On This Day: April 5, 1614 – Pocahontas Marries John Rolfe


Article Details:  POCAHONTAS MARRIES JOHN ROLFE
Author:  History.com Staff
Website Name:  History.com
Year Published:  2009
Title:  Pocahontas marries John Rolfe
URL:  http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/pocahontas-marries-john-rolfe

On the 403rd Anniversary – The Story of the Marriage of My Paternal 11th Great Grandparents

Pocahontas, daughter of the chief of the Powhatan Indian confederacy, marries English tobacco planter John Rolfe in Jamestown, Virginia. The marriage ensured peace between the Jamestown settlers and the Powhatan Indians for several years.

In May 1607, about 100 English colonists settled along the James River in Virginia to found Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America. The settlers fared badly because of famine, disease, and Indian attacks, but were aided by 27-year-old English adventurer John Smith, who directed survival efforts and mapped the area. While exploring the Chickahominy River in December 1607, Smith and two colonists were captured by Powhatan warriors. At the time, the Powhatan confederacy consisted of around 30 Tidewater-area tribes led by Chief Wahunsonacock, known as Chief Powhatan to the English. Smith’s companions were killed, but he was spared and released, (according to a 1624 account by Smith) because of the dramatic intercession of Pocahontas, Chief Powhatan’s 13-year-old daughter. Her real name was Matoaka, and Pocahontas was a pet name that has been translated variously as “playful one” and “my favorite daughter.”

In 1608, Smith became president of the Jamestown colony, but the settlement continued to suffer. An accidental fire destroyed much of the town, and hunger, disease, and Indian attacks continued. During this time, Pocahontas often came to Jamestown as an emissary of her father, sometimes bearing gifts of food to help the hard-pressed settlers. She befriended the settlers and became acquainted with English ways. In 1609, Smith was injured from a fire in his gunpowder bag and was forced to return to England.

After Smith’s departure, relations with the Powhatan deteriorated and many settlers died from famine and disease in the winter of 1609-10. Jamestown was about to be abandoned by its inhabitants when Baron De La Warr (also known as Delaware) arrived in June 1610 with new supplies and rebuilt the settlement–the Delaware River and the colony of Delaware were later named after him. John Rolfe also arrived in Jamestown in 1610 and two years later cultivated the first tobacco there, introducing a successful source of livelihood that would have far-reaching importance for Virginia.

In the spring of 1613, English Captain Samuel Argall took Pocahontas hostage, hoping to use her to negotiate a permanent peace with her father. Brought to Jamestown, she was put under the custody of Sir Thomas Gates, the marshal of Virginia. Gates treated her as a guest rather than a prisoner and encouraged her to learn English customs. She converted to Christianity and was baptized Lady Rebecca. Powhatan eventually agreed to the terms for her release, but by then she had fallen in love with John Rolfe, who was about 10 years her senior. On April 5, 1614, Pocahontas and John Rolfe married with the blessing of Chief Powhatan and the governor of Virginia.

Their marriage brought a peace between the English colonists and the Powhatans, and in 1615 Pocahontas gave birth to their first child, Thomas. In 1616, the couple sailed to England. The so-called Indian Princess proved popular with the English gentry, and she was presented at the court of King James I. In March 1617, Pocahontas and Rolfe prepared to sail back to Virginia. However, the day before they were to leave, Pocahontas died, probably of smallpox, and was buried at the parish church of St. George in Gravesend, England.

John Rolfe returned to Virginia and was killed in an Indian massacre in 1622. After an education in England, their son Thomas Rolfe returned to Virginia and became a prominent citizen. John Smith returned to the New World in 1614 to explore the New England coast. On another voyage of exploration in 1614, he was captured by pirates but escaped after three months of captivity. He then returned to England, where he died in 1631.

Back From the Future – Part 2


 A Quote from the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, June 2014:

Christopher Columbus never reached the shores of the North American Continent, but European explorers learned three things from him: there was someplace to go, there was a way to get there, and most importantly, there was a way to get back. Thus began the European exploration of what they referred to as the “New World”.

