John Rolfe Letter to Governor Thomas Dale, 1614


marriage-of-john-rolfe-and-pocahontas

Wedding of John Rolfe and Princess Pocahontas,  April 5, 1614

Continuing to further document and understand the lives of our earliest ancestors – emigrants from England to Jamestown, Virginia, I have included below, the 1614 letter  (transcribed and updated to today’s word usage and spellings by me–I made no changes to word choices or punctuation and kept present day English spellings).  My  11th great-grandfather, John Rolfe, (English Explorer), penned this letter to Sir Thomas Dale, then Governor of the Jamestown Colony.  In this deeply moving and revealing letter, John Rolfe asks permission to marry Princess Pocahontas, daughter of Indian Chief Powhatan, who presided over the Powhatan Empire until his death in 1618. If you would like to see the online letter with 400 year-old English words and spellings, please visit  “Virtual Jamestown’s” site .

Honourable Sir, and most worthy Governor:

When your leisure shall best serve you to peruse these lines, I trust in God, the beginning will not strike you into a greater admiration, than the end will give you good content. It is a matter of no small moment, concerning my own particular, which here I impart unto you, and which toucheth me so dearly, as the tenderness of my salvation. Howbeit I freely subject myself to your grave and mature judgment, deliberation, approbation, and determination; assuring myself of your zealous admonitions, and godly comforts, either persuading me to desist, or encouraging me to persist therein, with a religious and godly care, for which (from the very instant, that this began to root itself within the secret bosom of my breast) my daily and earnest prayers have been, still are, and ever shall be produced forth with as sincere a godly zeal as I possibly may to be directed, aided and governed in all my thoughts, words, and deeds, to the glory of God, and for my eternal consolation. To persevere wherein I never had more need, nor (til now) could ever imagine to have been moved with the like occasion.

But (my case standing as it doth) what better worldly refuge can I here seek, then to shelter myself under the safety of your favourable protection? And did not my ease proceed from an unspotted conscience, I should not dare to offer to your view and approved judgement, these passions of my troubled soul, so full of fear and trembling in hypocrisy and dissimulation. But knowing my own innocence and godly fervor, in the whole prosecution hereof, I doubt not of your benign acceptance, and clement construction. As for malicious depravers, and turbulent spirits, to whom nothing is tasteful but what pleaseth their unsavory palate, I pass not for them being well assured in my persuasion (by the often trial and proving of myself, in my holiest meditations and prayers) that I am called hereunto by the spirit of God; and it shall be sufficient for me to be protected by yourself in all virtuous and pious endeavours. And for my more happy proceeding herein, my daily oblations shall ever be addressed to bring to pass so good effects, that yourself, and all the world may truly say: This is the work of God, and it is marvelous in our eyes.

But to avoid tedious preambles, and to come nearer the matter: first suffer me with your patience, to sweep and make clean the way wherein I walk, from all suspicions and doubts, which may be covered therein, and faithfully to reveal unto you, what should move me hereunto.

Let therefore this my well advised protestation, which here I make between God and my own conscience, be a sufficient witness, at the dreadful day of judgment (when the secret of all men’s hearts shall be opened) to condemn me herein, if my chief intent and purpose be not, to strive with all my power of body and mind, in the undertaking of so mighty a matter, no way led (so far forth as man’s weakness may permit) with the unbridled desire of carnal affection: but for the good of this plantation, for the honour of our country, for the glory of God, for my own salvation, and for the converting to the true knowledge of God and Jesus Christ, an unbelieving creature, namely Pocahontas. To whom my hearty and best thoughts are, and have a long time been so entangled, and enthralled in so intricate a labyrinth, that I was even wearied to unwind myself thereout. But almighty God, who never faileth his, that truly invocate his holy name hath opened the gate, and led me by the hand that I might plainly see and discern the safe paths wherein to trade.

To you therefore (most noble Sir) the patron and Father of us in this country do I utter the effects of this settled and long continued affection (which hath made a mighty war in my meditations) and here I do truly relate, to what issue this dangerous combat is come unto, wherein I have not only examined, but thoroughly tried and pared my thoughts even to the quick, before I could end and fit wholesome and apt applications to cure so dangerous an ulcer. I never failed to offer my daily and faithful prayers to God, for his sacred and holy assistance. I forgot not to set before mine eyes the frailty of mankind, his prones to evil, his indulgence of wicked thoughts, with many other imperfections wherein man is daily ensnared, and oftentimes overthrown, and them compared to my present estate. Nor was I ignorant of the heavy displeasure which almighty God conceived against the sons of Levi and Israel for marrying strange wives, nor of the inconveniences which may thereby arise, with other the like good motions which made me look about warily and with good circumspection, into the grounds and principal agitations, which thus should provoke me to be in love with one whose education hath been rude, her manners barbarous, her generation accursed, and so discrepant in all nature from myself, that oftentimes with fear and trembling, I have ended my private controversy with this: surely these are wicked instigations, hatched by him who seeketh and delighteth in man’s destruction; and so with fervent prayers to be ever preserved from such diabolical assaults (as I took those to be) I have taken some rest.

