The intrepid Pilgrim explorer who paid the ultimate price for Plymouth Colony

It was an uncertain time for the passengers and crew who boarded the Mayflower in Plymouth on 6 September, 1620.

Battling strong winds and monstrous waves - not to mention crippling seasickness - their horrific transatlantic experience finally came to an end 66 days later.

However, for those fortunate to survive the stormy crossing, landing in Cape Cod was only the start of their epic adventure in North America.

After signing the Mayflower Compact, the next step for the Pilgrims was to investigate their strange new surroundings.

The intrepid explorers who mounted these expeditions were crucial in establishing Plymouth Colony - and there were few people in the group more fearless than Edward Tilley.

However, in his brave efforts to help the Pilgrims, Tilley eventually paid the ultimate price.

Who was Edward Tilley?

Edward Tilley was born in Henlow, Bedfordshire, in 1588 to Robert and Elizabeth Tilley. He married Ann Cooper in the village in 1614, before the couple moved in Leiden, Holland, two years later.

The couple had no children, but boarded the Mayflower with their 16-year-old nephew, Henry Sampson, and infant niece, Humility Cooper.

Another member of the Tilley family among the passengers was Edward's older brother, John Tilley, together with his wife, Joan, and daughter, Elizabeth.

Both Tilley brothers were among the 41 'true' Pilgrims who signed the Mayflower Compact on 11 November, 1620.

An illustration of the signing of the Mayflower Compact

Edward Tilley's death

Edward Tilley was an active participant of the initial three expeditions on Cape Cod to search for a suitable settlement.

It is said that he was also once appointed to provide "advice and council" to Myles Standish, the Pilgrims' military adviser.

Exploring without appropriate or wet clothing and in freezing conditions would eventually take its toll on Tilley. Having been ill before the third expedition to locate a place to establish the settlement, he died in January 1621.

His wife, Ann, sadly passed away shortly afterwards, while Henry and Humility survived in the care of other families.

Edward's older brother, John, and his wife, Joan, also died during the first winter - leaving Elizabeth as the only surviving member from both Tilley families.

Cole's Hill Burial Ground in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Picture: Swampyank

The legacy of Edward Tilley

Edward and Ann Tilley were both buried in Cole's Hill Burial Ground in Plymouth, Massachusetts. They were probably buried in unmarked graves, as were so many who died that winter.

The couple are memorialised on the Pilgrim Memorial Tomb as "Edward Tilley and Ann his wife'.

Elizabeth - the only surviving member from both Tilley families - went on to have 10 children with fellow Mayflower passenger John Howland.

They all lived and married and, as a result, Elizabeth has a large number of descendants - most notably former US Presidents George H. W Bush and his son, George W. Bush.

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