MYLES and BARBARA STANDISH
Myles Standish was one of the most famous passengers to sail aboard the Mayflower in 1620. He signed the Mayflower Compact, led Plymouth Colony’s military forces and served in other leadership capacities. About 200 years later, he was immortalized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Courtship of Miles Standish.” Following is a very brief account of this interesting man’s activities.
Myles Standish was born about 1584 in England. (1)
Married twice. He married a woman named Rose, who died during the Pilgrim’s first winter in America. He married his second wife Barbara in 1623. (2)
Children of Myles and Barbara: (3)
Charles Standish, born about 1624. Died young.
Alexander Standish, born about 1626.
John Standish, born about 1627. Probably died young.
Myles Standish, born about 1629.
Lora Standish, born after 1627. Died before 1655.
Josiah Standish, born about 1633.
Charles Standish, born after 1634.
Conclusive proof of Myles’ origins has proved elusive since the early days of American genealogy. The best clues to the identity of his birthplace and parents come from his will, which states: “I give unto my son & heire aparent Alexander Standisn all my lands as heire apparent by lawfull decent in Ormistick Borsconge Wrightington Maudsley Newburrow Crawston and in the Ile of Man and given to mee as right heire by lawfull decent but surruptously detained from mee, my great grandfather being a 2ond or younger brother from the house of Standish of Standish.” Since many of these lands lay within Lancashire, that was generally though to been his point of origin for many years. However, research conducted over the last century indicates his birthplace was probably the Isle of Man, which is also mentioned in the will, and his parents were likely John and Christian (Lace) Standish of Ellanbane, Lezayre parish. (4)
Myles established his military credentials while campaigning against the Spaniards during the Netherlands’ wars for independence. Nathaniel Morton, who compiled and analyzed records from the Plymouth Colony in the mid-1800s, reported: “In his younger time he went over into the low countries, and was a soldier there, and came acquainted with the church at Leyden.” (5) Great Britain’s “Dictionary of National Biography” expands on this description. “Before 1603 Standish obtained a lieutenant’s commission in the English force serving under the Veres in the Netherlands, and took an active part in the war against the Spaniards.” (6)
While in the Netherlands, Myles was hired by the English Puritans as their military advisor. It appears that he never joined the Puritan church despite his long association with its members. However, he does appear to have been seen as faithful by many in the colony. A poem written after the death of the colony’s Gov. William Bradford in 1657 mentions Myles’ death, which occurred the previous year. Its author obviously believed he was a faithful Christina because it says, “And faithful Standish, freed from horrid pain, To be with Christ, in truth, the greatest gain.” In addition, the inventory of his estate mentions that he owned three Bibles and numerous books on Protestant theology, including John Calvin’s “Institutes of the Christian Religion.” (7)
It seems likely that Myles married his first wife, Rose, in the Netherlands or during the Pilgrim’s brief stay in England before their departure for America. The couple had no known children.
Both joined the Pilgrims when they sailed to America aboard the Mayflower. Myles and an unnamed companion appear on Gov. Bradford’s list of “those which came over first, in ye year 1620 and were (by the blessing of God) the first beginners, and (in a sort) the foundation, of all the plantations, and Colonies, in New England.” (8)
The Mayflower sailed from England in September 1620 and arrived off the coast of what is now Massachusetts after a difficult two-month journey. While off Cape Cod on Nov. 11, the Pilgrims signed an agreement that was intended to ensure good order as they established their colony. Miles Standish was among those who signed this document, which is known as the Mayflower Compact and is seen by many as the beginnings of democracy in America. (9)
The Pilgrims had intended to settle in the northern part of Virginia and sought to sail south after reaching the coast. However, adverse weather prevented that and they decided to send out expeditions to search for a suitable location to settle. Myles led or participated in these parties, which eventually located the site that became Plymouth. The settlers began erecting their first buildings in December.
With this late start, they were ill-prepared for their first winter. Gov. Bradford described the grim results in his history. “But that which was most sadd and lamentable was, that in 2 or 3 moneths time halfe of their company dyed, espetialy in Jan. and February, being the depth of, winter, and wanting houses and other comforts; being infected with the scurvie and other diseases, which this long voyage and their inacomodate condition had brought upon them; so as ther dyed some times 2 or 3 of a day, in the aforesaid time; that of 100 and odd persons, scarce 50 remained.” (10)
On Jan. 29, 1621, Rose Standish died during what Gov. Bradford later referred to as the “first sickness.” (11)
But during this trying time, Myles’ own service to the sick was noted by Gov. Bradford. At times, only six or seven healthy people remained to take care of the sick. These “spared no pains, night nor day, but with abundance of toyle and hazard of their owne health, fetched them woode, made them fires, drest them meat, made their beads, washed their lothsome cloaths, cloathed and uncloathed them; in a word, did all the homly and necessarie offices for them which dainty and quesie stomacks cannot endure to hear named. … Tow of these 7 were Mr. William Brewster, ther reverend Elder, and Myles Standish, ther Captein and military comander, unto whom my selfe, and many others, were much beholden in our low and sicke condition.”
In February, Myles was chosen to be captain of the colony’s small military force, a position he held throughout his life. (12) He set about organizing Plymouth’s defenses, which included building a wooden palisade around the town.
The period following Rose’s death would have been the setting for the famous love story penned by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The Courtship of Miles Standish.” The narrative poem describes Myles and John Alden wooing Priscilla Mullens. In the poem, John wins Priscilla’s heart and the two are married.
While contemporary sources don’t mention such a love triangle, it appears that some sort of tradition existed before Longfellow wrote the poem in 1858. In 1814, Timothy Alden wrote “A Collection of American Epitaphs and Inscriptions with Occasional Notes,” which contains a brief account that provides the basic outline of the love story. “In a very short time after the decease of mrs. Standish, the captain was led to think, that, if he could obtain miss Priscilla Mullins, a daughter of mr. William Mullins, the breach in his family would be happily repaired. He, therefore, according to the custom of those times, sent to ask mr. Mullins’ permission to visit his daughter. John Alden, the messenger, went and faithfully communicated the wishes of the captain. The old gentleman did not object, as he might have done, on account of the recency of captain Standish’s bereavement. He said it was perfectly agreeable to him, but the young lady must also be consulted. The damsel was then called into the room, and John Aden, who is said to have been a man of most excellent form with a fair and ruddy complexion, arose, and, in a very courteous and prepossessing manner, delivered his errand. Miss Mullins listened with respectful attention, and at last, after a considerable pause, fixing her eyes upon him, with an open and pleasant countenance, said, ‘prithee, John, why do you not speak for yourself?’ He blushed, and bowed, and took his leave, but with a look, which indicated more, than his diffidence would permit him otherwise to express. However, he soon renewed his visit, and it was not long before their nuptials were celebrated in ample form.” (13)
Of course John and Priscilla were indeed married and raised a family in the colony. Interestingly, several decades later, Myles’ son Alexander married John and Priscilla’s daughter Sarah.
During the early part of 1621, the Pilgrims made a treaty with the Native American leader Massasoit. Other Native Americans who aided the settlers were Squanto, who had learned English after he was abducted and carried to England, and Hobbamock, a lieutenant of Massasoit’s. Squanto often acted as the Pilgrim’s intermediary with the Native Americans and taught them much about surviving in their new home, including the way to cultivate Indian corn. Hobbamock became a companion of Myles’ and “continued very faithfull and constant to ye English till he dyed,” according to Gov. Bradford.
In August of 1621, a Native American leader named Corbitant tried to capture Hobbamock and Squanto. Gov. Bradford said Corbitant “offered to stabe Hobamack; but being a lusty man, he cleared him selfe of him, and came runing away all sweating and tould ye Govr what had befalne him, and he feared they had killed Squanto, for they threatened them both, and for no other cause but because they were freinds to ye English.” (14) The governor and council decided to send Myles and 14 others to “goe & fall upon them in ye night; and if they found that Squanto was kild, to cut of Corbitants head, but not to hurt any but those that had a hand in it.” Hobbamock led the party to Corbitant’s wigwam, which the English surrounded. Myles broke into the home and discovered that Corbitant had departed earlier that day and the Squanto had been threatened but was still alive. Amid the assault, three Native Americans were wounded when they fled the wigwam and tried to break through the English cordon. These were taken back to the English settlement, where their wounds were treated and they were sent home. Gov. Bradford reports the raid lead to a “much firmer peace,” as allied tribes sent congratulations, another tribe sought friendship and Corbitnant made his peace.
