John Howland

John HOWLAND (c. 1591 – 1673) was one of the Pilgrims who traveled  on the Mayflower, signed the Mayflower Compact, and helped found Plymouth Colony. John was Alex’s 11th Great Grandfather two ways; two of 4,096 in this generation of the Shaw line.  His daughters Desire and Hope both married into the Gorham line. A third daughter Ruth married Thomas CUSHMAN, but we descend from Thomas’ first wife.

John Howland – Coat of Arms Granted in 1584 by Queen Elizabeth, beginning with Bishop Howland

John Howland was born around 1591 in  Fenstanton, Huntingdonshire, England.  His parents were Henry HOWLAND and Margaret AIRES. At the age of 28, he was employed by John Carver, a Puritan minister who joined with William Bradford in bringing his congregation from Leiden, Netherlands to the New World.  Howland, while formally a servant, was in fact Carver’s assistant in managing the migration.   In 1623/24, John married Elizabeth TILLEY by then a young woman of seventeen, (ten years Howland’s junior).   John died 23 Feb 1672/73  in Plymouth, Mass  and was “with honour interred” on Burial Hill. This was accorded only to the leaders of the Colony, and meant that a squad of soldiers fired a volley over his grave. He is described in the records as a “godly man and an ardent professor in the ways of Christ.” The obituary for John Howland is a part of the Plymouth Colony Records.

“The 23th of February Mr. John Howland Senir of the Towne of Plymouth Deceased…Hee lived untilhee attained about eighty yeares in the world…and was the last man that was left of those that Came over in the shipp Called the May Flower, that lived in Plymouth hee was with honor Intered att the Towne of Plymout on the 25th of February 1672.”

John Howland Memorial on Burial Hill in Plymouth Mass.

Elizabeth Tilley was born 30 Aug 1607 in Henlow, Bedfordshire, England.  She was the daughter of John TILLEY and his wife Joan HURST Rogers. Her parents had died the first winter and she had become the foster daughter of Governor Carver and his wife who were childless Elizabeth spent her declining years and died 21 Dec 1687 at the age of eighty in the home of her daughter Lydia Brown, in Swansea. Elizabeth is buried in East Providence, Rhode Island, with a memorial marker.

The Tilley Memorial shown here was erected at St. Mary’s Church , Henlow by the Pilgrim Howland Society. The plaque is made from Welsh slate and was dedicated at the Parish Eucharist by the then Lord Bishop of St. Albans, the Right Reverend John Taylor.

Children of John and Elizabeth

Name Born Married Departed
1. Desire HOWLAND 13 Oct 1623
Plymouth Colony
13 Dec 1683
Barnstable, Mass
2. John Howland 24 Feb 1626/27
Mary Lee
26 Oct 1651
Barnstable, Barnstable, Mass.
3. Hope HOWLAND 30 Aug 1629
13 Sep 1646
12 Jun 1724
4. Elizabeth Howland Feb 1632/33
Ephraim Hicks
13 Sep 1649
John Dickerson
10 Jul 1651 Plymouth
26 Jan 1682/83
Oyster Bay, Long Island, NY
5. Lydia Howland Feb 1634/35
James Brown
(Son of our ancestor John BROWNE Sr.
Rehoboth, Bristol, Mass
11 Jan 1709/10
Swansea, Bristol, Mass
6. Ruth Howland 16 Sep 1637
Scituate, Mass
17 Nov 1664
(our ancestors are from Thomas’s 2nd wife Abigail)
7. Joseph Howland ca. 1638
Elizabeth Southworth
7 Dec 1664
1 Jan 1703/04
8. Hannah Howland 1640
Jonathan Bosworth
6 Jul 1661
Swansea, Mass.
9. Jabez Howland ca.  1644
Bethia Thatcher
7 Apr 1708
Bristol, RI
10. Isaac Howland 16 Nov 1649
Kingston, Mass.
Elizabeth Vaughn
ca. 1677
Middleboro, Plymouth, Mass
9 Mar 1723/24
Middleboro, Plymouth, Mass

John Howland was one of the signers of the Mayflower Compact

Although he had arrived on the Mayfloweras a servant to the Carver family, Howland was a young man determined to make his mark in the new world, arriving as neither a “saint” as the Pilgrims termed themselves, nor a “stranger” as those passengers recruited by the Mayflower’s Merchant Adventurers were called. The arduous voyage very nearly ended his life as he was thrown overboard in turbulent seas, but managed to grab a topsail halyard that was trailing in the water and was hauled back aboard safely.  The following account describing this incidence was written by William Bradford, political leader of the Pilgrim Colony:

“In sundry of these storms the winds were so fierce and the seas so high, as they could not bear a knot of sail, but were forced to hull for divers days together. And in one of them, as they thus lay at hull in a mighty storm, a lusty young man called John Howland, coming upon some occasion above the gratings was, with a seele of the ship, thrown into the sea; but it pleased God that he caught hold of the topsail halyards which hung overboard and ran out at length. Yet he held his hold (though he was sundry fathoms under water) till he was hauled up by the same rope to the brim of the water, and then with boat hook and other means got into the ship again and his life saved. And though he was something ill with it, yet he lived many years after and became a profitable member both in church and commonwealth.”

