John Howland (Mayflower passenger)
Fenstanton, Huntingdonshire, England
|Died||February 23, 1672/3
|Known for||Signing the Mayflower Compact|
John Howland (c. 1591 – February 23, 1672/3) was a passenger on the Mayflower. He was an indentured servant and the executive assistant and personal secretary to Governor John Carver and accompanied the Separatists and other passengers when they left England to settle in Plymouth, Massachusetts. He signed the Mayflower Compact and helped found Plymouth Colony. He fell overboard but was rescued by the sailors.
"At about mid-voyage the ship entered equinoctical gales and under instructions of the ship's master, Governor Carver directed that no one without official authority would go on deck. The ship was in danger and Howland, carrying some emergency message from the governor to the ship's master, was washed overboard.
He signed the first written constitution for a representative government 'of the people, by the people, for the people'. After the passengers came ashore John Howland became assistant to the governor over the new independent state created under the compact. The act of Governor Carver in making a treaty with the great Indian Sachem Massosoit was an exercise of sovereign power and John Howland was the assistant." Source: A brief genealogical and biographical record of Charles Roscoe Howland, brothers, and forebears of Roscoe Howland, p. 14.
John Carver, the first governor of the Plymouth Colony, to whom he was indentured, died in April 1621. In 1626, Howland was a freeman and one of eight settlers who agreed to assume the colony's debt to its investors in England in exchange for a monopoly of the fur trade. He was elected deputy to the General Court in consecutive years from 1641–1655 and again in 1658.
John Howland was born in Fenstanton, Huntingdonshire, England around 1591. He was the son of Margaret and Henry Howland, and the brother of Henry and Arthur Howland, who emigrated later from England to Marshfield, Massachusetts. Although Henry and Arthur Howland were Quakers, John himself held to the original faith of the Puritans.
Speedwell and Mayflower
William Bradford, who was the governor of Plymouth Colony for many years, wrote in Of Plymouth Plantation, that Howland was a man-servant of John Carver. Carver was the deacon of the Separatists church while the group resided in Leiden, Netherlands. At the time the Leiden congregation left the Netherlands, on the Speedwell, Carver was in England securing investments, gathering other potential passengers, and chartering the Mayflower for the journey to North America. John Howland may have accompanied Carver's household from Leiden when the Speedwell left Delfshaven for Southampton, England, July, 1620. Ansel Ames in Mayflower and Her Log, said that Howland was probably kin of Carver's and that he was more likely a steward or a secretary than a servant.
In order to finance the voyage to the New World, the Separatists had investors in England. They also had accepted non-separatists to join them on the journey. These passengers, whom the Separatists referred to as "strangers", made up half of those on the Mayflower.
The Mayflower departed Plymouth, England on September 6/16, 1620. The small, 100-foot ship had 102 passengers and a crew of about 30-40 in extremely cramped conditions. By the second month out, the ship was being buffeted by strong westerly gales, causing the ship‘s timbers to be badly shaken with caulking failing to keep out sea water, and with passengers, even in their berths, lying wet and ill. This, combined with a lack of proper rations and unsanitary conditions for several months, attributed to what would be fatal for many, especially the majority of women and children. On the way there were two deaths, a crew member and a passenger, but the worst was yet to come after arriving at their destination when, in the space of several months, almost half the passengers perished in cold, harsh, unfamiliar New England winter. During the voyage there was a turbulent storm during which John Howland fell overboard. He managed to grab a topsail halyard that was trailing in the water and was hauled back aboard safely. Mike Haywood's painting, "Pilgrim Overboard," depicts John Howland's near-death experience: http://www.mikehaywoodart.co.uk/webrescue.html.
On November 9/19, 1620, after about three months at sea, including a month of delays in England, they spotted land, which was the Cape Cod Hook, now called Provincetown Harbor. And after several days of trying to get south to their planned destination of the Colony of Virginia, strong winter seas forced them to return to the harbor at Cape Cod hook, where they anchored on November 11/21. On November 11, 1620, the Mayflower Compact was signed. John Howland was the thirteenth of the 41 "principal" men to sign.
In Plymouth Colony
The first winter in North America proved deadly for the Pilgrims as half their number perished. The Carver family with whom John lived, survived the winter of 1620-21. However, the following spring, on an unusually hot day in April, Governor Carver, according to William Bradford, came out of his cornfield feeling ill. He passed into a coma and "never spake more". His wife, Kathrine, died soon after her husband. The Carvers' only children died while they lived in Leiden and it is possible that Howland inherited their estate. After Carver's death, he became a freeman. In 1624 he was considered the head of what was once the Carver household when he was granted an acre for each member of the household including himself, Elizabeth Tilley, Desire Minter, and a boy named William Latham.