That fall, the Pilgrims celebrated a successful harvest in an event seen as the precursor to today’s Thanksgiving holiday. The Pilgrim leader Edward Winslow described the event in “Mourt’s Relation,” which was first published in 1622. (15) “[O]ur harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week, … many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deer, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”
Despite the alliance with Masssoit, tensions with other Native Americans kept the settlers on their guard. Matters came to a head in 1622 after another group of English arrived and settled near what is now Weymouth, Mass. Through theft and other activities, this group angered the Native Americans, who decided to destroy both English settlements. When native allies warned the Plymouth colony of the conspiracy, the Pilgrims decided to send Myles and eight other men to strike first. They were ordered to pretend to be a trading party, attack the ringleaders and return with the head of a sachem named Wituwamat. The party’s actions were described by Winslow two years after the encounter. (16)
When the party arrived at the settlement, they urged the English to leave for Plymouth. At the same time, the Native Americans sent a man pretending to be a trader to ascertain the party’s intensions. The man sensed Myles “was angry in his heart” and warned the conspirators that they had been discovered. After this, one of the ringleaders, a man named Pecksuot, confronted Myles and told him the conspirators were not afraid. Others then sharpened their knives “before his face” and made threatening gestures. And the dreaded Wituwamat bragged of the “excellency of his knife,” mentioning that he had used it to kill both French and English. After this, Pecksuot chided the captain, saying, “though he were a great captain, yet he was but a little man.” After recounting these insults and threats, Winslow notes, “These things the Captain observed, yet bare with patience for the present.”
The next day, Myles saw a chance to act. The captain, Hobbamock and three other English were in a room with Pecksuot, Wituwamat, Wituwamat’s cruel younger brother and another Native American. Myles gave the word, the door was shut and the Englishmen fell upon their foes. Myles “began himself with Pecksuot, and snatching his [Pecksuot’s] own knife from his neck, and though with much struggling, killed him therewith …. Wituwamat and the other man the rest killed, and took the youth, whom the Captain caused to be hanged. But it is incredible how many wounds these two pineses received before they died, not making any fearful noise, but catching at their weapons and striving to the last.” Hobbamock had refused to participate in the ambush, believing that the English “demeaned themselves in this action.” But once the fighting had ended, he quickly smiled and said, “Yesterday Pecksuot, bragging of his own strength and stature, said, though you were a great captain, yet you were but a little man; but to-day I see you are big enough to lay him on the ground.”
The English then moved outside, joined forces with members of the settlement and killed three other Native American men and captured several women. Soon afterwards, they encountered a larger war party. Both sides tried to reach a small hill that would provide an advantage in a fight. The English reach it first and the Native American retreated, hid behind trees and started firing arrows, especially targeting Myles and Hobbamock. Hobbamock then threw off his coat and ran after the enemies. At the same time, Myles and another shot at a foe who was drawing his bow and hit his arm, breaking it. The Native Americans then fled into a swamp. The two sides then chided each other from a distance. Winslow says, “So our Captain dared the sachim to come out and fight like a man, showing how base and womanlike he was in tonguing it as he did; but he refused, and fled.”
The party then returned to Plymouth. Winslow describes the scene: “Now was the Captain returned and received with joy, the head [of Wituwamat] being brought to the fort, and there set up.” Upon their return, Myles released the captive women and would not “suffer the least discourtesy to be offered them.”
Even though the party acted under specific orders to kill the conspiracy’s ringleaders and return with Wituwamat’s head, the action drew criticism from some contemporaries. For example, the Pilgrim’s former pastor in the Netherlands, John Robinson, regretted the loss of life and pointed to Myles’ “warm temper” while saying he doubted the captain had “tenderness of the life of man, made after God’s image.” And even Gov. Bradford glossed over the incident in his history of the colony. On the other hand, Winslow and others were supportive, seeing the conspiracy as an existential threat to the colony. They were aware that only a few months earlier almost 350 English settlers had been massacred by Native Americans in Virginia. (17)
Robinson wasn’t the only critic to note Myles’ temper. The Rev. William Hubbard, writing “A General History of New England” 60 years after these events, was particularly caustic. “Captain Standish had been bred a soldier in the Low Countries, and never entered the school of our Savior Christ, or of John Baptist, his harbinger, or, if he was ever there, had forgot his first lessons, to offer violence to no man, and to part with the cloak rather than needlessly contend for the coat, though taken away without order. A little chimney is soon fired; so was the Plymouth Captain, a man of very little stature, yet of very hot and angry temper. The fire of his passion soon kindled and blown up into a flame by hot words, might easily have consumed all, had it not been seasonably quenched.” In addition to Hubbard and Pecksuot, others also noted Myles’ short stature. An fierce opponent of the Puritan settlement, Thomas Morton, called him “Captain Shrimp.” And another opponent said “Captain Standish looks like a silly boy, and is in utter contempt.” (18)
In February 1623, Myles was sent with a party to Mattachiest to trade for corn. While in the Native American village, a number of strangers arrived – “pretending only to see him and his company … but intending to join with the rest to kill them,” according to Winsow. That night, the English were “forced through extremity” to spend the night in the Native American wigwams. However, Myles grew suspicious and decided to have his party sleep in watches. At some point, someone stole trading beads from Myles’ party. When Myles discovered this, he drew his force together and surrounded the Sachem’s house. Myles then threatened to “fall upon them without further delay, if they would not forthwith restore them.” The sachem found the responsible party and ensured that the beads were returned. Winslow reports that this action “so daunted their courage, as they durst not attempt any thing against him.” (19)
Myles’ second marriage occurred sometime in 1623. That summer, the ship Anne carried additional settlers to Plymouth. Among them was a woman named Barbara. We know Myles and Barbara were married soon thereafter because they are named in a division of land later that year. The list of property recipients includes Captain Myles Standish, who arrived aboard the May-Floure, who received 2 acres, and Mrs. Standish, who arrived aboard the Anne and received 1 acre. (20) Four years later, cattle belonging to the colony were divided among the settlers. The list of recipients contained the names of Myles, his wife Barbara and sons Charles, Allexander and John. (21)
In 1625, Plymouth officials sent Myles back to England with letters to the Honorable Council of New England seeking new terms for the colony. However, London was in the grip of the plague that summer so nothing was resolved before he returned to America. (22)
About this time, Plymouth started having more problems with other groups of European settlers than with Native Americans.
In 1625, an English settlement was established near what is now Quincy, Mass. It was named Mount Wollaston, after the colony’s leader Capt. Richard Wollaston. However, Wollaston eventually moved to Virginia and leadership of the settlement fell to Thomas Morton – a man described by Gov. Bradford as “having more craft then honestie.” (23) The Puritan governor offered a very interesting portrait of the downward spiral of what became known as Merry Mount. “After this they fell to great licenciousnes, and led a dissolute life, powering out them selves into all profanenes. And Morton became lord of misrule … And after they … gott much by trading with ye Indeans, they spent it as vainly, in quaffing & drinking both wine & strong waters in great exsess ... They allso set up a May-pole, drinking and dancing aboute it many days togeather, inviting the Indean women, for their consorts, dancing and frisking togither, (like so many fairies, or furies rather,) and worse practises. ... They chainged allso the name of their place, and in stead of calling it Mounte Wollaston, they call it Merie-mounte, as if this joylity would have lasted ever.”
Although the Puritans looked down on the debauchery at Merry Mount, they didn’t act until matters became dangerous. Morton began to sell guns and powder to the Native Americans and to train them in their use. This and the potential for Morton to gather “all ye scume of ye countrie, or any discontents” scared the surrounding settlements, who asked Plymouth for help. After Morton rejected letters requesting him to desist, officials decided their only choice was to use force.
Myles was sent to Merry Mount with an armed force. Morton was prepared for an assault, having locked the doors and armed his companions. But they were also “over armed with drinke,” according to Gov. Bradford. Eventually, Morton and his men sallied from his house to attack Myles’ party. “[B]ut they were so steeld with drinke as their peeces were to[o] heavie for them.” Morton himself prepared to shoot Myles, but the captain stepped up to the leader, pushed his gun aside and captured him. The only casualty in the encounter was one of Morton’s men who was so drunk that he ran his nose into a sword. Morton was sent back to England for trial but went unpunished. He returned to New England a year later.
