Gov. Bradford called John Howland "a lusty younge man." He was one of the hired hands (an indentured servant of John Carver, the first Governor), and thus neither a "Saint" as the Pilgrims were called nor a "Stranger" hired for a specific duty, such as the soldier Myles Standish. He was born about 1592 in Fenstanton, Huntingdonshire, England, not far from Cambridge, the son of Henry and Margaret Howland.
John’s baptism record has not been found, but his parentage is proven by the probate records of his brother Humphrey Howland, a draper of London.
John was on the deck of the Mayflower during the voyage severe autumn storm and was washed overboard. Gov Bradford wrote: "It pleased God that he caught hould of ye halliards which hunge over board, and rane out at lenghth; yet he was held up...and then with a boat hooke and other means got into ye ship again. (History of Plimoth Plantation, 1898, p 92-93). It was this tenacity of purpose, perseverance and ability to deal with unexpected emergencies that helped him become a successful leader at Plymouth Colony.
The Carvers survived the first terrible winter, but John died the following spring and his wife during the summer. It is believed since they were childless John inherited their estate and then bought out his indenture. Elizabeth Tilley’s parents died the first winter and she joined the Carver household. In 1623 John and Elizabeth Tilley were married, when Elizabeth was not quite 16 years of age.
In 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. Later they established a trading post on the Kennebec River, in what is now Augusta, Maine. John was put in charge of the trading post 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.
|Howland family teapot -- Pilgrim Hall Museum|
John served the Colony in a variety of ways, including surveyor of highways, representative to the General Court and assistant to the Governor. He clearly had some formal education as evidenced by his public service and business acumen. His inventory showed he owned a Bible and other books.
Elizabeth and John had 10 children: Desire, John, Hope, Elizabeth, Lydia, Hannah, Joseph, Jabez, Ruth, and Isaac. The family was of remarkably hardy stock and all 10 children survived childhood, grew up and married.
Son Jabez’s home still survives in Plymouth and operates as a museum. His parents both visited there and it is the only surviving house that was lived in by the Pilgrims.
|Old Postcard of the Jabez Howland House, Plymouth|
John died 23 February 1671/72 in Rocky Nook, then part of Plymouth but now Kingston, about 82 years of age. His widow Elizabeth died in December 1687 at age 80. His will showed he owned the Rocky Nook land as well as parcels in Duxbury, elsewhere in Plymouth, Marshfield and Middleborough. Earlier he had given land in Yarmouth to his children.
There’s a stone in his honor at Burial Hill, Plymouth which reads:
Here ended the Pilgrimage of
who died February 23, 1673
aged above 80 years.
He married Elizabeth daughter of
who came with him in the
Mayflower Dec. 1620.
From them are descended a
|John Howland memorial stone erected at Burial Hill in 1897|
Famous Descendants of John Howland: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, George HW and George W Bush, Alec Baldwin and his brothers, actor Christopher Lloyd, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sarah Palin, Joseph Smith (founder of the Mormon Church), and Dr. Benjamin Spock. (Source Notable Kin, Gary Boyd Roberts.)
My line of descent from John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley:
1 John Howland 1592 - 1671/72
+Elizabeth Tilley 1604 - 1687
2 Ruth Howland 1646 -
3 Robert Cushman
4 Ruth Cushman 1700 -
+Luke Perkins 1695 -
5 Ignatious Perkins 1720 -
+Keziah Davis 1724/25 -
6 Ruth Perkins 1752 - 1799
+Jesse Pierce 1747 – 183
7 David Pierce 1773 - 1820
+Desire Nye 1771 – 185
8 Lucy Nye Pierce 1809 - 1896
+Rowland Sturtevant Bumpus 1804 - 1853
9 Mary Briggs Bumpus 1840 - 1916
+Seth Washburn 1828 - 1921
10 Charles Francis Washburn 1857 - 1941
+Hattie Maria Benson 1861 - 1914
11 Carrie Clyfton Washburn 1896 - 1974
+George Brewster Smith 1895 - 1913
12 Arthur Elmer Washburn Davis 1913 - 1976
+Mildred Louise Booth 1917 - 1999
13 My parents
For information on the Pilgrim John Howland Society see: http://www.pilgrimjohnhowlandsociety.org/
The General Society of Mayflower Descendants has published two volumes on John Howland’s descendants:
John Howland - The First Four Generations of his Children Lydia, Hannah, Joseph, Jabez, Ruth, and Isaac, compiled by Ann Smith Lainhart and Robert S. Wakefield.
The second volume covers the fifth generation through Lydia2 and Hannah2, compiled by Ann Smith Lainhart and Jane Fletcher Fisk.
Elizabeth Pearson White has also published multiple volumes on John Howland's descendants.