William Langson Lathrop–“The Pennsylvania Impressionist”

Father of New Hope, Pennsylvania Art Colony

William Langson LathropMy sixth maternal cousin (2x removed), The Pennsylvania Impressionist”  William Langson Lathrop (1859–1938) was born in Warren, Illinois, and raised at his family’s farm in Painesville, Ohio, by his parents Byron P. Lathrop, a physician, and Isabella A. Langson Lathrop, who was of Irish descent and a lover of the arts.  He became known as one of America’s premier landscape painters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Considered the founder of the New Hope Colony of Pennsylvania Impressionists, William primarily painted rustic landscapes of oil and watercolor.

1876 (Age 17) – 1871 (Age 22)

William or “Willie,” as he was called as a child according to Census records, graduated high school and traveled to New York to first study art at Cooper Union’s Free Night School of Art.

William returned to Painesville in 1877, and in 1880 started sending his illustrations to New York-based magazines. He landed a job at Harper’s magazine, where soon after, Charles Parsons, his editor, told him his real talents appeared to be in the fine arts not illustrations and he urged William to put brush to canvas instead.

“Cows Watering at Twilight” by: William Langson Lathrop

At age 22, Lathrop sold his first painting (of his neighbor’s cows) and then went back to New York to work at a photoengraving company on Park Place.  While in New York, he met artist Henry B. Snell, who would later join William’s “New Hope Pennsylvania Art Colony”. He next sold his first etchings to New York engravings and etchings publisher Christian Klackner, but earned little money doing so.

1887 (Age 28) – 1891 (Age 32)

William Merritt ChaseIn 1887 Lathrop went on to study with American impressionism teacher William Merritt Chase at New York’s Arts Student League.  The next year he visited England, France, and Holland. In November 1888, he met and married Annie Sarah Burt of England’s Oxford District.

In France, he visited the Louvre, and then in Barbizon, just south of Paris, France, he painted at The Barbizon School among other landscape artists.  (Barbizon School artists are often considered to have sown the seeds of Modernism with their individualism, and were the forerunners of the Impressionists, who took a similar philosophical approach to their art.)

Colleagues and Affiliations:

J Alden Weir

Julian Alden Weir (1852-1919) American Impressionist

For a few months upon their return to the states, Lathrop and his wife Annie stayed at Julian Alden Weir’s (a fellow impressionist painter and member of the Cos Cob Art Colony near Greenwich, CT), Georgetown, Connecticut farm. The etchings market struggled in 1891 and the Lathrop’s were forced to return to farming back in Painesville.

Henry and Florence Snell were close friends with William and his wife Annie. They would have Sunday dinners together at Phillips Mill.

An Evening Walk 1886

An Evening Walk 1886

It was in 1896 when Henry Snell (left in the photo of two men below) entered six of William’s (right in the photo of two men below) watercolors in the Annual New York Watercolor Club Show and one of them won “The William T. Evans Prize”  in the prestigious New York show and his works received a glowing review in The New York Times–this event and its publicity launched William’s career as an American impressionist painter.

Much to my dismay I could not find an online copy of Lathrop’s “Twilight in Connecticut.”  However, below is a copy of the New York Times Article dated 15 February 1896 where the writer reviewed Lathrop’s artistry:

New York Times 15 Feb 1896

Snell and Lathrop

In 1899 Lathrop and his family moved to New Hope, PA on the Delaware River. Other artists began to settle in the area, some of them drawn by Lathrop’s recommendations. The Lathrop home soon served as the social focus of the growing art colony and he began teaching art classes in his home studio. Lathrop Home Studio                                           His wife, Annie entertained artists with Sunday afternoon teas which became a popular forum for exchanging ideas about art.  Lathrop was also a friend of physicist Albert Einstein of nearby Princeton, New Jersey. They shared the love of music and of sailing. Lathrop even built his own violin. He was also friends with fellow artists, John Folinsbee and Harry Leith-Ross.

Phillips Mill

In 1903, Dr. George Marshall of Philadelphia, owner of the early 18th Century Phillip’s Mill, sold the house and a four acre portion of the property to his boyhood friend, William Lathrop. The Mill became the playhouse for the Marshall and Lathrop children. The Lathrops’ Sunday afternoon teas, to which local artists and neighbors were invited, were the beginnings of the community association. These early “members” included the artists Rae Sloan Bredin, Fern Coppedge, John Folinsbee, Daniel Garber, Mary Elizabeth Price, Edward Redfield, and Walter Schofield.

Lathrop Hospitality

Lathrop Hospitality

William Lathrop was the first president of the Phillips Mill Community Association, 1929. His son, Julian L. Lathrop, was a founder of and taught at the Solebury School. Julian’s wife, Anne Goodell Lathrop, was educated at the Philadelphia College of Art and Design, (now Moore College of Art and Design).

In 1907, William Lathrop was elected an academician of New York’s National Academy of Design.  He served on the juries of the Carnegie Institute’s International Exhibits and  the National Academy of Design from 1910-1917.

He received a gold medal at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (1915) in San Francisco, California, which showcased works by many of the major American artists of the time.

William Lathrop was a member of the group of painters, called the New Hope Group, along with Daniel Garber, Morgan Colt, Charles Rosen, Robert Spencer and Rae Sloan Bredin. The locals dubbed them the Towpath Group. They exhibited together from 1916-1926, and their exhibitions traveled to a number of cities throughout this country.

Published quotes by William Langson Lathrop

Unknown Newspaper Quote 1924Lathrop QuoteFor more than thirty years Lathrop pursued landscape painting at New Hope, exhibiting his works in galleries across the nation. During this time Lathrop’s painting style evolved from tonalist, characterized by darker colors and an emphasis on mood, to the brighter impressionist paintings for which he is best remembered today.

The Widge Sailboat

The Widge SailboatIn the late 1920s Lathrop hand-built a wooden boat in his backyard and named it The Widge. Measuring over twenty feet in length, Lathrop and his friends launched The Widge into the Delaware River in 1930. Lathrop, an able sailor, piloted the boat into the Atlantic coastal waters. He continued sailing for pleasure in his later years, painting scenes of the Atlantic shoreline and even once entertaining Albert Einstein on board as a guest.

Today, Lathrop’s paintings are in numerous museum collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC.

Hurricane of 1938

In September 1938, the 79-year-old Lathrop was piloting his 20′ wooden boat around eastern Long Island when word came of an approaching hurricane–“The Long Island Express” as it became known or “The Great Hurricane of 1938”. Far from safe harbor, Lathrop chose to ride out the storm in a sheltered bay. While The Widge survived the storm, Lathrop did not.  Below follows the storm’s description as provided by the Public Broadcast System’s “American Experience” series:

At 9 am on Wednesday, September 21, the storm was reported off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and the Cunard liner Carinthia passing close to the Virginia Capes and Cape Hatteras, reported a barometric pressure of 27.85 inches not even passing through the eye of the storm. If forecasters were more historically inclined, they would have recognized that this information suggested that the storm was not heading out to sea as usual, but was moving straight north — as similar hurricanes had in 1635 and 1815. Rain had been falling in the northeastern United States intermittently for days before September 21, representing a trough of low pressure or weakness in the atmosphere. The hurricane responded by moving rapidly in this warm moist pathway. A large high pressure system over the Maritimes of Canada blocked the storm from moving out to sea.

The earth was already saturated from the prior rainfall, with streams and rivers full to their banks across New England. The tide was astronomically high at the autumnal equinox — when both the sun and the moon’s gravity tug at the sea level. The stage was set for major impact from all aspects of the storm: wind, rain, and storm surge.

A decimated shoreline.

A decimated shoreline.

Even the best forecasters, however, would have been hard pressed to forecast the forward speed of this storm. The Hurricane of 1938 swept up the coast to northern latitudes at greater than 60 mph — at least twice as fast as normal. At 1 pm the storm was east of Atlantic City, New Jersey, where part of the Boardwalk was torn up. The eye came ashore at Bayport, Long Island, New York, at 2:30 pm when a barometric pressure was noted at 27.94 inches. When the hurricane and its accompanying tidal surge and surf hit Long Island, the impact registered on seismographs in Alaska.

