Thanks to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, most people remember John Alden as the third party in the love triangle immortalized in his famous poem, The Courtship of Miles Standish. While Longfellow, a Mayflower descendant, always claimed that his poem was based on family history passed down through the generations, most of today’s scholars believe that the description of Alden acting as a middleman to Miles’ failed wooing of Priscilla Mullins was a concocted fiction.
What we do know for sure is that John Alden, a 10th great-grandfather to my sons, was hired to work on the Mayflower as the ship’s cooper (barrel-maker). Upon landing in Plymouth, which marked the termination of his contracted services, he voluntarily elected to remain and become part of the community. This was news that was undoubtedly welcomed by the others. He was described as “a hopeful young man of twenty from Harwich, Essex. His children remembered him as tall, blond, and very powerful in physique, one of the strongest men at Plymouth.” He went on to serve as assistant to the governor and helped found the nearby settlement of Duxbury.
John Alden and Priscilla were married and together had ten children including their eldest, Elizabeth, who had the distinction of being the first white female born in New England. John died in 1687 at the age of 89. At the time of his death he was recognized as the last surviving signer of the Mayflower Compact.
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