The Jabez Howland House
Photo by S. Fredman
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
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.
Jabez Howland House Hearth
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
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.
Jabez Howland House Circa 1935
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
“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.
The Gorham Sampler
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.
Jabez Howland House, 33 Sandwich Street, Plymouth, MA 02360