Arthur Howland
(11th Great-Grandpa)

Arthur's brother, John Howland (our 11th Great-Uncle), was a passenger on the Mayflower and a signer of the Mayflower Compact.


According to William Howland in The Howlands in America, all the Howlands in America can trace their ancestral lineage to the three sons of Henry and Margaret (Aires) Howland of Fen Stanton, Huntingdonshire, England: John Howland, who came to this country in the Mayflower in 1620, and his two brothers,
Arthur and Henry Howland, who arrived probably about 1623-24. Our ancestor is Arthur Howland. He married (place and date unknown) Margaret (-----) Reed, a widow whose parentage we do not know. Arthur was buried in Marshfield, MA 30 October 1675, and Margaret was buried in Marshfield, 22 June 1683.

Arthur Howland, the oldest of the three brothers, we believe came to Plymouth with his brother, Henry, where he was a planter, yeoman, freeman, and Quaker. He was of Marshfield, MA by 1643, having been granted fifty acres of land and some meadow there at North River in 1640. He bought an additional three hundred acres of land for 21 pounds sterling, 13 pounds in money and the balance in corn and cattle and spent the rest of his life in Marshfield.

Arthur accepted the doctrines of the Society of Friends and was fined many times for "Pmiting of a Quaker's meeting in his house." He refused to pay the fines and was committed to jail. He and his wife were fined ten shillings for absenting themselves from "publicke worship" in 1658, but "in respect with his age and low condition" of health, he was acquitted. Arthur was called before the Plymouth court on 22 Dec 1657 'to answer for entertaining a Quaker, and suffering and inviting sundry to hear said Quaker.' In 1669, he was arrested for neglecting to pay his minister-tax; due to his advanced age and low estate he was excused from paying. (

Notwithstanding our forefathers have the name of being very strict in their religious observances and in their punishments of crime, they were mild and liberal in comparison to some of their neighboring colonies here and in other states. Massachusetts Bay (gov. Winthrop's) Colony, around Boston and vicinity, made thirteen crimes punishable by death. Virginia Colony, seventeen and in the latter colony, a man for believing and advocating Unitarianism was punishable by death, and the same penalty was enforced upon Unitarians in England in King James's time; and even later in the days of Queen Elizabeth, pious men were hanged for advocating Congregationalism (Orthodoxy). Maryland punished believers and advocates in Unitarianism with death. Though our Forefathers' faith was good and strong, they laid down no formal creed to guide them. The Old Colony had but five classes of crime to be punished by death, and only tow were ever enforced. Our Forefathers, unlike the Puritans of Boston, Salem, etc., never hung a witch. The Quakers, if non-residents, were treated rather harshly.
Arthur Howland, a resident of Marshfield, was liberal in his views, and sympathized with the Quakers. About the year, 1657, according to Goodwin, author of the Pilgrim Republic, "John Philips, the constable going to Arthur Howland's house in Marshfield to leave a summons, saw a non-resident Quaker preacher, Robert Tuchin, and arrested him. Howland interferred and ejected the constable from his house declaring, as the latter certified, that he would have "a sword or gun in the belly of him." Two sons of John Rogers (of the Mayflower) refused to aid the constable. When the official returned with a poss‚, Tuchin had escaped. Howland was forthwith taken to Alden's house and tried before Collier, alden and Josiah Winslow, who ordered him to give bons to the Gerneral Court; he refusing to furnish bail, they put him in charge of the Colony's Marshal, Lieutenant Nash, who lived near. He was eventually fined œ5 for resisting the officer. Soon after, he sent the court an indignant protest against Anti-Quaker measures, and was then arrested for contempt. The court decided that as his estate would not bear further fines, and he was too old and infirm to be whipped, he be released in acknowledgment of error, which was done."

A romantic case is recorded concerning the son of this same Arthur Howland of Marshfield. It was in 1660 when Thomas Prence was Governor of the Colony, and concerned his daughter. "The tolerant course of the elder Arthur Howland toward Quakers had earned the ill will of Gov. Prence, and when in 1660 he found Arthur Howland, Jr., had woed his daughter Elizabeth, he had the swain before the General court, where he was fined œ5 because he had disorderly and unrighteously endeavored to obtain the affections of Mistress Elizabeth Prence, and was put under a bond of œ50 to refrain and desist. But Prence, like Canute, was unable to control the forces of nature. This action was in July, but before the next spring the imperious Governor seems to have been forced to capitulate, for Arthur, Jr., and Elizabeth were united and in the course of events there was a Thomas Howland and a Prence Howland. Governor Prence's friend and neighbor, Constant Southworth, had a like experience with his daughter Elizabeth. In his will, 1679, he gave her "My next best bed and furniture, with my wife's best bed, provided she do not marry Wm. Fobes, but if she do, then to have 5s." The bed and adjuncts were then worth thirty times 5s, for a fine bed was thought a goodly bequest; but it was the grand old story; Elizabeth chose to have 5s with William, to two beds without him, and provided her own beds."

