m. 12 May 1622
Facts and Events
John Alden was a settler of Duxbury, Mass., where he lived for most of his life. From 1633 until 1686 he was an assistant to the Governor of the Colony, frequently acting as governor. At the time of his death on Sept. 12, 1687, he was the last male survivor of the Mayflower company.
Extensive research has been done into the ancestry of John Alden, but nothing has conclusively been found. There are two major theories that have been presented over the years:
Charles Edward Banks, in his book The English Ancestry and Homes of the Pilgrim Fathers, 1929, puts forward a theory that John is the son of George Alden and Jane (---) and grandson of Richard and Avys Alden of Southampton, England. Since Bradford says John Alden was hired in Southampton, this would be a logical place to start looking for Aldens. No other supporting evidence has been found, and it has been noted by many researchers that the names George, Richard, and Avys do not occur anywhere in John Alden's family. Naming children after parents and grandparents was an extremely common practice in the seventeenth century, and the absence of such a name is nearly enough evidence to disprove this theory.
The currently popular theory is that John Alden came from Harwich, Essex, England. There was a sea-faring Alden family living there, who were related by marriage to Christopher Jones, captain of the Mayflower. It has been suggested John Alden may be the son of John Alden and Elizabeth Daye, but this is not fully proven either. Several theories regarding the origins of John Alden were discussed in The Mayflower Descendant, vol. 39:111-121 and vol. 40:133-136. This Harwich Alden family was identified as the most promising. A John Alden of Harwich married the daughter of William Russell, a merchant of that town. When William Russell wrote his will on 1 August 1586, he mentioned his son-in-law John Alden who was at that time in captivity in Spain (these were the years just before the Spanish Armada when English and Spanish ships competed for rule of the seas). He also mentions a number of children of John Alden. Interpretation of Russell’s will seems to indicate that the captured John Alden had two sons named John. John “the elder” was probably the child of an earlier, unknown, first wife; and John “the younger” was the child of William Russell’s daughter. Other children of the captured John Alden were Peter, William and Thomas. Any of these sons could have been the father of John Alden of the Mayflower.
The most appealing facet of the Harwich theory is that William Russell’s son Robert, brother of the Elizabeth Russell who married the captured John Alden, married the widowed mother of Captain Christopher Jones of the Mayflower. Thus, if this theory is correct, Capt. Jones would have been this step-son of our John Alden’s great-uncle. This theory offers ample opportunity for John Alden to have learned about Captain Jones’s trip to New England and to gain the job of cooper/carpenter for the voyage. However, no records have been found in Harwich or the county of Essex of a John Alden who could be the Mayflower passenger. If Captain Jones was related to John Alden, William Bradford did not know if it when he wrote his history or he almost certainly would have mentioned the connection.
John was a about twenty-two years old in 1620 and very likely had just finished an apprenticeship in cooperage or carpentry. No letters, no family Bible, no journal, no writings survive for either John or Priscilla. All that survives is the story of their courtship.
Two commemorative broadsides (elegy poems) survive from John Alden's 1687 death. The first broadside is by an unknown author, and the second broadside was written by John Cotton.
Zachariah Alden and Henry Alden have both been incorrectly identified as sons of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins in various publications. For information on the genealogy of Henry Alden, see Mayflower Descendant 43:21-29,133-138; 44:27-30,181-184.
From The Johnson Memorial
John Alden seems to have attached himself from the first to Captain Standish, and in spite of the difference in their ages, there was a life long friendship, disturbed only for a short time, and then for the usual cause - a woman. During the winter Miles Standish lost his wife Rose. Among other deaths were those of WIlliam Molines, (*) or Mullines, his wife, his son Joseph, and a servant, Robert Cartier, leaving as the only survivor of this family a daughter, Priscilla.
In 1627 a contract was made to buy the rights of the "Company of Adventurers" in the colony. This responsibility was assumed by eight of the leading men on behalf of the colonists. They were Bradford, Winslow, Standish, Allerton, Brewster, Howland, Prence, and Alden.
In 1628 Standish and Alden moved to Duxbury. The Captain had married, several years before, his cousin Barbara Standish, a sister of his first wife, coming from England. He built on Captain's Hill, and John Alden near Eagle Tree Pond, where some of his descendants still live. With the marriage of Alexander, the eldest son of Miles Standish, to Sarah, daughter of John and Priscilla Alden, the two families were drawn closer still together; and in 1629 we find Alden acting for Miles Standish in the matter of "Warwick Patent."