The eye of the storm was about 50 miles wide at this time, and the storm continued traveling northward into New England at more than 50 mph. The east side of the hurricane — the “dangerous semicircle” — was scouring the countryside at speeds approaching 100 mph with higher gusts estimated at 120 mph on Fishers Island south of New London, Connecticut. In New York City, west of the eye, the top of the Empire State Building recorded winds of 120 mph, although at ground level in Central Park the winds were blowing at 60 mph. With each mile eastward on Long Island the damage worsened. There was nearly total devastation on the beach along Dune Road at Westhampton, where only 26 out of 179 homes stood after the storm and most of those were uninhabitable. The 125-foot steeple atop the Presbyterian Church in Sag Harbor fell, as did hundreds of other steeples that day.

On September 26, 1938, numerous national and local newspapers published the United Press release of the demise of William Langson Lathrop at sea:

Evening News - Harrisburg, PA:  26 Sep 1938

Evening News – Harrisburg, PA: 26 Sep 1938



Michener Art Museum. http://www.michenermuseum.org/bucksartists/artist.php?artist=141&page=655


Pennsylvania Impressionism. 2002;  By Brian H. Peterson, William H. Gerdts, Sylvia Yount

Phillips Mill Community Association.  www.phillipsmill.org

The National Academy of Design.  http://www.jstor.org/stable/25608025

Julian Alden Weir Biography (1852-1919) – Life of an American Artist totallyhistory.com


Back to the Future–Really?

back to the future--einstein quote

Yet another perspective into how our Past may help portray what’s in our future…

A few hours ago, Cousin Lyle posted publicly on FB:

We are going through a period of adjustment. Wage stagnation for most seems unending. Technology and automation and global trade and labor competition have labor on the ropes. Governmental policy can help, and people are beginning to demand it, such as increases in the minimum wage. But in the long-run how do we get out of this rut? Here is an economist with an optimistic outlook, based on similar conditions and periods in the past. I hope he is right. Sounds reasonable.

So, I thought I would reblog the post from Vox.com’s technology department that Lyle referenced to see just how you feel about its juxtaposing our recent booms in technology to similar booms in the 18-1900s which changed our work, our job skill requirements, and our associated wages.

Why history suggests that today’s wage stagnation is temporary

Updated by Timothy B. Lee on May 21, 2015, 8:00 a.m. ET tim@vox.com

Nissan Car Plant in UK


The past 30 years have seen amazing progress in computer technology, and that progress has transformed a wide variety of American industries. Yet that same 30-year period has been a disappointment when it comes to the incomes of ordinary Americans.A new book by economist James Bessen argues that it’s not surprising for new technologies to be associated with stagnant wages. Indeed, something similar happened in America’s first high-tech boom: the textile industry of the mid-1800s. From 1830 to 1860, cloth production skyrocketed; wages barely budged. But then weavers’ wages started rising. By 1900, they were more than twice their level from 40 years earlier. Bessen argues that this and other historical examples offer important lessons about the state of the labor market today. Some people, such as economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, have portrayed a future in which computers destroy more and more jobs, leaving millions out of work. Bessen is skeptical. Computers obviously do eliminate some jobs, but they almost always create other jobs in the process. The tricky thing is that these new jobs often demand different skills, and workers are struggling to keep up. Still, Bessen paints a basically optimistic view of a future in which technologies mature and create new, higher-paying jobs for ordinary workers.

Computers aren’t destroying jobs (on net)

In recent years, there’s been a lot of worry that increasingly sophisticated computers would replace more and more jobs, which could lead to a future where many low-skilled workers are unable to find a job at all. But Bessen argues that this is a misunderstanding of recent economic trends. “I just don’t see evidence of it,” he says. “There are very few occupations where everything has been automated.” Bessen points to bank tellers as an example. During the 1990s and 2000s, banks installed thousands of automated teller machines. Yet surprisingly, the number of human tellersactually grew slightly during the same period, as this chart from the Atlantic shows:

The Atlantic/BLS

BANK TELLERS & ATMS IN THE U.S. (IN THOUSANDS)          Datawrapper/BLS Contributor

Bessen argues that this is not an isolated example. “Voicemail systems and automated telephone systems dramatically reduced the jobs for telephone operators, but the number of receptionists increased,” he says. Government data shows that from 1999 to 2009, the economy lost 162,000 typists and 102,000 switchboard operators. But during that same period, there was an increase of 215,000 secretaries and 64,000 receptionists and information clerks. That adds up to a net gain of about 16,000 jobs.

In part, these workers handle tasks that are still too complex for automation. But these jobs have also persisted because people find it useful and pleasant to talk to other human beings. A human teller can answer basic questions about a bank’s services better than any computer program. This isn’t just an abstract issue for Bessen, an economist whose empirical research has had a big impact on the patent reform debate (and who created a card stack for Vox last year). In the 1980s, before embarking on a second career as an economist, Bessen founded a company that built one of the first desktop publishing systems. As he watched his software make some jobs in the publishing industry obsolete even as it created many others, Bessen became fascinated by the question of how technology transforms the labor market.

How technology creates new jobs

Bessen says today’s technological changes aren’t so different from those that happened in the past. “Over the course of the 19th century, technology took over 98 percent of the tasks required of a weaver,” he says. “But that 2 percent became more valuable.”


James Bessen

Bessen sees similar trends occurring all around him. For example, in 2013, 60 Minutes did a feature on a Massachusetts company that uses robots rather than humans to move products around its warehouse. “They figured out that each robot was doing the work of one and a half workers. And 60 Minutes concluded that this means we’re just headed for technological unemployment.” But Bessen doesn’t buy it. “If you talk to people in the industry, the managers of these warehouses, they’re saying they’re having difficulty hiring enough workers who have the appropriate skills” There are two big reasons for this. The obvious one is that introducing robots into warehouses creates new, high-skilled jobs building, programming, and repairing robots. But there’s also a more subtle effect that parallels the experience of the textile industry 150 years ago, where cheaper cloth induced consumers to buy a lot more clothing. As technology has made warehouses more efficient, companies have demanded a lot more from them. For example, Bessen says, “there’s been a huge increase in the variety of items stocked in a store. Today’s supermarkets carry over 50 times as many items as the grocery stores of 80 years ago. That’s been enabled by all these various systems that can keep track of things and ship them and restock them when inventories are getting low.” The astonishing variety of a modern grocery store would have been impossible using the information technologies available in the 1960s. That complexity means there are a lot more warehouse jobs than there would have been if companies had simply computerized the simpler supply chains they had in past decades. Bessen argues that the same dynamic was at work with growing bank teller employment during the 2000s. ATMs made it cheaper to open a bank branch, so banks opened more branches, which created additional jobs for tellers.

Standardization gives workers leverage

A British textile mill in 1914 (E.L. Hoskin)

A British textile mill in 1914.   (E.L. Hoskyn)

If technology is constantly creating new jobs, why aren’t we seeing more employment and wage growth? Bessen argues that many workers today face the same problem textile workers faced in 1845: until technology is standardized, it’s difficult to profit from investments in new skills. Early textile companies built their looms in slightly different ways, and they were constantly tinkering with them. These differences made job-hopping difficult. Someone who had mastered one company’s equipment wouldn’t necessarily be more productive at other mills in town. Each employer knew that other mills wouldn’t pay a big premium to hire an experienced worker because they’d still have to spend months training her to use their equipment. And that gave workers little leverage in wage negotiations. The strong bargaining power of mill owners provided healthy profits in the industry’s early years. But the situation wasn’t great for owners, either. Weavers’ low wages and lack of bargaining power meant that few treated it as a profession. Employers faced high costs every time they hired a new worker. A persistent shortage of skilled workers also limited opportunities to expand production. Everything changed after the Civil War, as mill owners began to standardize their equipment and production processes. Bessen writes that the “New England Association of Cotton Manufacturers was formed in 1865 to exchange technical and management knowledge. The first technical school for textile managers and workers opened in Philadelphia in 1884.” As weaving technology became standardized, workers could move from one job to another and take their skills with them. That gave them leverage to demand wages that reflected the value of their work. This isn’t an isolated case. Bessen points out that the market for typists took off around 1900, when the QWERTY standard became the dominant keyboard layout. Once all typewriters used the same keyboard layout, women (they were almost all women) became a lot more willing to pay for typist training knowing that they’d be able to choose from a wide variety of employers. Bessen argues that many industries today suffer from a similar problem. Rapid technological change means that workers’ skill investments become obsolete quickly. Bessen points to graphic designers as an example. “Desktop publishing replaced typographers in the 1980s. Graphic designers had to learn new skills. Then they had to learn web publishing skills. Then they had to learn mobile publishing skills.”