John Howland was pitched overboard. Painting by Mike Haywood

The Mayflower was originally bound for the mouth of the Hudson River, in land granted in a patent from the Crown to the London Virginia Company. Storms during the crossing, including the one that blew Howland overboard, caused the Mayflower to land farther north, in what is now Massachusetts. This inspired some of the “strangers” to proclaim that since the settlement would not be made in the agreed-upon Virginia territory, they “would use their own liberty; for none had power to command them….” To prevent this, many of the other colonists decided to establish a government and memorialized the event with the drafting of the Mayflower Compact, of which Howland was the 13th of the 41 signers.

The Carver family with whom John lived, survived the terrible sickness of the first winter, during which many Pilgrims died. But 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 had no children. For this reason, Howland is thought to have inherited their estate.  It has been said that he immediately “bought his freedom,” but no record has survived.

Our ancestors or their close relatives had almost half the lots in early Plymouth – (George Soule was the grandfather of John TOMSON’s son-in-law, not close enough to get a #)

Our ancestors or their close relatives had almost half the lots in early Plymouth – (George Soule was the grandfather of John TOMSON’s son-in-law, not close enough to get a #)

1620 – John was in the “First Encounter” with the Indians at Great Meadow Creek, three days before the landing of the Pilgrims.

1623 –  John and Elizabeth Tilley were married, when Elizabeth was not quite 16 years of age.

1624 -By then he had prospered enough to also bring his brothers Arthur and Henry to the colony as well, solidly establishing the Howland family in the New World.

1625 –   Howland joined with Edward Winslow exploring the Kennebec River, looking for possible trading sites and natural resources that the colony could exploit. The year after that he was asked to participate in buying out the businessmen who had bankrolled the settlement of Plymouth (“Merchant Adventurers” was the term used at the time) so the colony could pursue its own goals without the pressure to remit profits back to England. The amount totaled £1,800 to relinquish their claims on the land, and the group also assumed the colony’s debts of £2,400 more. In return the group, known as undertakers had a monopoly on the colony’s trade for six years.

1626 – A group of colonists assumed the debt owed to the Merchant Adventurers of London who had backed the Pilgrims financially. To pay off the loan, a monopoly over the Colony’s trade was given William Bradford, Isaac Allerton and Myles Standish, who chose Howland as one of their partners.

1626 – Isaac ALLERTON negotiated a patent that granted Plymouth the exclusive right to trade with the Indians and to establish a trading station on the Kennebec River. In 1627 Governor Bradford placed John Howland in charge  and a brisk trade developed there with the Indians. John’s family may have spent time with him in Maine, and some of his children may have been born there.

1627 – In the division of Cattle agreement, John Howland acquired twenty acres for each member of his household. In addition, the colonists were organized in “companies” of thirteen members each. The livestock of the colony was divided equally among the companies. Listed in John’s “company” were John and Elizabeth and their two children, John and Priscilla Alden and their two children, and five unattached men.

1628 -Howland was elevated to the post of Assistant Governor.

In 1628 a trading station was built at Cushnoc (now called Augusta) on the east side of the Kennebec River. A year later, a permanent log-house was built, and Howland, then Assistant Governor, was asked to manage the trading station. For approximately seven years John Howland was in charge of the station. It is not known if Elizabeth and their family of three children lived at the station permanently or for short periods of time. During the time that John operated the station Elizabeth gave birth to three more children, but it is not known whether she gave birth while she was living at the trading station or in Plymouth.

The trading station in Cushnoc was very successful. The Pilgrims traded corn and manufactured goods with the Indians for beaver, otter and other furs. The proceeds of this trade enabled the Undertakers to settle their debts with the Merchant Adventurers. .

1633 –  Howland, then thirty-four, was admitted as a freeman of Plymouth. For nearly forty years, John Howland was actively involved in the governance of Plymouth through elected or appointed positions, viz. one of the seven Plymouth Assistant Governors—1632-35, 1638-39; one of the four Plymouth Deputies to the General Court for nearly thirty years—1641, 1645, 1647-56, 1658, 1659, 1661-68, 1670; one of the five selectmen of Plymouth—1665-66; one of the Plymouth Assessors—1641, 1644, 1647-51; committee on fur trading—1659; surveyor of highways—1650.

Elizabeth Howland Reenactor —  A group of Plymouth tourists asked Elizabeth Howland if she regretted coming to the new world, after all most every person had lost at least one family member.  To this she responded, “To regret is to doubt God’s will; therefore, I have no regrets.”

1634 –  In command of Kennebec Trading Post in Maine.  John Howland and John Alden were the magistrates in authority there.

In 1637 John received forty acres of land, and in 1639 he was given a choice of additional land for himself or his heirs around Yarmouth, Dartmouth and Rehoboth. John and Elizabeth became major landholders in Plymouth and the surrounding towns. Part of the land he chose was in Yarmouth, which he gave to his son John and daughters Desire and hope and their respective families. In 1639 John purchased land and a house in Rocky Nook, where he spent the rest of his life. Also living in Rocky Nook were Thomas CUSHMAN Sr. and Mary ALLERTON  and their family.

