m. ABT. 1570
Facts and Events
He might have been the John Tilley, yeoman, of Wooton, co. Bedford, age 40 in 1613, who made a deposition [Chanc. Dps. T. 5/16]. This possibility was discussed in detail by Robert Leigh Ward in 1984 (Further Traces of John Tilley of the Mayflower).
John Tilley, his wife and his daughter Elizabeth came to America on the "Mayflower". He was one of the signers of the Mayflower Compact, and one of ten men in the first encounter with the Indians on 8 December 1620. He was the 16th Signer of the Mayflower Compact.
John and his wife both died in the "general sickness" the first winter after arriving at Plymouth, Massachusetts. They left only one known child, Elizabeth. John's brother Edward was also aboard the Mayflower, but also died in the first winter.
The First Encounter
This story appears both in Mourt's Relation, published in London in 1622, and (in a condensed version) in William Bradford's History of Plymouth Plantation.
"Wednesday, the sixth of December . It was resolved our discoverers should set forth … So ten of our men were appointed who were of themselves willing to undertake it, to wit, Captain Standish, Master Carver, William Bradford, Edward Winslow, John Tilley, Edward Tilley, John Howland, and three of London, Richard Warren, Stephen Hopkins, and Edward Doten, and two of our seamen, John Alderton, and Thomas English. Of the ship's company there went two of the master's mates, Master Clarke and Master Coppin, the master gunner, and three sailors … Mourt's Relation, ed. Jordan D. Fiore (Plymouth, Mass.: Plymouth Rock Foundation, 1985), p. 27-28.
"… the 6th of December  they sent out their shallop again with ten of their principal men and some seamen, upon further discovery, intending to circulate that deep bay of Cape Cod. The weather was very cold and it froze so hard as the spray of the sea lighting on their coats, they were as if they had been glazed. Yet that night betimes they got down into the bottom of the bay, and as they drew near the shore they saw some ten or twelve Indians very busy about something. They landed about a league or two from them … they made themselves a barricado with logs and boughs as well as they could in the time, and set out their sentinel and betook them to rest, and saw the smoke of the fire the savages made that night. When morning was come they divided their company, some to coast along the shore in the boat, and the rest marched through the woods to see the land, if any fit place might be for their dwelling. They came also to the place where they saw the Indians the night before, and found they had been cutting up a great fish like a grampus … "So they ranged up and down all that day, but found no people, nor any place they liked. When the sun grew low, they hasted out of the woods to meet with their shallop … of which they were very glad, for they had not seen each other all that day since the morning. So they made them a barricado as usually they did every night, with logs, stakes and thick pine boughs, the height of a man, leaving it open to leeward, partly to shelter them from the cold and wind (making their fire in the middle and lying round about it) and partly to defend them from any sudden assaults of the savages, if they should surround them; so being very weary, they betook them to rest. But about midnight they heard a hideous and great cry, and their sentinel called "Arm! arm!" So they bestirred them and stood to their arms and shot off a couple of muskets, and then the noise ceased. They concluded it was a company of wolves or such like wild beasts, for one of the seamen told them he had often heard such noise in Newfoundland. "So they rested till about five of the clock in the morning; for the tide, and their purpose to go from thence, made them be stirring betimes. So after prayer they prepared for breakfast, and it being day dawning it was thought best to be carrying things down to the boat … "But presently, all on the sudden, they heard a great and strange cry, which they knew to be the same voices they heard in the night, though they varied their notes; and one of their company being abroad came running in and cried, "Men, Indians! Indians!" And withal, their arrows came flying amongst them. Their men ran with all speed to recover their arms, as by the good providence of God they did. In the meantime, of those that were there ready, two muskets were discharged at them, and two more stood ready in the entrance of their rendezvous but were commanded not to shoot till they could take full aim at them. And the other two charged again with all speed, for there were only four had arms there, and defended the barricado, which was first assaulted. The cry of the Indians was dreadful, especially when they saw their men run out of the rendezvous toward the shallop to recover their arms, the Indians wheeling about upon them. But some running out with coats of mail on, and cutlasses in their hands, they soon got their arms and let fly amongst them and quickly stopped their violence … "Thus it pleased God to vanquish their enemies and give them deliverance; and by his special providence so to dispose that not any one of them were either hurt or hit, though their arrows came close by them and on every side [of] them; and sundry of their coats, which hung up in the barricado, were shot through and through. Afterwards they gave God solemn thanks and praise for their deliverance, and gathered up a bundle of their arrows and sent them into England afterward by the master of the ship, and called that place the FIRST ENCOUNTER." William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647, ed. Samuel Eliot Morison (New York: Knopf, 1991), p. 68-72.
He was once identified with the John Tilley who was baptized 24 February 1571, son of Lawrence and Bridget Tilley, of Shipton, Shropshire. However, Banks demonstrated that this John Tilley was still living in England in 1631, 11 years after the Mayflower came to America.