When will wages start rising again?

The most talented graphic designers have thrived in the digital age. Employers are willing to pay a premium for people who are able to master cutting-edge technologies. But ordinary designers have fallen behind. And the rapid pace of change discourages workers from investing in skills. “The graphic design schools have a hard time keeping up,” Bessen says. Why spend thousands of dollars learning Flash design skills that might be totally obsolete five years later? So when will wages start to rise again for average workers? Bessen’s theory suggests that it depends on how long it takes for new technologies — like online publishing and supply-chain management — to mature and standardize. Once that happens, it will become easier for ordinary workers to gain skills, for schools to teach them, and for workers to earn a living from them over long periods. But that might take a while. In past periods of history, new technologies tended to affect relatively narrow slices of the economy. By contrast, computers are changing almost every industry, and there’s reason to expect more dramatic changes ahead.


Several members of my family, friends, neighborhood, and biblical communities have recently lost or are in the midst of fighting to save someone or something we love or care deeply about. Our feelings can be very painful and difficult.  And, initially we feel like our extreme sadness will never let up.  Since I never seem to find just the right words to help me or others endure these times, I searched for others words that might comfort us.  I share these words below and pray that in some small way they may help give us hope to Hold on until the pain ends.

Safely Home

I am home in Heaven, dear ones;
Oh, so happy and so bright!
There is perfect joy and beauty
In this everlasting light.

All the pain and grief is over,
Every restless tossing passed;
I am now at peace forever,
Safely home in Heaven at last.

Did you wonder I so calmly
Trod the valley of the shade?
Oh! but Jesus’ arm to lean on,
Could I have one doubt or dread?

Then you must not grieve so sorely,
For I love you dearly still;
Try to look beyond earth’s shadows,
Pray to trust our Father’s Will.

There is work still waiting for you,
So you must not idly stand;
Do it now, while life remaineth–
You shall rest in Jesus’ land.

When that work is all completed,
He will gently call you Home;
Oh, the rapture of that meeting,
Oh, the joy to see you come!

–By:  Unknown


Revisiting–Johannes Eustacius “John” Rolfe…My 11th Great Grandfather – Part Two

John and Pocahontas in Kippax: England and Virginia

Kippax Village England John Rolfe Painting 1850This post picks up on my blog Revisiting–Johannes Eustacius “John” Rolfe…My 11th Great Grandfather, dated May 6, 2015, and my efforts to expand and support Christine Dean’s (history enthusiast), work in Heacham-Norfolk, England–the Rolfe family’s hometown.  For the past 20 years she has been researching the Rolfe’s, Chief Powhatan, and Pocahontas. We first exchanged information when Chris commented in September 2014 on my post  Johannes Eustacius “John” Rolfe…My 11th Great Grandfather, dated May 19, 2013; and today we continue to discuss our shared interests of history and genealogy. In recent months, we have been comparing notes from the myths of the Pocahontas mulberry tree on ancient Heacham grounds, and the tree on Robert Bolling’s 17th Century Kippax Plantation in Hopewell, Virginia.

Today's Heacham Manor Hotel

Today’s Heacham Manor Hotel

Heacham Hall Heacham Hall in Heacham, Norfolk, England was home to John Rolfe’s family.  His father, John, had died when he was 9 and his mother, Dorothea Mason next married Dr. Robert Redmayne who became Mayor of Kings Lynn and Chancellor of the Diocese of Norwich. The Rolfe’s were gentlemen farmers, not nobility. They were prosperous but not wealthy like other Norfolk families, hence the attraction of the potential opportunities of the New World to John.  It was here in 1616 where John brought Pocahontas and their young son, Thomas, to visit his family. Pocahontas’ Gift of the Mulberry Tree It was during this trip that Pocahontas is said to have gifted the now infamous mulberry tree to the Rolfe family.  She may have brought it from Virginia where the black Mulberry trees grew wild or, she may have gotten it from the gardens of Syon Park where they also grew in what is now the world famous Kew Gardens. (It was King James who encouraged the planting of mulberry trees as part of his efforts to establish the silk trade in England.) However, today’s Heacham Manor Hotel (the restored 17th century manor house) continues to keep alive a legend that this same gifted now 400-year-old mulberry tree lives on its grounds and still produces mulberry fruit from which they make their “Mulberry Royale” Champagne Cocktail for their guests to enjoy:Heacham Mulberry Tree Mulberry Tree RemainsYet, Esmeralda Weatherwax on her New English Review web page reported that in 2009 the Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk shared with her this picture of the fossilized remains of the Mulberry tree that Pocahontas gifted to the Rolfe’s 400 years ago. She says it is in an area of Heacham, but this area is not generally accessible to the public. [In a comment to this post today, Chris Dean stated that Oxford’s expert  dendrochronologists  said that this tree has the wrong bark markings, wood colors, is not a mulberry tree, and the diameter bole was too small to be a 400 year old tree.  So, perhaps the Hecham Manor Hotel may turn out to be the real tree??]

Kippax Plantation, Virginia

Kippax Plantation-Library of Congress 1864

circa 1864 Kippax Plantation (image from Library of Congress).

In Lauranett Lee’s 2008 book Making the American Dream Work… “Kippax was one of the first English settlements in Colonial Virginia.  It was identified as a hub of cultural interaction and economic trade between Quiyoughcohannock Indians, Africans, and Europeans. As emigrants from Heacham, Lincolnshire, England, Robert (16), and his brother Drury Bolling, first settled at Kippax Plantation, which led to a long line of Bolling’s and their relatives, the Bland’s and Poythress’s occupying the property up to 1866. According to the Hope News newspapers from the past, this residence burnt down in 1879. From 1867 until 1895 the property laid fallow.  New owners then built a two-story farmhouse. In 1917, Heretick family members resided on the nearly 10 acre parcel until their deaths in 2004/5.

Kippax Hickory Tree

Kippax Hickory Tree

Kippax Tree Plaques

Kippax Tree Plaques

It wasn’t until 1946 that The National Society of 17th Century Colonial Dames and the Virginia Conservation Commission laid three plaques at the front of the property at 1001 Bland Avenue in Hopewell (the former City Point, Virginia) and part of the parcel formerly known as Kippax Plantation.  This would leave me to believe that the myth of the Pocahontas-gifted mulberry tree in England has nothing to do with the tree that was planted in Hopewell.

Thomas Rolfe-Son of Pocahontas

Near Here Lies Thomas Rolfe-Son of Pocahontas-1615-1680

17th Century Colonial Dames Plaque

17th Century Colonial Dames Plaque


Near Here Lies Jane Rolfe Bolling- Daughter of Thomas Rolfe-Died 1676

However, what do we know about the tree that stands over the three plaques?  Chris and I had seen only online pictures of the plaques and only the base of the tree which stood above them.  We wanted to confirm when and where this tree came from and whether there was any legend surrounding this tree, too. So, on Thursday, April 30, 2015, after the wintry days had subsided, my husband Bob and I, with our dogs in tow, trucked 2-1/2 hours from Southern Maryland to Southeast Virginia and the City of Hopewell, in search of the Kippax Plantation, and the headstone-like plaques of Thomas Rolfe and his daughter, Jane Rolfe Bolling (granddaughter of Pocahontas). Map of Hopewell-2015We were very disappointed when we arrived.  If we hadn’t had GPS and a street address we never would have found the memorial plaques. Subdivsions now surround the property that once nearly 10 acres and known as Kippax Plantation.  The names of the streets helped keep us motivated along the way. To the right appears a 2015 street level map of the Hopewell Area. . As you can see, family names and references to earlier geography remain quite prevalent; e.g., Bolling Dr, Kippax Dr., Pocahontas and Rolfe Lns., and Heretick Ave. Transcriptions of newspaper articles of times past  also appear at the end of this post.  See especially the “eyewitness account” in the July 23, 1943 Hope News, that discusses the disinterment of Robert Bolling’s remains to Blandford Church Cemetery, and the remains of Thomas Rolfe and his daughter, Jane Rolfe Bolling, granddaughter of Pochahontas.

