Myles Standish (aka: Miles Standish) was an English military officer hired by the Pilgrims as military advisor for Plymouth Colony. One of the Mayflower passengers, Standish played a leading role in the administration and defense of Plymouth Colony from its inception. On February 17, 1621, the Plymouth Colony militia elected him as its first commander and continued to re-elect him to that position for the remainder of his life. Standish served as an agent of Plymouth Colony in England, as assistant governor, and as treasurer of Plymouth Colony. He was also one of the first settlers and founders of the town of Duxbury, Massachusetts.
Standish is often remembered for his bravery in battle and his reputation as the military captain of the Pilgrims, as well as a character in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's fictitious poem "The Courtship of Miles Standish".
- Born circa 1584 on the Isle of Man?
- Prior to 1620 - first marriage to Rose Standish
- 1620 Voyage to America on the Mayflower
- 1623 Marriage to Barbara
- 1641 (?) Move to Duxbury MA
- 1656-Oct-3 : Died at Duxbury, MA
An English military officer hired by the Pilgrims as military advisor for Plymouth Colony. Arriving on the Mayflower, he worked on colonial defense. On February 17, 1621, he was appointed the first commander of Plymouth Colony. Later, he served as Plymouth's representative in England, and served as assistant governor and as the colony's treasurer. He was also one of the founders of the town of Duxbury, Massachusetts (named after his ancestral seat at Duxbury Woods, Chorley) in 1632.
Voyage of the Mayflower
The Mayflower, originating from London with a group of Adventurers bound for the New World rendezvoused on 22 July with the Speedwell just arriving from Holland with a group of religious refugees from Leiden. Originally intended to sail jointly to the English Colony in Virginia it soon became evident that Speedwell was not seaworthy. Passengers and cargo were combined onto Mayflower (with many left behind) for the journey, finally departing on September 9.
During the voyage fierce storms blew the ship off course, arriving at Cape Cod on the Eastern Massachusetts coastline on November 9th. For two days they attempted to sail south to Virginia but exhausting supplies and fierce storms caused them to abort this effort and drop anchor at what is now Provincetown Harbor. On November 11th, the group decided to settle here and start their own colony. They wrote a governmental contract called the Mayflower Compact, Myles was the 6th of the 41 signers on this document.
About the middle of December 1620, the ship moved and dropped anchor in Plymouth Harbor. All the while the pilgrims were conducting several exploring missions of the area and negotiations with the local natives. Almost half of the passengers died, suffering from an outbreak of a contagious disease described as a mixture of scurvy, pneumonia and tuberculosis. In the spring, they built huts ashore, and on March 21, 1621, the surviving passengers disembarked from the Mayflower into their new settlement at Plymouth, Massachusetts.
After the disembarkation at Plymouth, Standish was elected military commander of the colony by the leadership of the Pilgrims, with Lieutenant William Holmes as his second in command, both to be paid 20 pounds sterling in corn or beaver pelts
Soon after their arrival at Plymouth, illness struck the Pilgrims. This epidemic took the life of Standish's wife Rose, on January 29, 1621. In 1623, a woman named Barbara came to Plymouth on the ship Anne; Standish married her that same year. Myles and Barbara had seven children: Charles (died young), Alexander (who married Sarah Alden, daughter of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins), John, Myles, Loara, Josiah, and Charles
During the winter epidemic of 1620-21, Standish was one of seven who did not become ill. William Bradford quoted:
But that 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 death, some times two or three of a day in the foresaid time, that 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 commendation, be it spoken, spared no pains night or 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 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.
Standish was quick to make friends with the natives, including one named Hobomok.
In the second year at Plymouth, Standish led a force to Wessagusett to save the settlement from native attack. Responding to reports of a military threat to the colony, Myles Standish organized a militia to defend Wessagussett. However, while he found that there had been no attack, he did find evidence that one was planned. He therefore decided on a preemptive strike. Unfortunately, while Standish returned to Plymouth a hero after the raid, the impact of his attack had larger implications.
Edward Winslow quoted in Good News From New England about this incident:
Also Pecksuot, being a man of great stature than the Captain, told him, though he were a great Captain, yet he was but a little man; and said he, thought 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 [Pecksuot's] knife from his neck, though with much struggling, killed him therewith. . . Hmobbamock stood by all this 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.
Word quickly spread among the Native American tribes of Standish's attack; many Native Americans abandoned their villages and fled the area. Edward Winslow, in his 1624 memoirs Good News from New England, reports that "they forsook their houses, running to and fro like men distracted, living in swamps and other desert places, and so brought manifold diseases amongst themselves, whereof very many are dead". Now lacking the trade in furs provided by the local tribes, the Pilgrims lost their main source of income for paying off their debts to the Merchant Adventurers. Rather than strengthening their position, Standish's raid had disastrous consequences for the colony, a fact noted by William Bradford, who in a letter to the Merchant Adventurers noted "[W]e had much damaged our trade, for there where we had [the] most skins the Indians are run away from their habitations..." However, one positive effect of Standish's raid was the increased power of the Massasoit-led Wampanoag, the Pilgrims' closest ally in the region.
Standish was also, from 1644 to 1649, the treasurer of the town of Duxbury, which was named after the original Standish estate in Chorley, England. Standish had never joined the Plymouth church (though he attended every Sunday), and to his death supposedly never did. This was possibly because of the constant conflict over religious beliefs in his family.
Standish died in Duxbury, Massachusetts on October 3, 1656. Nathaniel Morton wrote of his death:
This year  Captain Myles 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 Leynden, and came over into New England, with such of them as at the first set out the plantation of New Plymouth, 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.