In 1635, Myles participated in his last major expedition. The French had captured a trading post on the Penobscot River in what is now Maine and Gov. Bradford ordered Myles to recapture it. The colony gathered a force of 20 men and hired a ship named the Great Hope, commanded by a man named Girling. It appears the plan was to bombard the French into submission. Unfortunately, Girlie was rash and would not list to advice, according to Gov. Bradford. (24) When the ship arrived in the waters near the trading post, Girling “begane to shoot at distance like a madd man, and did them no hurte at all.” By the time Girling was persuaded to sail closer to the target, he was too short of gunpowder to continue firing. As a result, the mission failed.
After this, Myles continued to be selected to command forces in times of crisis, but none of the later incidents ended in fighting. In September 1642, who was selected to lead forces when the settlers learned of “conspiracy intended by the natives to cut of[f] all the English in this land.” (25) And in 1653, he was placed in command of troops during a war with the Dutch. (26)
In addition to his military responsibilities, Myles was named to many positions in the colonial government. “Mayflower Families” provides a brief overview of his major offices. “He is first mentioned as an Assistant 1 Jan. 1632-3, but was probably an Assistant before then. He frequently held that position up to the year he died. He was first elected Treasurer in 1644 and was frequently elected to that office up to 1655. On 3 May 1653 he was appointed Deputy Governor in the absence of the Governor.” (27)
In the 1630s, Myles and his family were among the first to settle in the town of Duxburrow, which is now known as Duxbury. He still appears on tax lists for Plymouth in 1633 and 1634. Myles was granted land in Duxburrow in 1637 and 1638 and he appears on a list of Duxburrow freemen in 1639. In 1643, Myles and Alexander appear on a list of residents who were age 16 to 60 and able to bear arms. Neither Charles nor John is named so they had probably died by that point. (28)
Myles continued to live in Duxburrow until the time of his death.
Myles wrote his will on March 7, 1655, saying he was “in p’fect memory yet deseased in my body.” He asked that he be buried near his daughter Lora and daughter-in-law Mary. He bequeathed a third of his estate to his “dear and loveing wife Barbara,” and portions of the remainder to his sons: Alexandeer, Myles, Josias and Charles, with a double share going to the eldest, Alexander. Finally, he also gave the lands that he claimed in England to his “heire apparent,” Alexander. (29)
Myles died Oct. 3, 1656. (30)
The will was proved on May 4, 1657. An inventory of his estate was taken Dec. 2 by John Alden and James Cudworth. It was valued at £358, 7 shillings and included “one Dwelling house and outhuses with the land therunto belonging,” which was valued at £140, as well as numerous oxen, cattle, horses, sheep and swine. He also had owned 10 guns, a sword, a cutlass and a wide assortment of books, including the three Bibles and theological tomes. (31)
Barbara’s date of death is not known. She lived at least until October 1659, when the inventory of the estate of Elizabgeth Hopkins mentioned “a smale matter in Mrs. Standishes hand.” (32)
During the Victorian era, Myles was seen as a romantic hero. In addition to Longfellow’s poem, his deeds were commemorated with a granite pillar and statue rising over Duxbury. Myles’ profile in Britain’s “Dictionary of National Biography” was compiled at this time and gives a good idea of the era’s view of the man. “In person he was slender and of small stature, but strong and well knit. In character he was essentially a man of action, excitable and passionate, prompt in coming to a determination and unperturbed by sudden danger. Brought into constant contact with the most treacherous race in the world, he went among them alone or almost unguarded, and, though frequent plots were formed to destroy him, the respect inspired by his magnanimity preserved him in every case. The importance of his battles must not be gauged by the number of combatants. The success of the settlement at New Plymouth decided which of the European races should be dominant in North America. Standish was the most vivid and interesting of the ‘pilgrim fathers,’ and romance has always attached itself to his name.”
(1) The information provided here relies heavily on several profiles of Myles. These include: “Mayflower Families Through Five Generations: Volume Fourteen; Family of Myles Standish,” edited by Robert S. Wakefield, published by General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1997, pages 1-3; and “The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633,” Vol. 3, by Robert Charles Anderson, Boston: New England Historical and Genealogical Society, 1996-2011, pages 1741-1746. Both of these sources rely heavily on original documentation, much of which I have checked myself. Myles is also profiled in “The Standishes of America,” by Myles Standish, Boston, 1895, pages 5-7, most of which is taken up by a transcription of his will. (2) Rose is recorded as Myles wife in William Bradford’s list of the Mayflower’s original passengers. A transcription appears in “Mayflower Increasings,” by Susan E. Roser, Genealogical Publishing Co., 1989, page 127. In a list compiled 30 years later, Bradford notes that Rose “dyed in the first great sickness” and that Myles remarried and had several sons. This appears on page 129 of “Mayflower Increasings.” Barbara Standish as Myles’ wife in a number of places. Most notably, Barbara is listed below Myles in 1627 division of the colony’s cattle and Barbara is listed as Myles’ loving wife in his will. (3) Myles’ will, which is transcribed in “Standishes of America” lists Alexander, Myles, Josias, the younger Charles and Lora, who had died previously. The elder Charles and John are listed in the cattle division, but don’t appear in the will so are presumed to have died beforehand. All of the children and their approximate birth years are listed in “Mayflower Families” and “The Great Migration Begins.” (4) The most recent research has pointed to the Isle of Man. G.V.C. Young published support for the link to John Standish in “Pilgrim Myles Standish: First Manx-American,” 1984. This is mentioned in “The Great Migration Begins” and is accepted by the “Oxford Dictionary of National Biography,” which is an updated modern version of the “Dictionary of National Biography.” A transcription of the will appears in “Standishes of America,” pages 5-7. Images of Myles’ will are available at Ancestry.com’s “Massachusetts Wills and Probate Records,” Plymouth County, Mass., “Wills, Vol 1-4, 1633-1686,” image No. 171. (5) “New England’s Memorial,” by Nathaniel Morton, Congregational Board of Publication, Boston, 1855, page 170. (6) “Dictionary of National Biography,” Vol. 53, page 474. (7) The poem is included in “New England’s Memorial,” page 175. The estate inventory is cited in “The Great Migration Begins,” page 1741. I have been unable to find a primary source that states he never joined the church, though the matter is mentioned in many accounts of his life written over the last 250 years. (8) The list appears in “Mayflower Increasings,” page 127. (9) “New England’s Memorial,” page 26. (10) The account of the sickness and caregivers appears in Gov. William Bradford’s “History of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647,” published for the Massachusetts Historical Society by Houghton Mifflin Co., 1912, Vol. I, pages 193-196. (11) Rose’s death is noted in “Mayflower Increasings,” page 129. The date appears in “New England’s Memorial,” page 288. (12) The military appointment is mentioned in a chronology of the colony in “Mourt’s Relation or Journal of the Plantation at Plymouth,” Henry M. Dexter, Boston, 1864, page 160. “Mourt’s Relation” is a 1622 account compiled by the Pilgrims. (13) Timothy Alden’s account is retold in a brochure from Pilgrim’s Hall Museum and available at www.pilgrimhallmuseum.org. An abbreviated version also appears in Nathaniel Morton’s “New England’s Memorial,” page 170. Morton’s book was published in 1855, only a few years before Longfellow wrote his poem. (14) Bradford’s “History of Plymouth,” page 103-104. (15) “Mourt’s Relation,” page 133, with modern spellings provided by the Pilgrim Hall Museum website at www.pilgrimhallmuseum.org. (16) “Good Newes from New England, or a True Relation of Things very Remarkable at the Plantation of Plimouth in New England,” by Edward Winslow, originally printed in 1624, and reprinted in “Chronicles of The Pilgrim Fathers,” by Alexander Young, Boston, 1841, pages 327-343. (17) Robinson’s letter and other responses are quoted in a footnote in “Pilgrim Fathers,” page 339. (18) William Hubbard’s passage appears on page 111 of the 1840 edition of “A General History of New England,” originally written in the 1680s. The other insults are mentioned in “The Great Migration Begins,” page 1743. (19) “Pilgrim Fathers,” page 308-309. (20) The property list appears in “History of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647,” Vol. I, pages 347 and 348. (21) The cattle division appears in “Mayflower Increasings,” page 131. (22) Bradford’s “History of Plymouth Plantation,” page 203. (23) Bradford’s “History of Plymouth Plantation,” pages 235-243. (24) Bradford’s “History of Plymouth Plantation,” pages 333-335.
