Written by Adam Snider
This is the headstone of William Bradford. I’ve taken tens of thousands of photos, and this is one of my favorite ones that doesn’t contain a living person.
There’s a lot of misinformation out there about him and about the first Thanksgiving, and this post isn’t meant to address those lies, but one of the most important things you can know is that the Pilgrims and the Indians signed a peace treaty that lasted unbroken for more than 50 years (broken by the Indians) – the longest period of unbroken treaty between Anglos and Native Americans to date. There’s been travesty and mistreatment, sure enough, but it didn’t start until these men were long gone. The men and women who stepped off that boat were as close to saints as probably have ever lived on the world, and the Wampanoag Indians who befriended them were the same. Revisionist historians would have you believe that either the white man got off the Mayflower and started shooting up the place with his thunder sticks, and/or that the Indians started scalping women and children left and right. Those are fat lies, and in fact, very closely opposite to the truth. If these stooges can get you to believe that the Christians who came here on the Mayflower were morally bankrupt, then they can start feeding you lies about this country right on down to 1776, through the Civil War, and probably right up to present-day. Don’t buy that mess.
Now back to William Bradford…..
William Bradford came here on the Mayflower in November of 1620. He was Governor of Plymouth Colony every year until his death (over 30 years), save the 5 he declined to serve. He and his fellow Puritans and Pilgrims were assisted by Chief Massasoit and the Wampanoag tribe, and together celebrated the first Thanksgiving in the fall of 1621, which was undoubtedly a religious ceremony that included grateful prayer to the Creator, as every ceremony in the recorded history of both of these groups did.
Two years later, in 1623, we have the first recorded Thanksgiving Day designation, by Governor Bradford, “set[ting] apart a solemn day of humiliation, to seek the Lord by humble and fervent prayer…..and also set apart a day of thanksgiving.”
To shed a bit more light on the kind of man William Bradford was, it’s important to know that he was chosen, or “elected” by his peers as their governor thirty times. In fact, they never elected anyone else. That’s remarkable, but what you may not know is that our modern word “election” is derived from the Puritan method of choosing leaders. They would have a list of names written out (the “ballot”), and the mandate of the people was to choose the man who most readily exhibited with his life the qualities and attributes of one of God’s elect. Thus…..an “election”.
William was always elected. By a group of Puritans. Who got on a boat and sailed across the ocean to a wilderness with their wives and small children for the express purpose of finding the freedom to serve the Lord wholeheartedly in their family life.
William HAD to be a saint haha.
William Bradford is as closely connected to the Thanksgiving holiday as any human has ever been. Surely he lived a life that embodied it.
Here’s what his headstone reads. The top in Hebrew, the middle in English, the bottom in Latin. As I stood before his headstone just yards from the site of the first building the Pilgrims built – a church – the English words told me things I already knew, but the Hebrew and Latin hit my spirit like a ton of bricks, because of the life of the man who is buried beneath it. It was as if he was passing me a baton with every word.
The Hebrew – “Jehovah is our Help”
The English – “Under this stone rest the ashes of William Bradford, a zealous Puritan and sincere Christian”
The Latin – “What our forefathers with so much difficulty secured, do not basely relinquish”
This Thanksgiving, may we all hold on a little tighter to the things that matter, and far more loosely to the things that don’t.
Written by Adam Snider