Tree Leaves on Plaque

Tree Leaves on Plaque

I quickly took a few pictures of the grounds and the tree and sent them to my grandson, Justin, who is knowledgeable about various types of trees. From these pictures, he quickly identified it as a hickory tree. According to dictionary.com, the origin of the word Hickory  dates back to the 1670’s, American English, from the Native American tribes (probably Powhatan); it was a shortened version of  pockerchicory or a similar name for this species of walnut.

Estimating the Height of this tree

Estimating the Height of this tree

Tree Trunk with growth on it

Tree Trunk with growth on it

When I researched how to estimate the age of a tree, I found that you can compare its height to heights of other objects or structures that you know. E.g., my husband is 5’11” tall. He was near the tree in the original photo I took. Since I could stack about 7 images of him from bottom to near the top, (71″ x 7[height x 7 images] / 12″[one foot] = my estimate shows that this tree is just about 42′ tall. USDA also provided me with the planting zone map for the area (7a), and this told me that trees grow about 2 feet per year in this zone. Two of the prevalent species in the area are Shagbark and Pignut Hickories.  Shagbark Hickory trees can grow to 150 feet at maturity; while Pignut Hickories mature at 50 to 65 feet.  Given all these computations, I would deduce that this tree is probably only 25 or so years old; i.e., planted sometime around 1990.  Perhaps, to add a clearer marking and/or protection for the plaques? In or around this period (1980-1995),The Center for Archaeological Research at The College of William and Mary, Historic Hopewell Foundation, Inc., The City of Hopewell, The Virginia Foundation for Humanities and Public Policy, and private sponsor Myra Birchett Butterworth funded a study of the Kippax Plantation .  Donald W. Linebaugh, of William and Mary, was then Co-Director of an interdisciplinary project that brought together historians, archaeologists, and architectural historians to research the evolution of Kippax’s social, economic, and political ties.  Following our recent visit to Kippax, I contacted Dr. Linebaugh who is now director of The Program for Historic Preservation at the University of Maryland to see if he had any knowledge about the tree or the plaques under it.  He very cordially shared with me a copy of his 1995 report “Kippax Plantation: Traders, Merchants, and Planters–An Exhibit Celebrating the Families of Pocahontas.” He also added that he has a book forthcoming.  I can hardly wait until it is available. While I couldn’t discover the whole story about the memorial plaques and tree at Kippax, I hope you will enjoy reading about this research and adventure.   Hopewell News Header 1939 Article from: The Hopewell News —– Friday, January 27, 1939 ABOUT THE ROLFES The unmarked graves of Jane Rolfe and her father, Thomas Rolfe, the only son of Pocahontas and John Rolfe, were visited recently by Thomas Leonard, staff member Of the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration of Virginia. On an old estate, Kippax, in Prince George County, only a few crumbling pieces of stone and a slight depression in the ground mark the spot. Col. Robert Bolling (1646-1709), married Jane Rolfe. Through their one son, Major John Bolling (1675-1949), they established the prolific line that claims descent from Pocahontas.

Hopewell News Header 7-23-1943

Volume XVII, No.466 – Friday July 23, 1943

Kippax is Historic Landmark

By Thomas B. Robertson

Kippax, or Farmingdale, which was the home of Col. Robert Bolling, the first of the family to settle here, was situated on the Old City Point-Petersburg stage road, about one mile east of Cedar Level. Col. Bolling married Jane Rolfe, the daughter of Thomas Rolfe, the son of Pocahontas, the Indian Princess. Thomas Rolfe made his home near Fort Smith in Surry County up to 1650. The Rolfe home is still standing there. But, he was buried in the old graveyard at Kippax at his death about 1680. Col. Bolling owned a large area running all to the way to the Appomattox River. The original residence was burned many years ago, being a place of desolation in 1879. And the present residence was erected on part of the original site. A part of the foundation of the original building can still be seen. Col. Bolling was also buried there, but his body was taken up around 1880 and removed to the Blandford Church burial ground and a monument erected over his grave there.

Eyewitness Account

An eyewitness of this disinterment and removal gave this information to his uncle. The other bodies could not be removed so remained there, and this marks the grave of the son of Pocahontas, Thomas Rolfe. It is near the yard to the front of the present residence, now owned by Mr. Heretick. This is one of the classic spots of the City Point area and should be properly marked. Jane Rolfe, the first wife of Col. Bolling died in early life in 1676, leaving one son. She was also buried there. At present, there are no markers there, and few people are alive who know of this sacred spot. Kippax, the correct name for the place, comes from that of the Bland Family of Kippax, York County, England, into which this property passed after the death of Major John Bolling, the only son of Col. Robert Bolling.


The Old Cedar Level residence is one of the most interesting of the old Colonial structures still standing. It was erected in the 17th Century by Robert Bolling 2nd, and was later the home of one of the Bland family and of the Poythress family, all kindred families. Near it, is the “Halfway House” at one time used as a tavern on the Old City Point-Petersburg stage line which passed it. It is now the home of Julius Heretick. The residence is still preserved as an example of its classic antiquity, and preserved as an example of the fine Colonial structure, with its pannelled [sic] doors, wainscoating and heavy timber of heart wood, its large chimneys, and its dormer windows. In the yard, are some of the old trees and shrubs of bygone days. Woodlawn, one of the homes of the Munt Family, stood in a grove in the community of the present Woodlawn, in the vicinity of Cedar Level. It was burned a few years ago, and only a few trees mark the spot.

ARTIcle from: The Hopewell News —– Friday, May 31, 1946

Picturesque Old Rolfe Place Again Opens Its Doors And Invites Visitors

Rolfe-Warren House[The image inserted to the left of this text appeared in the January 4, 1970 issue of the Chicago Tribune] The old brick house on the Rolfe Place on Route 31, between Surry Courthouse and the Jamestown ferry, which has been closed since December 1941 was opened to the public April 15th and will remain open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the summer and fall months. This priceless holding, which is owned and cared for by the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA), is the pride of Surry County, and is the oldest house of authentic record in the State of Virginia. Court records prove beyond a doubt that the house was built in 1652 by Thomas Warren on the plantation owned by inheritance by Thomas Rolfe, son of John Rolfe and Indian Princess Pocahontas. The land being a part of that given by Chief Powhatan to John Rolfe on the occasion of his marriage to Pocahontas. Since the reopening of the house, each day has brought interested and admiring guests. The house which was repaired a few years ago is well worth visiting. It is the original house and not a reproduction with which everyone readily agrees when it is seen. The formal garden, which is a thing of beauty, has suffered some since 1941, but is being cared for and restored. For the upkeep and maintenance of the place, a small fee is charged by the hostess, who is a representative of the APVA. There still remains a fragment of the “New Fort,” which Captain John Smith built on the place in 1609, as a protection to the wary colonists against both the Indian and Spanish adversaries. Club rates prevail for parties of ten or more. Picnics may be held on the grounds.

Volume XXIV No. 198 – Monday August 22, 1955

City Point was Prosperous Seaport in Colonial Times

(Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of historical sketches of Old City Point, the third English settlement in America, founded in 1613 by Sir Thomas Dale [of the Virginia Company].) _____ During the Colonial Period, City Point was a prosperous seaport. Vessels came up the river with supplies, which were taken by oxteam to the settlements in the back country. The ships went away with tobacco and flour. At that time, Bailey’s Creek was deep enough for Captain Francis Eppes to anchor the sailing ships that he used in trading with the West Indies. In 1704, Charles City County was divided. That part south of James River became Prince George County, named in honor of Prince George, afterward King George I. At this time, the name of the town was changed from Charles City Point to City Point to avoid confusion. Although Charles City Point had been the county seat for all that part of the Charles City County south of the river, after Prince George was founded, the county seat moved. Court was sometimes held at Merchants Hope, where the first English church in America had been built. Court was also held at Blandford until Dinwiddie County was formed. Then, court was held at Virginia Heights, until a new courthouse was erected on the present site in 1810.

