James Chilton was born circa 1556 in Kent, United Kingdom to Lyonell Chilton (c1530-) and died 8 December 1620 United States ((at sea; in harbour)) of unspecified causes. He married Susannah Furner (1564-1621) in England.

James was an English Separatist who came to America aboard the ship Mayflower. He was a signer of the Mayflower Compact, and was probably the oldest Mayflower passenger and resident of Plymouth Colony.

Vital statistics

  • Son of Lyonell Chilton, a yeoman in Canterbury
  • 1556 - Born around 1556, almost certainly in Canterbury, Kent, England
  • c1585 - Marriage
  • 1600/1601 - Family moved to Sandwich, Kent
  • 1609-1615 - Family moved to Leiden, Netherlands
  • 1620 - Mayflower voyage to Plymouth_Colony
  • 8-Dec-1620 - Died while the Mayflower lay anchored in Provincetown Harbor


In Canterbury

James Chilton was born around 1556, almost certainly in Canterbury, Kent, which was at that time in the Kingdom of England.[1][2] Nothing is known of his youth. His father, Lyonell Chilton, was a yeoman in Canterbury, and served two years as churchwarden of St. Paul's Parish Church there

In 1583, James Chilton received the unusual privilege of being made a freeman "by gift," by Canterbury's mayor. As a freeman, Chilton became a "Merchant Tailor" in Canterbury's Company of Woollen Drapers and Tailors.[3] Around this same time, he married and began a family.[4] While he would eventually have at least ten children, only three are known to have lived to adulthood.[5]

From 1584 to 1600, Chilton was charged and fined several times in Canterbury, for offences ranging from selling food or drink without a licence to beating a man with a stick.[6]

In Sandwich

In 1600 or 1601, Chilton and his family moved twenty kilometres east, to Sandwich, Kent.[7] Sandwich was becoming a center of Separatist activity, and was home to several future members of John Robinson's Leiden church.[8]

The first evidence that the Chilton family had its own Separatist views appears in 1609. In late April, Chilton's wife was among four people that secretly buried a dead child, without having the Church of England perform its mandatory burial rites. When the burial was discovered, the group rejected the need for the mandatory rites, calling them "popishly ceremonies and of no other force." For this defiant act, Chilton's wife and two of the others were excommunicated from the Church of England on 12 June 1609.[9]

In Leiden

Some time between 1609 and 1615, Chilton and his family left England and joined John Robinson's congregation in Leiden, Netherlands. Chilton's oldest daughter Isabella was married in Leiden 21 July 1615 (New Style).[10]

On Sunday, 28 April 1619 (New Style), Chilton's house in Leiden became the scene of a small riot, due to a case of mistaken identity. Shortly after Chilton returned home from church, about twenty boys assembled and began throwing things at his house, shouting that Arminians were meeting there. When Chilton confronted the crowd, he was struck in the head by a large cobblestone, and was knocked unconscious.

On the Mayflower

When the ship Mayflower set out for North America in 1620 with members of the Leiden congregation, William Bradford recalled that the passengers included "James Chilton, and his wife, and Mary, their dougter."[11] At about 64 years old, Chilton was probably the oldest passenger on the ship.[12] Chilton's other two known surviving children, 21-year-old Ingle and married 33-year-old Isabella, remained behind in Leiden.[13][14]

Mayflower at Provincetown Harbor

The Mayflower, originating from London with a group of Adventurers bound for the New World rendezvoused on 22 July with the Speedwell just arriving from Holland with a group of religious refugees from Leiden. Originally intended to sail jointly to the English Colony in Virginia it soon became evident that Speedwell was not seaworthy. Passengers and cargo were combined onto Mayflower (with many left behind) for the journey, finally departing on September 9.

During the voyage fierce storms blew the ship off course, arriving at Cape Cod on the Eastern Massachusetts coastline on November 9th. For two days they attempted to sail south to Virginia but exhausting supplies and fierce storms caused them to abort this effort and drop anchor at what is now Provincetown Harbor. On November 11th, the group decided to settle here and start their own colony. They wrote a governmental contract called the Mayflower Compact, James was the 24th of the 41 signers on this document.

Signing the Mayflower Compact 1620, a painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris 1899

About the middle of December 1620, the ship moved and dropped anchor in Plymouth Harbor. All the while the pilgrims were conducting several exploring missions of the area and negotiations with the local natives. Almost half of the passengers died, suffering from an outbreak of a contagious disease described as a mixture of scurvy, pneumonia and tuberculosis. In the spring, they built huts ashore, and on March 21, 1621, the surviving passengers disembarked from the Mayflower into their new settlement at Plymouth, Massachusetts.

James Chilton died on 8 December 1620, while the Mayflower lay anchored in Provincetown Harbor.[15] He evidently died of disease, as Bradford reported that he "dyed in the first infection."[16]

Marriage and Family

( Chilton's wife also died during the first winter, "in the first infection."[17])

  1. Isabella Chilton (1585-1665) - a daughter that came to Plymouth Colony around 1630, with her children and her husband, Roger Chandler (1587-1665).[18] Isabella was married in Leiden 21 July 1615. See Mary Leonard (c1703-1793) for some of their descendants.
  2. Mary Chilton (c1605-1679) - a daughter that was left an orphan at Plymouth Colony, survived and later married John Winslow, brother of Edward Winslow.[19] She is believed to be the first woman to set foot on Plymouth Rock. Later moved to Boston, where she died 1-May-1679.
  3. Ingle Chilton - a daughter that married Robert Nelson in Leiden in 1622. No further record has been found of her.[20]
  4. a child buried 1609 - see above.


Offspring of James Chilton and Susannah Furner (1564-1621)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Isabella Chilton (1585-1665) 1586 St. Paul's Parish, Canterbury, Kent, England 1665 Duxbury, Plymouth County, Massachusetts Roger Chandler (1587-1665)
Ingle Chilton (c1599-)
Mary Chilton (c1605-1679) 1605 England, United Kingdom 16 May 1679 Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts John Winslow (1597-1674)
Unknown Chilton (-1609)


Vital Records

Bradford's Passenger List

From Gov Bradford's list of Mayflower Passengers:

James Chilton, and his wife, and Mary, their dougter. They had an other doughter, that was married, that came afterward.

James Chilton and his wife also dyed in the first infection. But their daughter Mary is still living, and hath 9 children; and one daughter is maried and hath a child, so their increase is 10.

Pilgrim Monument


National Monument to the Forefathers, commemorates the Mayflower Pilgrims, (including this person) who came to Plymouth Colony in 1620 on the Mayflower. Dedicated on August 1, 1889, it is thought to be the world's largest solid granite monument. Located on an 11 acre hilltop site on Allerton Street in Plymouth, Massachusetts.


Footnotes (including sources)

‡ General
  • Wikipedia et al.

MainTour, Robin Patterson

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors). Smallwikipedialogo.png