John and Pocahontas in Kippax: England and Virginia
This 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
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: Yet, 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
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 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.
Near Here Lies Thomas Rolfe-Son of Pocahontas-1615-1680
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). We 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
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
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. 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.
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.
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
[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.
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.
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.
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.
Today, 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.