Captain Myles Standish, Pilgrim-Mayflower

Male Abt 1583 - 1656  (~ 73 years)

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  • Name Myles Standish 
    Prefix Captain 
    Suffix Pilgrim-Mayflower 
    Born Abt 1583 
    Gender Male 
    Died 3 Oct 1656  Duxberry, Plymouth, Massachusetts Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I1514  32 Generations
    Last Modified 30 Dec 2008 

    Family Barbara (Standish), Pilgrim- Anne,   b. Abt 1590,   d. Aft 6 Oct 1659  (Age ~ 69 years) 
    Married Bef 24 Mar 1623 
     1. Captain Josias Standish,   b. 1633, Duxbury, Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 26 Mar 1753, Preston, New London County, Connecticut Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 120 years)
    Last Modified 31 Mar 2021 
    Family ID F1309  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Notes 
    • Myles Standish started his military career as a drummer, and eventually worked his way up and into the Low Countries (Holland), where English troops under Heratio Vere had been stationed to help the Dutch in their war with Spain. It was certainly here that he made acquaintance with the Pilgrims at Leyden, and came into good standing with the Pilgrims pastor John Robinson. Standish was eventually hired by them to be their military captain.

      Captain Standish lead most of the first exploring missions into the wintery surroundings at Cape Cod looking for a place to settle. He was elected military captain, and organized the Pilgrims defenses against the Indians, as well as protect the Colony from the French, Spanish, and Dutch. In 1622 he led an expedition to save the remaining members of the Wessagusett Colony and killed several Indians who had led the plot to kill all the Englishmen at that Colony.

      Standish befriended an Indian named Hobomok, just as Bradford befriended Squanto, and the two lived out their lives very close to one another. Hobomok was a warrior for Massasoit, and the two "military men" probably understood one another better than most.

      So much could be written about Myles Standish. But here are a few selections from what contemporaries had to say about him, both the good and the bad.

      William Bradford on Myles Standish:

      But that which was most sad and lamentable was, that in two or three months' time half of their company died, especially in January and February . . . So as their died some times two or three of a day in the foresaid time, that of 100 and odd persons, scarce fifty remained. And of these, in the time of most distress, there was but six or seven sound persons who to their great commendations, be it spoken, spared no pains night nor day, but with abundance of toil and hazard of their own health, fetched them wood, made them fires, dressed their meat, made their beds, washed their loathsome clothes, clothed and unclothed them. . . . Two of these seven were Mr. William Brewster, their reverend Elder, and Myles Standish, their captain and military commander, unto whom myself and many others were much beholden in our low and sick condition.

      Thomas Morton of Merrymount, in his New England's Cannan describing Standish, and his own arrest which was carried out by Standish (1637):

      Capt. 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 for go this first lessens, 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 a 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. . . .

      . . . But mine Host [i.e. Thomas Morton] no sooner had set open the door, and issued out, but instantly Captain Shrimp and the rest of his worthies stepped to him, laid hold of his arms [guns], and had him down . . . Captain Shrimp, and the rest of the nine worthies, made themselves, (by this outrageous riot,) Masters of mine Host of Merrymount, and disposed of what he had at his plantation.

      Nathaniel Morton in his New England's Memorial (1669) wrote of Myles Standish's death in 1656 :

      This year Captain Miles Standish expired his mortal life. . . . In his younger time he went over into the low countries, and was a soldier there, and came acquainted with the church at Leyden, and came over into New-England, with such of them as at the first set out for the planting of the plantation of New-Plimouth, and bare a deep share of their first difficulties, and was always very faithful to their interest. He growing ancient, became sick of the stone, or stranguary, whereof, after his suffering of much dolorous pain, he fell asleep in the Lord, and was honourably buried at Duxbury.

      Conspiratorial letter of John Oldham, intercepted by William Bradford:

      Captain Standish looks like a silly boy and is in utter contempt.

