and John Alden', Painting by George H. Boughton, c. 1884

  • John Alden appears to have originated from an Alden family residing in Harwich, Essex, England, that was related by marriage to the Mayflower's master Christopher Jones.
  • He was about 21 years-old when he was hired to be the cooper, or barrel-maker, for the Mayflower's voyage to America. He was given the option to stay in America, or return to England; he decided to stay.
  • At Plymouth, he quickly rose up from his skilled cooper status to a prominent member of the Colony.
  • About 1622 or 1623, he married Priscilla, the orphaned daughter of William and Alice Mullins. They had their first child, Elizabeth, around 1624.
  • John Alden was one of the earliest freemen in the Colony, and was elected an assistant to the governor and Plymouth Court as early as 1631, and was regularly re-elected throughout the 1630s.
  • He also became involved in administering the trading activities of the Colony on the Kennebec River, and in 1634 witnessed a trading dispute escalate into a double-killing, as Moses Talbot of Plymouth Colony was shot at point-blank range by trespasser John Hocking, who was then shot and killed when other Plymouth men returned fire. John Alden was held in custody by the neighboring Massachusetts Bay Colony for a few days while the two colonies debated who had jurisdiction to investigate the murders. Myles Standish eventually came to the Bay Colony to provide Plymouth's answer in the matter.
  • 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.
  • Alden, and several other families, including the Standish family, founded the town of Duxbury in the 1630s and took up residence there.
  • Alden served as Duxbury's deputy to the Plymouth Court throughout the 1640s, and served on several committees, including the Committee on Kennebec Trade, and sat on several Councils of War.
  • 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.
  • By the 1660s, Alden's frequent public service, combined with his large family of wife and ten children, began to cause his estate to languish, so the Plymouth Court provided him a number of land grants and cash grants to better provide for his family.
  • In 1675, "The Sixteen Shilling Purchase" was made by Constant Southworth and John Thompson (for £33) from the Indian sachems of Middleborough. The largest purchase of land in that town, it included what is now the town 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.

  • Throughout the 1670s, Alden began distributing his land holdings to his surviving sons. He died in 1687 at the age or 89, one of the last surviving Mayflower passengers.
  • 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" and in two broadsides printed to commemorate the passing of the last signer of the Mayflower Compact. 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 are marked.

REFERENCES
General Society of Mayflower Descendants
Mayflower Families Through Five Generations (Silver Books)
Pilgrim Hall Museum
Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647, William Bradford
Caleb Johnson's MayflowerHistory.com
Plymouth Colony Records