By 1643 a colony in Piscataqua at the mouth of the Kennebec River under the control of London investors, agents of Lord Say and Seal and Lord Brooke, attempted to trade with Indians on the Kennebec River. Howland and men from Plymouth told the Piscataqua men under the command of John Hocking to leave since they were trespassing and the patent granted Plymouth exclusive trading rights.

The Elizabeth Tilley, a replica built for the Pilgrim John Howland Society of the 1628 shallop John Howland sailed in to the trading post in Maine. It is under its own power on the way to Clark’s Island from Plymouth Harbor.

After the ill fated Little James was sent back to England in 1625 with its hold full of trade goods, the colonists were left with the two shallops that the boat builder had built the previous year. One of the shallops was used in an attempt to generate revenue for the colony. They laid a little deck over the midships section to protect a cargo of corn, and Edward Winslow, among others, used it for a successful trading voyage to the Kennebec.

Even with the little deck on the shallop, the colonists felt they ran a great hazard in traveling such a long way in basically an open boat. They realized the need for a larger vessel to safely continue trading in Maine. But as the boat builder had died the previous year, it was left to a house carpenter, who had worked with the boat builder, to attempt to modify one of their shallops. The house carpenter “took one of the biggest of their shallops and sawed her in the middle, and so built her up and laid a deck on her.” This vessel, Bradford reports, provided good service to the colony for seven years.

One April day John Howland found John Hocking riding at anchor within the area claimed by Plymouth. Hocking was from the nearby Piscataqua Plantation. Howland went up to him in their “barke” and asked Hocking to weigh anchors and depart.  Apparently Hocking used some strong language and the two exchanged some words not recorded, but the result of the conversation was that Hocking would not leave and Howland would not let him stay. Howland then sent three of his men—John Irish, Thomas Savory and William Rennoles [son of our ancestor William REYNOLDS] — to cut the cables of Hocking’s boat. They severed one but the strong current prevented them from cutting the other cable so Howland called them back and ordered Moses Talbott to go with them.

The four men were able to maneuver their canoe to the other cable, but Hocking was waiting on deck armed with a carbine and a pistol in his hand. He aimed first at Savory and then as the canoe swished about he put his gun almost to Talbott’s head. Seeing this, Howland called to Hocking not to shoot his man but to “take himself as his mark.” Saying his men were only doing what he had ordered them to do. If any wrong was being done it was he that did it, Howland shouted. Howland called again for Hocking to aim at him.

Hocking, however, would not even look at Howland and shortly afterwards Hocking shot Talbott in the head and then took up his pistol intending to shoot another of Howland’s men. Bradford continues the story in his history of Plymouth:  Howland’s men were angered and naturally feared for their lives so one of the fellows in the canoe raised his musket and shot Hocking “who fell down dead and never spake word.”  The surviving poachers must have skedaddled for home where they soon wrote to the bigwigs in England but failed to tell the whole truth including the fact that Hocking had killed a Plymouth man first. The lords “were much offended” and must have made known their anger.

The Hocking affair did have severe international implications. Colonists feared that King Charles might use it as an excuse for sending over a royal governor to rule all New England. This was a real threat for early in 1634 the king had created a Commission for Regulating Plantations with power to legislate in both civil and religious matters and even to revoke charters.  Not long after the killings Plymouth sent a ship into the territory of Massachusetts Bay and authorities there quickly seized John Alden who was aboard the ship. Alden was imprisoned although he had no direct part in the Kennebec tragedy. When Alden was jailed Plymouth was quite obviously upset for Massachusetts Bay had no jurisdiction over the Kennebec area or over citizens of Plymouth. This was not of their business. Plymouth dispatched Capt. Myles Standish to Boston to present letters explaining the situation and Gov. Thomas Dudley quickly freed Alden, and after a later court hearing all blame was laid to Hocking. The matter was settled.

1638/39 – Bought the Rocky Nook farm

1637, 1639-52 – John served as Selectman, in the General court of Plymouth.

1652, 1659, 1661-1668 and 1670 – John served as Deputy in the Plymouth General Court,

1672/3 – John Howland died in the Plymouth home of his son.  The bond of administration of John Howland’s estate. This bond is dated 5 March, 1672, and bears the autograph signatures of Elizabeth (Tilley) Howland, who was the executrix of her late husband’s will, and of two of her sons-in-law, John CHIPMAN and John GORHAM , who became her sureties. It also bears autograph signatures of Lt. Ephraim MORTON and William Crow, the two witnesses.

This authograph of Elizabeth (Tilley) Howland is believed to be the only one yet discovered, and we are not aware that it has been noticed by previous writers. it is interesting to note that Elizabeth Howland made ‘her mark’ on this bond by printing her initials, and that, thirteen years later, she signed her will in the same way. [Ante, III: 56.] ”

ca. 1675 – The Rocky Nook Farm house burned to the ground. Elizabeth makes her home with Jabez’ family.

1680/81 – Jabez sells the Plymouth house. Elizabeth signed the deed and moved to Swansea to live with her daughter, Lydia Brown.

1687 – Elizabeth Tilley Howland died and was buried in the Brown Family plot.

Howland served at various times as Assistant Governor, Surveyor of Highways and member of the Fur Committee.