Thus, when I had thought I had obtained my peace and quietness, behold another, but more gracious temptation hath made breaches into my holiest and strongest meditations; with which I have been put to a new trial, in a straighter manner then the former: for besides the many passions and sufferings which I have daily, hourly, yea and in my sleep endured, even awaking me to astonishment, taxing me with remissness, and carelessness, refusing and neglecting to perform the duty of a good Christian, pulling me by the ear, and crying: why dost not thou endeavour to make her a Christian? And these have happened to my greater wonder, when she hath been furthest separated from me, which in common reason (were it not an undoubted work of God) might breed forgetfulness of a far more worthy creature. Besides, I say the holy spirit of God often demanded of me, why I was created?

If not for transitory pleasures and worldly vanities, but to labour in the Lord’s vineyard, there to sow and plant, to nourish and increase the fruits thereof, daily adding with the good husband in the Gospel, somewhat to the talent, that in the end the fruits may be reaped, to the comfort of the laborer in this life, and his salvation in the world to come? And if this be, as undoubtedly this is, the service Jesus Christ requireth of his best servant: who unto him that hath these instruments of piety put into his hands and wilfully despiseth to work with them. Likewise, adding hereunto her great appearance of love to me, her desire to be taught and instructed in the knowledge of God, her capableness of understanding, her aptness and willingness to receive any good impression, and also the spiritual, besides her own incitements stirring me up hereunto.

What should I do? Shall I be of so untoward a disposition, as to refuse to lead the blind into the right way? Shall I be so unnatural, as not to give bread to the hungry or uncharitable, as not to cover the naked? Shall I despise to actuate these pious duties of a Christian? Shall the base fear of displeasing the world, overpower and withhold me from revealing unto man these spiritual works of the Lord, which in my meditations and prayers, I have daily made known unto him? God forbid. I assuredly trust He hath thus dealt with me for my eternal felicity, and for his glory; and I hope so to be guided by his heavenly grace, that in the end by my faithful pains, and christian-like labour, I shall attain to that blessed promise pronounced by that holy Prophet Daniel unto the righteous that bring many unto the knowledge of God. Namely, that they shall shine like the stars forever and ever. A sweeter comfort cannot be to a true Christian, nor a greater encouragement for him to labour all the days of his life, in the performance thereof, nor a greater gain of consolation, to be desired at the hour of death, and in the day of judgment.

Again by my reading, and conference with honest and religious persons, have I received no small encouragement, besides serena meaconscientia, the clearness of my conscience, clean from the filth of impurity, quo est instar muri chennai, which is unto me, as a brasen wall. If I should set down at large, the prohibitions and godly motions, which have striven within me, I should but make a tedious and unnecessary volume. But I doubt not these shall be sufficient both to certify you of my true intents, in discharging of my duty to God, and to yourself, to whose gracious providence I humbly submit myself, for his glory, your honour, our Country’s good, the benefit of this Plantation, and for the converting of one unregenerate, to regeneration; which I beseech God to grant, for his dear Son Christ Jesus his sake.

Now if the vulgar sort, who square all men’s actions by the base rule of their own filthiness, shall tax or taunt me in this my godly labour: let them know, it is not any hungry appetite, to gorge myself with incontinency; sure (if I would, and were so sensually inclined) I might satisfy such desire, though not without a seared conscience, yet with Christians more pleasing to the eye, and less fearful in the offense unlawfully committed. Nor am I in so desperate a state, that I regard not what becometh of me; nor am I out of hope but one day to see my Country, nor so void of friends, nor mean in birth, but there to obtain a match to my great content: nor have I ignorantly passed over my hopes there, or regardlessly seek to loose the love of my friends, by taking this course: I know them all, and have not rashly overstepped any.

But shall it please God thus to dispose of me (which I earnestly desire to fulfill my ends before set down) I will heartedly accept of it as a godly tax appointed me, and I will never cease, (God assisting me) until I have accomplished, and brought to perfection so holy a work, in which I will daily pray God to bless me, to mine, and her eternal happiness. And thus desiring no longer to live, to enjoy the blessings of God, then this my resolution doth tend to such Godly ends, as are by me before declared: not doubting of your favourable acceptance, I take my leave, beseeching Almighty God to rain down upon you, such plenitude of his heavenly graces, as your heart can wish and desire, and so I rest,

At your command most willing to be disposed of,

John Rolfe


Source:

Jameson, J, Franldin. Narratives of Early Virginia. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1907. (237-244)

The Chesapeake Bay and Our Native American Heritage


Col Robert Bolling

9th Paternal Great Grandfather, Colonel Robert Thomas Bolling

This post focuses on our native american heritage who resided along the borders of the Chesapeake Bay.  Digressing just a little into my lineage, my paternal Bolling ancestors were among the first in Jamestown and my maternal Lathrop ancestors the first in New England.  My ninth great grandfather, Colonel Robert Bolling married Pocahontas’ granddaughter, Jane Poythress Rolfe, daughter of Thomas Powhatan Rolfe (the only child of Pocahontas [daughter of Powhatan and Chief of the Algonquian Nation] and John Rolfe) and his wife, Jane Poythress.

I am a native born Southern Marylander (the state named for the English Queen Henrietta Maria [1609-1669], wife of Charles I of England, and daughter of Henry IV of France).

