PILGRIM FATHER CAPTAIN MYLES STANDISH OF DUXBURY
LANCASHIRE AND MASSA CHUSETTS
The last article (in Part 2) presented the newly discovered Lancashire pedigree of Myles Standish, with his rather splendid military ancestry and his descent from the Standishes of Duxbury and the Standishes of Standish.
His first very brief biography was written in Plymouth, Massachusetts in the 1660s, shortly after his death in 1656, by Nathaniel Morton, clerk of Plymouth colony and nephew of Governor William Bradford. With his uncle’s manuscript chronicle of the colony and letter book in front of him, an intimate knowledge of the colony records and presumably also of the leaders of the colony, with whom he had lived for so long, he was the ideal person to write a detailed history. This was published in Boston in 1669 as New Englands Memoriall and his entry for 1656 begins (modernised spelling):
“Mr. William Bradford was chosen governor of the jurisdiction of Plimouth, Mr. Thomas Prince,
Mr. William Collier, Mr. Timothy Hatherley, Capt. Myles Standish, Mr. John Alden, Capt.
Thomas Willet, and Capt. James Cudworth, were chosen his assistants in government.
This year Capt. Myles Standish expired his mortal life. He was a gentleman, born in Lancashire, and was heir apparent unto a great estate of lands and livings, surreptitiously detained from
him, his great grandfather being a second or younger brother from the house of Standish. 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 honorably buried at Duxbury.”
Recent research has confirmed that these meagre facts about Myles’ status, early life, inheritance and the “surreptitious detention” of his estates were indeed correct, as might have been expected from such a reliable source. The following biography is therefore not at all new, but 330 years old, and just fills in some of the rather large gaps left by Morton.
Some of these gaps had already been filled as early as 1637, when Thomas Morton (no known relationship to Nathaniel) published New English Canaan in Amsterdam, which provided three vital pieces of information about Myles’ youth:
He also called him “Captain Shrimpe” and described him as “a little chimney quickly fired”, which suggests that Myles had red hair and a quick temper (his short stature was noted by others). Thomas Morton was a colourful character, and rather naughty in the eyes of Plymouth Colony.
His biography is readily available in the Encyclopaedia Britannica and The Dictionary of National
Biography, and his indignant description of his arrest by Myles can be read on Caleb Johnson’s