Last Will and Testament of John Howland 1672

Know all men to whom these prsents shall Come That I John howland senir of the Towne of New Plymouth in the Collonie of New Plymouth in New England in America, this twenty ninth Day of May one thousand six hundred seaventy and two being of whole mind, and in Good and prfect memory and Remembrance praised be God; being now Grown aged; haveing many Infeirmities of body upon mee; and not Knowing how soon God will call mee out of this world, Doe make and ordaine these prsents to be my Testament Containing herein my last Will in manor and forme following;

Imp I Will and bequeath my body to the Dust and my soule to God that Gave it in hopes of a Joyfull Resurrection unto Glory; and as Concerning my temporall estate, I Dispose thereof as followeth;

Item I Doe give and bequeath unto John howland my eldest sonne besides what lands I have alreddy given him, all my Right and Interest To that one hundred acres of land graunted mee by the Court lying on the eastern side of Tauton River; between Teticutt and Taunton bounds and all the appurtenances and privilidges Therunto belonging, T belonge to him and his heirs and assignes for ever; and if that Tract should faile, then to have all my Right title and Interest by and in that Last Court graunt to mee in any other place, To belonge to him his heires and assignes for ever;

Item I give and bequeath unto my son Jabez howland all those my upland and Meadow That I now posesse at Satuckett and Paomett, and places adjacent, with all the appurtenances and privilidges, belonging therunto, and all my right title and Interest therin, To belonge to him his heires and assignes for ever,

Item I Give and bequeath unto my son Jabez howland all that my one peece of land that I have lying on the southsyde of the Mill brooke, in the Towne of Plymouth aforsaid; be it more or lesse; and is on the Northsyde of a feild that is now Gyles Rickards senir To belonge to the said Jabez his heirs and assignes for ever;

Item I give and bequeath unto Isacke howland my youngest sonne all those my uplands and meddows Devided and undivided with all the appurtenances and priviliges unto them belonging, lying and being in the Towne of Middlebery, and in a tract of Land Called the Majors Purchase near Namassakett Ponds; which I have bought and purchased of William White of Marshfeild in the Collonie of New Plymouth; which may or shall appeer by any Deed or writinges Together with the aformentioned prticulares To belonge to the said Isacke his heirs and assignes for ever;

Item I give and bequeath unto my said son Isacke howland the one halfe of my twelve acree lott of Meddow That I now have att Winnatucsett River within the Towne of Plymouth aforsaid To belonge to him and said Isacke howland his heires and assignes for ever,

Item I Will and bequeath unto my Deare and loveing wife Elizabeth howland the use and benifitt of my now Dwelling house in Rockey nooke in the Township of Plymouth aforsaid, with the outhousing lands, That is uplands uplands [sic] and meddow lands and all appurtenances and privilidges therunto belonging in the Towne of Plymouth and all other Lands housing and meddowes that I have in the said Towne of Plymouth excepting what meddow and upland I have before given To my sonnes Jabez and Isacke howland During her naturall life to Injoy make use of and Improve for her benifitt and Comfort;

Item I give and bequeath unto my son Joseph howland after the Decease of my loveing wife Elizabeth howland my aforsaid Dwelling house att Rockey nooke together with all the outhousing uplands and Medowes appurtenances and privilidges belonging therunto; and all other housing uplands and meddowes appurtenances and privilidges That I have within the aforsaid Towne of New Plymouth excepting what lands and meadowes I have before Given To my two sonnes Jabez and Isacke; To belong to him the said Joseph howland To him and his heires and assignes for ever;

Item I give and bequeath unto my Daughter Desire Gorum twenty shillings

Item I give and bequeath To my Daughter hope Chipman twenty shillings

Item I give and bequeath unto my Daughter Elizabeth Dickenson twenty shillings

Item I give and bequeath unto my Daughter Lydia Browne twenty shillings

Item I give & bequeath to my Daughter hannah Bosworth twenty shillings

Item I give and bequeath unto my Daughter Ruth Cushman twenty shillings

Item I give to my Grandchild Elizabeth howland The Daughter of my son John howland twenty shillings

Item my will is That these legacyes Given to my Daughters, be payed by my exequitrix in such species as shee thinketh meet;

Item I will and bequeath unto my loveing wife Elizabeth howland, my Debts and legacyes being first payed my whole estate: vis: lands houses goods Chattles; or any thing else that belongeth or appertaineth unto mee, undisposed of be it either in Plymouth Duxburrow or Middlbery or any other place whatsoever; I Doe freely and absolutly give and bequeath it all to my Deare and loveing wife Elizabeth howland whom I Doe by these prsents, make ordaine and Constitute to be the sole exequitrix of this my Last will and Testament to see the same truely and faithfully prformed according to the tenour therof; In witness whereof I the said John howland senir have heerunto sett my hand and seale the aforsaid twenty ninth Day of May, one thousand six hundred seaventy and two 1672

Signed and sealed in the prsence of Samuel ffuller John Howland

William Crow And a seale

Last Will and Testament of Elizabeth Howland 1686

In ye Name of God Amen I Elizabeth Howland of Swanzey in ye County of Bristoll in ye Collony of Plymouth in New Engld being Seventy nine yeares of Age but of good & perfect memory thanks be to Allmighty God & calling to Remembrance ye uncertain Estate of this transitory Life & that all fflesh must Yeild unto Death when it shall please God to call Doe make constitute & ordaine & Declare This my last Will & Testament, in manner & forme following Revoking and Anulling by these prsents all & every Testamt & Testamts Will & Wills heretofore by me made & declared either by Word or Writing And this to be taken only for my last Will & Testament & none other.