Honorably Buried references military honors given for a prominent citizen.
Standish’s last will and testimony states even though leaving his family in England that he had land in various parts of England. His will states: “9 I give unto my son & heir apparent Allexander Standish all my land as heire apparent by lawful Decent in Ormistick [Ormskirk], Borsconge [Burscough], Wrightington, Maudsley [Mawdesley], Newburrow [Newborough], Crawston [Croston] and the Ile of man [ Isle of Man ] and given to me as right heire by lawful Decent but Surruptuously Detained from my great Grandfather being a second or younger brother from the house of Standosh [Standish] of Standish. March the 7th 1655 by me Standish.” These lands now make up the Lancashire towns of Chorley and Ormskirk.
Myles Standish was the deputy governor. He was likely buried in Miles Standish Burial Ground.
Ancestry of Miles Standish
A lot of research has been done on the ancestry of Myles Standish, yet nothing conclusive on his parents have been found. G.V.C. Young has suggested Myles Standish's great-grandfather was Huan Standish of the Isle of Man. However, recent research has tended to undermine this conclusion, and new discoveries are currently being made which could very well disprove the Isle of Man origins altogether.
Thomas Morton of Merrymount, in his 1637 book New England's Canaan, mentions that "Captain Shrimp" was bred a soldier in the Low Countries, and Nathaniel Morton wrote in 1669 that Standish was from Lancashire. The will of Myles Standish mentions numerous lands both in Lancashire and on the Isle of Man.
The maiden names of Myles Standish's wives Rose and Barbara are not known. Rose died on 29 January 1620/1 at Plymouth, and wife Barbara arrived on the ship Anne in July 1623. By the time of the 1623 Division of Land, Myles and Barbara were already married. This probably suggests a marriage arranged by Standish, to a Barbara he either knew from home or from his stay in Leyden. There is absolutely no evidence at all to suggest Barbara's maiden name was Mullins, as is sometimes claimed, nor that either Rose or Barbara were his cousins as occasionally claimed.
Marriages & Family
Courtship of Myles Standish
The colony's military leader, Myles Standish (c1584-1656), desired the hand of Priscilla in marriage, but being to shy to speak himself, employed John as a go-between. However, Priscilla fell in love with John.
Set against the backdrop of a fierce Indian war, the tale focuses on a love triangle among three Pilgrims: Myles Standish (c1584-1656), Priscilla Mullins (1602-1680), and John Alden (c1599-1687). Longfellow claimed the story was true, but the historical evidence is inconclusive. Nevertheless, the ballad was very popular in nineteenth-century America, immortalizing the Mayflower Pilgrims.
1st Marriage: Rose Handley
Rose Handley by about 1618. She died on January 29, 1621. She was buried in an unmarked grave at Coles Hill Burial Ground in Plymouth as were many others who died the first winter. She is named on the Pilgrim Memorial Tomb on Cole's Hill as "Rose, first wife of Myles Standish".
The epidemic of 1620/1621 took the life of Standish's wife Rose, on January 29, 1621.
2nd Marriage: Barbara Handley?
Barbara _______ by about 1624. Per Banks, she had come to Plymouth in 1623 on either the 'Anne' or 'Little James', and they were married the following spring. In the past, historians have suggested that she may have been a sister of Standish's first wife, Rose, and that he specifically sent for her. They had seven children. She died after October 6, 1659 and her burial place is unknown.
In 1623, a woman named Barbara came to Plymouth on the ship Anne; Standish married her that same year. Myles and Barbara had seven children:
- Charles Standish (1624-bef1635) - was born in 1624. He died between May 22, 1627 and 1635.
- Alexander Standish (1627-1702) - He was buried in Myles Standish Burying Ground in Duxbury, Massachusetts. Alexander married first: Sarah Alden (1627-1674) by about 1660 and had eight children. She died before June 13, 1688. Her parents were Mayflower passengers John Alden (c1599-1687) and Priscilla Mullins (1602-1680), subjects of the famous Longfellow courtship poem. Second, he married Desire (Doty) (Sherman) Holmes by 1689 and had three children. She died in Marshfield on January 22, 1731. Her father was Mayflower passenger Edward Doty (1685-1717).
- John Standish (1627-) - born about 1627. No further record.
- Myles Standish (1629-1661) - was born about 1629 and died at sea after March 20, 1661. His body was lost at sea. Myles married Sarah Winslow in Boston on July 19, 1660, but there is no record of children.
- Lora Standish (1631-1655) - Loara (Lora) was born about 1631 and died by March 7, 1655/6. Unmarried.
- Josiah Standish (1633-1690) - was born about 1633 and died in Preston CT on March 19, 1690. He was historically known as Capt. Josiah Standish, leader of the Plymouth Colony militia during King James War.
- Charles Standish (1635-aft1656) - was born by about 1635. He was still living on March 7, 1655/6. No further record
The former Fort Standish, located on Lovell's Island, Massachusetts, was named in his honor, as well as the town of Standish, Maine.
1650 Bradford Journal
"Captain Myles Standish and Rose, his wife."
"Captain Standish his wife died in the first sickness; and he married again, and hath 4 sons living, and some are dead."
- Wikipedia Biography of Myles Standish
- Myles Standish from MayflowerHistory.com
- Myles Standish article by Helen Moorwood
- Myles Standish by Dr Jeremy Bangs, PhD.
- History of Standish - A collection of interactive videos documenting the history of Standish, UK.
- Alden House Museum