King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria

King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria

I descend primarily from European emigrants (Great Britain [67%], Ireland [10%], and Western Europe [7%]), who helped found Jamestown, Virginia in 1607–America’s first permanent English Colony.  So, coming from Maryland and having ancient aristocratic ancestors who helped form the Commonwealth of Virginia (two states that border the Chesapeake Bay) as well as native american heritage I always have had a natural curiosity about the origin of the Chesapeake, its name,  and inhabitants along its borders.

The Chesapeake Bay At A Glance

Pictured below is the earliest map to show the existence of the Chesapeake Bay, called “Baya de Santa Maria.” Juan Vespucci was the royal pilot of Spain’s hydrographic office and nephew of Amerigo Vespucci, after whom North and South America are named. The information on this map came from a 1525 voyage by Pedro de Quexos.

Chesapeake Bay Map

Map of the World, Juan Vespucci, Seville Spain,1526

Because the Chesapeake Bay has been so important to the history of Maryland, charts have played a central role from the 17th Century forward.

From the Maryland State Archives website, I gleaned the following key points about the Chesapeake:

  • In North America, the Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary, a semi-enclosed coastal body of water with a free connection to the open sea.
  • Some 35 million years ago, a bolide, an object similar to a comet or asteroid, struck the present-day Delmarva Peninsula, creating a 55-mile-wide crater. The depression created by the crater changed the course of rivers and determined the location of the Chesapeake Bay.
  • The Bay, as we know it today, was created about 10,000 years ago when melting glaciers flooded the Susquehanna River Valley.
  • Today, fresh water from land drainage measurably dilutes seawater within the Bay. For ocean-going ships, the Bay is navigable with two outlets to the Atlantic Ocean: north through the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal in Cecil County, and south through the mouth of the Bay between the Virginia capes.
  • Native Americans living along its shores gave the Bay an Algonquian name. Chesepiook, meaning “great shell-fish bay,” was used to signify the abundance of Bay crabs, oysters, and clams.
  • In June 1608, Captain John Smith led two voyages throughout the Chesapeake Bay, and in its midst European settlers first landed at St. Clement’s Island, Maryland, in 1634.
  • Through the lower portion of the Bay, pirates settled and attacked ships off the coast. And, at its southernmost reaches during the Civil War, the first ironclads, the Confederate Merrimac and the Union’s Monitor, fought to a draw near Hampton Roads, Virginia, in March 1862.
  • Many shipwrecks, remains of vessels sunk by natural forces, human error, or attack, lie deep under the Chesapeake Bay.

Native American Ancestors before the Europeans Arrived

Estimates vary, but according to the National Park Service’s Chesapeake Bay Office which coordinates partnerships to develop and sustain national historic trails, it is likely that 50,000 or more people called the Chesapeake region home before the English arrived. Their ancestors had lived here for 40,000 generations—at least 10,000 years—so the ways of life of the native people were highly adapted to the geographic environment. Their economic, cultural, social, political, and spiritual systems were well established and sophisticated.

The First People of the Chesapeake

Chesepians were the Native American inhabitants of the area now known as South Hampton Roads in Virginia during the Woodland Period (1000 BCE to 1000 CE), and later prior to the arrival of the English settlers in 1607. They occupied an area which is now the Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach areas. They were divided into five provinces or kingdoms: Weapemiooc, Chawanook, Secotan, Pomouic and Newsiooc, each ruled by a king or chief. To their west were the members of the Nansemond tribe.

The main village of the Chesepians was called Skicoak, in the present independent city of Norfolk. The Chesepians also had two other towns (or villages), Apasus and Chesepioc, both near the Chesapeake Bay in what is now Virginia Beach. Of these, it is known that Chesepioc was located in the present Great Neck area. Archaeologists and other persons have found numerous Native American artifacts, such as arrowheads, stone axes, pottery, beads, and skeletons in Great Neck Point.

Politically, the area was dominated by the Virginia Peninsula-based Powhatan Confederacy. Although the Chesepians belonged to the same eastern-Algonquian speaking linguistic group as members of the Powhatan Confederacy across Hampton Roads, the archaeological evidence suggests that the original Chesepians belonged to another group, the Carolina Algonquian. Powhatan, whose real name was Wahunsunacock, was the most powerful chieftain in the Chesapeake Bay area, dominating more than 30 Algonquin-speaking tribes. The Chesepians did not belong to Powhatan’s alliance, but instead defied him.

As English writer, William Strachey (1572-1621) documents in his book The Sea Venture, the “Chesapeake People” were murdered before our European ancestors arrived.

History books tell us that in 1609 Strachey, on the ship Sea Venture, headed to Virginia looking for adventure. A hurricane caused the Sea Venture to run aground at Bermuda. In The Sea Venture he writes of his ten-month long struggle for survival. (William Shakespeare used Strachey’s  The Sea Venture book as the basis for his play The Tempest.)

The castaways, while marooned on Bermuda, built boats from their wreckage and eventually made it to Virginia and Strachey then began documenting life in the new colony. Because of his fascination with the Native American inhabitants he also compiled a dictionary of Algonquin language. (The only other known record of Algonquin words was made by John Smith.)

In talking with the natives Strachey discovered information about them that few Europeans had learned. The Indians told him about the remarkable Chesapeake tribe.