And first being penitent & sorry from ye bottom of my heart for all my sinns past most humbly desiring forgivenesse for ye same I give & Committ my soule unto Allmighty God my Savior & redeemer in whome & by ye meritts of Jesus Christ I trust & believe assuredly to be saved & to have full remission & forgivenesse of all my sins & that my Soule wt my Body at the generall Day of Resurrection shall rise againe wt Joy & through ye meritts of Christs Death & passion possesse & inheritt ye Kingdome of heaven prepared for his Elect & Chosen & my Body to be buryed in such place where it shall please my Executrs hereafter named to appoint

And now for ye settling my temporall Estate & such goodes Chattells & Debts as it hath pleased God far above my Deserts to bestow upon me I Do Dispose order & give ye same in manner & forme following (That is to say)

First that after my funerall Expences & Debts paid wc I owe either of right or in Conscience to any manner of person or persons whatsoever in Convenient tyme after my Decease by my Execrs hereafter named I Give & bequeath unto my Eldest Son John Howland ye sum of five pounds to be paid out of my Estate & my Booke called Mr Tindale’s Workes & also one pair of sheetes & one pr of pillowbeeres & one pr of Bedblanketts,

Item I give unto my son Joseph Howland my Stillyards & also one pr of sheetes & one pr of pillobeeres

Item I give unto my son Jabez Howland my ffetherbed & boulster yt is in his Custody & also one Rugg & two Blanketts yt belongeth to ye said Bed & also my great Iron pott & potthookes

Item I give unto my son Isaack Howland my Booke called Willson on ye Romanes & one pr of sheetes & one paire of pillowbeeres & also my great Brasse Kettle already in his possession

Item I give unto my Son in Law Mr James Browne my great Bible

Item I give & bequeath unto my Daughter Lidia Browne my best ffeatherbed & Boulster two pillowes & three Blanketts & a green Rugg & my small Cupboard one pr of AndyIrons & my lesser brasse Kettle & my small Bible & my booke of mr Robbinsons Workes called Observations Divine & Morrall & allso my finest pr of Sheetes & my holland pillowbeeres,

Item I give unto my Daughter Elisabeth Dickenson one pr of Sheetes & one pr of pillowbeeres & one Chest

Item I give unto my Daughter Hannah Bosworth one pr of sheets & one pr of pillowbeeres,

Item I give unto my Grand Daughter Elizabeth Bursley one paire of sheets and one paire of Pillowbeeres

Item I give & bequeath unto my Grandson Nathaniel Howland (the son of Joseph Howland) and to the heires of his owne Body lawfully begotten for ever all that my Lott of Land with ye Meadow thereunto adjoyning & belonging lying in the Township of Duxbury neare Jones River bridge,

Item I give unto my Grandson James Browne One Iron barr and on Iron Trammell now in his possession,

Item I give unto my Grandson Jabez Browne one Chest

Item I give unto my Grand Daughter Dorothy Browne my best Chest & my Warming pan

Item I give unto my Grand Daughter Desire Cushman four Sheep,

Item I give & bequeath my wearing clothes linnen and Woollen and all the rest of my Estate in mony Debts linnen or of what kind or nature or sort soever it may be unto my three Daughters Elisabeth Dickenson, Lidia Browne and Hannah Bosworth to be equally Devided amongst them,

Item I make constitute and ordaine my loving Son in Law James Browne and my loving son Jabez Howland Executors of this my last Will and Testament,

Item it is my Will & Charge to all my Children that they walke in ye Feare of ye Lord, and in Love and peace towards each other and endeavour the true performance of this my last Will & Testament In Witnesse whereof I the said Elizabeth Howland have hereunto sett my hand & seale this seventeenth Day of December Anno Dm one thousand six hundred Eighty & six.

The mark of Elisabeth E H Howland
Signed Sealed & Delivd
in ye prsence of us Wittnesses
Hugh Cole
Samuel Vyall
John Browne

John and Elizabeth Howland’s direct descendants include notable figures such as U.S. presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush; U.S. first ladies Edith Roosevelt and Barbara Bush; poets Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; Mormon prophet and founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Joseph Smith, Jr. and his wife Emma Hale; Mormon leader Brigham Young; Continental Congress president Nathaniel Gorham; former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin; former Florida governor Jeb Bush; and actors/actresses Humphrey Bogart, Maude Adams, Lillian Russell, Chevy Chase and Anthony Perkins. U.S. presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, and British prime minister Winston Churchill are descendants of John Howland’s brothers Arthur (Nixon and Ford) and Henry (Churchill).

The genealogical society, The Pilgrim John Howland Society, is open for membership to all who can claim Howland as an ancestor. It is based in Plymouth, Massachusetts.


All ten of John and Elizabeth’s children married and had children of their own.  Eighty-four grandchildren must have taxed Elizabeth’s memory for there were three Lydias, three Hannahs, three Mercys, three Johns, two Isaacs and two named Shubael. How could she keep them all straight?

