John Howland (c. 1591 – February 23, 1672/3) was a passenger on the Mayflower. He was an indentured servant and in later years, the executive assistant and personal secretary to Governor John Carver and accompanied the Separatists and other passengers when they left England to settle in Plymouth, Massachusetts. He signed the Mayflower Compact and helped found Plymouth Colony. He signed the Mayflower Compact which is considered the first written constitution for a representative government 'of the people, by the people, for the people'. After the passengers came ashore John Howland became assistant to the governor over the new independent state created under the compact. The act of Governor Carver in making a treaty with the great Indian Sachem Massosoit was an exercise of sovereign power and John Howland was the assistant." John Carver, the first governor of the Plymouth Colony, died in April 1621. In 1626, Howland was a freeman and one of eight settlers who agreed to assume the colony's debt to its investors in England in exchange for a monopoly of the fur trade. He was elected deputy to the General Court in consecutive years from 1641–1655 and again in 1658.
John Howland was born in Fenstanton, Huntingdonshire, England around 1591 He was the son of Margaret and Henry Howland, and the brother of Henry and Arthur Howland, who emigrated later from England to Marshfield, Massachusetts. Although Henry and Arthur Howland were Quakers, John himself held to the original faith of the Puritans.
William Bradford, who was the governor of Plymouth Colony for many years, wrote in Of Plymouth Plantation, that Howland was a man-servant of John Carver. Carver was the deacon of the Separatists church while the group resided in Leiden, Netherlands. At the time the Leiden congregation left the Netherlands, on the Speedwell, Carver was in England securing investments, gathering other potential passengers, and chartering the Mayflower for the journey to North America. John Howland may have accompanied Carver's household from Leiden when the Speedwell left Delfshaven for Southampton, England, July, 1620. Ansel Ames in Mayflower and Her Log, said that Howland was probably kin of Carver's and that he was more likely a steward or a secretary than a servant. The Separatists planned to travel to the New World, on the Speedwell and the Mayflower. The Speedwell proved to be unseaworthy and thus most of the passengers crowded onto the Mayflower.
The first winter in North America proved deadly for the Pilgrims as half their number perished. The Carver family with whom John lived, survived the winter of 1620-21. However, 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' only children died while they lived in Leiden and it is possible that Howland inherited their estate. After Carver's death, he became a freeman. In 1624 he was considered the head of what was once the Carver household when he was granted an acre for each member of the household including himself, Elizabeth Tilley, Desire Minter, and a boy named William Latham.
Howland became a freeman in 1621. 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 debt 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 investers £1,800 to relinquish their claims on the land, and £2,400 for other debt. In return the group acquired a monopoly on the colony's fur trade for six years.
In Plymouth the Howlands lived on the north side of Leyden Street. They lived for a short time in Duxbury and then moved to Kingston where they had a farm on a piece of land referred to as Rocky Nook. The farm burned down in 1675 during King Philip's War. By that time, John had died and Elizabeth moved in with her son, Jabez.
For more information see Wikipedia.
Until Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation was discovered in 1856, it was presumed that John Howland's wife, formerly Elizabeth Tilley, was the adopted daughter of the Carvers. (Her parents, uncle and aunt who came to the New World died of sickness during the first winter.) This mistake was even recorded on a gravestone that was erected for Howland on Burial Hill, in 1836. However, the Bradford journal revealed that she was, in fact, the daughter of John Tilley and his wife, Joan (Hurst). Elizabeth Tilley Howland was born in Henlow, Bedfordshire, England where she was baptized in August, 1607. She and her parents were passengers on the Mayflower. John Tilley and his wife Joan both died the first winter as did his brother Edward Tilley and wife Ann. This left Elizabeth an orphan and so she was taken in by the Carver family. The Carvers died about a year later, and part of their estate was inherited by their servant, John Howland, and Elizabeth became his ward. In 1623/24, she married John Howland
John Howland and Elizabeth Tilly were my 9th great grandparents. See Relationship Chart
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