We hear nothing of Alden's exercising his trade as a cooper. Probably, by the time there was much demand for his services another had arrived. He was from the first employed by the heads of the colony as a clerk, as he seems to have been better educated than many of the Pilgrims. He was assistant to every Governor, after the first, for forty-three years; he succeeded Standish as treasurer of the colony, holding that office thirteen years; and was eight times deputy from Duxbury, sometimes holding two of these positions at the same time. In later life he took some part in the rigorous measures against the Quakers, but the sins of the father were visited upon the children, when, in a still more tolerant age, his eldest son, Captain John Alden, of Boston, was imprisoned for witchcraft.
John Alden's house in Duxbury was burned a few years before his death, and he moved to the dwelling of his fourth son, Jonathan, not far distant. Here he died in 1687, last of the signers of the pilgrim contract. (*) Written "Molines," "Mullins," "Mullens."
He died 'in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people,--and his sons buried him.'
He was hired to be the copper of the Mayflower which carried a large responsibility as he had to keep the barrels of water and wine in good condition, necessary for the passengers survival on their long journey. He was hired for a one year period, and than was free to return to England but he chose to stay. His children remembered him as tall, blond, and very powerful in physique, one of the strongest men at Plymouth.
In the group on the Mayflower there were two distinct groups of people: the pilgrims, who were seeking religious freedom and the others, who were coming to the new world for various personal reasons. The Pilgrims called the others "strangers". Some books list John as one of the "strangers" while others have a third listing of hired hands. John and Priscilla did become a part of the Colony church. Elder Brewster, with whose family Priscilla had lived before her marriage, had been a head elder in the Pilgrim movement in England, than in Holland, and remained so throughout his life in Plymouth.
John was a well respected man as he was only one of three of the hired men who came on the Mayflower to hold higher positions in the colony. In 1627 the colony assumed responsibility of the remaining debt for the voyage and John was one of eight men chosen as "undertakers" to help administer the pro-governors from 1631-1639 and from 1651-1682. He is believed that he would have been in line for the office of governor had he not been in his 80's. He served on councils of war against the Dutch in the 1640's & 50's and in the Indian wars.
In 1634 John Alden was arrested for murder in Boston when traveling there on a trading vessel. The colony had obtained a patent for a 15 mile strip of land along the Kenebec River. A man named Hocking went up to do trading and sent word back that he would like to go father. John Howland, in charge of the project, refused permission. Hocking went anyway. Howland, Alden, and a small group of men went in pursuit of Hocking. When they came upon him, Hocking shot one of them, a Moses Talbot. Than Hocking was shot. That is what led to the arrest of John Alden. Miles Standish took letters from Governor Pence of the colony and had to appear in court to testify before John was released.
John Alden was among the men from Duxbury who purchased land from Massosoit, a well known Indian, so their children would have farms. The first settlement was made in 1665 near Lake Neppenicket in what is now West Bridgewater. The land included West, East and North Bridgewaters, Brockton and Abington. Joseph, John's son farmed John's portion of land.
John and Priscilla lived in Duxbury the rest of their lives. John died September 12, 1687, at Duxbury at the age of 89, surviving several of his own children. He was the last survivor of the men who signed the Mayflower Compact, and only two others of the Mayflower out lived him__ John Cook and Mary Allerton Cushman. He is buried in Duxbury cemetery, which is the oldest maintained cemetery in America. Myles Standish is also buried there. It is not known when Priscilla died, but most sources feel it was a few years before John's death, and it is also thought that she is buried in the same cemetery but this is not documented.
The pastor of the Duxbury Church at the time of John Alden's death was Ichabod Wiswall, who was married to John's granddaughter, Priscilla Pabodie Wiswall, daughter of Elizabeth.
"John Alden was hired for a cooper, at South-Hampton, where the ship victuled; and being a hopfull young man, was much desired, but left to his owne liking to go or stay when he came here; but he stayed, and maryed here." 
On 11 November 1620 John Alden joined with the other free adult male passengers of the Mayflower to sign the Compact whereby they agreed to make and abide by their own laws.