A Quick Recap

  • So, we left 21st Century Jamestown, Virginia, the first permanent English settlement in America (1607). Today, it is a living history of the 17th Century Jamestown Colony.
  • We resurrected and boarded the massive customized 300-ton English merchant sailing vessel, The Sea Venture–the same Virginia Company-owned ship that had 153 travelers and crew aboard and was to deliver the third supply to the Jamestown Colony in 1609.
  • We paused for a time to look back upon my 11th great grandfather, John Rolfe and others devastation, about 661 nautical miles short of their intended Jamestown destination.  This “tempest,” or hurricane, as we might call it today, was nearly the end of all of them.  But, they prevailed over the course of 4-days through their never-ending and tireless fight for their lives and the rescue of their ocean water-hemorrhaging ship. They finally steered the ship onto the surrounding reef to prevent its sinking then landed ashore on “Devil’s Isle.”  Bermuda, with its subtropical temperatures soon became a paradise to them and they replenished their souls and spirits.  The food, in fact, was plentiful because the island had an abundance of wild pigs, birds, and fish, tropical fruits, and even a freshwater lagoon.
  • When we last left our castaways, a year had nearly elapsed and it was springtime. Twenty-four-year-old John Rolfe’s wife, Sarah Hacker, had recently passed; his infant daughter, Bermuda, passed shortly thereafter.  Bermuda had been the first baby born there and Reverend Bucke performed the first marriage there, too. Today many go to Bermuda to marry or honeymoon.
  • I also learned that at some point before leaving Bermuda, John Rolfe may have grabbed up and secretly pocketed some tobacco seeds; possibly from an area today called Tobacco Bay on St. George’s Island, Bermuda.
  • The castaways are once again setting out to complete their voyage to Jamestown, but not before there are five separate mutiny attempts.  In general, some of the castaways questioned authority of their leaders in Bermuda and had fallen in love with the islands.  They weren’t willing to risk unknown hardships in little known Jamestown.   This time the remaining Jamestown-bound passengers and crew numbered only 138.  Eight had already left in a small boat never to be seen again; three died of natural causes; one sailor was murdered; one Indian was murdered; and one castaway, Henry Paine, was executed for sedition.  That left 138 to board the two ships they had built from salvaged steel and wood from the Sea Venture. And, these ships were named: Patience and Deliverance–How very understated yet so very appropo!
  • May 24, 1610 – Our English seafaring ancestors, headed by Sir Thomas Gates, now aboard the Patience and Deliverance, arrive at Jamestown–They find only sixty survivors of a winter famine, known as “the starving time”.

Onward to Heacham

We are journeying on, as well.  We are headed ENE, crossing further up the North Atlantic Ocean from our Bermuda latitude and longitude coordinates: 32.299507, -64.790337. Our destination once again: the time when John Rolfe’s family lived in Heacham, Norfolk, England (Latitude: 52.92 Longitude: 0.48), and where John and his father, Johannes Eustacius Rolfe, both were born–another 3,244 nautical miles.

The year is now 1585.  We have come to Heacham to learn more about John Rolfe’s family life and his early beginnings to better understand his quests.

But first, we need to learn more about the Heacham Village from which John Rolfe emerged.  Our 21st Century Heacham is a thriving village community and popular Norfolk coastal holiday resort situated three miles from Hunstanton and eight miles from Sandringham Village in Norfolk, England.  It is lit by breathtaking east coast sunsets and surrounded by glowing and aromatic purple lavender and scarlet poppy fields. Residents and visitors alike relish in Heacham’s sloping beaches and the soft rolling West Norfolk countryside, which has remained unchanged over time.  In fact, archeologists have discovered that Heacham has existed as far back as the stone age.  And that running water with fertile surrounding lands made Heacham an ideal location for early man to settle. What we know for sure is that there were inhabitants in Heacham around the 5th century when the Anglo-Saxon invaded present-day East Anglia.

lavender-and-poppy-fieldsHeacham–the home to the Rolfe family–History tells us that John Rolfe came from a farming family. For generations they farmed the land and traded on the nearby shores of the Wash.   Quite possibly, it was fields of lavender or poppies that they farmed.  Interestingly enough, Lavender is a plant rich in its own history and myth. With its roots going back to ancient herbalists, it’s properties as a disinfectant and antiseptic, lavender’s reputation grew throughout the centuries.  Lavender became known for its ability to even ward off the plague. And it’s popularity with English royalty also helped anchor it as a cosmetic herb. Queen Victoria had used it as a tonic for her nerves.