He learned that a few years before the arrival of Europeans, the Algonquin priests informed Chief Powhatan that a great danger would arise from the shores of the Chesapeake Bay– so dire that it would destroy their empire, civilization and ways of life. They told him his Confederacy of 30 tribes would be gone, their villages burned, and all of his people dead.

The Algonquin priests repeatedly pressed Powhatan to take action against this small peaceful tribe of 300-400 Chesapeakes who lived near the mouth of the Bay.  At first Powhatan resisted because his priests could not give him specifics. Unfortunately for the Chesapeake Indians, Powhatan’s priests’ visions were persistent and became more compelling. And, sometime around 1606 the Powhatans murdered the entire Chesapeake tribe.

On returning to England in 1611 Strachey published his book, The Historie of Travaile Into Virginia Britannia where he described the stories he heard from the Powhatans about their destruction of the Chesapeake (Chessiopeians) tribe:

“...not long since that his priests told him how that from the Cheaspeack Bay a nation should arise which should dissolve and give end to his empire, for which, not many yeares since (perplext with this divelish oracle, an divers understanding thereof), according to the ancyent and gentile customs, he destroyed and put to sword all such who might lye under any doubtful construccion of the said prophesie, as all the inhabitants, the wereoance and his subjects of the province, and so remaine all of the Chessiopeians at this daye, and for this cause, extinct.

During the 1970s and ’80s, archaeologists discovered the remains of 64 Chesapeake Indians during development in the Great Neck area of Virginia Beach. Those bones dated to between 800 B.C. and A.D. 1600.  In April 1997, after decades of trying to recover these Native American remains, the Nansemonds’ reburied them near the English’s First Landing site in Virginia.

And yet today, we still can see evidence of our native american roots in our counties and place names along the Chesapeake regions.  We live in Calvert County that was originally established as Patuxent County in 1654 (named after the Patuxent people) and note that its name was changed to Calvert County after Lord Calvert of Baltimore in 1658.  Just down the road from us a piece is Chesapeake Beach, named for the Chesapeake people who were an Algonquian-speaking tribe who resided in Virginia.  And fortunately for us, there are many more words and names that remain as they were known centuries ago.

About Algonquian-Speaking Tribes

In the tables below, you will see references to “Algonquian-speaking tribes.”  The word Algonquian (or Algonkian) is a general linguistic/anthropological term used to refer to not only the small Algonquin tribe but dozens of distinct Native American tribes who speak languages that are related to each other.

  Native American County Names

Native County Names

  Native American Villages, Towns, and Cities Names

Native Place Names

From www.ethnologue.com (the comprehensive reference site that catalogs all the known living languages [7,106] in the world today), I discovered the various tribes that made up the Algonquian-speaking confederacy and are included in the Algic Family language classification system–one of the largest indigenous language families of North America. It consists of 44 languages, the overwhelming majority of which (42 languages) belong to the Algonquian branch. The bulleted list below shows the Alqonquian-speaking tribes and their countries of origin (Canada or the United States).  I have highlighted in green below the 12 Eastern Alngoquian-speaking tribes who resided in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia along the Chesapeake Bay borders:

Algic (42)

Ritwan (2)

Many Algonquian languages are extremely endangered today. Only a handful of them have a significant number of speakers. Of the original 42 Algic languages, only about 27 of them are used today. The largest group is Cree-Montagnais-Naskapi with 104,000 speakers, while the largest single language is Ojibwa with some 35,000 speakers. Ten languages are already extinct, and many are on the verge of extinction. Most surviving languages are spoken by older adults who are not passing their language on to their children.

Below the double lines, I included a more complete Chesapeake Bay History Timeline that spans (according to the scientists) 35 Million Years!



A Chesapeake Bay History Timeline as Created by Chesapeakebay.net

35 Million Years Ago
35 Million Years Ago

Image courtesy Nicolle Rager-Fuller/NSF

  • A rare bolide (a comet- or asteroid-like object) hits what is now the lower tip of the Delmarva Peninsula, creating a 55-mile-wide crater. This crater influences the shape of the region’s rivers and determines the eventual location of the Chesapeake Bay. As sea levels fluctuate over the next several million years, the area that is now the Bay alternates between dry land and shallow coastal sea.
10 to 2 Million Years Ago
10 to 2 Million Years Ago

Image courtesy Wing-Chi Poon/Wikimedia Commons

  • A series of ice ages locks ocean water in massive glaciers. The mid-Atlantic coastline extends 180 miles farther than its current location.
  • In warmer periods, a glacier melts into the headwaters of the Susquehanna River, carving a valley through Pennsylvania and pushing sediment into the Coastal Plain. In colder periods, conifer forests attract deer, bears and birds to the region.
18,000 Years Ago
18,000 Years Ago

Image courtesy Twelvex/Flickr

  • Glacial sheets from the most recent Ice Age begin to retreat. The region’s climate begins to warm.
15,000 Years Ago
15,000 Years Ago

Image courtesy Nicolas T/Flickr

  • As the climate continues to warm, a landscape that was once dominated by conifers begins to change. Oak, maple, hickory and other hardwood species appear.
11,500 Years Ago
11,500 Years Ago

Image courtesy Ficusdesk/Flickr

  • Paleo-Indian people arrive in the region. Over the next thousand years, the climate becomes increasingly humid and the landscape gives way to hardwood forests and coastal wetlands. Paleo-Indians modify their hunting technology accordingly, replacing Clovis points with spear-throwing devices that can be launched over expansive terrain.
10,000 to 7,000 Years Ago
10,000 to 7,000 Years Ago