Courtship of Myles Standish
Priscilla Mullins was the daughter of William Mullins, also a passenger on the Mayflower with his wife Alice and son Joseph. William, Alice and Joseph all died in the terrible sickness and deprivation of the first winter in Plymouth. Priscilla, who as probably still too young to be married, was orphaned, her only surviving kin her brother and sister in England. Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow celebrated the story of how Priscilla attracted the attentions of the newly-widowed Captain Myles Standish, who asked his friend John Alden to propose on his behalf only to have Priscilla ask, “Why don’t you speak for yourself, John?” Most of the world draws its image of the Pilgrim story from Longfellow’s epic narrative poem, The Courtship of Myles Standish. The basic story was apparently handed down from Priscilla herself through two generations to her great-great-granddaughter, who died in 1845, at the age of 101 years. It was published by John and Priscilla’s great-great-grandson, Rev. Timothy Alden, in his Collection of American Epitaphs and Inscriptions in 1814 (264-271). Rev. Timothy’s facts are not always correct (he was not born until 1736, fifty years after John’s death), and he embellishes in the typical style of his day, but his account of the famous courtship and description of John is as close to the original as we can get:
Mrs. Rose Standish, consort of Captain Standish, departed this life, on the 29 of January 1621. This circumstance is mentioned as an introduction to the following anecdote, which as been carefully handed down by tradition.
Obviously, in addition to the inevitable distortions of stories told and retold over the years, the Rev. Alden had already taken some poetic license with the family story before Longfellow took over. There would have been very little time between the death of Rose Standish on January 29th and the death of William Mullins on February 21st, if all of this took place while Mullins was still alive, and there is little chance even the flamboyant Captain Standish would have been courting Priscilla during those desperate months of sickness and starvation in the winter of 1621. A grain of truth probably exists in the family tradition, but most of the story that found its way to Longfellow’s poem is pure imagination. For example, Longfellow's account of the wedding procession through woods and field to the new house, with the bride mounted on a snow-white bull is an an-achronism. At that time the whole of Plymouth was within sound of Alden's voice as he stood at his door, and the first cattle arrived in March, 1624. It was not until 1627 that there were enough cattle to divide among the colonists; and even then John and Priscilla, with their two children, owned only four-thirteenths of a heifer called Raghorn, sharing her with the Howland families and with some others.
The marriage date of John and Priscilla is also unknown. They were certainly married at Plymouth. We know that William Bradford’s marriage to Alice Carpenter 14 August 1624 was the fourth marriage in Plymouth Colony (The Mayflower Descendant, vol. 30:4). The first was that of Edward Winslow and Susannah White in 1621. Francis Eaton’s marriage to his second wife, Dorothy, maidservant to the Carvers, was possibly the second (TAG, 72:308-309). John Alden and Priscilla Mullins is likely the third.
Since Priscilla is not listed in the 1623 division of land (which probably took place in early 1623/4 – see below), it is assumed their marriage took place before that list was made and, therefore, John Alden’s share included that of his wife. By the division of cattle in May 1627, the Aldens had two children, Elizabeth and John. No birth records for any of the Alden children survive, but from the death record of Elizabeth Alden it appears she was born about 1624-5 and was the eldest child. This places John and Priscilla’s marriage about 1623. Since no birth or baptism for Priscilla has been found, we can only make a wild guess that she may have been about sixteen to eighteen in 1620, slightly too young to marry in the first year or two after she was orphaned.
William Bradford’s account of the Increasings and Decreasings of the Mayflower passengers, written in 1650, states:
No further written record of Priscilla survives. Bradford’s statement that she had eleven children (and that her eldest daughter had five by 1650) is contradicted by his marginal tally of “15” beside the entry. Eleven children plus five grandchildren should have been “16.” Only ten children have been identified. If there were other children, they died unmarried and without heirs before John Alden’s estate was settled.
Priscilla died before here husband. A nineteenth century account published by John A. Goodwin in The Pilgrim Republic in 1888 describes the mourners at the funeral of Governor Josiah Winslow in 1680 including “John Alden, with Priscilla still on his arm” (also New England Historical & Genealogical Register, vol. 51:429). No contemporary corroboration of this statement has been found, and we can only state with certainty that she was alive when Bradford wrote is list in 1650 but dead by the time John’s epitaph was published in 1687 (for certainly if Priscilla had been living, the writer would have mentioned the famous widow). Since no special notice was made of Priscilla’s death, we can probably assume she did not die very young nor under any strange circumstances. Sadly, neither the birth, marriage, nor the death for one of America’s most famous women is known.
Early Land Divisions
The 1623 division of land among the Plymouth colonists (probably made in early 1623/4) placed John Alden in the group that received land on the “north side of the towne.” Others in this group were Edward Winslow, Richard Warren, John Goodman, John Crackston, Mary Chilton, Captain Myles Standish, Francis Eaton, Henry Cooper, and Humility Cooper. The acreage that John Alden is illegible, but was probably four acres – representing on share each for himself and Priscilla, and for her deceased parents William and Alice Mullins.