(25) “Records of the Colony of New Plymouth, in New England,” vol. II, edited by Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, Boston, 1855, page 47. (26) “The Great Migration Begins,” page 1742, citing “Records of the Colony of New Plymouth, in New England,” vol. III, pages 29 and 55. Also, “Dictionary of National Biography,” Vol. 53, page 475. (27) The offices are mentioned in “Mayflower Families,” page 1. (28) The tax and freeman lists are mentioned in “The Great Migration Begins,” page 1741. The 1643 list appears in “Records of Plymouth Colony,” edited by Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, originally published as “Records of the Colony of New Plymouth in New England,” reprinted by Genealogical Publishing Co., 1976, page 190. (29) The will is transcribed in a number of places, including “The Standishes of America,” pages 5-7. Images of Myles’ will and inventory are available at Ancestry.com at “Massachusetts Wills and Probate Records,” Plymouth County, Wills, Vol 1-4. It appears in Vol. 2, page 37. (30) Various secondary sources, including “The Great Migration Begins,” Vol. 3, page 1743. (31) “The Great Migration Begins,” Vol. 3, page 1743. Inventory is from “Mayflower Descendant,” Vol. 3, pages 153-156. (32) Hopkins’ will is abstracted in “Mayflower Source Records,” selected by Gary B. Roberts, Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, 1986, page 528. It’s partially quoted in “Mayflower Families,” page 2.
ALEXANDER and DESIRE STANDISH
Alexander Standish was born about 1626 in Plymouth County, Mass., to Myles and Barbara Standish. (1)
Married twice. Alexander married Sarah Alden, the daughter of John and Priscilla (Mullins) Alden. Several years after Sarah died, Alexander married Desire Holmes. Desire was a widow who was born about 1645 to Edward and Fair (Clark) Doty. (2)
Children of Alexander of Sarah: (3)
Lora Standish. Married Abraham Sampson.
Lydia Standish. Married Isaac Sampson.
Elizabeth Standish. Married Samuel Delano.
Mercy Standish. Married Caleb Sampson.
Sarah Standish, born about 1666. Married Benjamin Soule.
Ebenezer Standish, born about 1672.
David Standish. Died in 1689.
Children of Alexander and Desire:
Desire Standish, born May 5, 1689. Married Nathan Weston.
Thomas Standish, born Jan. 29, 1690/1.
Ichabod Standish, born June 10, 1693.
Alexander was born in the early years of the Plymouth colony to one of the Mayflower’s most famous passengers. His father Myles was the colony’s military leader and held many other posts over the years.
The name of Alexander Standish appears just beneath that of Capt. Standish in the August 1643 list of “The names of all the males that are able to beare armes from XVI years to 60 yeares wthin the severall Touneshippes.” They are listed in “Duxborrow.” (4)
On June 1, 1647, when he was about 21, Alexander was proposed as a freeman, a man who had full civic rights. He was elected to that status on June 7, 1648. (5)
When Capt. Myles Standish died in 1656, his will stipulated that “my eldest son Allexander shall have a doubble share in land.” (5a)
Alexander settled on his father’s property. “History of the Town of Duxbury, Massachusetts,” published in 1849, says Myles “Standish probably built his house about the time of his first coming to Duxbury, or about the year 1632. It was occupied by him until his death in 1656. He son Alexander then succeeded to the estate, who it is said built and addition to it, in which he kept a store.” (6)
Alexander married Sarah Alden at some point during the 1650s or early 1660s. She was the daughter of John Alden and Priscilla Mullen, both of whom were passengers on the Mayflower. From a literary perspective, this is a fascinating match because his father and her parents were the main characters in the romantic poem, “The Courtship of Myles Standish,” which was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1858. Although the poet claimed he based the story on oral tradition, there is no proof whether the colonial love triangle was real or was imagined.
Although nowhere near as prominent as his father, Alexander held several municipal offices in Duxbury. “History of the Town of Duxbury” and ““Copy of the Old Records of the Town of Duxbury, Massachusetts, from 1642 to 1770” reveal service in a variety of positions from 1669 to 1699. (7) The Duxbury history says he “was often the town’s deputy at Plymouth, and was one of its first clerks.” Alexander served as town clerk in the mid-1680s and from 1695 to 1700. The Duxbury history provides a job description for this role: “By the Court it is ordered, ‘That the Clarke, or some one in every towne do keepe a register of the day and yeare of every marryage, byrth, and burial & to have 3d apeece for his paynes.” The Duxbury history also mentions he served a one-year term as a constable in 1669. It notes, “This was an office of high trust and responsibility, and note were elected to it, but men of good standing.” The town records indicate that Alexander was selected commissioner of assessments in 1687 and commissioner in 1688. He also served as a juror for the court of assistants in 1691.
Alexander was also a merchant, at least for several years. “History of the Town of Duxbury” says “Alexander Standish is said to have been a trader in Duxbury even as early as the latter part of the seventeenth century. He is said to have made an addition to the house of his father, Captain Standish, and in this part to have conducted his traffic with the Indians and others. In the remains of that part of the house articles have been found, which would serve to strengthen the tradition.” (8)
At some point, possibly around 1665, Alexander’s house burned. The early historian of Duxbury, Justin Winsor, describes a primitive archaeological excavation of the site of the Standish home. In his 1848 “History of the Town of Duxbury,” he says:
“A few years ago, when discoveries were first made here by Mr. Kent, the foundation stones were nearly in their original positions. The cement employed was evidently ground clam-shells, and the roof was thatched. The outline of the house is now hardly distinguishable. We have a tradition that it was burned down — and this is substantiated by the evident traces of fire still to be seen — but at what time is not precisely known, though it has been supposed about the year 1665. About twenty or more years ago Mr. Kent, then pastor of the church in the town, first opened the ground about the site. The first substance discovered was a quantity of barley, perfectly charred, and apparently in wrapped in a blanket. This was found in the east corner of the site, which was thought to be a small cellar. At the chimney in the new part were found the
ashes, as perfectly fresh as though the fire had but just been extinguished, and here also was found a portion of an andiron, an iron pot, and other articles. In other parts of the ground there were discovered a buccaneer gun-lock, a sickle, a hammer, a whetstone, a large hinge, a scythe-wedge, portions of stone jugs and other pieces of earthen ware; large quantities of glass, and some beads, some of which show the appearance of the action of great heat; several buckles, and among others a sword-buckle; a brass kettle, a pair of scissors, a small glass phial, chisels and files, parts of pipes, and other articles of household use. T here were also found a deer’s horn, and a tomahawk of fine workmanship, possibly the veritable instrument of Hobomok.” (9)
Alexander appears on the list of freemen of Duxbury in 1670. (10)
The death of Alexander’s first wife, Sarah, probably occurred in the late 1670s or early 1680s. An account provided in papers related to Alexander’s estate says that after Sarah’s death Alexander “lived a widower many years until all of his 5 daughters or 4 of them were marryed.” Alexander married his second wife and four of the five were married by 1686 so Sarah presumably died “many years” before that date.
In recalling their mother, Sarah’s children said she “was daughter to ye worshipful Mr. John Alden a good and prudent woman,” according to the probate records.
Alexander’s second marriage occurred about 1686. The probate records state that “About 16 years before he dyed he marryed a second wife.” Since he died in 1702, the second marriage occured about 1686.
The second wife was a widow whose maiden name was Desire Doty. Even though she was about 20 years younger than Alexander, she had been married twice before and given birth to eight children. (11)
Desire was also the daughter of a Mayflower passenger, though her father was not as illustrious as “ye worshipful Mr. John Alden” or Capt. Myles Standish. Edward Doty sailed with the Pilgrims as the servant of Stephen Hopkins, but he still signed the Mayflower Compact and participated in many important events during the early days of the colony. He is noted as being involved in the colony’s first duel, in which he and the other participant received minor injuries.
Desire herself lived a life that was eventful and sometimes tragic.
She married her first husband, William Sherman, on Dec. 25, 1667. He was born about 1640 to William and Prudence (Hill) Sherman. (12)
They had the following children in Marshfield, Mass.: (13)
Hannah Sherman, born Feb. 21, 1668/9.
Elizabeth Sherman, born March 11, 1670/1.