Heacham Hall before it burned down in 1941

Heacham Hall before it burned down in 1941

Sadly, Heacham Hall (the family home of the Rolfes) burned down in 1941.  My genealogical research traces the Rolfe family line back as far as 1455 when my 14th great grandfather, Robert Rolfe, also was born at Heacham Hall. But, it was October 17, 1562, when Johannes Eustacius “John” Rolfe, father of John Thomas Rolfe, our subject, was born there.  John Eustacius at the age of 20 married local Heacham, Dorothea (Dorothea/Dorothy) Mason on her 20th birthday, on Friday, September 24, 1582. Together they had five children in 10 years. Unfortunately, John Eustacius died two months after his 12th wedding anniversary. He was 32 at the time of his death, leaving John, age 8, and his other four siblings, with a 32 year-old widowed mother.

It is disappointing, to learn that not much more is known about John Thomas Rolfe’s childhood or education.  We do know, however, that his mother Dorothy Mason Rolfe, married a Dr. Robert Redmayne, LL.D. (Doctor of Law), on March 9, 1595, just a little over three months after John’s father’s death! Despite Robert’s preferred spelling of his last name “Redmayne,” he descends from Bishop Redman, whose family first settled in Cumberland, and then in Lancashire.  John Rolfe’s mother Dorothy, his stepfather, Robert Redmayne, and his father, John Eustacius Rolfe, are all buried in Heacham at Saint Mary the Virgin’s Church.

So, we can safely assume that John Rolfe’s skill, farming interests, and former family status in Heacham are likely the bases for his drive and desire to create a marketable crop in Jamestown.

We also know that John Rolfe and his second wife, Pocahontas, in April 1616 return from Jamestown to visit his family.

Much more history in John Rolfe’s life continues . . .

 

 

From The Future Back . . .


Destination: England’s 16th Century Rolfe Family

sea-venture-and-consorts

“Historic Voyage, Sea Venture and Consorts at Sea 1609,” a 1984 oil painting by Deryck Foster, was exhibited courtesy of the Bank of Bermuda Foundation in the Jamestown Settlement special exhibition, “Jamestown and Bermuda: Virginia Company Colonies.”

Absent any DeLorean or maverick scientist like Emmett Lathrop “Doc” Brown, we’re headed from the future back to a time before there was this great country known as the United States of America.  But, “Holy Scott!,” we’re crossing the Atlantic Ocean, departing from 21st Century Jamestown, Virginia, aboard a 300-ton merchant sailing vessel, known as the Sea Venture, (England’s first dedicated emigration ship), that we resurrected from her maiden voyage back in 1609. We are embarking on 16th Century Plymouth, a city on the south coast of Devon, England, about 37 miles (60 km) south-west of Exeter and 190 miles (310 km) west-south-west of London between the mouths of the rivers Plym and Tamar.  We are en route to Heacham, England–the home of John Eustacius Rolfe and his wife Lady Dorothea Mason, parents of John Thomas Rolfe.

The Day: June 2 

Our plans have us traveling about 3,800 nautical miles over a period of about two months.  While the average temperatures on land and at sea will be in the mid-50’s to 60’s over the next two months, we also know that the Atlantic Ocean and England will receive about 2-1/3″ of rain over the course of 12 days just during the month of June.  And, based upon weather history we know that we must be ever cautious and vigilant traveling by sea during these particular two months.  The period June 1 to November 30 is the time when others who traveled this route before us have nearly died or succumb to their deaths in the Northern Atlantic Ocean’s waters due to violent tropical winds and rain historically known as tempests!  In fact, a huge storm on July 24, 1609, that lasted four days, tossed the original Sea Venture ship about on the open ocean and she became separated from the rest of her fleet of nine vessels. The force of the hurricane battered this massive ship, causing multiple leaks to start flooding her hold. Most of her passengers and crew believed they were doomed. Still, all the men aboard worked hard to save her and themselves, by pumping out water and throwing traveler’s possessions and ship’s cargo overboard.  On the fourth day, it was Admiral Sir George Somers (founder of Bermuda) who spotted this island. Captain Christopher Newport (an English privateer {AKA sanctioned pirate}, ship captain, and adventurer), sailed the battered ship next to the island’s fringe and wedged her between two large rocks. Everyone (about 150 on board), survived the wreck and escaped to Bermuda’s land known back then to the English as “The Devil’s Islands.”