With the death of Carver, to whom he was indentured, Howland became a freeman in 1621. Over the next several years, he served at various times as selectman, assistant and deputy governor, surveyor of highways, and as member of the fur committee. In 1626, he was asked to participate in assuming the colony's debt to its investors to enable the colony to pursue its own goals without the pressure to remit profits back to England. The "undertakers" paid the investers £1,800 to relinquish their claims on the land, and £2,400 for other debt. In return the group acquired a monopoly on the colony's fur trade for six years.
Howland accompanied Edward Winslow in the exploration of Kennebec River (in current day Maine), looking for possible fur trading sites and natural resources that the colony could exploit. He also led a team of men that built and operated a fur trading post there. While Howland was in charge of the colony's northerly trading post, an incident occurred there that Bradford described as "one of the saddest things that befell them." A group of traders from Piscataqua (present day Portsmouth, New Hampshire) led by a man named John Hocking, encroached on the trading ground granted to Plymouth by a patent, by sailing their bark up the river beyond their post. Howland warned Hocking to depart, but Hocking, brandishing a pistol and using foul language, refused. Howland ordered his men to approach the bark in a canoe and cut its cables setting it adrift. The Plymouth men managed to cut one cable when Hocking put his pistol to the head of Moses Talbot, one of Howland's men, and shot and killed him. Another of the Howland group shot Hocking to death in response.
In Plymouth the Howlands lived on the north side of Leyden Street. They lived for a short time in Duxbury and then moved to Kingston where they had a farm on a piece of land referred to as Rocky Nook. The farm burned down in 1675 during King Philip's War. By that time, John had died and Elizabeth moved in with her son, Jabez.
Before moving to Rhode Island, Jabez Howland owned a home in Plymouth at 33 Sandwich Street. The house was built by Jacob Mitchell about 1667 and was sold to Jabez Howland. John and Elizabeth had wintered in the house, and Elizabeth lived there from 1675, when the Rocky Nook farm was burned down, until Jabez sold it in 1680. It is the only house standing in Plymouth in which Mayflower passengers lived.
Until Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation was discovered in 1856, it was presumed that John Howland's wife, formerly Elizabeth Tilley, was the adopted daughter of the Carvers. (Her parents, uncle and aunt who came to the New World died of sickness during the first winter.) This mistake was even recorded on a gravestone that was erected for Howland on Burial Hill, in 1836. However, the Bradford journal revealed that she was, in fact, the daughter of John Tilley and his wife, Joan (Hurst). Elizabeth Tilley Howland was born in Henlow, Bedfordshire, England where she was baptized in August, 1607. She and her parents were passengers on the Mayflower. John Tilley and his wife Joan both died the first winter as did his brother Edward Tilley and wife Ann. This left Elizabeth an orphan and so she was taken in by the Carver family. The Carvers died about a year later, and part of their estate was inherited by their servant, John Howland, and Elizabeth became his ward. In 1623/24, she married John Howland. At that time she was about 16 years of age while he was about 30.
- Desire was born about 1624 and died in Barnstable October 13, 1683. She married John Gorham in Plymouth by 1644 and had eleven children. She was buried at Cobb’s Hill Cemetery, Barnstable, Mass.
- John was born in Plymouth on February 24, 1626/7 and died in Barnstable after June 18, 1699. He married Mary Lee in Plymouth on October 26, 1651 and had ten children.
- Hope was born in Plymouth about 1629 and died in Barnstable on January 8, 1683. She married John Chipman about 1647 and had twelve children. She was buried at Lothrop Hill Cemetery, Barnstable, Mass.
- Elizabeth was born about 1631 and died in Oyster Bay, New York in October 1683.
- Elizabeth married:
- Ephraim Hicks on September 13, 1649. He died on December 12, 1649.
- John Dickerson in Plymouth on July 10, 1651 and had nine children.
- Lydia was born about 1633 and died in Swansea January, 1710/11. She married James Brown(e) about 1655 and had four children.
- Hannah was born about 1637. She married Jonathan Bosworth in Swansea on July 6, 1661 and had nine children.