William Sherman, born April 19, 1672.
Patience Sherman, born Aug. 3, 1674.
Experience Sherman, born Sept. 24, 1678. Married Myles Standish, the son of Desire’s third husband.
Ebenezer Sherman, born April 21, 1680.
“The Doty-Doten Family in America” describes William as “an extensive farmer there and an active man.” However, things began to change after William served in the Indian conflict known as King Philips’s War in 1675. The experience affected him deeply and eventually drove him insane.
The Doty history describes the war and its impact on the Sherman family. It says William, “with most of the other able bodied men of the town, shouldered his musket and went to the front. The war proved in many respects a very severe one. The border settlements, which had now begun to be established at favorable points in the interior, as far as Springfield, were attacked, captured, burned and the settlers massacred. It taxed the utmost resources of the colony to cope with it, and it was not until some six hundred lives had been lost, twelve or thirteen towns had been destroyed and the colony had expended the immense sum of $500,000 that King Philip, the Indian chief, was tracked to his lair at Narragansett in the latter part of 1676 and killed.
“In atrocities by the Indians on the defenseless settlers and on prisoners, this war was unquestionably a most harrowing experience for the colonists and William Sherman, by reason of the exposures and hardships, and witnessing the cruelties of that campaign, was subject after his return to periods of insanity during the balance of his life.”
As a result of this, the government stepped in to help the Sherman family. “Mayflower Families Through Five Generations” describes the assistance. “On 4 Oct. 1675, the Court awarded Desire Sherman 20 pounds, ‘in reference to her husband William Sherman Junr., whoe fell destracted in the service of the country, … towards the releiffe of them and theire family, being by reason of great charges and necessities in great straightes’.” When her mother died two years later, the court acted again. “The reference by the Court on 10/20 July 1677 to ‘the low condition of the eldest [daughter]’ in the distribution of 30 shillings from her mother’s estate was prompted by this misfortune.” (14)
In 1680, William died. He was buried in Marshfield on Nov. 17. (15)
Desire was now a widow with six young children. As was the custom in colonial days, she didn’t wait long to find another provider. Just over a year later, on Nov. 24, 1681, Desire married a widower named Israel Holmes. Israel was born about 1661 to William and Elizabeth Holmes, probably in Scituate, Mass. His first wife was Anna Rouse, who died soon after their marriage in 1678. (16)
Israel and Desire had the following children in Marshfield: (17)
Israel Holmes, born Feb. 17, 1682/3.
John Holmes, born June 15, 1684.
Tragedy struck Desire’s family again when Israel, who was a fisherman, drowned four months before the birth of their second son. “The Doty-Doten Family in America” reports that he “was drowned, ‘being cast away sailing into Plymouth Harbor,’ February 24th, 1684-5, and was buried at Plymouth.” (18)
Once again Desire was widowed, this time with a total of eight children. This is when Alexander Standish stepped into the picture.
“The Doty-Doten Family in America” says, “Mrs. Desire Standish lived with her third husband happily for many years until his death, which occurred in 1703, at the old homestead in Duxbury.” Alexander actually died in 1702.
As the years passed, Alexander’s son David died when a tree fell on him in 1689. And at some point, Desire’s daughter Experience married Alexander’s son Myles. (19)
At the time of his death, Alexander held a farm in Duxbury appraise at 400 pounds, land in Bridgewater appraised at 200 pounds and moveable goods valued at 117 pounds, according to his file in the Plymouth County probate records.
In the months before his death, Alexander made his will. He wrote the bulk of it in February 1702 and added several more items on July 5 “upon some further serious considerations.” These final stipulations benefitted his eldest son Myles and the young children of his second wife – Thomas, Ichabod and Desire, who were all age 13 or younger.
Alexander died on July 6, the day after adding the additional items to his will.
As was typical for the era, Alexander’s will made provisions for his “dear and loving wife.” He granted Desire the property she brought into the marriage, one-third of his movable estate, three cows, 12 sheep and “ye use of ye best room or of any rooms either above or below … and her wood sufficient for her burning brought to ye door.” He also ordered that his “eldest son & proper heir Miles Standish” provide her with grain.
Alexander then bequeathed to Myles his “dwelling house in Duxboro viz barn orchard or orchards & all of my upland & meadows in Duxborough,” which he then describes in detail.
For his second son, Alexander allotted a parcel of land, writing, “I give to my son Ebenezer Standish all ye land at ye heads of ye lots for his portion which he has sold to Mr. Robinson.” However, a complaint filed by some of Alexander’s other heirs states that Alexander himself sold the land and that Ebenezer received 100 pounds as a result of the transaction.
To the five daughters of his first wife, Alexander left a meager 5 shillings apiece.
But he was much more generous to his three youngest children. Thomas, Ichabod and Desire each received a bed, furniture, a cow and five sheep. And Alexander stipulated that Thomas, Ichabod and Desire received most of the money that was due to him from several sources. In addition, Alexander wrote that his “two sons Thomas Standish & Ichabod Standish shall have five acres of good land within the same [property as Myles] to plant & sow when they are grown up to manage it for themselves & for their mother to have ye use of all the instruments of husbandry viz cart wheels tumbrill chains And manure to mend their land withal as they see cause.” In addition, he gave Thomas and Ichabod “all my land butting upon Winnatuxet river next to Mr. Tomsons land equally to be divided between them both for quantity & quality with ye meadow that was granted by ye court to my father at Satucket pond which was four acres more or less or proportionable to such a tract of upland.” He gave Thomas his short carbine and a “small boared gun” and Ichabod his musket and shirt buttons. He gave them a yoke of oxen to share and “all my wearing clothes that my wife sees them most suitable for.” Finally, he asked that “my books be divided among my three sons Miles Standish Thomas Standish & Ichabod Standish & my daughter Desire Standish.”
Less than a week after his death, Alexander’s will was challenged by the husbands of four of his elder daughters. On July 11, Abraham Samson, Isaac Samson, Caleb Samson and Benjamin Soule filed a protest claiming that Alexander was “in his Old age was much decayed in his understanding & memory” when he wrote his will. Their primary concern was to acquire a meadow that they claimed was not mentioned in the will. The case continued for a year, finally being settled in July 1703 with the decision that Myles should maintain the meadow in question but that he should pay each of his sisters 10 pounds within the coming year.
The case reveals some interesting family dynamics. The daughters and their husbands obviously didn’t think much of Desire and resented her children. While they claimed concern for their brother Myles, their efforts actually targeted him since he held the meadow they desired. And they were obviously angry with their father.
In their protest, the complainants slammed Alexander’s mental faculties, stating, “Now we say that our said ffather being about 76 years of age when he dyed was not only through age decayed but otherwise also so as he was not of a disposing mind to will his Estate with Reason and understanding as by ye Professed will it self is manifest.”
According to the complainants, the problems with the will included:
? Alexander added clauses “ye day before he dyed,” which was about five months after the will was initially written and “Time long Enough to have disposed of his Estate well Had he been of a disposing memory.”
? He neglected to dispose of the large meadow the desired.
? His provisions for his widow and her children placed an undue burden Myles, who was also Desire’s son-in-law thanks to his marriage to her daughter Experience Sherman. “And thus he hath maid his Eldest son a servant for life or to pay her and hers ten pounds per annum.”
? “He cuts off his 5 Daughters which he had by his first wife only with 5 shillings apeece All married as was said before and each a mother of sundry children well disposed women.” Apparently, this was particularly irksome because Alexander gave his elder daughters “very little and to some of them nothing at all in his Life time but promised to consider them in his will.”
? His provisions for his widow and her children left insufficient funds to pay his debts.
? Some of the items in “ye said writing were absurd,” such as disposing of some goods several times and disposing of what was not his own. And in some items it was “difficult to understand his meaning.”
The court’s ruling that they should each received 10 pounds appears to have satisfied the daughters’ families – at least enough to put an end to the battle over Alexander’s estate.
Although Alexander bequeathed his home to his son Myles, he allotted room for Desire and her children. With that provision and the fact that Myles was married to her daughter, it’s likely that Desire remained in the house for many years.