Howland Family Teapot - Pilgrim Hall Museum

Howland Family Teapot – Pilgrim Hall Museum

This  delftware  dates to the last half of the 1600s, indicating that it was purchased by second and third generation members of the Old Colony’s Pilgrim families. Along with  fine textiles, silver and furniture, the fashionable and decorative wares symbolized prosperity and success for these pioneering families. Tea-drinking became fashionable around 1650-1680 in Europe, and early teapots were small because tea was expensive. The Howland family teapot is a rare survivor because, unlike Chinese teapots made of porcelain, delftware teapots often cracked when filled with boiling water. The dainty pot’s design and form imitate that of blue and white Chinese porcelain.

1. Desire HOWLAND (See John GORHAM‘s page)

Desire Minter was the daughter of William and Sarah Minter, members of the Leiden congregation. Desire’s father died in 1618, and she joined John Carver’s family. Her mother remarried in 1622, and her new parents established an endowment that Desire would inherit at the age of twenty-one. After a few years in Plymouth, Desire returned to England to assume her inheritance. John and Elizabeth Howland were very fond of Desire and named their first child Desire in her honor.

2. John Howland

John’s wife Mary Lee was born 1630 in Plymouth,Plymouth, Mass. Her parents were Robert Lee and Mary Atwood. Mary died 6 May 1693 in Barnstable, Barnstable, Mass.

Of their 10 children, the last eight were Barnstable babies. They were Isaac, Hannah, Mercy, Lydia, Experience, Anne, Shubael and John. Both John Howland Jr. and his wife Mary Lee died in the cape town.

Lieutenant John Howland He removed from Plymouth to Marsbfield, and thence to Barnstable about the year 1658. His farm at West Barnatable contained about 90 acres, and in 1672 he conveyed by deed the eaaterly half thereof to his brother-in-law Elder John CHIPMAN. A portion of bis estate is yet owned by his descendants. He held many town offices and was lieutenant of the military company. He was admitted a freeman of the colony in 1658. There is some evidence that in early life be favored the
Quakers. He certainly was opposed to the intolerant party of which George Barlow of Sandwich was the leading man. His wife Joined the church Nov. 22, 1691. He and two other aged men, Joseph Lothrop and James Lewis, Joined the church on the 18tb of June, 1699.

He probably bad two children born in Marshfield, his other eight
children were born in Barnstable.

i. Mary Howland

ii. Eliabeth Howland b. 17 May 1655, m. 1678 to John Bursley

iii. Isaac Howland b. 25th Nov. 1659. (See below.)

iv. Hannah Howland b. 15th May, 1661, m. 20 May 1686 to Jonathan Crocker She died previous lo Feb. 1711.

v. Mercy Howland b. 21 Jan. 1663.

vi. Lydia Howland b. 9 Jan 1665.

vii. Experience Howland b. 28 Jul 1668.

viii. Ann Howland b. 9 Sep 1670, 18th Sept. 1691,
Joseph Crocker.

ix. Shubael Howland b. 8 Sep 1672. (See below.)

x John 81st Dec 1674. (See below.)

3. Hope HOWLAND (See John CHIPMAN‘s page)

4. Elizabeth Howland

Elizabeth’s first husband Ephraim Hicks 1613 in Plymouth, Plymouth, Mass. His parents were Robert Hicks and Margaret Winslow. Ephraim died 2 Dec 1649 in Plymouth, Plymouth, Mass.

Elizabeth’ second husband John Dickerson was born in 1630 in Plymouth, Plymouth, Mass.  His parents were William Dickinson and  Sarah Stacy. John died 26 Jan 1680 in Oyster Bay, Livingston, New York.

Elizabeth’s will, dated Dec 1691

“I Elizabeth Dickinson widow, of Oyster Bay, being somewhat weakly and sick but perfect memory and understanding. I give to my son Jabez my house and lot furnishings, when he die this to go to my son Joseph. I give to my son Samuel 5 shares of land at the planes plus what I have already given him. I give to my son James two rights of three in the Old Purchase of Oyster Bay on the west side of Nicholas Wright going to Lusum. Five Acres of land at Plains and right of Commonage divided equally between Samuel, Jabez and James. I give to my daughter Hannah my bed, curtains, chests and etc. I give to my grandson Robert or Richard Harcut 2 sheep. All remainder of my estate I give to my three youngest daughters Mehetable, Cheshire (Lydia) and Hannah. Dec 1691.

5. Lydia Howland

Lydia’s husband James Brown was born 1623 Watertown, Middlesex, Mass.  His parents were John BROWNE Sr. and Dorothy BEAUCHAMP.  James died 29 October 1710, Swansea Mass.

James Brown, was one of the most prominent of the early settlers in Swansea. He was a leader in the war against Philip, serving as a major. He also was one of the original members of the Swansea church and was fined five pounds for setting up a Baptist church in Rehoboth. He tried his best to bring peace to Plymouth Colony and went twice to see the Indian leader but found Philip “very high and not p’suadable to peace.”

James was in England in 1659 when James Cudworth wrote to him there.  Possibly he went to visit his father, although the circumstances are not known.      In 1665 he succeeded his brother-in-law, Thomas Willett, who was then Mayor of New York City, as Assistant in Plymouth Colony, which post he held also in 1666 and 1673-1683. He was chosen Deputy from Rehoboth in 1666, and from Swansea in 1669, 1671 and 1683.

