John Howland

John Howland was the son of Henry Howland and was born about 1592/3. He died at Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts, February 23, 1672/3. Plymouth Colony records state:

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

On Burial Hill is a monument to John Howland erected in 1897 with funds raised by Mrs. Joseph Howland. This replaces a stone erected about 1836 by John and Henry Howland of Providence, Rhode Island. The earlier stone was buried under the new one. This earlier stone stated that John Howland’s wife was “a daughter of Governor Carver”, but after the discovery in 1856 of Governor William Bradford’s manuscript Of Plimoth Plantation, it was known that he married Elizabeth Tilley, daughter of John and Joan Tilley who were also passengers of the Mayflower.

John Howland boarded the Mayflower in England in September 1620, arrived in Provincetown Harbor, November 21, 1620 and, although called a man-servant of Governor Carver, he was the thirteenth signer of the Mayflower Compact in Plymouth Harbor on December 21, 1620.

Within a few years he married Elizabeth Tilley, built a house on First Street and gradually as land was allotted to each family, he acquired four acres on Watson’s Hill, Plymouth and considerable acreage in Duxbury. February 2, 1638/9 he bought from John Jenny the property called Rocky Nook (Kingston). Some of this land is still owned by our Society.

He served in the General court of Plymouth as Committeeman in 1637, 1639-1652 and as Deputy 1652, 1659, 1661-1668 and 1670.

He had two brothers, Arthur and Henry who arrived a few years later. Arthur Howland married Margaret Reed, settled in Marshfield and had five children. Sir Winston Churchill, an honorary member of the Pilgrim John Howland Society, was one of his descendants. Henry Howland married Mary (Newland) and lived in Duxbury. They had eight children. Both brothers joined the Society of Friends. For many generations the descendants of these two men remained Quakers, many settled around Dartmouth, MA where they became very prosperous.


1620 – John Howland and Elizabeth arrive on the Mayflower.
1632 – They went to Maine.
1638/9 – Bought the Rocky Nook farm.
1670 – Jabez Howland bought the house at Plymouth. John and Elizabeth winter there.
1672/3 – John Howland died in the Plymouth home of his son.
Circa 1675 – The Rocky Nook Farm house burned to the ground. Elizabeth makes her home with Jabez' family.
1680/1 – 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.