By Joan Reed Miller

Date of birth: about 1592, near Fenstanton, England
Baptized: unknown
Marriage: Elizabeth Tilley about 1624, Plymouth, MA
Children: Ten (10)
1. Desire b. about 1625
2. John b. 24 Apr 1627
3. Hope b. 30 Aug 1629
4. Elizabeth b. about 1631
5. Lydia b. about 1633
6. Hannah b. about 1637
7. Joseph b. about 1640
8. Jabez b. about 1644
9. Ruth b. about 1646
10. Isaac b. 15 Nov 1649
Death: 23 or 24 February 1672/3 Rocky Nook, Kingston, MA
Burial Site: Burial Hill, Plymouth, MA


'Pilgrim Overboard' The dramatic rescue of John Howland during the voyage of the Mayflower. Painting by Mike Haywood.

  • John Howland, signer of the Mayflower Compact, arrived as a servant to John Carver, the first Governor of Plymouth Colony.
  • during the Mayflower's voyage, Howland fell overboard during a storm. Here is Bradford's account: "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 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."
  • With the death of Carver in 1621, his servant John Howland took charge of the household. 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 dept 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 investors £1,800 to relinquish their claims on the land, and £2,400 for the 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 the Kennebec River, looking for possible fur trading sites and natural resources that the colony could exploit. He also lead a team of men that built and operated a fur trading post there.
  • A group of traders from Piscataqua lead 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, refused. Howland ordered his men to approach the bark in a canoe and cut his cables. 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.

  • John Howland died either in his home at Rocky Nook or at his son Jabez' house on February 23, 1672/3 at the age of eighty. he was Buried in an unmarked grave in Burial Hill and in 1897, the Howland Society erected a headstone on Burial Hill. Elizabeth Howland spent her declining years and died on December 21, 1687 at the age of eighty in the home of her daughter Lydia Brown, in Swansea.
  • John Howland Tombstone reads: "Here ended the pilgrimage of JOHN HOWLAND who died February 23, 1672/3 aged above 80 years. He married Elizabeth daughter of JOHN TILLEY who came with him in the Mayflower Dec 1620. From them are descended numerous posterity." "He was a godly man and an ancient professor in the ways of Christ. He was one of the first comers into this land and was the last man that was left of those that came over in the ship called the Mayflower the lived in Plymouth"
  • In 1920, upon the 300th anniversary of the Mayflower arrival, The Pilgrim John Howland Society purchased the four acre site of John Howland's homestead called Rocky Nook, in Kingston, MA, where he and his wife lived from 1638-1672/3 and erected a seven foot high granite monument with an image in relief of the Mayflower at its top.

General Society of Mayflower Descendants
Mayflower Families Through Five Generations (Silver Books)
Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647, William Bradford
Pilgrim Hall Museum
Caleb Johnson's
The Pilgrim John Howland Society