      Edward Winslow, in Good News From New England describing an retaliatory military expedition , relating to an Indian conspiracy Massasoit had alerted the Pilgrims to (1624):

      Also Pecksuot, being a man of greater stature than the Captain, told him, though he were a great Captain, yet he was but a little man; and said he, though I be no sachem, yet I am a man of great strength and courage. These things the Captain observed, yet bare with patience for the present. . . . On the next day he began himself with Pecksuot, and snatching his own knife from his neck, though with much struggling, killed him therewith . . . Hobbamock stood by all this time as a spectator, and meddled not, observing how our men demeaned themselves in this action. All being here ended, smiling, he brake forth into these speeches to the Captain: "Yesterday Pecksuot, bragging of his own strength and stature, said, though you were a great captain, yet you were but a little man; but today I see you are big enough to lay him on the ground."

      A chair and a sword owned by Myles Standish are preserved in the Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts. The authenticity of the portrait of Myles Standish shown above not fully known. The inscription with the portrait reads "AEtatis Suae 38, Ao. 1625", and it is only by tradition that the portrait is of Myles Standish--a tradition, however, which dates back to at least 1812.

      An Inventory of the goods and Chattles that Captaine Miles Standish gent: was possessed of at this Decease as they
      were shewed to us whose names are underwritten this 2cond of Decembe(r) 165(6) and exhibited to the court held att

      the 4 may 1657 on the oath of mis Barbara Standish

      It one Dwelling house and outhouses with the land ther unto belonging
      140 00 00
      It 4 oxen
      24 00 00
      It 2 mares to mare courts one young horse
      48 00 00
      It six cowes 3 heifers and one Calfe
      29 00 00
      It 8 ewe sheep two rames and one wether
      15 00 00
      It 14 swine great and smale
      3 15 00
      It one fowling peece 3 musketts 4 Carbines 2 smale guns one old barrell
      08 01 00
      It one sword one Cutles 3 belts
      02 07 00
      It the history of the world and the turkish history
      01 10 00
      It a Cronicle of England and the Countrey ffarmer
      00 08 00
      It ye history of queen Ellisabeth the state of Europe Vusebious Dodines earball
      01 10 00
      It Doctor halls workes Calvins Institutions
      01 04 00
      It Wilcocks workes and Mayors
      01 00 00
      It rogers seaven treatises and the ffrench Akadamey
      00 12 00
      It 3 old bibles
      00 14 00
      It Cecers Comentaryes Bariffes artillery
      00 10 00
      It Prestons Sermons Burroughes Christian contentment gosspell Conversation passions of the mind the
      Phisitions practice Burrowghes earthly mindednes Burroughs Descovery
      01 04 00
      It Ball on faith Brinssleys watch Dod on the lords Supper Sparke against herisye Davenports apollogye
      00 15 00
      It a reply to Doctor Cotten on baptisme the Garman history the Sweden Intelligencer reasons Discused
      00 10 00
      It 1 Testament one Psalme booke Nature and grace in Conflict a law booke the mean in mourning
      allegation against B P of Durham Johnson against hearing
      00 06 00
      It a prcell of old bookes of Divers subjects in quarto
      00 14 00
      It an other prcell in Octavo
      00 04 00
      It Wilsons Dixonary homers Illiads a Comentary on James balls Cattechesmes
      00 12 00
      It halfe a young heiffer
      1 00 00
      It one feather bed bolster and 2 pillowes
      04 00 00
      It 1 blankett a Coverlid and a rugg
      01 05 00
      It 1 feather bed blankett and great pillow
      02 15 00
      It one old featherbed
      02 05 00
      It one feather bed and bolster
      04 00 00
      It one blankett and 2 ruggs
      01 15 00
      It one feather bolster and old rugg
      00 14 00
      It 4 padre of sheets
      03 00 00
      It 1 padre of fine sheets
      01 04 00
      It 1 Tablecloth 4 napkins
      00 10 00
      It his wearing clothes
      10 00 00
      It 26 peeces of pewter
      01 08 00
      It earthen ware
      00 05 00
      It 3 brasse kettles one skillett
      02 00 00
      It 4 Iron posts
      01 08 00
      It a warming pan a frying pan and a Cullender
      00 00 9 00
      It one padre of stillyards
      00 10 00
      It 2 bedsteds one Table 1 forme Chaires 1 Chest and 2 boxes
      02 13 0
      It 1 bedsted one settle bed one box 3 Caske
      01 07 00
      It 1 bedsted 3 Chists 3 Casses with som bottles 1 box 4 Caske
      02 06 06
      It one Still
      00 12 00
      It 1 old settle 1 Chaire one kneading trough 2 pailes 2 trades one Dozen of trenchers 1 bowle 1 ferkin 1
      beer Caske 1 Table
      00 16 00
      It 2 beer Caske 1 Chern 2 spiring wheels one powdering tubb 2 old Caske one old flaskett
      00 15 00
      It 1 mauls mill
      02 00 00
      It 2 sawes with Divers Carpenters tooles
      01 19 00
      It a Timber Chaine with plow Chaines
      01 06 00
      It 2 saddles a pillion 1 bridle
      01 00 00
      It old Iron
      00 11 0
      It 1 Chist and a bucking Tubb
      00 08 0
      It 1 hachell 2 tramells 2 Iron Doggs 1 spits one fierforke 1 lamp 2 gars one lanthorn wit h o ther old
      02 01 0
      It in woole
      00 15 0
      It hemp and flax
      00 06 0
      It eleven bushells of wheat
      02 05 0
      It 24 bushells of rye
      02 02 0
      It 30 bushells of pease
      05 05 0
      It 25 bushels of Indian Corn
      3 15 0
      It Cart and yeekes and plow Irons and 1 brake
      2 05 0
      It axes sickles hookes and other tooles
      01 00 0
      It eight Iron hoopes 1 spiring wheele with other lumber
      00 14 0