Theodorick BlandTheodoricK Bland

In pre-Revolutionary days, City Point was noted as the home of Theodoric Bland, one of the leaders in the movement for freedom from the crown. It was at Cawson’s, the Bland home, that his famous grandson, John Randolph, was born. That is why Hopewell has Randolph Road and where the John Randolph Hospital now stands. City Point was also the seat of the Bolling family, whose manor house, called “Mitchell’s stood on the Appomattox River just above Mansion Hills. John Rolfe married the Indian Princess Pocahontas and took her to London. They had on child, a son, names Thomas Rolfe, who cam back to the Colony with his father after Pocahontas died.

Jane Poythress RolfeJane Poythress

Thomas Rolfe married Jane Poythress, daughter of James Poythress of City Point. The old Poythress home stood approximately where the Hummel-Ross Division of the Continental Can Company now stands. Thomas Rolfe and Jane Poythress lived at “Kippax” near Cedar Level, now the home of Joseph Heretick. They had one daughter who married Captain Francis Bolling. [This newspaper article got it wrong, Jane Rolfe married Robert Bolling.] That established the Bolling Family in America and gives them their direct descent from Pocahontqas. Captain Francis Bolling [again, this person was Robert Bolling], first built a home on the side of the Appomattox, just west of Hopewell. Then he built a home on the north side, near Point of Rocks. Part of the old Bolling Cemetery is still standing there, and contains the grave of a granddaughter of Pocahontas. During the Revolution when Virginia was invaded, Benedict Arnold came up the James with a British fleet and shelled City Point. Mark of the shells can still be seen at Appomattox Manor. Later the British Phillips established his headquarters at City Point Point for a time.

Susanna Bolling

Toward the end of the Revolution, when Lord Cornwallis was marching into Virginia from North Carolina, he also established his headquarters at City Point. The story is told that several of his officers were quartered at Mitchell’s, the handsome Bolling Residence. Here, Susanna Bolling, beautiful young daughter of the house, overhead their plans. During the night she slipped out, rowed across the Appomattox River, borrowed a horse and rode to the Half-Way House still standing on the Richmond Petersburg Highway (U.S. No. 1) where General Lafayette had his headquarters. She told General Lafayette that Lord Cornwallis intended to march his army down the south side of the James to Scotland Wharf, crossover and seize Williamsburg and then camp at Yorktown. Lafayette immediately sent couriers to General Washington who saw the opportunity to trap Cornwallis and the rest is history.

Blandford Church

Blandford Church

Old Blandford CemeteryToday, within the Blandford Cemetery at the Old Blandford Church (1737) in Petersburg, Virigina, stands the Bolling Family Mausoleum. Robert Bolling (my 10th paternal grandfather) who died on July 17, 1709, was buried first on his Kippax Plantation, in Prince George Co., Virginia, where his tomb still stands. However, in 1858, his remains were removed from Kippax to the Bolling Mausoleum at Blandford Cemetery in Petersburg, Virginia erected by his great grandson. This is the vault where Colonel Robert Thomas Bolling rests. It is in the north east corner of the graveyard. It is across from the cemetery office. The building itself has undergone a complete renovation with a lucite covering at the entrance.


In my research on  Pocahontas, the  Rolfes, Bollings, Branches, Lewises, and Randolphs of Virginia…

I happened upon the following blog post from Life – News, articles, and information on family life and entertainment: Brave New World: John Smith. Unfortunately this Blogger website has no history, author, or contact information other than the article being posted (without any images) by “Zaman.”  I chose to add images and share this writer’s rather long but interesting December 2007 post with you anyway because it beautifully compliments and expands upon other posts that I’ve written about our families of Colonial Virginia and their histories, and I truly enjoyed the author’s style of writing:

On the threshold of American history stands one of our most controversial heroes


Captain John Smith

Although he barely had a toe hold on the New World, he has not been budged by the heaviest scholarly attacks. So enmeshed was colonial America in European folkways that we could hardly have expected an enduring hero before Plymouth Rock was settled. Yet we have Captain John Smith. One of the most fascinating American heroines, Pocahontas, comes with him.  Subjugator of nine-and-thirty kings, by his own say-so, John Smith aroused derision as easily as he made legends. “It soundeth much to the dimunition of his deeds,” Thomas Fuller wryly complained, “that he alone is the herald to publish and proclaim them.” More recently, Professor Walter Blair irreverently noted that ” Smith could hardly go for a walk without saving a beautiful damsel, or having one fall head over heels in love with him.” But Smith’s admirers have not been fazed. “To set him down as an arrant braggadocio would seem to some critics,” observed historian John Fiske, “essential to their reputation for sound sense.” A. G. Bradley found in the Smith saga “nothing to strain the credulity of anyone with a tolerable grasp of historical and social progress.” Hero or faker, Captain John Smith has held the popular imagination so firmly that he and Pocahontas are our best known colonial couple.Smith’s checkered career was distinctly susceptible of the heroic. He spent so much of his life acting the part of the swashbuckler that he came to play the role expertly. Son of a prosperous English tenant farmer, he left home in 1596 at sixteen to seek Adventure. If his own account can be trusted, he performed marvelous deeds in the Mediterranean and the Near East. He served with the Austrians against the Turks in 1602, saw duty on the Hungarian border, and was still young when he set out for the New World in 1607. After spending two and a half years in Virginia he was returned to England. Chagrined by the treatment he had received and embittered by those who had ejected him, he induced influential enemies of the men in control of Virginia to sponsor his “authentic” account of the New World. His not too ulterior motive was to prove that the actions of certain Englishmen interfered with colonial enterprise, and that the colonies prospered more under royal control than under corporate management.

Title: The Story of Pocahontas and Captain John Smith Author: E. Boyd Smith Illustrator: E. Boyd Smith

Illustrator: E. Boyd Smith

The spectacular Pocahontas rescue story (whether or not is was true) was a means of bringing the Captain back into the limelight he so enjoyed. In consequence, when Pocahontas arrived in England in 1616, she got much attention. As Lady Rebecca she cut quite a figure, and of a style the Elizabethans appreciated. In his Generall Historie ( 1624), Smith recorded that “In the utmost of many extremities Pokahontas, the great King’s daughter of Virginia, oft saved my life.” People of his day wanted to believe it; people of ours do too. Adopting a hero is basically an act of faith.The literature about the English adventurer is so extensive that it forms a separate chapter in American historiography. Although his contemporaries had some doubts about Captain John Smith’s veracity, his role as savior of the Virginia colony, and Pocahontas’s action at the execution block were widely accepted up to the midnineteenth century. In 1791 Noah Webster included Smith’s story in The Little Reader’s Assistant. “What a hero was Captain Smith! How many Turks and Indians did he slay!” Seven years after Webster’s book appeared, John Davis, an English traveler, made his first voyage to the New World to gather material for his highly laudatory books entitled Captain John Smith and Princess Pocahontas, and The First Settlers of Virginia.

Preservation of Captain John Smith by Pocahontas, 1606 by Antonio Capellano, 1825. Sandstone. U.S. Capitol Rotunda, above west door.

Preservation of Captain John Smith by Pocahontas, 1606 by Antonio Capellano, 1825. Sandstone. U.S. Capitol Rotunda, above west door.

Smith’s story, it should be noted, is immortalized in bronze on the west door of the entrance to the Capitol rotunda in Washington.

John Chapman's Baptism of Pocahontas at Jamestown, Virginia, completed in 1840, hangs in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol.

John Chapman’s Baptism of Pocahontas at Jamestown, Virginia, completed in 1840, hangs in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol.

A painting conspicuously displayed inside the building shows “The Baptism of Pocahontas at Jamestown.” No one has objected to their being there or doubted their justification.

