Miles Standish - Assisted Pilgrims

Miles Standish - Assisted Pilgrims American History Famous People Social Studies Biographies

Miles (Myles) Standish was a British military man who was born ** in Ellenbane—on the Isle of Man—around 1584.  At some point in his career, he was sent to The Netherlands.  

Historians believe it was while he was in Holland (another name for The Netherlands) that he met the "Leiden Separatists" (who were later called "The Pilgrims").

When things began to get difficult for the Separatists, who were living in Leiden, leaders discussed traveling to America where they could have religious freedom. By 1620, the British government was pressuring the Dutch government to take action against the "Pilgrims," so leaving Holland seemed like a good idea.  

In addition, the Separatists' children were assimilating into the Dutch culture (which their parents wanted to prevent) and the adults were never able to get high-paying jobs in Holland.

For all those reasons, and more, a decision was made to leave the country which had sheltered the Separatists for about a dozen years.

They needed to have a military man among them, however, who could also fill that role in America.  Thus it was that Miles Standish became a Pilgrim and made the crossing aboard the Mayflower

He did fill the role of military advisor to the Pilgrims, when they arrived in America and created their Plimouth Colony. In fact, Standish became governor of the colony.  

Centuries later, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a lovely poem about him.  Alas ... the historical record does not support Longfellow's story—in The Courtship of Miles Standish—that the military man asked John Alden to propose marriage (on Miles' behalf) to Priscilla Mullins.

We learn some more facts about Standish, and his reasons for coming to America, from Miles Standish: Colonial Leader (by Barbara Witteman):

When the Pilgrims first arrived in North America, thousands of Indians [Native Americans] were already living in the area. Many settlers believed they had a right to build homes on the land. They often took land and food without paying for it. These actions upset American Indians and started many conflicts.

Standish came to North America to help protect the colonists from these conflicts. He trained the men at Plymouth [Plimouth] and tried to fight only when necessary. Standish also learned several American Indian languages. He tried to develop peaceful relations with many Indian groups, such as the Wampanoag. (See Witteman, at pages 6-7.)


** For more than 150 years, people debated the birthplace of Myles (Miles) Standish. After much careful study, many historians now appear to agree that he was born into a Lancashire family who had settled on the Isle of Man. 

This theory, however, competes with an early (1669) reference to Standish’s birthplace—noted by the secretary of Plymouth Colony, Nathaniel Morton, who wrote (in New England’s Memorial )—that Standish “...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. (See the Sixth Edition of New England’s Memorial, published in Boston during 1855, at page 170.)

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Jan 23, 2020

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