      John Alden 055 18 00
      James Cudworth 280 06 00
      [total] 358 07 00

      The Last will and Testament of Captaine Myles Standish Exhibited before the court held att Plymouth (the 4th) of may
      1657 on the oath of Captaine James Cudworth; and ordered to bee recorded as followeth;

      Given under my hand this march the 7th 1655 Witnesseth these prsents that I Myles Standish senir of Duxburrow
      being in prfect memory yett Deseased in my body and knowing the fraile estate of man in his best estate I Doe make
      this to be my last will and Testament in manor and forme following;

      1 my will is that out of my whole estate my funerall charges be taken out & my bod(y) to be buried in Decent manor
      and if I Die att Duxburrow my body to bee layed as neare as Conveniently may bee to my two Daughters Lora
      Standish my Daughter and Mary Standish my Daughterinlaw

      2 my will is that that out of the remaining prte of my whole estate that all my jus(t) and lawful Debts which I now owe
      or att the Day of my Death may owe bee paied

      3 out of what remaines according to the order of this Govrment: my will is that my Dear and loveing wife Barbara
      Standish shall have the third prte

      4 I have given to my son Josias Standish upon his marriage one young horse five sheep and two heiffers which I must
      upon that contract of marriage make forty pounds yett not knowing whether the estate will bear it att prsent; my will is
      that the resedue remaine in the whole stocke and that every one of my four sons viz Allexander Standish Myles
      Standish Josias Standish and Charles Standish may have forty pounds appeec; if not that they may have
      proportionable to ye remaining prte bee it more or lesse

      5 my will is that my eldest son Allexander shall have a Double share in land

      6 my will is that soe long as they live single that the whole bee in prtenership betwix(t) them

      7 I do ordaine and make my Dearly beloved wife Barbara Standish Allexander Standish Myles Standish and Josias
      Standish Joynt Exequitors of this my last will and Testament

      8 I Doe by this my will make and appoint my loveing frinds mr Timothy hatherley and Capt: James Cudworth
      Supervissors of this my last will and that they wilbee pleased to Doe the office of Christian love to bee healpfull to my
      poor wife and Children by theire Christian Counsell and advisse; and if any Difference should arise which I hope will
      not; my will i(s) that my said Supervissors shall Determine the same and that they see that m(y) poor wife shall have
      as comfortable maintainance as my poor state will beare the whole time of her life which if you my loveing frinds
      pleasse to Doe though neither they nor I shalbee able to recompenc I Doe not Doubt but the Lord will; By mee Myles

      further my will is that marcye Robenson whome I tenderly love for her Grandfathers sacke shall have three pounds in
      somthing to goe forward for her two yeares after my Decease which my will is my overseers shall see prformed

      further (m)y will is that my servant John Irish Junir have forty shillings more then his Covenant which will appear upon
      the towne booke alwaies provided that hee continew till the time hee covenanted bee expire din the service of my
      exequitors or any of them with theire Joynt Concent

      March 7th 1655 By mee Myles Standish.

