Lancashire History Quarterly, Vol. 3, No. 4, December 1999

For a note on errata, etc., see Part One. The only additional information acquired since writing this article was the report of the exhumation of Myles’s body, which showed that he was 5’ 7’’, not quite such a little “shrimpe” as claimed by Thomas Morton, who was presumably rather taller! The full report appears on  23. The Grave of Myles Standish in a PDF file of the publication The Graves of Myles Standish and Other Pilgrims, (Rev.) E. J. V. Huiginn, 1891. Illustrations in the original article in 1999 were

  1. A view towards Rivington Pike, on the route between Duxbury and Rivington.
  2. Myles’s Portrait of the first portrait, not the later one with the buttons.
  3. Rivington Grammar School today.


(Part Three)

Helen Moorwood  


The last article (Part Two) 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's 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's youth:

  1. He was “the son of a soldier”; 
  2. He had been “bred a soldier in the low countries”; 
  3. He was a “quondam drummer”, i.e. had started his military career as such.

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