- Joseph was born about 1640 and died in Plymouth in January 1703/04. He married Elizabeth Southworth in Plymouth on December 7, 1664 and had nine children.
- Jabez was born about 1644 and died before February 21, 1711/12. He married Bethiah Thatcher by 1669 and had eleven children.
- Ruth was born about 1646 and died before October 1679. She married Thomas Cushman in Plymouth on November 17, 1664 and had three children.
- Isaac was born in Plymouth on November 15, 1649 and died in Middleboro on March 9, 1723/4. He married Elizabeth Vaughn by 1677 and had eight children. He was buried at Cemetery At The Green, Middleboro, Mass.
Death and burial of John Howland and his wife Elizabeth
John Howland died February 23, 1672/3 at the age of 80, having outlived all other male Mayflower passengers except John Cooke, son of Mayflower passenger Francis Cooke. John Cooke died in 1695. He is presumed to be buried on Burial Hill in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Elizabeth Tilley outlived her husband by 15 years. She died December 21, 1687, in the home of her daughter, Lydia Brown, in Swansea, Massachusetts, and is buried in a section of that town which is now in East Providence, RI.
His wife, the former Elizabeth Tilley, died in Swansea on December 22, 1687 at the home of her daughter Lydia. John Howland was buried at Burial Hill in Plymouth. Elizabeth was buried at Ancient Little Neck Cemetery, E. Providence, RI.
|Ancestors of John Howland (Mayflower passenger)|
Howland and wife, fellow Mayflower passenger Elizabeth Tilley had ten children and 88 grandchildren.
John and Elizabeth Howland's direct descendants include notable figures such as:
- Philbrick, Nathaniel (2006). Mayflower: a story of courage, community, and war. New York: Viking. pp. 32–37.
- William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647, ed. by Samuel Eliot Morison, The Modern Library, (New York: Random House, 1967),pp. 59, 68, 195, 263, 400-3, 415-417
- Philbrick. Pg. 102
- Philbrick, Pg. 168
- Hurd, Duane (1884). History of Plymouth County, Massachusetts. J. W. Lewis & Co. p. 103.
- Roser, Susan E. (1997). Mayflower Increasing. Genealogical Publishing Company. p. 68.
- Pilgrim Hall Museum 
- Pilgrim John Howland Society (1911). The Howland Homestead. Society of the Descendants of Pilgrim John Howland, of the Ship Mayflower. pp. 7–8.
- Ames, Ansel (2008). Mayflower and Her Log. BiblioBazaar. p. 36.
- Eugene Aubrey Stratton, Plymouth Colony: Its History and People, 1620-1691, (Salt Lake City: Ancestry Publishing, 1986), p. 413
- George Ernest Bowman, The Mayflower Compact and its signers, (Boston: Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1920). Photocopies of the 1622, 1646 and 1669 versions of the document pp. 7-19.
- Marble, Anne Russell (1920). The women who came in the Mayflower. Pilgrim Press. pp. 85–88.
- Stone. Pg. 7
- Bradford, William, Of Plymouth Plantation, Edited by Harold Paget. (E.P. Dutton & Company. 1920), Pg. 253-256
- Hurd. Pg. 357
- Beaudry, Mary C. (1993). Documentary Archeology in the New World. Cambridge University Press. p. 86.
- "The Jabez Howland house". The Pilgrim John Howland Society. Retrieved October 4, 2010.
- Caleb H. Johnson, The Mayflower and Her Passengers, (Indiana: Xlibris Corp., 2006), pp. 237-238
- Charles Edward Banks, The English Ancestry and Homes of the Pilgrim Fathers (New York: Grafton Press, 1929), p. 87
- A genealogical profile of John Howland, (a collaboration of Plimoth Plantation and New England Historic Genealogical Society accessed 2013) /
- Robert Anderson, Pilgrim Village Families Sketch: John Howland (a collaboration between American Ancestors and New England Historic Genealogical Society)/
- Memorial of John Howland /
- "Elizabeth Tilley Howland". The Pilgrim John Howland Society.
- Memorial for Elizabeth Tilley
- Register of Members: Philadelphia Society of Mayflower Descendants in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 1996, p. 57.
- William Stocking and Gordon K. Miller. "The city of Detroit, Michigan, 1701-1922, Volume 5, pg 562-563". Google Books.
- Pilgrim John Howland Society
- Howland Family Tree 1
- Howland Family Tree 2
- Howland Family Tree 3
- Pilgrim Hall Museum