James Kirke Paulding, Knickerbocker Poet

James Kirke Paulding, Knickerbocker Poet

Traveling through Virginia in 1817, the Knickerbocker poet James Kirke Paulding observed, “Fortitude, valor, perseverance, industry, and little Pocahontas . . . [are] tutelary deities.” George Washington Parke Custis, whose loyalty to things colonial was unsurpassed, wrote Pocahontas, a play first produced in Philadelphia in 1830. This was followed by Robert Owen Pocahontas ( 1837), John Brougham Po-ca-hon-tas, Or the Gentle Savage ( 1855), and other plays built around the Indian rescue plot. Pocahontas poems appeared in many pre-Civil War journals. Those by Mary Webster Mosby, Lydia H. Sigourney, Margaret Junkin Preston, and William Waldron were especially popular. Even William Thackeray wrote one, to the gratification of Americans who revered English literature.

By the Civil War, most Americans looked upon John Smith and Pocahontas as splendid representatives of their colonial times. If Smith, who had shown little sympathy towards Yankees (their “humorous ignorancies,” he observed, “caused the Plymouth Pilgrims to endure a wonderful deale of misery,”) found his chief admirers in the South, he at least had few defamers in the area he himself had named New England.


Henry Adams, Circa 1858

In 1863 a Boston merchant and historian, Charles Deane, commenced the attack on John Smith. He called the colorful captain a notorious liar and braggart who had invented his dramatic rescue after the lapse of many years. Deane insisted that none of Smith’s contemporaries knew of the Pocahontas episode and he concluded there was little truth in it. But the North and the South were then too busy fighting each other to notice Deane. Sectional bitterness still ran high when in 1867 another New Englander, youthful Henry Adams, leveled at John Smith a much more telling blow, Scion of one of America’s most tactless family of worthies, Adams had just returned from the seminars of Germany and was anxious to gain attention. His article on Smith in the North American Review ( January, 1867) set off a war of words which echoed down the corridors of the twentieth century.In his article Adams printed parallel passages from Smith’s A True Relation and his Generall Historie for textual comparison. He found the Pocahontas rescue story spurious and labeled Smith incurably vain and incompetent. The readiness with which Smith’s version had been received Adams found less remarkable than “the credulity which has left it unquestioned almost to the present day.” While the Nation doubted “if Mr. Adams’ arguments can be so much as shaken,” the Southern Review thought historians dealing in black insinuations were “little worthy of credit, especially when their oblique methods affect the character of a celebrated woman.” The Southern Review proceeded to place the Smith-Pocahontas fight on a sectional plane where it stayed for a half century: “If Pocahontas, alas! had only been born on the barren soil of New England, then would she have been as beautiful as she was brave. As it is, however, both her personal character and her personal charms are assailed by at least two knights of the New England chivalry of the present day.”The Yankee knights had only begun their attack. Noah Webster’s account for school children gave way to Peter Parley’s, which drew as a moral from Smith’s escapades “that persons, at an early age, have very wicked hearts.” Moses Tyler, John Palfrey, and Edward Channing saw in Smith more bluster than greatness.

Charles Warner

Charles Warner

In his 1881 biography of Smith, Charles D. Warner of Connecticut observed that the Captain’s memory became more vivid as he was farther removed by time and space from the events he described. Edward D. Neill Captain John Smith, Adventurer and Romancer was devastating. It discredited the Turkish adventures, pronounced Smith’s coat of arms a forgery, found the Pocahontas rescue story laughable, and called Smith’s literary works “published exaggerations.” A second study by Neill, Pocahontas and Her Companions, flatly stated that her marriage to Rolfe was a disgraceful fraud. North of the Potomac the rescue story began to be called the Pocahontas legend.

Southerners rallied to the defense of their dashing Captain-and of Southern honor. Their counter-attack was so effective that by the middle of the twentieth century Captain John Smith and Pocahontas were generally thought of as human embodiments of epic colonial heroism.

Since Smith, a figure of masculinity and firmness, made an admirable partner for the Indian Princess whose femininity and softness conquered two continents, it is not surprising that their stories were blended into one. The tyranny of historical facts crumbled before the demands of popular fancy and the literary weapons of William Wirt Henry, Wyndham Robertson, Charles Poindexter, and John Esten Cooke.

William Wirt Henry

William Wirt Henry

No one was in a better position to express regional indignation than William Wirt Henry. Patrick Henry’s grandson, he was born in 1831 on a plantation in Charlotte County, Virginia. Lawyer and historian, he served as county attorney, state legislator, president of the Virginia Historical Society, and president of the American Historical Society. To his fellow Southerners he personified the Tidewater planter-aristocrat. At the 1882 Virginia Historical Society meeting, he read a paper called “The Settlement of Jamestown, with Particular Reference to the Late Attacks upon Captain John Smith, Pocahontas, and John Rolfe.” He came directly to the point: “The more generous task of making their defense will be mine.” With care and ingenuity he evolved explanations for the questionable parts of their stories. In a flourish that honored his grandfather’s memory, Henry concluded, “We need not pursue this charge of inconsistencies further, as time would fail us to notice every inconsistency charged by the numerous and ill-informed assailants of Smith.”

To Henry there was no doubt whatsoever that the success of the Virginia Colony had depended on the Captain. “The departure of Smith changed the whole aspect of affairs. The Indians at once became hostile, and killed all that came in their way.” To the Indian Princess Pocahontas he assigned a religious role and mission. She was, in Henry’s opinion, “a guardian angel [who] watched over and preserved the infant colony which has developed into a great people, among whom her own descendants have ever been conspicuous for true nobility.” On that exalted note, the defense rested.

Wyndham RobertsonEqually qualified to fight for “Captain Jack” was Wyndham Robertson, who was raised on a plantation near Petersburg, Virginia. Educated in Richmond and Williamsburg, he became Virginia’s twentieth governor. Northern attacks on John Smith disturbed him so much that he prepared a detailed study: Pocahontas and Her Descendants. Taking the marriage of Pocahontas and Rolfe in 1614 as a focal event, Robertson traced the subsequent family to “its seventh season of fruitage.” His work was unabashedly presented as “the vindication of Captain John Smith and Pocahontas against the unfriendly strictures of modern critics.” Because Pocahontas’ descendants were so notable, so was she; this simple a posteriori argument ran through the whole book. Among those who turned out to be related to her were the Bollings, Branches, Lewises, Randolphs, and Pages — the very cream of Virginia.

How, asked Robertson, could anyone speak lowly of the Princess when the King of England and the Bishop of London were her devotees? Her natural charm had captivated Mother England. Leaders of society competed for her favor; she had a special seat when Ben Jonson Twelfth Night masque was staged at Whitehall; her portrait revealed a truly aristocratic countenance. “With festival, state, and pompe” the Lord Mayor of London feted her before death cut short her dazzling career. “History, poetry, and art,” wrote Robertson, “have vied with one another in investing her name from that day to the present with a halo of surpassing brightness.” His argument by association, like that of descent, was persuasive. To ridicule Pocahontas was to deny the importance of family and ancestry in society. Most Americans and practically every Southerner were not prepared to do so.

Charles Poindexter, a more scholarly defender of Smith, was educated at the University of Virginia; he joined the Richmond Howitzers during the Civil War. Long interested in Old Dominion heroes, he published in 1893 John Smith and His Critics. At the time he was State Librarian in Richmond. It was in a distinctly fresh light that he viewed the colonial controversy: “Smith’s History has been standard reading for 250 years, acknowledged and practically unquestioned, unless by some in these latter days. We may be a simple and uncritical people, but when our belief and judgment as to an historical character are challenged, and we are told our admiration has been wasted on a charlatan, whose boasting has deceived us, then may we raise a question as to the amount of wisdom behind the critic’s utterance.”

Poindexter explained that Smith was engaged in “a piece of work of transcendent interest and importance, as we know now-namely, the founding of the Commonwealth of Virginia.” The whole controversy could never be decided by documents and scholarship. “And yet they tell us, the legend must go; but when it goes it will be time for this people to be gone; to be driven from this fair portion of God’s earth, made sacred by that brave man’s heroism, and by the gentle pity of that Indian maid . . . Smith’s History has established itself as a tradition in the popular mind more lasting and potent than any written page or printed book.” Poindexter saw plainly that Smith had moved beyond mere documentary fact.