In 1626 Isaac Allerton negotiated an agreement between the Merchant Adventurers in England who had financed the Plymouth Colony, whereby 53 members of the colony (including John Alden) and five London men (called the “Purchasers”) were to pay £180 for all of the stocks, lands, and merchandise that belonged to the Company.  In May 1627 John Alden joined with William Bradford, Capt. Myles Standish, Isaac Allerton, Edward Winslow, William Brewster, John Howland, and Thomas Prence, to undertake (thus they ere called the “Undertakers”) the debt owed by the “Purchasers.” In return, this group of eight men received the boats, furs, and other stores that had belonged to the Company as well as rights to trade for themselves for six years. Payment was to be made in corn and tobacco. 
The division of cattle made 22 May 1627 placed John Alden, Priscilla Alden, and their children Elizabeth and John in the fourth lot that “fell to John Howland & his company Joyned to him.” The lot received “one of the 4 heyfers Came in the Jacob Called Raghorne” (Raghorne is a breed of cattle). 
In 1627 they received a grant of land in Duxbury and lived there during the farming season, returning to Plymouth for Sunday worship and the winter season. In 1632 John Alden, Myles Standish, Johnathan Brewster (Elders son), and Thomas Prence asked to be dismissed from Plymouth Church to form the First Church of Duxbury, which was granted. In 1637 Duxbury was recognized as a separate town from Plymouth. The Aldens became permanent residents of Duxbury at this time.
The Move to Duxbury
The colonists began to spread out from Plymouth and settle on the land they had been granted. At first, the families would end to their land during the summer and return to the Plymouth settlement during the winter where they could attend church. The original Alden house in Duxbury was probably begun during the summers and by 1631 the family was staying longer, perhaps the whole year. Bradford and others in Plymouth were worried about losing the families from the original settlement, and in April 1632 John Alden, Capt. Standish, Jonathan Brewster and Thomas Prence signed an agreement promising to bring their families back to Plymouth during the winter. However, as Bradford later wrote, “First those that lived on their lots on the other side of the Bay, called Duxbury, they could not long bring their wives and children to the public worship and church meetings here, but with such burthen as, growing to some competent number, they sued to be dismissed and become a body of themselves,”  thus the Alden family took up permanent residence in Duxbury.
The Alden grant in Duxbury was accessible by water from the bay and up the river, so that the whole length of the farm had water transportation. The Green Harbor Path, running from Plymouth to Marshfield passed along the west end of the farm. The bounds of the farm were described in a document dated 4 December 1637, but recorded in 1681 or later.
This description was amended under the date 1 January 1637/8: 
Alden's Duxbury Houses
The first house built and occupied by John and Priscilla was a long, narrow house with a field stone foundation and a root cellar under the west end. Archeological excavations made in 1960 by Roland Wells Robbins revealed the cellar stones and that the house was about 10 ½ feet in width and 38 feet in length (here the Aldens raised 10 children!). Its size would have been similar to a modern mobile home, although the Alden house would have had a loft or second floor. Evidence at the site of the old house proved that the old house had not burned, as many old stories claimed. It had definitely been moved or dismantled. The dimensions of the old house led Robbins to believe that it had been dismantled and moved up the hill to be incorporated as the kitchen, borning room, and buttery of the existing Alden House, which are exactly the same dimensions. 
The present Alden house was believed to have been built in 1653, a date reputedly found carved in one of the beams or boards of the house. However, recent archeological work indicates the house may have been built sometime in the latter two decades of the 1600s. It is still believed that beams from the original house were used in the construction of the newer one. Further research is being undertaken by the Alden Kindred of America, Inc., which owns and maintains the house. The Alden house remained in the possession of members of the Jonathan2 Alden family until 1892 and was transferred to the Alden Kindred in 1907.
John Alden was on the 1633 list of Plymouth freemen among those admitted prior to 1 Jan 1632/3. The tax list of 25 March 1633 assesses John Alden £1.4s. The highest tax was assessed to Isaac Allerton (£3.11s.). John Alden was assessed the same tax on the 27 March 1634 list (the highest then being Edward Winslow at £2.5s.).
In 1634 a list was made of all colony men able to bear arms (between the ages of 16 and 60). “Mr. John Alden, Sen., John Alden, Jun., and Jos. Alden” were all listed for the town of “Duxborrow.” 