James was a founder of Swansea, Bristol, Mass.

James Browne being a Baptist was forced to leave Rehoboth in 1663 and with others of his sect founded the town of Swansea, Massachusetts.  For some time he was in the center of the controversy over control of the church in Rehoboth, which raged between Congregationists and Baptists. On 2 July 1667 he and John Myles, the Baptist minister,  were each fined £5 for setting up a public meeting without permission of the General Court, while a Mr. [Nicholas] Tanner was fined 20/-. On 30 Oct 1667 the Baptists were given permission to organize the town of Swansea, with a Baptist church under Mr. Myles, the church being the first of that denomination in Massachusetts. Thus while James Browne served, with John Allen and Stephen Payne, Sr., as a Selectman for Rehoboth in 1666-1667, he was next to serve Swansea as grand enquest in 1668. The records of the two towns were mixed for years afterwards.

As Plymouth Colony Assistant and Lieutenant of the Swansea Military Company, James Browne played an important role in King Philip’s War. On 14 June 1675 he went to King Philip, then chief of the Wampanoags, with a friendly letter from Governor Winslow, and, finding the Indians hostile, warned the colony of impending war. A member of the tribe, Petonowowett, later said Mr. Browne would have been killed that day had not Philip intervened personally. When the war actually began on Sunday, 20 June 1675, it was son James Jr.  who took the word to Plymouth. On “Fasting Day,” the following Thursday, nine settlers were killed while on their way home from church, and on 18 July fifteen were killed in an ambush. That month Mr. Browne, who was one of five (out of seven) Assistants taking the field during the war, led twelve men from Swansea in pursuit of the Indians across the Seekonk plain, with help from the Mohegans and eleven men from the Mt. Hope garrison under Lt. Nathaniel Thomas. During the war James Browne went to Philip twice but found him “very high and not p’swadable to peace.”

On June 20, 1675, the first Indian attack of King Philip’s War had all 70 settlers confined to their stockade. By June 25 the entire town had been burned, although a handful of the colonists escaped to Taunton. When the active war ended in 1676, the town was soon rebuilt.

It has been said that on 19 May 1668 James  used an armorial seal on a deed, “A lion rampant debruised by a bend, chequy, in sinister chief point a crescent,” similar to the arms of the Browns of Cheshire, England. His will, dated 25 Oct. 1694, was proved 11 Jan. 1711.

Dorothy’s will, dated 17 Dec. 1668 and proved 29 March 1674, mentions daughter Mary Willett and her children, Sarah Elliott, daughter of Sarah Elliott deceased, son James Brown, grandson John Browne and his brothers Nathaniel and Joseph, granddaughter Dorothy Browne, daughter-in-law Dorothy Browne, daughter-in-law Lydia BROWNE, and granddaughters Lydia and Anna Browne.

6. Ruth Howland

Ruth’s husband Thomas CUSHMAN was born 16 Sep 1637 in Plymouth, Mass.  His parents were  Thomas CUSHMAN Sr. and Mary ALLERTON. After Ruth died, he married Abigail TITUS Fuller on 16 Oct 1679 in Rehoboth, Mass.  Our ancestors are from Thomas’s 2nd wife Abigail. Thomas died 23 AUG 1726 in Scituate, Mass.

In 1664 Ruth  was the subject of a morals case brought before the Court of Governor’s Assistants. Sexual mores, including chastity before marriage, were issues about which were strict codes of conduct. Ruth Howland fell in love with Thomas Cushman, Jr. (1637-1726), the first son of Plymouth’s Ruling Elder Thomas CUSHMAN (1607-91), and Mary (Allerton) Cushman (1616-1699), a Mayflower passenger. In 1664/65 Thomas Jr. was fined five ponds by the Court for carnal behavior “before marriage, but after contract.” Once again John Howland was Deputy to the General Court for Plymouth and not involved personally in sentencing. Twenty-five years earlier punishment could have been severe, e.g. excommunication, fines, stocks for women and whipping for men. However, in 1664 harsh physical sentencing had been relaxed, and the social meeting of the parties became a factor in sentencing. In 1664 Thomas Jr. and Ruth were married. In addition to John Howland’s embarrassment, Thomas Cushman, Jr. squandered the opportunity to be considered to succeed his father as Ruling Elder. In 1694, Thomas’ younger brother Isaac was chosen to succeed his father as Ruling Elder. Thomas Jr. and Ruth remained in Plymouth. Ruth died as a young woman sometime after 1672, and Thomas Jr. married Abigail Fuller in 1679.

7. Joseph Howland

Joseph’s wife Elizabeth Southworth was born 1645 in Plymouth, Plymouth, Mass. Her parents were Thomas Southworth and Elizabeth Reynor. Elizabeth died Mar 1717 in Plymouth, Plymouth, Mass.

8. Hannah Howland

Hannah’s husband Jonathan Bosworth was born 1636 in Hingham, Plymouth, Mass. His parents were Jonathan Bosworth and Elizabeth Bellamy. Jonathan died 10 Jun 1717 in Rehoboth, Bristol, Mass.