Attendance at church was made compulsory in the Colony. "
Arthur Howland and sife of Marshfield, who at divers times seem to have caused the officers of the Colony some uneasiness were fined for not attending public worship, and he was also arrested for neglecting his minister's tax; in respect to his age, however, he was excused till further notice. "In 1666 Wm. Thomas, 2nd, charged Pastor Arnold of Marshfield with teaching rank blasphemy, and the General Court on examining the sermon declared it pure orthodoxy, and censuring Mr. Thomas for great arrogancy, cautioned him to carry more soberly." Some of the women of Marshfield were pugnacious in Pilgrim days, and some were unruly, for in 1666 we find Constable Ford of Marshfield having arrested Widow Naomi Sylvester, Ford was attacked; and she was rescued. As a penalty their brother, William, was ordered to pay Ford œ2." It does not appear what the nature of the first offence was, and it does not follow that the offence would have been at all criminal in our time; but in Pilgrim days, as we have already seen, it was made a crime to harbor a non-resident Quaker, and also non attendance to church. It was a law in the Colony that a man should be indicted for swearing, lying and making seditious speeches, etc. "Thomas Ewer was indicted for seditious speeches, to lie neck and heels at the court's will, but being infirm was pardoned and warned that for the next offense he would be banished from the Colony." "Ralph Smith for lying about seeing a shale, fined 20s." "Thomas Lucas for swearing," sentenced to be put in the stocks. In 1651 John Rogers of Marshfield was fined 5s for vilifying the ministry. A Mr. Winter, who in 1660 was constable of Marshfield, was in 1638 fined 10s for publishing himself to Jane Cooper, contrary to order and custom; he was also excommunicated from the church at Scituate. The next year, on the charge of antenuptial intimacy, Winter was sentenced to be whipped at the post, at the Governor's discretion, and his wife to be whipped at the cart's tail through the street."



John And Elizabeth Howland
by Robert Jennings Heinsohn, PhD, SMDPA

Mayflower passengers
John Howland and Elizabeth Tilley were married in 1623/4. John was about thirty-one and Elizabeth was about sixteen. They spent their entire lives in Plymouth, and between them participated in every aspect of the Pilgrim experience from its beginning in Leiden up to the merger of the Bay and Plymouth colonies. This article is a retrospective summary of their lives and their contribution to Plymouth.

John was born about 1592 to Henry and Margaret Howland of Fenstanton, nine miles northeast of Cambridge, England. Elizabeth Tilley was the youngest of several children born to John and John (Hurst) Tilley. She was baptized in 1607 in Henlow, Huntingdonshire, England. John Tilley and his family, and the family of his brother Edward Tilley and wife Ann (Cooper), were members of John Robinson's congregation in Leiden.

John Howland, John and Joan and Elizabeth Tilley, and Edward and Ann Tilley were passengers on the Mayflower. John Howland had at least five siblings. Arthur (d. 1675), his older brother, arrived in Plymouth after 1627 while Henry (d. 1671), his younger brother, arrived as early as 1633. Arthur Howland soon moved to Marshfield where he became a major landholder. Henry Howland was one of the original settlers of Duxbury and was chosen constable in 1635.

At age twenty-eight
John Howland was recruited in England by John Carver to join his household and be his assistant in moving the Leiden congregation to America. Also included in Carver's household were a servant-girl Desire Minter (age fifteen), a servant-lad, William Lantham, and several other servants. During a storm in the crossing, John Howland was pitched overboard, but luckily was able to catch hold of a halliard and was hauled back aboard the Mayflower. John was the thirteenth signer of the Compact. While in Cape Cod Harbor, John Howland, John and Edward Tilley and others explored the New England coast for several days and chose Plymouth to begin a settlement.

Elizabeth Tilley's parents and aunt and uncle died in the winter of 1621. John Carver took Elizabeth in as one of his household. After John and Katherine Carver died in the spring of 1621,
John Howland became the head of the household containing Elizabeth Tilley, Desire Minter, and William Lantham. The living arrangements for this household are unknown. After John married Elizabeth, he received four acres of land as the head of household in the 1623 Division of Land.