Also among those aboard the Virginia Company’s Sea Venture had been Sir Thomas Gates, my 11th maternal great uncle, who would serve as Governor of Virginia in 1610 and then as Lieutenant Governor from 1611 until 1614; William Strachey, future secretary of the Virginia Company in Jamestown; my then 24 year old and 11th paternal great grandfather, John Rolfe, with his wife Sarah Hacker, also 24, who was about two months pregnant at the time of their departure from England. Sarah gave birth in February 1610, while a castaway on the Bermuda Isle.  Hence, they named their little girl, Bermuda.  History says that Sarah passed away in the Spring of 1610, and sadly, that Bermuda also passed away on June 2, 1610–just 23 days after the 150 survivors set sail again for Jamestown aboard their two new ships, the Patience and Deliverance, constructed by them over the course of 10 months from the wood and materials they salvaged from the Sea Venture. I can only wonder if Sarah might have passed as a result of unsanitary living conditions or child-birthing practices which were common causes of infections that led to the deaths of so many women and infants in those days.  And little Bermuda, without her mother’s breast milk, would not have received antibodies that infants require to thrive.

If you are questioning signing on to this adventure across time and 3,800 nautical miles across the Atlantic from Virginia to England, I am leaving you with excerpts from TimeMaps™ History Atlas that I hope will help us all better acclimate ourselves to the two hundred year period 1453-1648 AD:

north-america-map-1453-1648-ad

europe-map-1453-1648-ad

—To Be Continued—

 

John Rolfe – Just One of My Family’s Immigrants . . .


The Early Modern Period

John Rolfe Painting 1850Over the next twenty-eight days, we will be revisiting my 11th paternal great grandfather’s story once again.  It is a story that dates back to 1585–the 585th year of the 2nd millennium, the 85th year of the 16th century, and the 6th year of the 1580s decade.  Although much has been written about John Thomas Rolfe and especially his third wife, Powhatan Princess Pocahontas, there’s still new stories and insights unfolding in our 21st century–some 400+ years later.  And, yes, he was probably among a handful of my ancestors who were among America’s first immigrants!

To put his story into greater context, Great grandfather Rolfe, in the 16th century would probably have stood only about 5’ 7” and the women of his day, just 5 feet.  From a worldwide perspective, historians say “The Early Modern Period” (in which John Rolfe was born and lived for 37 years), can best be defined by its globalizing character; i.e., the new explorations and colonizations of the Americas and the rise of new and enduring commerce between previously isolated parts of the world.  To have become a prominent figure of the times, most likely required more drive and early maturity than our 21st century youth could possibly fathom.  After all, man’s average lifespan in the 16th century was a mere 47 years–compared to today’s 74-80 years.  Many people were stricken with smallpox, measles, malaria, scarlet fever, and chickenpox due to poor sanitation and died even younger than 47.  

Greater Understanding and Appreciation

Quite honestly, until my more recent research with a fellow history enthusiast (who just happens to live in John Rolfe’s family’s hometown of Heacham, England), I really didn’t truly understand or appreciate his life in the early modern period or the extensive role this small statured young man played in England’s colonizing America and saving the people of Jamestown with his entrepreneurship and his marriage to Native American Princess Pocahontas.

This is just day one of the next 27 where we will delve more deeply into the adventure and entrepreneurship of John Rolfe (1585-1622).

