The Billington Family
John Billington, wife Elinor/Ellen and sons, John, age about 16, and Francis, age about 14, traveled on the Mayflower. The origins of the family have not yet been proven, however son Francis is mentioned in the records of Spalding, Lincolnshire where he is named one of two heirs to a “lease for three lives,” by Francis Longland. The land is in Cowbit, hear Spaulding, co. Lincolnshire, England. In 1650, a survey of the Manor of Spalding, was undertaken to determine if the two heirs were still living, and it was noted that Francis Billington, age about 40, was living in New England.
John Billington, a signer of the Mayflower Compact, is believed to have been born around 1580; he married by 1604, Elinor ( ), and died in September or October 1630 when he was executed for murder. Elinor married 2) in 1638, Gregory Armstrong who predeceased her. Elinor’s origins are unknown, she died at Plymouth after 2 March 1642/43 when she is mentioned in a deed. Ellen was found guilty of slander in June 1636, and sentenced to be “sett in the stocks and be whipt” and to pay a £5 fine.
Bradford stated that he did not know how the Billingtons became associated with the voyage or the passengers, saying of John Sr. that he “and some of his” had often been punished. In fact, John committed the first crime in the colony for “his contempt of the captain’s lawful command,” refusing to obey orders and was ordered to have his neck and heels tied together. In 1630 John was found guilty by “plain and notorious evidence,” of the “willful murder,” of John Newcomen who died after being shot.
John’s sons made life interesting in the early days of the colony. On 5 December 1620, while the Mayflower was anchored off Cape Cod and he was on board, Francis shot a gun near a barrel of gun powder causing a fire which could have been devastating but “through God’s mercy was quickly put out.” Another time, about the beginning of January 1620/21, while exploring about three miles from Plymouth, Francis climbed a tree and thought he had discovered a great sea; this turned out to be two ponds which are still called “Billington’s Sea” today.
John Billington Jr. had his own adventure when he became lost in the woods while exploring alone in July 1621. He survived five days on berries and whatever else he could find. He was found and cared for by the Native Americans and was taken to Nauset on Cape Cod where ten Pilgrim men traveled to retrieve him, finding him “behung with beads.” He must have had many stories to tell when he returned to Plymouth!
Children of John and Elinor ( ) Billington:
- John Billington, born circa 1604; living in the 22 May 1627 cattle division and died before his father was executed in 1630.
- Francis Billington, born circa 1606-09; d. at Middleboro, 3 December 1684; married at Plymouth, in June 1634, Christian (Penn) Eaton [see Francis Eaton].
Children of Francis and Christian (Penn) (Eaton) Billington:
- Elizabeth Billington, born at Plymouth, 10 July 1635; living at Providence, RI, 22 March 1709/10; married 1) at Rehoboth, 21 September 1660, Richard Bullock and had four children: Israel, Marcy, John and Richard Bullock. Elizabeth married 2) at Rehoboth, 25 June 1673, Robert Beere and had one child, Benjamin Beere; married 3) Thomas Patey/Patte.
- Joseph Billington, born probably at Plymouth, circa 1636; d. probably. at Block Island RI, between 7 January 1684/85 and 1692. He married at New Shoreham RI, 16 September 1672, Grace ( ) and had three children: Mary, Francis and (probably) Elisha Billington.
- Martha Billington, born probably at Plymouth, circa 1638; died after 9 June 1704; married 1) at Plymouth, 10 January 1660/61, Samuel Eaton (a Mayflower passenger) and had four children: Sarah, Samuel, Mercy and Bethiah Eaton; married 2) after 1687, Robert Crossman.
- Mary Billington, born probably at Plymouth, circa 1640; d. after 28 June 1717; m. at Rehoboth, 20 January 1663/64, Samuel Sabin and had six children: Samuel, Mercy, Sarah, Israel, Experience and Mary Sabin.
- Isaac Billington, born probably at Plymouth, circa 1644; d. at Middleboro, 11 December 1709; married before 1675, Hannah Glass and had six children: Desire, Lydia, Eleanor, Mary, Seth and Isaac Billington.
- Child, died young.
- Rebecca Billington, born at Plymouth 8 June 1648; no further record.
- Dorcas Billington born at Plymouth, circa 1650; died after 1 August 1707; married after 29 March 1673, Edward May. When he died in 1691, his probate records mention two sons and two daughters. It would appear that Dorcas had a son out of wedlock around 1672 who was living in 1683.
- Mercy Billington, born at Plymouth, 25 February 1651/52; d. at Rehoboth, 28 September 1718; married at Rehoboth, 27 June 1681, John Martin and had four children: John, Robert, Desire and Francis Martin.
Mayflower Families Through Five Generations, John Billington, vol. 21, 2001, by Harriet W. Hodge; rev. by Robert S. Wakefield.
Mayflower Passenger References, (from contemporary records and scholarly journals), by Susan E. Roser. 2011. pp. 77-79.
If you are a descendant of the Billingtons, you are invited to join the Billington Family Society.