“The Doty-Doten Family in America” provides a fitting eulogy for Desire at the end of her profile. “She was a remarkable woman, as is evident from her history. Born on the High Cliff at Plymouth, losing her father at the age of ten years, her early married life especially unfortunate by reason of the insanity of her first and the early death of her second husband, she not only successfully raised the young children left to her care, but her troubles had borne so lightly upon her that she attracted the attention of and married the well-to-do farmer of Duxbury. She lived to see her children well married and prosperous, and before her death her pathway was smoothed by hosts of grandchildren at Marshfield and Duxbury, who must have found delight in listening to the tales of one who had had such a long and varied experience.”
Desire died Jan. 22, 1731 in Marshfield. (20)
At the time she wrote her will on July 30, 1723, Desire seems to have been relatively well off financially. (21) The will indicates that she was in a position in which she could lend money to others. She bequeaths to her eldest son, William Sherman, “all that is due to me from him or that shall be due at the time of my Decease for my Dower or third of the Rents or Improvements of ye farm which he now lives upon.” She left her son John Holmes one cow and her sons Ebenezer Sherman, Israel Holmes, John Holmes, Thomas Standish and Ichabod Standish “all of the money & Bills of writ which I shall have at ye time of my Decease to be equally Divided among them.” Desire gave her moveable good to her three daughters Hannah Ring, Experience Standish and Desire Weston and her granddaughter Desire Wormall, the daughter of Patience.
Finally, “The Doty-Doten Family in America” reports: “She lived to an advanced age and died at Marshfield, Mass., according to her gravestone in the Cedar Grove Cemetery there, in January, 1731, at the age of eighty-six years. Her remains rest near the church of the First Parish, in the old cemetery, among the family of her first husband.”
(1) Alexander’s father is identified in the will of Myles Standish, which is transcribed in the profile of Myles in “The Standishes of America,” by Myles Standish, Boston, 1895, pages 5-7. Alexander’s approximate birth year can be determined from probate records that mention he was about 76 years old when he died in 1702. The probate records can be found at “Massachusetts Wills and Probate Records” under Plymouth County, at Ancestry.com. Unfortunately, Alexander’s file was not indexed properly on the webstie and must be found by paging through the section titled: “Probate Estate Files, No 19057-19168, Sprague, John-Standish, J Warren, 1686-1915.” It is file No. 19152. Alexander is profiled in “Standishes of America” on pages 7 to 10. Alexander is also profiled in “Mayflower Families Through Five Generations: Volume Fourteen; Family of Myles Standish,” edited by Robert S. Wakefield, published by General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1997, pages 4 and 5. (2) There is no record of either of Alexander’s weddings. Sarah, daughter of John Alden, is specifically identified as Alexander’s wife and the mother of the majority of his childrenn in the probate records. And Desire identifies herself as Alexander’s widow in her will, which is available at “Massachusetts Wills and Probate Records,” on Ancestry.com. The will is not indexed but can be found by searching Plymouth County “Probates, Vol 6-6u.” It is on page 177. Both marriages are listed in “New England Marriages Prior to 1700,” by Clarence A. Torrey, published by the New England Historic Genealogical Society in 1985, page 700. (3) Alexander’s 1702 will lists all of his children, except David, who had died in 1689. The will is recorded in Plymouth County Will Book 1, page 362, and a transcription appears in “Standishes of America,” pages 8-10. The husbands of Lorah, Lydia, Mercy, Elizabeth and Sarah are listed in the will. The probate records available at Ancestry.com list the mother of each child. All of the children are also listed in “Mayflower Births & Deaths,” Vol. 2, by Susan E. Roser, published by the Genealogical Publishing Co. in 1992, page 311. This source appears to have calculated birth years from their tombstones. The birth dates of Desire’s children are listed in “Vital Records of Marshfield, Massachusetts, to the Year 1850,” compiled by Robert M. Sherman and Ruth Wilder Sherman, published by the Society of Mayflower Descendants of the State of Rhode Island in 1970, page 38. (4) “Mayflower Source Records,” compiled from The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, published by the Genealogical Publishing Co., in 1986, page 502. (5) The appearance on the freeman list is mentioned in “Mayflowers Families,” page 4. (5a) “Mayflower Source Records,” page . 523. (6) “History of the Town of Duxbury, Massachusetts,” by Justin Winsor, published by Crosby & Nichols in 1849, page 52. (7) “History of the Town of Duxbury, Massachusetts,” pages 69, 81 and 82. “Copy of the Old Records of the Town of Duxbury, Massachusetts, from 1642 to 1770,” Plymouth: Avery & Doten, book and job printers, 1893, pages 177, 178, 182 and others. (8) “History of the Town of Duxbury, Massachusetts,” page 351. (9) “History of the Town of Duxbury, Massachusetts,” pages 52-53. (10) “Mayflowers Families,” page 4. Also mentioned in many of the other secondary sources cited here. (11) Desire is profiled in “Mayflower Families Through Five Generations,” Vol. 11, Part II, Edward Doty, compiled by Peter B. Hill, published by the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1996, pages 8-9. She also received extensive treatment in “The Doty-Doten Family in America.” by Ethan A. Doty, published in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1897, pages 491-492. (12) The marriage is listed in “Vital Records of Marshfield,” page 10. William’s birth and parents are from Doty volume of “Mayflower Families,” page 8. (13) The children’s births are listed in “Massachusetts Town and Vital Records,” for Marshfield, Plymouth County, which are available on Ancestry.com. They are also listed in “Mayflower Families” and “The Doty-Doten Family in America.” (14) “Mayflower Families,” Vol. 11, Part II, page 8. (15) The burial is recorded in “Vital Records of Marshfield,” page 9. (16) The marriage of Israel and Desire is recorded in “Vital Records of Marshfield,” page 16. His baptism and parents, as well as his first wife are mentioned in “Mayflower Families,” Vol. 11, Page II, page 492. Israel’s first marriage is recorded in “Vital Records of Marshfield,” page 9. (17) The children’s births are listed in “Massachusetts Town and Vital Records,” for Marshfield, Plymouth County, which are available on Ancestry.com. They are also listed in “Mayflower Families” and “The Doty-Doten Family in America.” (18) “The Doty-Doten Family in America,” pages 491-492. (19) David’s death is mentioned “Standishes of America,” page 11, and a number of other secondary sources. The marriage of Experience and Myles is mentioned in Alexander’s estate papers. (20) Her death date appears in “Mayflower Births and Deaths,” Vol. 1, by Susan E. Roser, published by Genealogical Publishing Co. in 1992, page 413. (21) Desire’s will appears at “Massachusetts Wills and Probate Records” under Plymouth County, at Ancestry.com. Her will is in Vol. 6, page 177. Desire Wormall is identified in “Mayflower Families,” Vol. 11, Page II.
THOMAS and MARY STANDISH
Thomas Standish was born Jan. 29, 1690/1, in Marshfield, Mass., to Alexander and Desire (Doty) Standish. (1)
Married Mary Carver on Jan. 20, 1717/18 in Marshfield. She was born March 20, 1695, in Marshfield to William and Elizabeth (Foster) Carver. (2)
Amos Standish, born Nov. 18, 1718.
Desire, born Dec. 18, 1720.
David Standish, born Sept. 4, 1723.
Thomas Standish, Nan. 23, 1725.
Mary Standish, born Jan. 21, 1733.
William Standish, born June 24, 1737.
Betty Standish, born Sept. 6, 1739.
Thomas’ father died in 1702. In his long and detailed will, Alexander made special provisions for the children of his second wife: Thomas, Desire and Ichabod, each of whom was age 13 or younger. He provided them with property, livestock and furniture, and even weapons for the boys. (4) In the rest of the will, Alexander gave most of his property to his oldest son, Myles, made provision for his widow, gave brief mention to his second son, Ebenezer, and bequeathed a meager 5 shillings to each of his married daughters. With obvious resentment of Alexander’s second wife and her children, the husbands the daughters successfully challenged the will, saying the Alexander was “in his Old age was much decayed in his understanding & memory.” However, the challenge focused primarily on a specific meadow, so it seems likely that the young children received what was bequeathed to them.
Though Thomas’ inheritance included several acres of land in Marshfield, he didn’t remain in that town. Soon after his marriage in 1718, he moved to the nearby town of Pembroke. Starting in November 1718, the births of all of Thomas and Mary’s children were recorded in Pembroke.