Image courtesy Dru!/Flickr

  • Ice sheets and glaciers continue to melt, flooding the Susquehanna, Potomac, James and York rivers. Water pours into the Atlantic Ocean and sea levels rise. The Chesapeake Bay’s outline begins to form.
  • Mammoths, giant beavers and other Ice Age creatures are now extinct.
5,000 Years Ago

5,000 Years Ago

  • Temperatures continue to rise. A mixed deciduous forest dominates the landscape. Acorns and other nuts become a key food source.
  • Diverse fish and shellfish populations are abundant in the region’s rivers. The first oysters colonize the Bay.
2,000 Years Ago
2,000 Years Ago

Image courtesy AerialOutline/Flickr

  • The Chesapeake Bay’s outline now resembles its current form.
  • Native American populations continue to develop more sophisticated hunting methods, including the bow and arrow.
  • The Bay’s waters are dominated by oysters, clams and fish, like bass and shad. Shellfish becomes an increasingly important food source.
1,000 Years Ago
1,000 Years Ago

Image courtesy brandoncripps/Flickr

  • Native Americans clear forests to create farmland. A reliance on agricultural crops like corn, squash, beans and tobacco leads to the creation of more permanent town villages.
1,000

Image courtesy brandoncripps/Flickr

  • The Chesapeake Bay region is home to a few thousand humans and many plants and animals, including 200 species of fish, 300 species of birds and 120 species of mammals
1500

1500

  • The Native American population reaches 24,000.
1524
1524

Image courtesy F. Allegrini/Flickr

Italian Captain Giovanni da Verrazano is the first recorded European to enter the Chesapeake Bay.

1561
1561

Image courtesy barxtux/Flickr

  • While exploring tidewater Virginia, Spanish conquistadors capture a young Native American. They name him Don Luis and bring back to Spain, where he receives a formal education.
1570

1570

  • Don Luis returns to the Chesapeake region as a guide and interpreter with the St. Mary’s Mission, a small group of Spanish Jesuits seeking to establish a religious camp. Don Luis quickly abandons the group and returns to his people. Months later, he leads a massacre against the St. Mary’s Mission, killing all but a young servant boy.
1607
1607

Image courtesy Jay I. Kislak Foundation

  • An expedition funded by The Virginia Company of London arrives in the Chesapeake Bay. They establish the first permanent English settlement in North America in Jamestown, Virginia.
1608
1608

Image courtesy National Park Service

  • Captain John Smith sets off on the first of his two voyages around the Chesapeake Bay. In his journal, he records detailed descriptions of his surroundings. In the years to follow, he draws an elaborate and remarkably accurate map of the Bay and its rivers.
1650s
1650s

Image courtesy Trevor Haldenby/Flickr

  • The tobacco industry is booming in the lower Chesapeake colonies.
  • Colonists clear land for agriculture and use hook-and-line to catch fish in the Bay’s shallow waters.
  • War and disease take their toll on Native Americans, whose population shrinks to 2,400—just 10 percent of the size it was when Europeans first arrived in the region.
1680s
1680s

Image courtesy Steve and Sara/Flickr

  • Virginia lawmakers pass legislation to prevent wasteful fishing practices on the Rappahannock River.
  • Colonists begin using hand tongs to harvest oysters.
1700s
1700s

Image courtesy Claude Moore Colonial Farm

  • English settlements grow rapidly as agriculture expands. The first signs of environmental degradation occur.
  • A patchwork of rural farming and fishing communities develops on the western and eastern shores of the Chesapeake Bay.
1750s
1750s

Image courtesy SoilScience

  • Colonists strip 20 to 30 percent of the region’s forests for settlements. As a result, shipping ports begin to fill with eroded sediment, becoming too shallow for boats to navigate.
  • Commercial fishing for species like shad and herring begins.
1770s
1770s

Image courtesy American Art Museum/Flickr

  • The colonial population exceeds 700,000.
  • Farmers begin to use plows extensively, starting a cycle of permanent tillage that prevents reforestation and leads to massive soil erosion.
1781
1781

Image courtesy John Trumbull/Wikimedia Commons

  • After eight years of fighting, the Revolutionary War ends when British Lord Charles Cornwallis surrenders at Yorktown, Virginia.
  • The former British colonies are on the verge of forming a new, unified nation. The Chesapeake Bay region will come to serve as a key economic and political center.
1785
1785

Image courtesy NCinDC/Flickr

  • Virginia and Maryland sign the Mount Vernon Compact, also known as the Compact of 1785. Virginia agrees to give vessels bound for Maryland free passage at the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. In return, Maryland gives citizens of both states the right to fish in the Potomac River.
1800s

1800s

  • Oyster harvests increase dramatically.
  • New England fishermen travel to the Chesapeake Bay with a device that scoops hundreds of thousands of oysters from their beds. Virginia and Maryland eventually ban this equipment.
  • Maryland legislation states that only Maryland citizens can transport oysters in the state’s waters.
1820s
1820s

Image courtesy JRiver/Flickr)

  • Railroads, canals and steamboats offer new transportation options, benefiting the coal, steel and oyster industries.
1829
1829

