Who Was at the First Thanksgiving? John Billington and Family Fun Facts

Have you been following our Fun Facts series? We started last week looking at a special spin off of "Who was at the first Thanksgiving?" Be sure to check out our Fun Facts about William Bradford, Edward Winslow, Massasoit, and Squanto. Today I thought I would share about one of the "Strangers" as the "Saints" referred to them. But this Stranger family had quite the reputation in Plymouth. I am going to share about John Billington and his family. Eleanor Billington was one of the five married women who were alive for the first Thanksgiving. 

  1. John Billington was born around 1580 in the vicinity of Spalding or Cowbit England.
  2. He married Eleanor probably around 1603.They had two children: John (1604) and Francis (1606).
  3. In exchange for passage on the Mayflower, shipboard provisions, and a share of profits signed a contract that bound himself and his family to the colony until 1627.

  4. Plymouth Mayflower II.jpg
    Mayflower II in Plymouth By wikitravel:user:OldPineCC BY-SA 1.0Link

  5. In 1620 they boarded the Mayflower to discover their fellow travelers were Separatists whereas they were devote members of the Church of England.
  6. Francis Billington shot his father’s musket on the Mayflower sending sparks near an open barrel of gunpowder and nearly blowing up the ship while it was in Provincetown or Plymouth Harbor (I have seen both listed).
  7. Good stories for great birthdays, arranged for story-telling and reading aloud and for the children's own reading (1922) (14768269922)
    From a Children's Story Book of John Billington being brought back to Plymouth

  8. John Billington (jr) wandered off and was taken by the Nauset tribe to Cape Cod. Plymouth was forced to send a party to retrieve the boy which included Squanto.
  9. John Billington (sr) had some issues with the law. In March 1621 he was sentenced to have his neck and heels tied together, but he begged for pardon and was excused.
  10. Francis Billington climbed a very high tree and thought he saw a big sea. When a sailor climbed and looked he discovered it was just two lakes that were later named Billington’s Sea.

  11. Town Brook Billington Sea Plymouth MA.jpg

  12. In 1624 John (sr.) was implicated in the Oldham-Lyford scandal which tried to overthrow the authority of the Plymouth church. He was never punished for this.
  13. John (jr) was living with Richard Warren in 1623 when the colonists divided the available land. This made John (sr) receive one less acre and Richard got an extra one. John (jr) died before he was 25 between the years of 1627-1630. Richard Warren died in 1628 so it could have been an illness in the household.
  14. In 1630 he shot John Newcomen over an old quarrel. He was tried by jury and sentenced to hanging. He died by hanging in September 1630. This made John Billington the first murderer in America.
  15. In 1636 Eleanor Billington was sentenced to sit in the stocks and be whipped for a slander against John Doane by the Plymouth Court.