John Alden's Imprisonment in Maine
Also in 1634, John Alden found himself imprisoned in Boston as the results of an incident on the Kennebec River involving parties from the Massachusetts Bay Colony and Plymouth Colony. The Bradford Patent gave Plymouth the right to settle and trade on the Kennebec River. John Howland was in charge of the Plymouth trading post on the river in 1634 when a trading ship from the Piscataqua settlement, under John Hocking, attempted to horn in. After they ignored his warnings to leave, Howland ordered their ship’s mooring lines cut. Hocking shot and killed the man who cut the line, and one of the Plymouth men shot and killed Hocking. John Alden had been in Kennebec bringing supplies to the post at this time, but was not a party to the shootings. However, by the time he returned to Boston, a one-sided version of the news had arrived before him, and as he was the nearest Plymouth Colony representative at hand, Alden was arrested. Captain Myles Standish was dispatched with letters from Thomas Prence, Governor of the Plymouth Colony to straighten out the officials in Boston. Prence was successful in convincing Governor Dudley that they had heard only half of the story, the part about Hocking having killed a man being omitted. Alden was released, but the dispute over trading rights on the Kennebec continued acrimoniously between the two colonies.
Further Records About the Aldens
For a young man hired as a cooper, John Alden soon assumed a place of high responsibility in the Plymouth Colony, serving as an Assistant many times between 1632 and 1640 and 1650 to 1686. He acted as Deputy Governor on two occasions when the Governor was absent. In March 1664/5 and October 1677; was Treasurer for three terms 1656 to 1658; and served on numerous committees and councils of war. This extensive public service indicates that he must have been well educated. Whether he received that education in England or from his fellow Pilgrims such as Winslow and Bradford is not known.
In his later years, John Alden was on many juries, including even a witch trial - -though in Plymouth's case, the jury found the accuser guilty of libel and the alleged witch was allowed to go free. Plymouth Colony only had two witch trials during its history, and in both cases the accuser was found guilty and punished.
31 October 1687
Plymouth County Probate Records 1:10, 16
Mayflower Descendant 3(1901):10-11
[p.10] The Eight day of November 1687 Administration was Granted unto Leiutt Jonathat Alden to Administer upon the Estate of his father Mr John Alden late of Duxbury deceased
An Inventory taken of the Estate of the late deceased Mr John Alden october 31 day 1687
L s d
Neate Cattell sheep Swine & one horse 13 .. ..
one Table one forme one Carpit one Cubert & coubert Cloth .. 15 ..
2 Chaires .. .3 ..
bedsteds Chests 7 boxes .. 15 ..
Andirons pot hookes and hangers .. .8 .6
pots Tongs one quort kettle .. 10 ..
by brass ware .1 11 ..
by 1 ads 1s 6d & saws 7s .. .8 .6
by Augurs and Chisells .. .5 ..
by wedges 4s to Coupers tooles 1L 2s .1 .7 ..
one Carpenters Joynters .. .1 .6
Cart boults Cleavie Exseta .. 13 ..
driping pan & gridirons .. .5 ..
by puter ware 1 pound 12s by Iron 3s .1 15 ..
by 2 old guns .. 11 ..
by Table linen & other linen .1 12 ..
To beding .5 12 ..
one Spitt 1s 6d & baggs 2s .. .3 .6
one mortising axe .. .1 ..
marking Iron a Case of trenchers with other things .. .7 ..
hamen and winch exse .. .2 .6
by one goume and a bitt of linnine Cloth .. .7 ..
by one horse bridle and Saddle liberary and Cash and wearing Clothes 18 .9 ..
by other old lumber .. 15 ..
Before Nathaniel Thomas Esqr Judge of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas the 8th day of November 1687 Leiut Jonathan Alden made oath that this is a true Inventory of the Estate of his father Mr John Alden deseased soe farr as he knoweth & when he knoweth more he will discover the same
Nath11 Thomas Cler.
[p.16] Wee whose names are Subscribed being prsonally Interested in the then Estate of John Alden senior of Duxbury Esqr lately deceased doe hereby acknowlege our selves to have Received Each of us our full Personall proportions thereof from Jonathan Alden administrator & therof Doe by these prsents for our selves our heires &c Exonerate acquitt & Discharge fully the said Jonathan Alden his heires &c for Ever of & from all Rights dues demands whatsoever Relateing to the aforesd Estate In Witness Wereof we have hereunto Subscribed & sealed this thirteenth day of June Ano Dom 1688.
Jacobi 2di 4to
Elexander Standish (Seal) // John Alden (Seal)
in ye Right of my wife // Joseph Alden (Seal)
Sarah deceased // David Alden (Seal)
John Bass (Seal) // Prisilla Alden (Seal)
in ye Right of my wife // William Paybody (Seal)
Mary Alden (Seal)
Thomas Dillano (Seal)
John and Priscilla Alden probably have the largest number of descendants of any Mayflower passenger, but with stiff competition from Richard Warren and John Howland. They are ancestors to Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Vice President Dan Quayle.