The Jabez Howland House
The Jabez Howland House is the only existing house in Plymouth where Pilgrims actually lived. The original 17th century two-story timber framed house consisted of the porch, hall and hall chamber. John Howland and his wife, Elizabeth Tilley Howland spent their winters here with their son Jabez and his family. After John’s death at age 80, and the fire that destroyed their Rocky Nook farm, Elizabeth lived here until 1680 when Jabez sold the house. It was a private residence until 1912 when it was purchased for a museum.
In the 1940’s extensive work was done to bring it back to its original appearance. Today the museum houses fine period furniture as well as artifacts from archeological digs at the Rocky Nook homes of John and Elizabeth and their son Joseph’s farm. See 17th century fine period furniture as well as artifacts, letters and documents, letters from famous descendants Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, plus many other exciting things.
The Society also maintains the historic site of John and Joseph’s farms on Howland Land in Kingston, Massachusetts.
A National Register of Historic Places site.
As the Mayflower plowed westward through high seas in the fall of 1620 on its way to the New World, John Howland was suddenly swept overboard. Fortunately he grabbed a handy topsail halyard and although he was doused several fathoms deep, was hauled aboard with the aid of a boat hook. With this story, William Bradford introduces us to John Howland, a “lustie yonge man”, who when he died in 1672 at over 80 years, was the last male Mayflower passenger living in Plymouth.
John Howland and his wife, Elizabeth Tilley, who also was a Mayflower passenger, had four sons and six daughters, one of whom was Jabez who lived in the house at 33 Sandwich Street in Plymouth now owned by the Pilgrim John Howland Society. This house was built by Jacob Mitchell about 1667, was sold to Jabez Howland who lived there with his family until he moved to Bristol, Rhode Island in 1680.
The older part of the Howland House was built about 1667 and it appears from the construction that during Jabez’s ownership the height of the roof was raised to provide rooms on the second floor corresponding to those on the first. An addition was made in 1750 so that the house is now of two architectural periods. A copy of the deed at the Plymouth County Registry of Deeds, Old Colony Records, Vol. 4, Page 393, shows Jabez Howland sold the house to Elkanah Watson on January 10, 1680. In part the deed reads as follows:
“Jabez Howland of Plymouth a “Blacksmith” in consideration of 50 lbs. Current silver money paid by Elkanah Watson a “Blacksmith” to him and his Heirs forever hath sold all the my house and land called by the Name of a garden spot. Be it one-half acre that I bought and purchased of Jacob Mitchell lying and being on the south side of the house and garden of Gyles Rickard senior with all other edifices, buildings and fences that have and are New Made and set upon said Garden spot and also all the my two acres of Upland that was given unto me by my father Mr. John Howland in his last will and lying and being on the west end of the aforesaid garden between the said Town Brook and the lands of said Gyles Rickard senior and exchanged unto me by aforesaid town of Plymouth lying and being between the aforesaid Town Brook and the said Gyles Rickard his land and adjoynes unto the aforesaid Uppland given me by will.”
Jabez’ signature was followed by two items:
“Elizabeth Howland senior yeieded up her free right also in the house and land above mentioned, Before mee William Bradford Assistant”.
“Bethyah Howland wife of Jabez Howland above mentioned gave her free consent to this deed the 15th of January 1680 before mee William Bradford Assistant”.
Quoting from “Ancient Landmarks of Plymouth” by the Historian, William T. Davis (1887):
“Owned by Jabez Howland before the death of his father and mother, it is fair to presume that its floors have been trodden by those two passengers of the Mayflower, and that its walls have listened to their voices. Let this ancient structure be added to the list of Pilgrim Memorials, and hereafter share with the Rock our veneration and respect.”
It was occupied as a dwelling until 1912 when, though the efforts of Mrs. Nelson V. Titus, then Secretary-Treasurer, the house was bought by the Pilgrim John Howland Society.
In June 1923 the old stable twenty feet south of the house was bought, and demolished the following year, removing a fire hazard. The additional ground was landscaped, a flagpole was erected, and a driveway and parking area provided. In 1933 or 1934 the Miles House adjoining the Howland House property was purchased and removed.
Wrought in 1800
Plans were formulated at the annual meeting in 1936 to restore the house to the period of its erection. Brig. Gen. Charles R. Howland was appointed Chairman of the Restoration Committee. Sidney T. Strickland, AIA of Boston and Plymouth, was engaged to draw reconstruction plans. A fund for this purpose was started in 1937 and on August 30, 1941 the restored house was rededicated, Col. Francis R. Stoddard, a Howland member, and the Gov. Gen. Of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants gave the address.
Since that time, the house has been maintained in good condition and the furnishings have been changed, as more appropriate pieces became available. These furnishings have come from purchases with funds of the Howland Society and by gifts from its members and friends. As we see it today, it is a comfortable home by 17th century standards.
The Jabez Howland House is open to the public from Memorial Day to Columbus Day. Guided tours starting at 10am to 4:30pm.