Desire Minter was the daughter of William and Sarah Minter, members of the Leiden congregation. Desire's father died in 1618, and she joined John Carver's family. Her mother remarried in 1622, and her new parents established an endowment that Desire would inherit at the age of twenty-one. After a few years in Plymouth, Desire returned to England to assume her inheritance. John and Elizabeth Howland were very fond of Desire and named their first child Desire in her honor. They had ten children: Desire, John, Hope, Elizabeth, Lydia, Hannah, Joseph, Jabez, Ruth and Isaac.

In 1625
John Howland accompanied Edward Winslow on an expedition of the Kennebec River in Maine to explore trading opportunities with the Indians. In 1626 John was asked to be one of the "Undertakers" to buy out the colony's debt to the "Merchant Adventurers" who had invested in the venture to establish Plymouth Colony.

In the 1627 division of Cattle agreement,
John Howland acquired twenty acres for each member of his household. In addition, the colonists were organized in "companies" of thirteen members each. The livestock of the colony was divided equally among the companies. Listed in John's "company" were John and Elizabeth and their two children, John and Priscilla Alden and their two children, and five unattached men.

Isaac Allerton (1586-1658/9) negotiated a patent that granted Plymouth the exclusive right to trade with the Indians and to establish a trading station on the Kennebec River. In 1627 Governor Bradford placed
John Howland in charge. In 1628 a trading station was built at Cushnoc (now called Augusta) on the east side of the Kennebec River. A year later, a permanent log-house was built, and Howland, then Assistant Governor, was asked to manage the trading station. For approximately seven years John Howland was in charge of the station. It is not known if Elizabeth and their family of three children lived at the station permanently or for short periods of time. During the time that John operated the station Elizabeth gave birth to three more children, but it is not known whether she gave birth while she was living at the trading station or in Plymouth.

The trading station in Cushnoc was very successful. The Pilgrims traded corn and manufactured goods with the Indians for beaver, otter and other furs. The proceeds of this trade enabled the Undertakers to settle their debts with the Merchant Adventurers. In 1643 a colony in Piscataqua at the mouth of the Kennebec River under the control of London investors attempted to trade with Indians on the Kennebec River.
Howland and men from Plymouth told the Piscataqua men under the command of John Hocking to leave since they were trespassing and the patent granted Plymouth exclusive trading rights. The Piscataqua men refused to pull up anchor and leave, and John Hocking shot and killed one of Howland's men. One of Howland's men returned fire and killed John Hocking. A meeting called by the General Courts of Plymouth and Bay Colony established that the Piscataqua men were trespassers and that Hocking's killing was justified. Following this, the two colonies agreed to honor each other's patents and to curtail the activities of settlements poaching on these patents. It was feared that if the issue was not resolved satisfactorily, Parliament might appoint a single governor of all New England, which none of the colonies wanted.

In 1633
John (age forty-one) was admitted a freeman in Plymouth. John and Elizabeth acquired land and in time became major landholders in Plymouth and the surrounding towns. For nearly forty years, John Howland was actively involved in the governance of Plymouth through elected or appointed positions, viz. one of the seven Plymouth Assistant Governors—1632-35, 1638-39; one of the four Plymouth Deputies to the General Court for nearly thirty years—1641, 1645, 1647-56, 1658, 1659, 1661-68, 1670; one of the five selectmen of Plymouth—1665-66; one of the Plymouth Assessors—1641, 1644, 1647-51; committee on fur trading—1659; surveyor of highways—1650.

In 1637
John received forty acres of land, and in 1639 he was given a choice of additional land for himself or his heirs around Yarmouth, Dartmouth and Rehoboth. Part of the land he chose was in Yarmouth, which he gave to his son John and daughters Desire and Hope and their respective families. In 1639 John purchased land and a house in Rocky Nook, where he spent the rest of his life. Also living in Rocky Nook were Thomas and Mary (Allerton) Cushman and their family.