John Esten CookeJohn Esten Cooke, one of the South’s most popular novelists, promoted Smith vigorously. Born in Winchester, Virginia, Cooke wanted “to do for the Old Dominion what Cooper has done for the Indians, Irving for the Dutch Knickerbockers, and Hawthorne for the weird Puritan life of New England.” He buried his spurs at Appomattox when Lee surrendered–a gesture in the tradition of Captain Smith. Cooke My Lady Pokahontas ( 1885) is still the best novel about the lady. Purporting to be writing in the seventeenth century, he furnished “notes” to a True Relation of Virginia, Writ by Anas Todkill, Puritan and Pilgrim. Todkill revealed how Smith fell in love with the Virginia Princess, converted her to Christianity, and strolled hand in hand with her along the James. The lovers decided it was best that they not remain together. In England with her husband John Rolfe, later on, Pocahontas attended the Globe Theater, where William Shakespeare’s The Tempest was opening. She promptly recognized herself as Miranda.

What Cooke did in My Lady Pokahontas was to superimpose trappings of a Victorian romance on the story. It is a landmark in the literary treatment of Pocahontas and of the American Indian. In pre-Civil War America the only good Indian was a dead one. As long as the aboriginal was an active threat to settlement and progress, he was given little consideration. For Pocahontas to be a heroine this attitude had to change, and the savage had to become the vanishing American. In the generation after the Civil War this transition took place. A few years later came Helen HuntJackson Jackson’s A Century of Dishonor, which called our record in Indian relationships “a shameful one of broken treaties and unfilled promises.” Like Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the book’s effect was far out of proportion to its literary merit. A Century of Dishonor and the ascendancy of the Pocahontas legend coincided.

The influence of Cooke’s interpretation of Pocahontas was both direct and indirect. Southern text books adopted his colonial romance; subsequent writers have turned to it nostalgically. Partly through his own books but more particularly through his influence, Cooke fostered the popular conception held by many today.

William Henry gave Pocahontas a religious mission; Robertson set up a patriotic affront; Poindexter put the legend above the documents; Cooke made of it a Victorian romance. Smith and Pocahontas returned to high standing.

In 1907 came the much publicized Jamestown Tercentennial. In preparing for the festivities, the Pocahontas Memorial Association undertook a program of glorification which included a poem by Paulding suggesting Pocahontas’ religious role:

“Sister of charity and love, Whose life blood was soft pity’s tide. Dear goddess of the sylvan grove Flower of the forest, nature’s pride, He is no man who does not bend the knee And she no woman who is not like thee!”

William Ordway Partridge, sculptor

William Ordway Partridge, sculptor

Jamestown Tributes and Toasts contained seven Smith-Pocahontas poems. Little had been done to commemorate the grave of ” Rebecca Wrothe, wife of Thomas Wrothe, gent, a Virginia lady born” at Gravesend, England. So the Society of Colonial Dames donated memorial windows to the tiny church in which Pocahontas was buried. At Jamestown, William Ordway Partridge’s statue of the Indian princess was erected, flanked by a bronze Captain John Smith.

Lyon G. Tyler unveiled a new Pocahontas tablet at Jamestown, and asked: “What words must I use to express my feelings on this occasion? Her memory brightens with the years and comes to us today as a soft, clear light that shines from a distant shore, where all else is shrouded in darkness.” Pocahontas statueAs he spoke, the audience gazed at the statue of the princess provided by the Pocahontas Memorial Association–her hands outstretched to aid the starving Virginia colonists, her eyes appropriately looking toward heaven.

If the preliminary plans for the 1957 celebration of the three hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the settling of Jamestown come to fruition, Smith’s reputation will continue to rise, for he is to be the hero of the program.

Captain John Smith Statue

Captain John Smith Statue

Another, less ephemeral, multi-million dollar enterprise, only a few miles from the place where the Captain first set foot on the New World, has kept green the memory of seventeenth century things in contemporary America. This is Colonial Williamsburg. While it has not been directly concerned with promoting Smith, his renown has benefited directly and enormously therefrom. The Rockefeller fortune has salvaged reputations as well as buildings.

Williamsburg History Marker

Williamsburg History Marker

Dr. W. A. R. Goodwin, late rector of Williamsburg’s Bruton Parish Church and incidentally an admirer of John Smith, is generally credited with having persuaded John D. Rockefeller, Jr. to reconstruct the colonial capital. No restoration in history has received such elaborate and painstaking research; none in America is so frequently visited. Representing an expenditure of over $45,000,000 and a yearly operating budget of $2,000,000, Colonial Williamsburg by 1954 had a staff of 1,000 and plans for further capital outlays exceeding $15,000,000. No one could have foreseen such expansion and such influence. The restoration found itself in the position of Lord Byron’s teacher:

“She taught the child to read, and taught so well That she herself, by teaching, learn’d to spell.”

Jamestown Seawall at Fort James

Jamestown Seawall at Fort James

Rockefeller himself realized that the project would reawaken interest in those he called “great patriots of our American past.” Many of the hundreds of thousands of visitors who come every season make the short pilgrimage to Jamestown, to see “the spot where the Anglo-Saxon history of America begins.” They find on the small island, which was saved from disintegration only by a seawall put up for the Jamestown Tercentennial, nothing so elaborate as Colonial Williamsburg. But they do view the statue of a handsome, dashing adventurer, whose hand rests near his sword and whose eyes look out on the vast expanses of America. They see Captain John Smith; and they carry him away in their memories as the first great American.

Though the Captain’s account does not appear to be based upon undiluted historical fact, it is not totally false. Whether or not Pocahontas really saved Smith at the execution block, and whether or not they actually fell in love, Pocahontas unquestionably visited Jamestown while he was there. These visits ceased after Smith had departed. She evidently took some interest in him and he in the girl he called “the nonpareil of Virginia.” Still, it is hard to believe that Smith, who considered the aboriginals as inferior savages that blocked Britain’s path, ultimately would have married her. His deportation (resulting from the return of Ratcliffe and Archer, who allied themselves with Smith’s enemies Percy and West) ended abruptly any ideas he might have had of a future life with Pocahontas. In his attitude towards the Indians, as in so many things, Smith revealed his English heritage. Always strongly Anglo-Saxon, Virginians have not found it difficult to give him the benefit of their doubts.

Smith’s was no crafty, subtle mind. Contemplation was not his forte; he usually acted first and thought afterwards. If he had any philosophy, it was to meet things as they came. His egocentric world was unmarred by indecision, weakness, or indifference. He saw strange seas, dreamed of empires, and lived through an epic. Whatever one thinks of some of his actions and accusations, one must admire the loyalty and enthusiasm he displayed while exploring the New World. He loved Virginia as “my wyfe, to whom I have given all.” No matter how much he exaggerated on occasions, he was telling the truth when as a dying man he wrote, “All the dangers, miseries, and incumbrances and losse of other employments while in Virginia I endured gratis.”

After his deportation from Virginia, Smith was dogged by constant failure. In 1615 he convinced Sir Ferdinando Gorges to outfit him for another try at colonizing the New World, but his two small vessels were driven back by storms. Again he set sail, with only a small barque of sixty tons at his command. This time he was captured by pirates, wrecked off La Rochelle, and returned home penniless. When he died he was a poor, weary man, leaving only eighty pounds, twenty of which (in a typical gesture) he directed to be spent on his funeral. The only relatives mentioned in his will were a cousin and the widow of his brother. London’s Great Fire of 1666 wiped out St. Sepulchre’s Church, in which his body was buried, and his epitaph with it. The last earthly trace of John Smith is gone forever.

The New World for which “Captain Jack” fought has adorned his memory with honor more enduring than all the treasure won by others on the Spanish Main. For many Americans he is today the last of the Knight-Errants, a cross between the medieval crusader and the Jacobite Cavalier. Because his pageantry seemed so incongruous in the vast wilderness of the New World, there is a Don Quixote-like pathos about him. Had he not been so earnest about his schemes of colonization, they would have been ludicrous. He never doubted, up to his dying day, that he could accomplish the impossible. His ambitions were so lofty that inability to consummate them did not destroy their appeal. With all his faults, he set the heroic pattern in colonial America.