Image courtesy Anthony Bley/Wikimedia Commons

  • The 14-mile Chesapeake and Delaware Canal is built, linking the Chesapeake Bay with Delaware Bay and opening undeveloped land to agriculture and the harvest of timber.
1840s
1840s

Image courtesy calwest/Flickr

  • Half of the region’s forests have been cleared for agriculture, timber and fuel.
  • The first imported fertilizers are used after ships bring bird guano from Caribbean rookeries and nitrate deposits from the Chilean coast.
1850s
1850s

Image courtesy swamibu/Flickr

  • Railroads, canals and steamboats have allowed the oyster market to reach consumers outside of the Chesapeake region.
  • The number of oysters harvested from the Bay has doubled in the last 10 years, from 700,000 bushels in 1839 to more than 1.5 million in the 1850s.
1860s
1860s

Image courtesy Wayan Vota/Flickr

  • Water supply systems are constructed to transport drinking water to Baltimore and the District of Columbia.
  • Sewer systems are built to send waste and runoff into the rivers that flow into the Chesapeake Bay.
  • Brick, stone, iron and steel replace wood as the region’s source of heat, light and building material.
1880s
1880s

Image courtesy University of Delaware Library/Flickr

  • Wooden skipjacks—or vessels that are adapted to sail on Chesapeake Bay waters—are built in response to increased demand for oysters.
  • Twenty million bushels of oysters are harvested from the Bay each year.
1890s
1890s

Image courtesy Nick Humphries/Flickr

  • Sixty to 80 percent of the forests along the Baltimore-Washington corridor have been cleared for agriculture and development.
  • Coal-burning industries spew smoke into the air and send pollutants into the region’s rivers.
  • The construction of highways links cities and suburbs.
1900s
1900s

Image courtesy accent on ecelectic/Flickr

  • The replacement of railroad ties removes an estimated 15 to 20 million acres of eastern forests.
  • A dramatic drop in oyster populations starts to affect Chesapeake Bay health, and state and federal laws move to control the industry.
  • Scientists begin questioning the impact of human behavior on the Bay.
1910s
1910s

Image courtesy ghbrett/Flickr

  • A District of Columbia law restricts the height of city buildings, causing development to expand outward.
  • Baltimore installs separate wastewater and stormwater systems to filter water before it flows into the Chesapeake Bay.
  • The Migratory Bird Treaty Act establishes hunting seasons and limits on international migratory waterfowl.
1920s
1920s

Image courtesy Cyber Insket/Flickr

  • Swamps and marshes are drained to create room for waste dumps and new development.
  • The Conowingo Hydroelectric Generating Station, also known as the Conowingo Dam, is built at the mouth of the Susquehanna River. Upon its completion, it is the second largest hydroelectric power plant in the United States.
1930s
1930s

Image courtesy Beaverton Historical Society/Flickr

  • The Great Depression spurs public works projects that repair and expand the region’s roads, bridges, parks and electrical services into rural areas, encouraging population growth.
  • An interstate conference on the Chesapeake Bay recommends treating the Bay as a single resource unit rather than separate bodies of water.
1940s
1940s

Image courtesy Virginia Institute of Marine Science

  • The “suburb” is born.
  • People begin to use synthetic fertilizers on their lawns and fields, polluting local waterways. Maryland and Virginia create water pollution control agencies.
  • The fishing industry increases its range and mobility, causing local fish populations to decline.
  • Dermo, a disease that kills oysters, is discovered in the Chesapeake Bay.
1950s
1950s

Image courtesy Radio Rover/Flickr

  • The 4.2-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge is built, opening Maryland’s Eastern Shore to development.
  • Across the region, developers drain and fill wetlands to build new houses, stores and office buildings.
  • MSX, a disease that kills oysters, is found in the lower Chesapeake Bay.
1960s
1960s

Image courtesy Barabara Rich/Flickr

  • The 17.4-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel opens, connecting Virginia Beach with Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
  • Interstates 66, 70, 83, 95, 270, 495 and 695 are completed. The personal car has become the choice mode of transportation for Americans.
1963
1963

Image courtesy Lossanjose/Flickr

  • The Clean Air Act is passed in an effort to lower air pollution.
1967
1967

Image courtesy David Clow/Flickr

1970s

1970s

1972
1972

Image courtesy Mr. T in DC/Flickr

  • The Clean Water Act is passed, establishing water quality standards and limiting the amount and kind of pollutants that can enter rivers, streams and other waterways.
1973
1973

Image courtesy Pulpolux/Flickr

  • U.S. Senator Charles Mathias tours the Chesapeake Bay shoreline and sponsors legislation that prompts the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a study on the Bay’s health. This marks the first time that the Bay’s degrading health is brought to the public’s attention.
  • The Endangered Species Act is passed, protecting endangered species and the ecosystems on which they depend.
1980s

1980s

  • The Chesapeake Bay Commission, a tri-state legislative body that represents Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania, is established to coordinate policy across state lines.
  • The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay begins a first-of-its-kind program that teaches citizen volunteers how to monitor water quality.
1983

1983

  • The first Chesapeake Bay Agreement is signed by Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania; the District of Columbia; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and the Chesapeake Bay Commission. The Chesapeake Bay Program is established and the Chesapeake Executive Council is named the chief policy-making authority in the watershed.
1984