Quaker missionaries arrived in Plymouth between 1655 and 1662 and attracted a considerable number of converts. Quakers opposed Puritan authority and religious beliefs and practices. They refused to attend church services, would not recognize ministers and magistrates or fidelity oaths, and would not support the church financially. They criticized Puritan beliefs and practices publicly and in such scathing terms as to anger the General Court. Governor Bradford had died in 1657 and was succeeded by Thomas Prence (1600-73), who would not tolerate Quaker criticism and took unusually strong measures to suppress Quaker activities, through fines, whipping, excommunication and expulsion from the colony. In the Bay Colony punishment was more severe, and included hangings. Quakers wished to separate themselves from the prevailing religious beliefs and practices, just as the Pilgrims had done some fifty years earlier in England. Thus, the Quakers were to Plymouth what the Separatists were to England, except that now the Pilgrims were on the receiving end. Governor Prence and the General Court punished Plymouth residents who attended Quaker services or gave them support and protection. The families of
John Howland's brothers, Arthur and Henry, were two Plymouth families most identified as practicing Quakers. The families ceased attending Plymouth religious services and allowed their homes for the conduct of Quaker meetings. Arthur, Henry and Henry's son Zoeth were called before the General Court in 1657 and fined for using their homes for Quaker meetings. In 1660 Henry was again fined. In 1659 Arthur Jr.'s freeman status was revoked and in 1684 he was imprisoned in Plymouth. Throughout his life, John Howland remained faithful to Separatist belief and practice, but his compassion for Quakers is not known.

John and Elizabeth were highly respected citizens of Plymouth. In 1657 and again in 1664, serious issues concerning members of John Howland's family came before the Court of Governor's Assistants that resulted in judicial sanctions. John Howland was only a deputy for Plymouth to the General Court, and while he did not have to act on these cases personally, there is not way his standing in Plymouth could avoid being affected.

Governor Prence's actions toward Quakers took an ironic twist that can be appreciated by parents today. In 1657 Arthur Howland Jr., an ardent Quaker, was brought before the court. Thomas Prince's daughter and Arthur Howland Jr., fell in love. The relationship blossomed and matrimony seemed inevitable. However, it was illegal and punishable by court sanction for couples to marry without parental consent. Thomas Prence urged Elizabeth to break off the relationship, but to no avail. He then used powers available to him as Governor. Arthur Howland, Jr., was brought before the General Court and fined five pounds for "inveigling of Mistris Elizabeth Prence and making motion of marriage to her, and prosceuting the same contrary to her parents likeing, and without theire mind and will...[and] in speciall that hee desist from the use of any meanes to obtaine or retaine her affections as aforesaid." On July 2, 1667 Arthur Howland, Jr., was brought before the General Court again where he "did sollemly and seriously engage before the Court, that he will wholly desist and never apply himself for the future as formerly he hath done, to Mistris Elizabeth Prence in reference unto marriage." Guess what happened! They were married on December 9, 1667 and in time had a daughter and four sons. Thus a reluctant Thomas Prence acquired a Quaker son-in-law, Quaker grandchildren and innumerable Quaker in-laws of Henry Howland.

The second case involving
John Howland's family occurred in 1664 when Ruth Howland (b. 1646), his youngest daughter, was the subject of a morals case brought before the Court of Governor's Assistants. Sexual mores, including chastity before marriage, were issues about which were strict codes of conduct. Ruth Howland fell in love with Thomas Cushman, Jr. (1637-1726), the first son of Plymouth's Ruling Elder Thomas Thompson (1607-91), and Mary (Allerton) Cushman (1616-1699), a Mayflower passenger. In 1664/5 Thomas Jr. was fined five ponds by the Court for carnal behavior "before marriage, but after contract." Once again John Howland was Deputy to the General Court for Plymouth and not involved personally in sentencing. Twenty-five years earlier punishment could have been severe, e.g. excommunication, fines, stocks for women and whipping for men. However, in 1664 harsh physical sentencing had been relaxed, and the social meeting of the parties became a factor in sentencing. In 1664 Thomas Jr. and Ruth were married. In addition to John Howland's embarrassment, Thomas Cushman, Jr. squandered the opportunity to be considered to succeed his father as Ruling Elder. In 1694, Thomas' younger brother Isaac was chosen to succeed his father as Ruling Elder. Thomas Jr. and Ruth remained in Plymouth. Ruth died as a young woman sometime after 1672, and Thomas Jr. married Abigail Fuller in 1679.

John Howland died in his home at Rocky Nook on February 23, 1672/3 at the age of eighty. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Burial Hill. In 1897, a headstone was erected on Burial Hill by the Howland Society. 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. Elizabeth is buried in East Providence, Rhode Island, with a memorial marker.

While not political leaders of Plymouth,
John and Elizabeth were pillars of the community and played a major part in the colony's governance and development. They lived through every aspect of the Pilgrim experience beginning in Leiden—the Mayflower, the harsh first winter, the Undertakers, the trading station in Maine, the Quakers, King Philip's War—up to the merger of the Bay and Plymouth colonies. Descendants of John, Henry and Arthur Howland multiplied in number and influence to become one of New England's famous pioneer families.