In later records, Thomas is listed as a yeoman, or the owner of a small farm. Thomas owned about 45 acres of land. The property is identified as “the 50th lot of the fourty acre lots of land that belonged to the First Division of the Common Lands in Duxborough and was laid out in 1710.” (5) Pembroke was part of Duxbury before it was established as a separate municipality in 1712. (6)
Thomas was chosen as Pembroke’s “tithing man” at a town meeting held March 1, 1735, and again on March 7, 1753. (7)
On May 10, 1750, when Thomas was about 60 years old, he sold “one half of the farm on which I now dwell in Pembroke” to his son Thomas Jr. for £66. (8) Thomas Jr. died in 1759, while “in his Majestys Service” during the French and Indian War. However, his family continued to live on the farm until at least 1781 and possibly longer.
The elder Thomas lived on the other half of the farm until at least June 13, 1774, when he sold the land to his son William for £66. William already lived in a house on the property.
The death dates and burial places of both Thomas and Mary are unknown. It seems most likely that Thomas died in 1779 because his property was divided among his heirs on Nov. 24 of that year. (The division seems to have been a formality since it only confirmed the previous land sales to his sons.)
(1) Thomas’ birth and parents are listed in “Vital Records of Marshfield, Massachusetts, to the Year 1850,” compiled by Robert M. Sherman and Ruth Wilder Sherman, published by the Society of Mayflower Descendants of the State of Rhode Island in 1970, page 38. The date is listed as 1690/1 because the British still used the Julian calendar. As a result, the records say his birth year was 1690, but modern calendars list his birth date in 1691. The information is also in the Marshfield Town Meeting Minutes, available at “Massachusetts Town and Vital Records,” on Ancestry.com. Thomas has profiles in “The Standishes of America,” by Myles Standish, Boston, 1895, page 12, and in “Mayflower Families Through Five Generations: Volume Fourteen; Family of Myles Standish,” edited by Robert S. Wakefield, published by General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1997, pages 13 and 14. (2) The wedding is listed in “Vital Records of Marshfield,” page 36. Her birth is listed in “Vital Records of Marshfield,” as well as in the Marshfield Town Meeting Minutes, available at “Massachusetts Town and Vital Records,” on Ancestry.com. In addition, Mary Standish is listed as an heir of William Carver in his will, written in 1742 and proved in 1760 in Plymouth County, which is available at “Massachusetts Willias and Probate Records,” at Ancestry.com. (3) The births of the children are listed in “Vital Records of Pembroke, Massachusetts, to the Year 1850,” published by the New England Historic Genealogical Society in 1911, pages 189 and 190. (4) “Standishes of America” contains a transcription of the will on pages 8-10. Images of the original estate papers can be found at “Massachusetts Wills and Probate Records” at Ancestry.com. Unfortunately, it was not indexed properly and must be found by paging through the section titled: “Probate Estate Files, No 19057-19168, Sprague, John-Standish, J Warren, 1686-1915.” It is file No. 19152. (5) Details of Thomas’ property appear in “Mayflower Deeds & Probates,” by Susan E. Roser, Genealogical Publishing Co., 1994, page 446. (6) Details on the early history of Pembroke appear in “History of Plymouth County, Massachusetts,” Part 1, edited by Duane H. Hurd and published in 1884, page 234. (7) “Standishes of America,” page 12. (8) The real estate transactions involving Thomas’ sons appear in “Mayflower Deeds & Probates,” page 446.
THOMAS and ALICE STANDISH
Thomas Standish was born Jan. 23, 1725, in Pembroke, Mass., to Thomas and Mary (Carver) Standish. (1)
Married twice. He married Martha Bisbee in 1747. About 1753, he married a woman named Alice, whose surname is unknown.
Children of Thomas and Martha: (2)
Amos Standish, born Jan. 16, 1748.
Betty Bisbe Standish, born Nov. 2, 1750.
Children of Thomas and Alice: (3)
Sarah Standish, born April 22, 1754. Died Aug. 28, 1773.
Thomas Standish, born May 8, 1757. Died in March 1776.
Hadley Standish, born Feb. 4, 1759.
Thomas probably grew up in Pembroke, Plymouth County, where he was born and his father owned a farm.
On Feb. 10, 1747-8, Thomas married Martha Bisbe. She was born Dec. 4, 1724 in Pembroke to Elisha and Patience Bisbee. (4)
On May 10, 1750, the elder Thomas Standish sold “one half of the farm on which I now dwell in Pembroke” to Thomas Standish Jr. for £66. The elder Thomas was listed as a “yeoman,” or farmer, and the younger was identified as a “labourer.” Presumably, the younger Thomas took up farming at this point because later records refer to his as a yeoman. The farm involved in the sale is described as “the 50th lot of the fourty acre lots of land that belonged to the First Division of the Common Lands in Duxborough and was laid out in 1710.” The elder Thomas sold the other half of his property to his son William in 1773. (5)
It seems that Martha died sometime between late 1750 and mid-1753 because Pembroke’s birth records start listing a woman named Alice as the mother of the children of “Thomas Jr.” starting in April 1754. Pembroke vital records don’t provide a death date for Martha or a wedding date for Alice and Thomas.
It seems that Thomas joined the military during the French and Indian War. This struggle raged from 1754 to 1763 as the British and French fought for control of vast areas of North America. It frequently involved ruthless attacks on English settlements by French-allied Indians and vicious reprisals against Native Americans.
The records of Pembroke state that Thomas Standish Jr. died June 18, 1759, “in his Majestys Service at the Westward at fort Miller.” (6) This was probably the Fort Miller on the Hudson River in Washington County, N.Y. It was a small fortification near Fort Edward, which housed troops from Massachusetts and other colonies in the summer of 1759. An orderly book that provides a daily account of events in the area doesn’t mention any engagements around the time of Thomas’ death so it seems likely that he died of illness or accident. (7)
The courts didn’t handle Thomas’ estate until two decades later, when the property of Thomas’ father was divided. It seems that creditors sensed a chance to recover some old debts after the division. (8)
On Nov. 24, 1779, the Plymouth County probate court divided Thomas Sr.’s property among his heirs. Subsequent documents clarify that this was actually the same property that Thomas Sr.’s had sold to his sons in 1750. It’s difficult to determine exactly how much land was involved. Records of the original 1750 sales imply the full lot was 40 acres and William received 20 acres. A 1780 document mentions it was 45 acres and that William held 17 acres and the heirs of Thomas Jr. held 27 acres. And another 1780 document says that Thomas Jr.’s portion was 22¼ acres.
No matter the parcels’ sizes, the 1779 court decision directed that William should maintain his half of the property. The remaining portion was divided as follows: “To Else Standish ye widow ye one third of ye other half. To Amos ye Eldest Son ye one half of ye Remainder of his fathers Part after ye the Dower is set of(f). To Hadley ye one fourth Part of Said Remainder. To Betty Bisbe Standish ye other fourth Part of Said Remainder of her Fathers Part.” A note at the bottom indicates that Hadley was still a minor “but if he Lives until February Next he will arrive at Lawful age.” Hadley was only 4 months old when Thomas died.
It seems that several creditors of Thomas’ stepped forward within a few months of this decision.
On May 1, 1780, an inventory was ordered for Thomas Jr.’s estate. The document says that the estate was insolvent and mentions several creditors had made claims against the estate. The subsequent inventory states that Thomas owned “about Twenty Two acres and a Quarter of Land with Half and Old Dwelling house Half a Barn Half and orchard and Half the fences Standing thereon. In Contenantal Currency – £2640.” A note indicates that the Continental currency was valued at 62 for 1, meaning that it was worth less than £42 in silver currency. The estate administrators found that Thomas owed three creditors a total of more than £16.
About two years after this, Alice married again. The marriage of Alice Standish and Robert Glover occurred on Jan. 23, 1783, in Pembroke. However, Robert died by November 1787 when an inventory of his estate was ordered. In his will, which was written in July 1786, Robert notes that he was “under Indisposion of body.” His will leaves one-third of his real and personal estate to his “well beloved wife Alice Glover.” (9)
In the 1790 U.S. Census, Alice Standish is listed as living alone in Pembroke. Her household is listed beside that of her son Hadley, indicating they lived very close to each other. It seems likely that she was recorded with the surname Standish because she had been known by that name for decades but was married to Robert Glover for only four years.
