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John Billington (also spelled as Billinton) (c. 1580 – September 30, 1630) was an Englishman who travelled to the New World on the Mayflower and was one of the signers of the Mayflower Compact. He was hanged in Plymouth Colony in 1630.
Nothing is known about John Billington’s life in England. His son Francis was named in a 1612 lease of property in Cowbit, Lincolnshire and either John or Elinor, or both, were associated with this area. Around Cowbit and Spalding, in Lincolnshire, Francis Longland named young Francis Billington, son of John Billington, an heir.
John Billington, his wife Elinor and two sons, John and Francis departed on the Mayflower from Plymouth, England on September 6/16, 1620. The small, 100-foot ship had 102 passengers and a crew of about 30-40 in extremely cramped conditions. By the second month out, the ship was being buffeted by strong westerly gales, causing the ship‘s timbers to be badly shaken with caulking failing to keep out sea water, and with passengers, even in their berths, lying wet and ill. This, combined with a lack of proper rations and unsanitary conditions for several months, attributed to what would eventually be fatal for many, especially the majority of women and children. On the way there were two deaths, a crew member and a passenger, but the worst was yet to come after arriving at their destination when, in the space of several months, almost half the passengers perished in the cold, harsh New England winter.
On November 9/19, 1620, after about 3 months at sea, including a month of delays in England, they spotted land, which was the Cape Cod hook, now called Provincetown Harbor. And after several days of trying to get south to their planned destination of the Colony of Virginia, strong winter seas forced them to return to the harbor at Cape Cod hook, where they anchored on November 11/21. Billington signed the Mayflower Compact that day.
The Billington family appeared a number of times in the accounts of early Plymouth Colony and were reported to be the colony‘s troublemakers. Francis made squibs and fired a musket in the Mayflower while the ship was anchored off Cape Cod. Francis went exploring soon after their arrival and discovered the body of water now known as Billington Sea.
In 1624 John Billington was implicated in the Oldham-Lyford scandal (a revolt against the rule of the Plymouth church), but insisted he was innocent and was never officially punished.
John Billington married Elinor _____ in England. They had two sons. After John’s death, Elinor married Gregory Armstrong in September 1638. Elinor died after March 2, 1642/3. Gregory Armstrong died in Plymouth on November 5, 1650.
Children of John and Elinor Billington:
In September 1630 John Billington was tried by a jury and hanged for the murder of John Newcomen, whom he saw as an enemy. This was the first such execution in Plymouth colony. Bradford states he was approximately forty years of age. His exact burial location is unknown.