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TWELVE GOING ON TWENTY (A True Story of William Bradford) by Aunt Carolyn


(Taken from Wally the Wallaby and other short stories as told by "Aunt Carolyn")

 “Austerfield!” chanted one young fellow.

 “No, it’s Ousterfield!” taunted another.

 “Ah, plain Osterfield, it is!”

The scoffing boys threw their taunts at young William Bradford as he passed. Although the sickly boy ignored them, the jeers continued relentlessly.

“Ousterfield, Osterfield — who knows where the poor orphan was born?”

“Why, in Yorkshire, don’t you know?”

“Yorkshire? Of course! Yorkshire Pudding!” The insults continued.

“Yorkshire Pudding to be sure? Where else would such a pious fanatic come from?” And the taunting boys laughed rudely as they ran away.

Old Madam Winston raised up from cultivating her herb garden and peered over the picket fence at her neighbor. “’Tis a shame the way the boys mock the Bradford boy.”

“Aye, this is not an easy day in which we live. All the revolting against the Church of England is enough to threaten the throne itself! For my part, I will stay by the church regardless of what they say,” agreed Dame Percival. She confirmed her oath with a firm stamp of her hoe in the soft dirt of her flowerbed.

“And well you may, but methinks there is something to what the Separatists espouse. Bradford has joined the ranks of the dissenters to be sure. He has a head full of ideas — he and that Brewster, who seems to have taken him under his wing.”

“Tis a wonder they have become such fast friends, Brewster being so much older than William, but since they got a hold of copies of the Holy Bible printed in English they find every occasion to study, discuss, exhort, and preach. Young William has earned the reproach he receives along with the others who persist in meeting at Scrooby.”

“Well, he comes from good stock,” Madam Winston continued thoughtfully. “His father, Robert Bradford, was an upstanding, respected yeoman of Austerfield, aye, one class next to the queen’s gentry. He owned and farmed broad, rich English acres. When William was born it seemed good prospects for a life of opportunity, wealth, and prestige lay ahead for him.”

“You say so,” replied Dame Percival, "but methinks fate has taken a different turn to look at him now.”

“Ah, one heartache after another has fallen upon the child. His dear father died when William was only a babe of one year. He was left alone with his mother. One would think he might still have had a stable childhood, but, dearie, would you believe in just three years she married again and packed little Will off to live with his grandfather and namesake, William Bradford?”

Dame Percival shook her head sadly and replied, “Tsk-tsk, what a shame, but I suppose his grandfather loved him.”

“Indeed, but the poor man himself passed on in just three years, and once again the lad was left orphaned. He had a good inheritance, but, of course, a boy of seven could not be left to himself. Alas, his uncles were pressed to take responsibility for him. They have taught him to work in the fields and to keep the herds. They have trained him well in husbandry.”

“Well that is good. He can make a good living and be a respectable citizen.”

“Oh, indeed. There is nothing lacking in his ability, but since he has become one of the separatists even his uncles rebuke him sternly and warn him of the shame, poverty, and reproach they see resulting from his stand. Yes, dearie, I fear boisterous, laughter-loving Merrie Old England has not proved very merry for William and the small group, who are becoming more outspoken and bold in these beliefs of theirs — that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and that they need neither the Pope nor the Bishop to interpret it but may themselves be taught by the Holy Spirit.”

“Oh, The Book, The Book! That’s all they seem to want to know,” declared Dame Percival with wide eyes. “I was told that by the time William was twelve years of age he was deep in the Scripture, wanted only those of like faith for his companions, and would walk eight miles to hear the preaching.”

All the old English dames said about William was true. In spite of his difficult childhood, a fate that would have defeated many youngsters and made them either weak and dependent or rough and rebellious, William Bradford trusted Christ, determined to live by the Word of God, and chose to be counted with those who put their lives on the line for His cause. As a young boy he dedicated his life to Christ and never turned back. Only eternity will tell the full impact of his life, testimony, and dedication to the cause of Christ and the spread of the Gospel.

Boys and girls who read this story may also give their lives to Christ to live for Him and do his will. Do not wait until you are older. Do not let precious years be wasted. Make your life count for Him now.

Note these contrasts in famous people’s lives:

At age twelve, Jesus said,”...I must be about my Father’s business” (Luke 2:49). Later He said, “I must work the works of Him that sent me” (John 9:4). And, “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34).

By age twelve William Bradford, Pilgrim Founding Father, had set his heart on Christ, counted the cost, and by God’s grace determined to serve the Lord and obey God’s Word completely at any price. By age seventeen, he was carrying a man-size responsibility with the people of God. At great personal sacrifice, he left us a Christian legacy of great spiritual blessing and national pride.

 In contrast by age twelve, Horace Mann, acclaimed the Father of Public Education, renounced the claims of Jesus Christ upon his life and vehemently rejected the authority of the Scriptures. Throughout his life, he promoted the shameful blight of evolution, humanism, and unbelief upon American children and died lonely and despondent.

 How old are you? Don’t put off responsibility thinking there is magic in age 18 or 21, that you will then decide what you will do with your life. Repent of your sins, and trust Christ as your Savior today. “To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart” (Psalm 95:7-8). Then stand with and for God according to His Word. Put your life on the line for Christ while you are still young.

We praise God for leading the Pilgrims in the founding of our great nation, and we commemorate the great sacrifice they made. William Bradford and other stalwart founding fathers gave their all to the cause of Christ and the gospel. It is now your time to take up the cause and lift high the banner of the Cross.



Brown, John, The Pilgrim Fathers of New England, Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Pub., 1970

Willison, George F., Saints and Strangers, New York, NY; Reynal and Hitchcock, 1945.

Mann, Mary, Life of Horace Mann, New York: Lee and Shepard, Pub., 1865

(Taken from Wally the Wallaby and other short stories as told by "Aunt Carolyn")


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