John and Elinor/Eleanor/Ellen Billington came on the Mayflower with their sons Francis and John. They were considered “strangers,” as they were not part of the Separatist group that had been in Leiden and/or England together. Governor William Bradford wrote the family was from London, but NEHGR 124:116 gives good evidence that his family came from around Spaulding, Lincolnshire.
John and his sons were frequently in trouble with the Plymouth authorities in the first decade of the colony's existence. One of the most significant incidents was Billington's outspoken support for two men, Rev. John Lyford and John Oldham, in their revolt against Bradford and the rest of the Leiden contingent. (Source: The Great Migration Begins, by Robert Charles Anderson). In 1621 he was tried for disobeying a lawful command of Capt. Myles Standish and was sentenced to have his neck and heels tied together, but on humbling himself and craving pardon, and it being his first offense, he was forgiven.
In 1625 Bradford wrote to Robert Cushman: "Billington still rails against you and threatens to arrest you, I know not wherefore; he is a knave, and so will live and die" (Bradford, Letter Book, p. 13). Bradford also referred to the Billingtons as "one of the profanest families amongst them."
It is likely that Billington was one of the men on board the Mayflower anchored off of Provincetown who questioned the authority of the group’s leaders, as the charter was for Virginia, not New England. This questioning of authority led to the drafting of the Mayflower Compact.
|Signing of the Mayflower Compact, From Pilgrim Hall Museum|
After being in Plymouth for ten years, Billington was hanged for murdering a man named John Newcomen. From A General History of New England from the Discovery to MDCLXXX (Cambridge, 1815, 101), by William Hubbard (written in the second half of the 17th century): "About September, 1630, was one Billington executed at Plymouth for murther...(Billington) maliciously slew his neighbour in the field, as he accidentally met him, as himself was going to shoot deer. The poor fellow, perceiving the intent of this Billington, his mortal enemy, sheltered himself behind trees as well as he could for a while; but the other not being so ill a marksman as to miss his aim, made a shot at him, and struck him on the shoulder, with which he died soon after. The murtherer expected that either for want of power to execute for capital offenses, or for want of people to increase the plantation, he should have his life spared; but justice otherwise determined."
John’s sons were also rambunctious. The book Mourt’s Relation recounts several episodes involving Francis. When the Mayflower was anchored in Provincetown Harbor, he fired off a musket in his family's cabin that had nearly ignited a barrel of gunpowder which would have destroyed the ship and everyone aboard.
|Man playing Francis Billington outside his father's house, Plimoth Plantation||, Life Magazine|
In Plymouth Francis climbed a tree and saw what he said to be a great sea, but on close inspection it turned out to be a very shallow pond, which to this day is called Billington Sea.
|Outlet of Billington Sea|
In 1621, 16 year old John lost his way in the woods. For five days he wandered aimlessly until he stumbled on the Indian village of Manomet, some 20 miles from Plymouth. He was passed onto the Nausets of Cape Cod, who had attacked the Pilgrims during the first encounter back in December and from whom the Pilgrims had taken corn and disturbed their graves. When he heard of the news, Bradford ordered a party of 10 men to go for the boy with Squanto and another Indian as guides. They met with the Nausets and promised to replenish their corn. More than 100 warriors armed with bows and arrows watched the discussion and John was carried in one of the men's arms, looking none the worse for wear, wearing a string of shell beads around his neck. Aspinet was presented with a knife and peace declared. (Source Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick)
My two lines of descent from John Billington, not yet submitted to the Mayflower Society:
1 John Billington 1580 - 1630
+Elinor 1580 - 1642/43
2 Francis Billington 1606 - 1684
+Christian Penn 1607 - 1684
3 Martha Billington 1638 - 1704
+Samuel Eaton 1620 - 1684
4 Mercy Eaton 1665 - 1703/04
+Samuel Fuller 1658 - 1728
5 Benjamin Fuller 1695/96 -
6 Samuel Fuller 1724 – 1758
+Ann Tinkham 1726 - 1758
7 Mary Fuller 1748
+Jabez Nye 1749 - 1802
8 Desire Nye 1771 - 1858
+David Pierce 1773 - 1820
9 Lucy Nye Pierce 1809 - 1896
+Rowland Sturtevant Bumpus 1804 - 1853
10 Mary Briggs Bumpus 1840 - 1916
+ Seth Washburn 1828 - 1921
11 Charles Francis Washburn 1857 - 1941
+Hattie Maria Benson 1861 – 1914
12 Carrie Clyfton Washburn 1896 - 1974
+George Brewster Smith 1895 - 1913
13 Arthur Elmer Washburn Davis 1913 - 1976
+Mildred Louise Booth 1917 - 1999
14 My parents
3 Isaac Billington 1644 - 1709
+Hannah Glass 1651 - 1704
4 Lydia Billington 1677 - 1716
+John Washburn 1672 - 1750
5 John Washburn 1699 - 1768
+Abigale Phillips 1699 - 1782
6 Seth Washburn 1738 - 1826
+Deborah Wright 1749 - 1812
7 Ephraim Washburn 1794 - 1870
+Mary Lucas 1792 – 1860
8 Seth Washburn 1828 - 1921
+ Mary Briggs Bumpus 1840 - 1916
The rest of the generations are the same as above.
President Garfield was a Billington descendant. (Source: Notable Kin, Gary Boyd Roberts)