1984

  • Maryland passes the Critical Area Act to better manage continued growth. The law leads to the formation of the Maryland Nontidal Wetlands Protection Program, which works to conserve, create and monitor nontidal wetlands, slowing the loss of this critical ecosystem.
1985

1985

  • Six years after Congress passes the Emergency Striped Bass Act, Maryland imposes a moratorium on striped bass fishing. Virginia soon follows suit, in hopes that a closed fishery will help the species recover from harvest and pollution pressures.
  • A Maryland ban on phosphate-containing laundry detergent reduces the amount of phosphorous flowing from wastewater treatment plants into the Chesapeake Bay.
1987

1987

  • The 1987 Chesapeake Bay Agreement sets the first ever numeric goals to reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, aiming to lower the nitrogen and phosphorous entering the Bay by 40 percent by the year 2000.
1988

1988

  • Virginia passes the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act, guiding local governments to address the environmental impacts of development and pushing communities to better manage urban and suburban growth.
  • Maryland State Senator Bernie Fowler’s Patuxent River Wade-In establishes the “sneaker index” as a measure of Bay health, boosting public interest in water quality.
1989

1989

  • Maryland and Virginia lift the ban on striped bass fishing. The fish is declared a recovered species six years later.
1990s
1990s

Image courtesy Airliners.net

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Waters Program acknowledges that air pollution contributes to water pollution.
  • The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay begins to host week-long paddling trips down some of the watershed’s biggest rivers.
  • The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration begins selling“Treasure the Chesapeake” license plates, which support the Chesapeake Bay Trust.
1992
1992

Image courtesy spike55151/Flickr

  • Amendments are made to the 1987 Chesapeake Bay Agreement that aim to attack nutrients at their source: upstream tributaries that flow into the Chesapeake Bay.
  • The Clean Vessel Act establishes a grant program to fund the construction of pumpout stations at marinas across the watershed, presenting a viable alternative to the overboard disposal of sewage.
1993

1993

  • A law passed in Pennsylvania requires certain farmers to develop and implement nutrient management plans, limiting the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous that can run off of farms and into local waterways. In 1994, Virginia follows suit. In 1998, Maryland enacts similar legislation.
1994

1994

  • The Bay Program’s Riparian Forest Buffer Panel develops ground-breaking goals for the conservation and restoration of streamside forests. Federal and state incentive programs encourage landowners to install forest buffers on their properties.
1995
1995

Image courtesy adactio/Flick

  • The Local Government Partnership Initiative is signed to provide assistance to the 1,650 local governments in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
1996

1996

  • Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant begins to use nutrient removal technology to lower the amount of nitrogen it sends into the Potomac River and improve water quality.
  • Federal, state and private partners agree to restore Poplar Island using sand and sediment dredged up from the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay.
1997

1997

  • The Virginia Water Quality Improvement Act establishes a state fund that will support the prevention, reduction and control of nutrient pollution.
  • Maryland passes a package of legislation to combat suburban sprawl and direct smart growth. The initiative is praised as an innovative way to preserve natural resources and pursue sustainable development.
1998
1998

Image courtesy Joachim S. Muller/Flickr

  • The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission closes Atlantic sturgeon fishing along the East Coast. The 40-year ban is the longest fishing moratorium on record.
  • The Maryland Water Quality Improvement Act calls for the addition of a phosphorous-reducing enzyme to poultry feed, lowering nutrient levels in poultry litter.
1999

1999

  • The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation establishes the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund to help communities restore polluted rivers and streams. The fund awards $8 to $12 million each year to on-the-ground conservation.
  • The Virginia Land Conservation Act establishes a state tax credit to reward those who donate land or easements for conservation.
2000
2000

Image courtesy Brian Talbot/Flickr

  • Maryland records its lowest blue crab harvest: 20.2 million pounds.
  • Chesapeake 2000 is signed, establishing more than 100 goals to reduce pollution and restore habitats, protect living resources and promote sound land use, and engage the public in restoration.
  • The National Park Service and its partners launch the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Water Trails Network to connect people with the Bay’s places and stories.
2002

2002

  • More than 2,800 miles of forest buffers have been restored in the watershed, meeting the Bay Program’s goal for forest buffer restoration eight years ahead of schedule.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration establishes the Bay Watershed Education and Training program to fund the delivery of Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences and advance environmental education in the region.
2003

2003

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issues water quality criteria for the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries.
  • Representatives from the Bay’s headwater states join the Chesapeake Executive Council.
  • The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Blue Ribbon Panel is created to find new financing opportunities for restoration work, and the Chesapeake Bay Funders Network is established to bring grantmakers together.
2005

2005

  • The Chesapeake Executive Council adopts an animal manure management strategy to reduce nutrient pollution from livestock operations.
2006
2006

Image courtesy Jane Thomas/IAN Image Library

  • The Chesapeake Executive Council adopts new directives to expand forest cover, reduce the amount of phosphorus in lawn fertilizers and increase funding for on-farm conservation programs.
  • The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail is designated.
  • The Living Shorelines Summit furthers research on the use of living shorelines to control erosion.
2007