9. Jabez Howland

Jabez’ wife Bethia Thacher was born 1640 in Yarmouth, Barnstable, Mass. Bethia died 19 Dec 1725 in Bristol, Bristol, Rhode Island.

1670 – Jabez Howland bought the house at Plymouth. John and Elizabeth winter there.

Jabez Howland House is an historic house at 33 Sandwich Street in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

The house was built in 1667 and purchased by Jabez Howland, son of Mayflower passengers John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley Howland, two of the original Pilgrims. John and Elizabeth Howland lived in Jabez Howland’s home after their own house burned. John Howland died in 1674 and Elizabeth lived there until the house was sold in 1680 and Jabez Howland moved to Rhode Island. Elizabeth moved to the home of her daughter, Lydia Browne, in Swansea, where she died in 1687. The Jabez Howland House was owned as a private residence until 1915. Extensive renovations took place in the 1940s. The house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

Jabez Howland House Built in 1666

tmay26.jpg (4311 bytes)1. EXTERIOR VIEW The Howland House is the only house left standing in Plymouth where Pilgrims actually lived. The original 17th century two story timber framed house consisted of the porch, hall and hall chamber.   In order to attend church during the winter months both John & Elizabeth Tilley Howland spent part of the season here.During this time Jabez raised the roof and added a back bedroom providing space for his parents. After John’s death in 1673 (Age 8O) and the fire that destroyed their Rocky Nook Farm, Elizabeth lived here until 1680 with her son Jabez and his family. The house was expanded with several lean-tos which made it into a large house by 1750.tmay27.jpg (5419 bytes)2. 1667 LIVING ROOM You will find that as you tour the house there is a fire place in almost every room. The open fire place was a hazard to colonial women as many were badly hurt or died from burns. This due to the long dresses they wore and attempting to get to the kettles or pots being warmed by the fire. The living room would be one of the main areas for reading by the fire.tmay28.jpg (5681 bytes)3. THE OLDE KITCHENNote the various bowls on the table. Also the many plates and utensils hung above the fireplace. Readily accessible for use while cooking meals. Trammels were used to hold cooking pots. The swing arm or crane made cooking safer for women as they were not required to step into the fireplace to take the pot off the fire.tmay29.jpg (4633 bytes)4. THE JOHN HOWLAND BEDROOMThis bedroom was used by John Howland when he and wife Elizabeth stayed here during the winter months before John’s death and Elizabeth remained until son Jabez sold the house in 1680. At this time Elizabeth moved to Swansea, Rhode Island to live with her daughter Lydia Brown. She died there in 1687(age 80) and is buried outside the Brown family plot. The cradle, spinning wheel, chair and chest at the end of the bed add to the ambiance of the period.tmay30.jpg (4353 bytes)5. 1750 BEDROOM The first thing you notice is the ceiling of 1750 is plastered where the earlier rooms showed the beams. Like beds of the period they were canopied. This field bed can be fitted with heavy drapes for warmth and privacy. The curly birch dresser is American Chippendale(1750-1780). Beds were framed with rope strings. In damp weather the ropes had to be loosened and in dry weather tightened in order to keep a firm support for the mattresses. Mattresses were stuffed with whatever was comfortable (i.e. straw, cornhusks). Feathers would have been the best. Often the husband would leave his best feather bed to his eldest son and the second best to his wife.

10. Isaac Howland

Isaac’s wife Elizabeth Vaughn was born 8 Apr 1653 in Scituate, Plymouth, Mass. Her parents were George Vaughn and Elizabeth Henchman. Elizabeth died 29 Oct 1727 in Middleborough, Mass


Wikipedia – John Howland – The Five Generations Project has just published the genealogies of the last six children of John and Elizabeth Howland for four generations. This is Volume 23-1 and costs $30. The children are Lydia, Hannah, Joseph, Jabez, Ruth, and Isaac. Plans to finish the fifth generation are in the works. Volume 23-1 can be ordered online from the Mayflower Society book store.

PJHS Rocky Nook Excavation – The archaeological excavation at Rocky Nook, Massachusetts is sponsored by the Pilgrim John Howland Society. The purpose of the excavation is to discover more about the everyday life of the pilgrim John Howland and his family through the material culture left behind at the John and Joseph Howland homestead sites.

Rocky Nook is a property owned by the PJHS. Located on a small peninsula of land, Rocky Nook represents the core of the farmstead purchased by John Howland from John Jenny in 1638 and held by three generations of Howlands. Upon John’s passing, the property went to his second eldest son, Joseph, who in turn gave it to his son James. James sold the property off in pieces, with the last being sold out of the Howland hands in 1725 (until the PJHS reacquired the land in 1920).

Genealogical notes of Barnstable families  Being a reprint of the Amos Otis Papers originally published in the Barnstable Patriot in 1861; Revised by Charles  F. Swift Largely made from notes made by the author (1888)

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33 Responses to John Howland

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  33. Kay Schmidt says:

    This is a really beautiful blog with lots of great historical information, but I’m beginning to wonder about the accuracy of some of the dates. Where, for example, did the exact dates of birth for John Howland’s children come from? They don’t appear in any of the published journals I’ve seen or in The Great Migration Begins. Any further source information would be appreciated.

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