Alice lived until at least August 1793, when she sold her dower from her second husband’s estate. (10)
(1) Thomas’ birth and parents are listed in are listed in “Vital Records of Pembroke, Massachusetts, to the Year 1850,” published by the New England Historic Genealogical Society in 1911, page 190. Thomas has profiles in “The Standishes of America,” by Myles Standish, Boston, 1895, page 16, and in “Mayflower Families Through Five Generations: Volume Fourteen; Family of Myles Standish,” edited by Robert S. Wakefield, published by General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1997, page 43. The item in “Standishes of America” is incredibly brief and incomplete, mentioning only his first marriage and his sons. (2) The births of Amos and Betty Bisbe to Thomas Jr. and Marsh are listed in “Vital Records of Pembroke,” page 189. (3) The births of Sarah and Thomas to Thomas Jr. and Alice are listed in “Vital Records of Pembroke,” page 190, and the birth of Hadley is on page 189. The death of “Mrs.” Sarah Standish is noted in “Vital Records of Pembroke,” page 447. Although it lists her as “Mrs.,” the age matches that of Thomas’ daughter. The death of Thomas, son of Thomas and Elce, is in “Vital Records of Pembroke,” page 447. (4) The marriage is recorded in Pembroke records, Page 351. Martha’s birth is on page 36. “Mayflower Families” mentions that Elisha Bisbee fails to mention Martha or any other Standish in the 1749 division of his estate and raises the possibility of errors in the original records. (5) “Mayflower Deeds & Probates,” by Susan E. Roser, Genealogical Publishing Co., 1994, page 446. (6) Thomas’ death is listed in Pembroke records, page 447. Some have suggested that Thomas died at a Fort Miller in Essex County, Mass. However, that seems less likely since it was directly north of Pembroke, rather than west. The location of New York’s Fort Miller to the west and the presence of Massachusetts troops there during the summer of 1759 makes that location most likely. A list of those who served in the “French war” from Pembroke appears in “History of Plymouth County, Massachusetts,” Part 1, edited by Duane H. Hurd and published in 1884, page 238. Thomas’ name does not appear on the list but it does contain that of “William Standith,” presumably Thomas’ brother. Unfortunately, there is no information provided with the list aside from its heading. (7) Details about activities at Forts Edward and Miller appear in “The Orderly Book of Lieut. William Henshaw,” which is included in “Manuscript Records of the French and Indian War in the Library of the Society,” Vol. XI, published by American Antiquarian Society in 1909, page 185. (8) The important details of the will appear in “Mayflower Deeds & Probates,” page 446. The estate papers can be viewed at “Massachusetts, Wills and Probate Records,” at Ancestry.com. “Mayflower Deeds & Probates” indicates that the process started in November of 1779, when a note was made that Hadley was a minor but would reach lawful age the following year. (9) The second marriage is listed in Pembroke records, page 350. Robert’s estate papers are available in “Massachusetts Wills and Probate Records,” for Plymouth County, at Ancestry.com. (10) The sale of the dower is mentioned in “Mayflower Families.”
HADLEY and ABIGAIL STANDISH
Hadley Standish was born Feb. 4, 1759, in Pembroke, Mass., to Thomas and Alice Standish. (1)
Married Abigail Garnet, or Gardner, on Nov. 30, 1780, in Pembroke. She was the daughter of Thomas and Betty Garnet and baptized on July 31, 1763. (2)
Thomas Standish, baptized Sept. 15, 1782. (Twin of Sarah.)
Sarah (Sally) Standish, baptized Sept. 15, 1782. Married Beezer Wood.
John Winslow Standish, baptized Oct. 16, 1785.
Sabrina Standish, baptized Oct. 7, 1787. Married John Ganyard.
Orrin Standish, born July 18, 1789. Died June 25, 1790.
Permelia Standish, born April 26, 1793. Married Michael Johnson.
Rosamond, born about 1796. Died Aug. 6, 1815.
Stephen Standish, born in 1795. Died Feb. 12, 1802.
Samuel Standish, born about 1797.
Abigail Standish, born about 1800.
Ira Standish, born May 9, 1801.
Hadley’s father died when he was only 4 months old. The records of Pembroke state that Thomas Standish Jr. died June 18, 1759, “in his Majestys Service at the Westward at fort Miller.” (4) His death occurred during the French and Indian War.
During the Revolutionary War, Hadley also joined military expeditions. On Sept. 21, 1776, the 17-year-old joined Capt. John Turner’s company for service in Rhode Island during an alert. He served for two months as a private while the company was attached to Col. John Cushing’s regiment. A year later, Turner’s company again marched to Rhodes Island. This time, Hadley served as a private for one month and three days, starting on Sept. 28, 1777. Turner’s company was attached to Col. Theophilus Cotton’s regiment at this time. (5)
After marrying in 1780, Hadley and Abigail raised a family in Pembroke. In the 1790 U.S. Census, Hadley Standish’s household contained 2 males under age 16, a male over 16 and three females in Pembroke.
The family moved from Pembroke to Woodstock in Windsor County, Vt., in 1793, according to “The Standishes of America.”
In 1810, Hadley Standish is listed in Reading, Windsor County, Vt. His household contained a male under 10, a male age 10-15, a male age 45 or older, 2 females under 10, a female age 16-25 and a female age 45 or older.
In 1811, the family moved to Bristol in Ontario County, N.Y., according to “The Standishes of America.” “Mayflower Families Through Five Generations” mentions that Hadley was living in Bristol on Feb. 6, 1811, when he gave power of attorney to his brother John W. Standish of Woodstock.
The Standishes do not appear to have been well off financially. When Hadley wrote his will in 1815, he left Abigail and most of the children $1 each and requested that the remainder of his estate be used to support his minor children. (6) The will doesn’t mention any property and “Mayflower Families” notes there are no property records for Hadley in Ontario County.
It seems likely that a severe illness struck the Standish family in August 1815. On Aug. 6, 9-year-old Rosamond died. On Aug. 27, Hadley wrote his will. It seems likely that he was ailing, though that isn’t mentioned in the will. Hadley died on Aug. 31. (7)
Abigail and the children remained in Bristol after Hadley’s death. Although it’s not certain where Abigail lived at the time of the 1820 Census, she is listed in the 1830 Census as living in Bristol with another females, age 20-29.
Abigail died in Bristol on Oct. 21, 1846. (8)
(1) Hadley’s birth and parents are listed in “Vital Records of Pembroke, Massachusetts, to the Year 1850,” by the New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1911, page 189. Hadley has profiles in “The Standishes of America,” by Myles Standish, Boston, 1895, page 21, and in “Mayflower Families Through Five Generations: Volume Fourteen; Family of Myles Standish,” edited by Robert S. Wakefield, published by General Society of Mayflower Descendants, 1997, page 128. (2) The marriage of Hadley Standish and Nabby Garnet is listed in “Vital Records of Pembroke,” page 350. “Mayflower Families” says her parents were Thomas and Betty Gardner, and she was baptized on the date provided here. The baptism of Abigail Garnet is listed on page 94 of “Vital Records of Pembroke.” “The Standishes of America” says her maiden name was Gardner. It appears that more than one Thomas Gardner lived in Pembroke at the time so sorting them out has been difficult. (3) The children are listed in “Mayflower Families,” page 128. All of the children who were alive in 1815 are listed in Hadley’s will, filed in Ontario County, N.Y., Record of Wills, vol. 10, page 244. The names of the husbands of Sarah and Sabrina also appear in the will. Five of the children are listed in “Vital Records of Pembroke” – John on page 189; Thomas, Sarah and Sabrina (Saba) on page 190; and Orrin on page 447, where his death is recorded. Permelia’s birth date is listed in her husband’s family Bible, a photo of which is available at Ancestry.com. The birth dates and death dates for the other children appear in “Mayflower Families.” It should be noted that “The Standishes of America” misses Stephen and provides incorrect information about Orrin. It seems likely that vital records from Pembroke and other records from Vermont were not consulted by the author. (4) “Vital Records of Pembroke,” page 447. (5) Both periods of service appear on cards available at “Massachusetts, Revolutionary War, Index Cards to Muster Rolls, 1775-1783,” available at FamilySearch.org. (6) Will of Hadley Standish of Bristol, recorded in 1816 in Ontario County, N.Y., will volume 10, page 244. (7) The deaths – but not their causes – are mentioned in the Sept. 26, 1815, edition of the Ontario Repository newspaper, which is available at nyshistoricnewspapers.org. “The Standishes of America,” page 21, says that Hadley died Nov. 10, 1813, but this is incorrect. (8) “Mayflower Famlies,” page 128.