Select Howell Miscellany

Here are some Howell stories and accounts over the years:

Howel Dda and His Descendants

Hywel Dda or Howel the Good became King of Wales in 926.  A number of later Howells have claimed descent from him.  This was made possible because royal pedigrees in Wales were typically handed down by trained bards for generations before they were finally written down.

One such descendant was Sir Howel y Twyall who fought with the Black Prince at Poitiers in 1356.  As a result of his exploits, he was knighted as “Sir Howell of the Battle Ax.”  Sir Howell was then made the governor of the fortified castle at Criecdaith near Carnarvon. 

Then there was Howel Sele, not apparently related but descended from an earlier Prince of Powys.  He was the lord of Naanau in Merionethshire and a cousin of the rebel Owain Glyndwr.  He was apparently slain by Glyndwr’s henchman Madog in 1401. 

One line from Howel the Good was said to have gone
to the Rev. Thomas Howell, a vicar in Brecknockshire, and his two sons Thomas and James.  Thomas was appointed the Bishop of Bristol by Charles I in 1644.  But Bristol was taken over by the Roundheads a year later and he subsequently died in prison.  The younger son James survived the Civil War and made his name as a writer and historian. 

Another lineage claim has come for John Howell, the immigrant from Pembroke to the American colonies (Virginia) in the 1620’s

Howell and Howells in Wales in the 1881 Census

Howells outnumbered Howell by a three-to-one factor in the 1881 census.

Numbers (000's)


Howell's English Origins

Henry Guppy provided some English origins for the name Howell in his 1890 work Homes of Family Names in Great Britain.

“Both Howell and Powell are ancient East Anglian names.  William Howell held land in Wifton, Norfolk in the reign of Edward III.; and in the following reign of Richard II Margary Howel was a prioress of Elixton nunnery in Suffolk.  In the time of Henry VI John Howel was the vicar of Newton; and in the reign of Henry VII. John Ap Howel was prebend of Norwich.

Howell is a parish in the neighboring part of Lincolnshire and very probably the East Anglian Howells in many cases thence derived their name.” 

Powell tended to be pronounced “Pole” in East Anglia; and perhaps Howell was pronounced the same way

Edward Howell on Long Island

Edward Howell was the grandson of William Howell who had acquired the manor of Westbury at Marsh Gibbon in 1536.  This was a fine stone structure built in the 16th century, two stories high and called a double house.  Edward had inherited this manor upon the death of his father in 1625 and he was part of the local landed gentry in Buckinghamshire.

However in 1639, at the age of 55, he decided to give up his presence there, sell the manor, and embark for the New World.  He had received from Charles I a grant of 500 acres at Lynn in Massachusetts.  He did not stay there long.  In 1640, he moved to Long Island and is considered one of the founders of the town of Southampton.  He owned a large estate there.   He also served on the Governor's council from 1647 to 1653 and helped compile the rules and regulations for the fast growing colony at Southampton. 

He also built a mill beside a creek for the grinding of wheat and rye into flour.  This mill at Water Mill was so sturdy that it continued operating until 1880 and is still standing after some restoration today.

Edward’s line in America was covered in Emma Howell Ross’s 1968 book Descendants of Edward Howell.  His descendants have formed the Edward Howell Family Association and in 2015 celebrated the 375th anniversary of his arrival in America.

Evan Shelby Howell on His Ancestry

In 1889 Evan Howell wrote to his nephew William H. Howell a letter which contained the following items about his Howell ancestry.

“I got the following statement from my grandfather, Joseph Howell, during his lifetime.  During the persecutions of the Protestants by the Catholics in Wales, the Howells, being Baptists and therefore Protestants, they with many others were forced from their homes and were compelled to hide in caves and secret places for safety from their enemies.  John Howell, the father of my grandfather, Joseph Howell, immigrated to America and settled in Virginia where he finally died.

Of the sons of John Howell, one moved to South Carolina, two to Tennessee, two to Kentucky, one (Henry) remained in Virginia, and Joseph, my grandfather moved to Cabarrus county in North Carolina prior to the Revolutionary War.  He brought his mother with him and she lived to be about a hundred years old.  I saw her buried from the Haines Meeting House in Cabarrus when I was a boy.

My grandfather, Joseph Howell, married Margaret Eleanor Garmon, a German woman.  He was 102 years of age when he died in DeKalb county, Georgia in 1837.  Henry Howell, my father, married Mary Miller of German descent.   He died in Hayward county, North Carolina at the age of 91.  I myself was born on February 19, 1803."

John Howell, New Zealand Pioneer

John Howell was born in Sussex to William and Mary Howell.  As a child he had known the punishment handed out to rabbit poachers.  At the age of twelve he escaped and stowed away on a smuggling vessel.  Apprehended on the vessel's return from France, he was released when he was found to have no connection with the smugglers.

He promptly stowed away on a ship bound for Australia, became first mate on a whaling ship, and arrived at Kapiti Island in New Zealand in 1827 or 1828.  Here he engaged in whaling and the export of greenstone to Australia. 

He had made the acquaintance of the whaler and trader Johnny Jones in Australia, and after serving at his station at Waikouaiti was sent with three ships to establish a station in the Foveaux Strait.  According to oral tradition Howell set up his station on the Jacobs river in 1834. 

With his flagship Eliza and crews of nearly 60 Europeans and some 200 Maori, Howell established friendly relations with the local Ngati Mamoe.  But his refusal to take a Maori wife was regarded as an insult by the Maori. After an altercation he married Kohikohi, the daughter of Horomona Patu of Centre Island.  She brought him a dowry of a large area of land between the Waimatuku stream and the Jacobs river.

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