2007

  • The Chesapeake Executive Council signs the Forest Conservation Initiative, committing to conserve 695,000 acres of forests by 2020.
  • The Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System (CBIBS) is launched to report real-time environmental data.
  • BayStat is launched to track restoration progress.
  • The Bay blue crab harvest of 44.2 million pounds is one of the lowest recorded since 1945.
2008

2008

  • Maryland, Virginia and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission issue emergency regulations on the harvest of blue crabs to help the species recover. The Chesapeake Bay’s blue crab fishery is declared a federal disaster.
  • The 2008 Farm Bill dedicates more than $180 million over the course of four years to agricultural conservation.
  • The invasive zebra mussel is found in the Maryland portion of the Susquehanna River.
2009

2009

  • President Obama signs an executive order that calls on the federal government to renew the effort to protect and restore the watershed.
  • The Chesapeake Executive Council sets two-year milestones to accelerate restoration and increase accountability.
  • Annapolis becomes the first jurisdiction in the watershed to ban phosphorous in lawn fertilizer.
2010
2010

Image courtesy Lydiat/Flickr

  • Maryland, Virginia and New York ban phosphates in dishwasher detergent to lower phosphorous pollution in local waterways.
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency establishes the Total Maximum Daily Load to limit the amount of pollutants that can enter the Chesapeake Bay.
  • The Bay Program launches ChesapeakeStat to improve communication about restoration goals, progress and funding.
2011

2011

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issues a new Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Permit to the District of Columbia. It is the first of its kind to incorporate green infrastructure into its requirements, setting a national model for stormwater management.
2012

2012

  • Harris Creek becomes the first target of the oyster restoration goals set forth in the Chesapeake Bay Executive Order: to restore oyster populations in 20 Bay tributaries by 2025. In this Choptank River tributary, existing reefs will be studied, new bars will be built and spat-on-shell will be planted.
2013
2013

Image courtesy cplong11/Flickr

  • A federal judge rules that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can set pollution limits for the Chesapeake Bay, thus upholding the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) that was challenged in court in 2011.
2014

2014

  • The Chesapeake Executive Council signs the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, which contains goals and outcomes that will guide conservation and restoration across the watershed. For the first time, the Bay’s headwater states commit to those goals that reach beyond water quality.

Captain John Thomas Rolfe II…


Captain John Thomas RolfeMy 10th Paternal Great Grandfather

Date of Birth: 6 May 1585 in Heacham Hall, Norfolkshire, Watkins Co., England

Date of Death: 22 Mar 1622 (killed in Indian Massacre) in Jamestown, Virginia Colony; killed in a massacre 

Marriage: 05 Apr 1614 (Age: 28) Jamestown, James, Virginia, USA to Princess Pocahontas Matoaka Rebecca POWHATAN (1595-1617)

Children

Thomas Powhatan ROLFE
(1615-1675)

JohnRolfeParents&Siblings

Varina, Henrico County, The American South (Mid-Atlantic)

Inscription: John Rolfe emigrated from England to Virginia in 1610 and settled in what was to become Henrico County. In 1612 he imported tobacco seeds from Trinidad and cultivated a new strain of mild tobacco. He shipped part of his harvest to England in 1614, and by 1619 tobacco had become Virginia’s major money crop. In 1614 Rolfe married Pocahontas, a daughter of Chief Powhatan, and they had one son, Thomas. Rolfe and his family sailed in 1616 to England where Pocahontas died in 1617. Rolfe returned to Virginia, where he died in 1622.

Erected 1996 by Department of Historic Resources. (Marker Number V 31.)

Location. 37° 28.566′ N, 77° 22.512′ W. Marker is in Varina, Virginia, in Henrico County. Marker is on Messer Road 0.1 miles north of Library Road, on the right when traveling north. Click for map.

Photo by Bernard Fisher, November 29, 2009

Thomas Rolfe

Thomas Rolfe (January 30, 1615 – 1680) was the only child of Pocahontas by her English husband, John Rolfe. His maternal grandfather was Wahunsunacock, the chief of Powhatan tribe in Virginia. Thomas Rolfe was born in Virginia. He traveled to London with his parents in 1616, and remained there, after the death of his mother, in the care of his appointed Guardian, Sir Lewis Stukeley, and later his father’s brother, Henry Rolfe.. Thomas married Elizabeth Washington in September 1632 at St James’s Church, Clerkenwell and they had a daughter named Jane in 1633. Elizabeth died shortly after Jane’s birth. Two years later, Thomas returned to Virginia as an adult, trained in English ways. He left his daughter, Jane, with his cousin Anthony Rolfe to claim his inheritance. In 1641, he asked permission of the Governor to visit his “kinsman Opecancanough”. Thomas inherited a tract of some 2000 acres, across from Jamestown; the land was described in a later deed as “due unto the sd Rolfe by Guift from the Indyan King”.. After the 1644 Indian attack on the colony, four forts were established to defend the frontier: Fort Henry, Fort Royal, Fort James, and Fort Charles. Fort James was to be under  ( Wikipedia article )

Date of birth: 30 Jan 1615

Place of birth:  Jamestown

Date of death: 1675

Place of death:  Kippax Plantation, Charles City County, Virginia (now Hopewell City)

Spouse(s):  Elizabeth Washington, Jane Poythress

Children:  Jane Rolfe, Anne Rolfe