Man Overboard! Mayflower Pilgrim John Howland’s Story

Did you know that Mayflower Pilgrim John Howland almost didn’t make it to America?

article about Pilgrim John Howland being swept overboard from the Mayflower, Omaha World Herald newspaper article 21 May 1897
Omaha World Herald (Omaha, Nebraska), 21 May 1897, page 10

This old newspaper article reports his narrow escape:

…with a roll of ye ship [John Howland was] throwne into the sea, but it pleased God that he caught hould of the topsail halliards, which hunge overboard and ran out of length; yet he held his hould (though he was sundry fathoms under water) till he was held up by the same rope to the brim of the water, and then with a boat hooke and other means got into the ship again and his life saved.

There is a painting by Mike Haywood – “Pilgrim Overboard” – that commemorates this event.

It is a good thing that John Howland was rescued from the sea—not only for his sake—but because he has more living descendants today than any other Mayflower passenger.

Wow – I didn’t know about his near-drowning.

There are so many of our old family stories that simply have not been passed down to us today. Rediscover your family’s stories in GenealogyBank’s more than three centuries of historical newspaper archives.

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9 thoughts on “Man Overboard! Mayflower Pilgrim John Howland’s Story

  1. I am a Howland descendant, and had heard the story of his near drowning, and have used it as well as other incidents to tell my kids our genealogy in the ” we almost weren’t” stories. But I had no idea that Howland has the most descendants! And I had never seen the newspaper article that gives truth to the story! Thanks for sharing!

  2. You’re welcome Sue.
    Thank you for letting us know.

    It’s so terrific that the old newspapers in GenealogyBank – have our old family stories – waiting there for us to find them.

    Good to know you’re passing them down in the family. Now you have more to share with the family – as you gather to celebrate this year. Have a great Thanksgiving Day!


  3. Pilgrim John Howland’s father-in-law was not Governor Carver. His father-in-law’s surname was Tilley. John was married to Elizabeth Tilley, not Elizabeth Carver.

  4. Wonderful info. John Howland’s brother, Arthur, is my 10th great grandfather. Arthur came over a short time after the Mayflower. They were both from the small village of Fenstanton in Cambridgeshire, England. When my daughter lived near there, we visited the church St. Peter and St. Paul and the cemetery is part of the outdoor area of the church — and John and Arthur’s parents, Henry Howland and Anne Margaret Aires (info from the church of her name) are buried in the churchyard there, as per the church, as there were no markers. Inside the church, there is info on the walls about John Howland and his Mayflower info — they are very proud of him.

  5. I’m also related to John Howland. Another new discovery. I found one more on the Mayflower to connect too. I am descendants of Francis Cooke. So exciting.

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