Smith has been at the core of controversy; John Rolfe, who actually married the Indian Princess Pocahontas, has not. Little is said of this gentleman of moderate means who came to Virginia in 1609, experimented with the growing and curing of tobacco, and perfected the plant which was the foundation of Virginia’s economy. His marriage to a native brought peace at a time when the Indians might have driven the colonists into the sea. But he did not catch the popular imagination, and he did not become a hero.

That Pocahontas, an Indian girl who died at twenty-two, became a legendary figure is extraordinary. Virginias are proud to have her blood in their veins. But they would hardly admit to a drop from any other member of her race. What is it about her that has so appealed to posterity? Not the savage, but the feminine quality. She is the fairy-tale princess come to life; a flesh-and-blood Cinderella in Indian disguise. Her story is full of romance and excitement. She rescued Smith by risking her own life. After a sad separation from him, she was wooed by a white knight from overseas, John Rolfe. She brought peace to the struggling colonists. Best of all, Little Wanton went as a princess to the Mother Country, where she outshone all the celebrated English beauties. Virginia, loyal to Charles I when even England rejected him, thrilled at this. Finally, she suffered a premature and unexpected death. What more could a romantic heroine’s story contain? In November, 1952, a “Chapel of Unity” was opened to her memory at Gravesend, England. It has already become a pilgrimage spot.

Attacks on John Smith and Pocahotas have become fewer and less bitter in recent years. Dr. Charles Andrews, the New England colonial historian, supported the rescue story. The 1927 biography of Smith by E. K. Chatterton, and the 1929 book by John Gould Flecther, revealed a far greater man than earlier accounts. Admittedly “Captain Jack” was given to far-fetched phrases, and to veering off the narrow road of truth. But most of us forgive him. After all, this was his prerogative in the Age of Elizabeth. The same tendencies can be found in other colorful figures of the period –Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Francis Drake, Kit Marlowe, and William Shakespeare.

The John Smith-Pocahontas story, with its epic quality and scope, has appealed to us because it re-affirms the validity of the American experience. Aided by an Indian Princess, John Smith founded a great nation, and made the dream of a permanent English colony a reality. O brave new world, that has such people in it!

Occasionally a skeptic comes forth claiming that Smith’s story (in a phrase of his contemporary Will Shakespeare) has “a very ancient and fish-like smell.” But the furor that accompanied the Deane-Adams articles has passed. In 1951 George F. Willison argued (in Behold Virginia: The Fifth Crown) that Smith’s surviving his almost incredible follies was the real miracle of his life; that the Virginia records reach “almost to the point of madness, as in Captain John Smith’s account of his exploits and accomplishments in that colony, which, so he came to believe, he had founded and sustained almost singlehandedly.” The Historical Society of Manatee County, Florida, has challenged historians to prove the truth of Pocahontas’s rescue. The story, it was suggested, was probably devised by a press agent of an earlier day. The Indian maiden Hirrihgua, who saved the life of Juan Ortiz in Manatee County, has–or should have, it would appear–a much better claim to fame.

James Branch Cabell

James Branch Cabell

Americans have ceased to worry about the absence of historical authenticity in this matter. The Captain and the Indian Princess have been accepted. No mere documents can unseat them. As James Branch Cabell contemplated them in their aloof majesty, he remarked: “And yet, to the judgment of the considerate, Captain John Smith True Relation does not in any way affect the ranking of Pocahontas in the official history of Virginia; her legend, the more thanks to Virginia’s good taste in mythology, has been made immortal.”

“A Tale of Two Bostons “


The Wash from Heacham Beach

The Wash Neighboring Areas

The Wash Neighboring Areas

When corresponding with those from “across the pond,” or elsewhere in the world, I sometimes find it necessary to do side research within our topic of discussion. Quite often, I experience an “Aha moment” of enlightenment. Today was such the case. Here’s a part of the message that I didn’t quite grasp: “Last summer 2013 Boston Council across the WASH refurbished their oldest pub/inn called INDIAN QUEEN, their town legend in Lincolnshire, says is named after Pocahontas…”

I guess I’m just not as worldly as I sometimes imagine myself…

Anyway, the long and the short of it is “across the WASH” references a square-mouthed bay and estuary on the northwest margin of East Anglia on the east coast of England, where Norfolk meets Lincolnshire. It is among the largest estuaries in the United Kingdom and is fed by the Rivers Witham, Welland, Nene and Great Ouse. Owing to deposits of sediment and land reclamation, the coastline of the Wash has altered markedly within historical times; several towns once on the coast of the Wash (notably King’s Lynn) are now some distance inland. Much of the Wash itself is very shallow, with several large sandbanks—such as Breast Sand, Bulldog Sand, Roger Sand and Old South Sand—exposed at low tide, especially along its south coast. For this reason, navigation in the Wash can be hazardous for boats.

While overcoming this little lack of knowledge hurdle (“across the WASH”, and “which Boston?”), I once again stumbled onto a very interesting and cleverly written page by Brandon Gary Lovested on iBoston.org, out of London, England.  The iBoston site in general is very attractive, user friendly, and intuitively designed, but I digress.  So, I copied a portion of Brandon’s article to show you, my readers, just how his opening text really drew me in.  I hope if you like the intro page that you will want to read the remainder of this historic timeline at: A Tale of Two Bostons – iBoston.  It really ties up several elements of England’s and New England’s history (religion, politics, rebellion, puritans, and pilgrims), into a nice bow from St. Botolph in 654 to Oliver Cromwell in 1645.

I hope you enjoy.

iBoston Article

Revisiting–Johannes Eustacius “John” Rolfe…My 11th Great Grandfather

Preserved–The 435-Year-Old John Rolfe Family Bible

John Rolfe Family BibleChristine Dean, 30 year resident of Heacham, England, and I have been corresponding for the past several months, following her interesting comments that added greatly to my two-year-old blog post titled “Johannes Eustacius “John” Rolfe…My 11th Great Grandfather.”  It seems that Christine has been gathering information about John Rolfe, Chief Powhatan, and Pocahontas for about 20 years.  She recently discovered several  ‘legend clues’ including an old Heacham Map of 1600 and the John Rolfe Family (1580) Geneva Bible. Susan A. Riggs, librarian, confirmed the Rolfe Family bible is in the Special Collections Research Center of the Dr. Earl Gregg Swem Library at the William & Mary College in Williamsburg, VA.

All but forgotten today, the Geneva Bible was the most widely read and influential English Bible of the 16th and 17th centuries. It was one of the Bibles taken to America on the Mayflower.  Mary I was Queen of England and Ireland from 1553 until her death in 1558. Her executions of Protestants caused her opponents to give her the sobriquet “Bloody Mary.” It was her persecution that caused the Marian Exile which drove 800 English scholars to the European continent, where a number of them gathered in Geneva, Switzerland.

More on the Rolfe’s Family Contributions to Virginia

Rolfe Historic MarkerJohn Rolfe introduced the first commercially grown tobacco crops in Jamestown in 1609.  Prior to this, the American Indians had their own local tobacco plants growing wild in their woods and used it for special pipe smoking ceremonies  But, this tobacco was bitter. In 1612, John Rolfe brought and cultivated seeds from the islands of Trinidad and Orinoco on the Atlantic Ocean, where he had stopped for water and supplies.  From John’s new Powhatan Indian relatives he learned better ways to dry cure and export these leaves. By 1619, tobacco had become Jamestown’s major money.

400 Years Later, Tobacco Plants Used In Emerging Medical Treatments

It is interesting that 400 years later the nicotine tobacco plant leaf is being used to develop new drugs for cancer treatments and for the ZMAPP new drug that has successfully treated some doctors and nurses from USA and the UK who caught the deadly EBOLA virus from the patients they were treating in West Africa in 2014.

Starting in August 2014, the ZMAPP drug was used to treat nine patients, first with American medical missionary doctor Kent Brantly, who recovered.  Unbeknownst to Brantly, who contracted the virus doing medical work in Liberia, infectious disease researcher Gary Kobinger, of the Public Health Agency of Canada, had produced an Ebola drug called ZMAPP. But, Kobinger had only tested it successfully on monkeys. Brantly received the drug and “after two or three hours, I was actually able to get up and walk to the bathroom,” he said.

My next post picks up with last week’s follow up visit to Virginia’s former Kippax Plantation and my research efforts to support Christine in Heacham.