      9 I give unto my son & heire aparent Allexander Standish all my lands as heire apparent by lawfull Decent in
      Ormistick Borsconge Wrightington Maudsley Newburrow Crawston and the Ile of man and given to me as right heire
      by lawful Decent but Surruptuously Detained from mee my great G(ran)dfather being a 2cond or younger brother from
      the house of Standish of Standish

      March the 7th 1655 by mee Myles Standish

      Witnessed by mee

      James Cudworth

      Myles Standish was born probably in Lancashire, England, probably in the vicinity of Chorley and Duxbury. There have been several attempts, generally unsuccessful, to place his origins on the Isle of Man, but the weight of the historical evidence leans towards the more probable Lancashire origin.
      Myles Standish is alleged to have joined Queen Elizabeth's army and attained the rank of Lieutenant, but the documentation for this claim was lost in the 1920s without having been published or transcribed, so may be suspect. In any case, Standish was certainly a part of Queen Elizabeth's army, and was stationed for a time in Holland where he eventually met and became well acquainted with John Robinson and the Pilgrims who were living in Leiden. Standish was hired by the Pilgrims to be their military captain, to establish and coordinate the Colony's defense against both foreign (French, Spanish, Dutch) and domestic (Native American) threats.
      Standish led or participated in all the early exploratory missions sent out to explore Cape Cod, and was heavily
      Cooking pot thought to have been owned by Myles Standish Photo courtesy of the Pilgrim Hall Museum>
      involved in selecting the site where the Pilgrims would settle. He was one of the few who did not get sick at all the first winter, and is recorded as having greatly helped and cared for those who were sick. He organized the deployment of the colony's cannons and the construction of the fort at Plymouth. He led both trading expeditions and military expeditions to the various Indian groups in the region. He led the party that went in pursuit of the alleged killers of Squanto (who was later discovered to be safe). He led the revenge attacks on the Indians in the Massachusetts Bay after they were caught in a conspiracy planning to attack and destroy the Plymouth and Wessagussett colonies; several Indians were killed or executed, for which Standish received some criticism, even from his friends, for being too heavy-handed.
      Standish was heavily involved in numerous aspects of Plymouth Colony, from defense to keeping the law. He was on the receiving end of John Billington's verbal wrath in 1621 (Billington refused to follow the captain's orders), and was called a "silly boy" in a letter that was sent out during the Oldham-Lyford scandal of 1624, and was noted for his short stature and for his quick temper. He was sent to arrest Thomas Morton in 1628, for which he received the nickname "Captain Shrimp" from Morton. William Hubbard reported Standish's temper was like a "chimney soon fired".
      Myles Standish's Sword Photo courtesy of the Pilgrim Hall Museum>
      Despite the heavy criticism by his enemies, Standish was well respected within the Plymouth Colony, and held a number of positions of authority. He made several trips to England to bring trading goods back and to negotiate with the Merchant Adventurers who had financially sponsored the joint-stock company that funded the Pilgrims' voyage. In the mid-1630s, Standish moved his family and helped found the town of Duxbury, which may have been named after his ancestral home. Standish was an heir to a fairly sizeable estate in Lancashire, but his lands were lost during the English Civil War, and neither he nor his son Alexander were ever able to legally regain control of the estate.
      Myles Standish's first wife Rose came with him on the Mayflower, and died the first winter. His second wife, Barbara, arrived on the ship Anne in 1623, and they were apparently married before the year was out. Nothing is known about either of his wives: there is absolutely no indication they were his cousins, as has sometimes been claimed.
      Standish lived out his later years in Duxbury, dying in 1656 "after his suffering of much dolorous pain," apparently from kidney stones

      Nickname Captain Shrimp
      Place of birth Chorley, Lancashire, England
      Place of death Duxbury, Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts
      Allegiance British Army- Plymouth Colony
      Years of service British Army 1601-1618, Plymouth Colony 1620-1656
      Rank Captain
      Commands Plymouth Colony, New England militia, and Duxbury
      Battles/wars Low Countries/Netherlands
      Siege of Ostend/Belgium
      Wessagusett/Plymouth Colony