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)

America’s First Entrepreneur


Indian Princess Pocahontas and Husband, Captain John Rolfe

In today’s world, there still remains much curiosity and interest in the 17th century relationship between Indian Princess Pocahontas and Captain John Rolfe. It was John Rolfe’s courage, persistence, and relationships that helped change our world. Christine, my friend who lives in Heacham, England, reached out to me about two years ago regarding Pocahontas, John Rolfe, and the Rolfe family of England and Virginia. Since then, we have been comparing notes,documentation,relics, landmarks, and even new projects in Heacham, Jamestown, and Kippax to further honor and share information about this couple’s world,their lifestyles, and legacies.

Not only does Christine live in Heacham which has historic ties to Pocahontas (who married my paternal 11th great grandfather, John Thomas Rolfe, on April 5, 1614, in Jamestown, Virginia–the first inter-racial marriage approved by Virginia’s Governor John Dale and Chief Powhatan, Pocahontas’ father), but Christine also attends the 13th Century-built Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, where the Rolfe Family lived and worshipped. John Thomas Rolfe took his wife, Rebecca (Pocahontas),and their two-year-old son, Thomas, back to England to visit his family at Heacham Hall in 1616. They settled in Brentford. A year later, when John was preparing to return with Pocahontas to Virginia, Pocahontas became ill and died in Gravesend. She was laid to rest at St George’s parish churchyard. After Pocahontas’ death, John returned to Virginia with Tocomoco a priest-counselor to Pocahontas’ father, Chief Powhatan, who also was married to Pocahontas’ half sister, Matachanna. Samuel Argall (adventurer, naval officer, and employee of the Virginia Company), commanded the ship. John’s son, Thomas, was guarded by Lewis Stukeley and later adopted by John’s brother, Henry. John married Jane Pierce two years later. They soon had a daughter named Elizabeth. It’s believe that John lost his life in the 1622 Native American massacre near Jamestown. The Rolfe family home, Heacham Hall, burned down in 1941.

John Rolfe:  America’s First Entrepreneur

And today’s post is titled after the book “America’s First Entrepreneur,” authored by John L. Rolfe (a probable 20th generation descendant of his namesake). Here’s what the author has to say about his 2011 book America’s First Entrepreneur:

The exciting and inspiring epic adventure of America’s First Entrepreneur. A humble and astute English farmer has a vision of entrepreneurial success across the ocean in Virginia, he embarks on an epic adventure with his pregnant wife, he endures the storm of the century, the hurricane which inspired William Shakespeare to write “The Tempest,” he survives the wreck of the “Sea Venture” and is marooned on a deserted island for almost ten months when other survivors mutiny and murder, his wife gives birth to their baby on the deserted island and then the baby dies, he arrives in Jamestown to find Hell on Earth, English Cannibalism, and starvation, his English wife dies, he persists with his entrepreneurial vision and tastes success, his cash crop saves the Virginia colony financially, he converts an Indian princess to Christianity and marries her in a royal wedding, the first interracial church marriage in the Americas, his marriage saves the Virginia colony politically, and he and his Indian princess wife take a promotional tour to London as celebrities, all in just seven years. But for the contributions of America’s First Entrepreneur, the Virginia colony would have failed and the French, Spanish, and Dutch, rather than the English, would have colonized not only New Mexico, California, Florida, Canada, Delaware, and New York, but most of what is now the United States. In a very real sense, America’s First Entrepreneur is responsible for the United States being an English speaking nation, for our English common law, and for our English cultural heritage of representative government and religious freedom on which the United States of America was founded. America’s First Entrepreneur’s cash crop becomes the chief export from America for the next 150 years, and is still successful after 400 years with multi-billion dollar sales year in and year out. America’s First Entrepreneur illustrates all the important time-tested principles of entrepreneurship. America’s first entrepreneur was wildly successful within seven years using these principles after a series of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Purchasing Information

I’ve ordered my copy of this book to save to my ever-growing library.  Here’s the ordering information if you’re also interested:  http://www.bookdepository.com/Americas-First-Entrepreneur-John-Rolfe/9781467950817.

Christine also has kept me abreast of the newest DVD’s development and notified me that it was recently released by the Christian Broadcasting Network in Europe (CBNEurope.com).  Here is the the link to DOVE OF PEACE DVD online purchase page at CBN 700 Club at Jamestown.

https://www.cbn.com/special/pocahontas/pocahontas.aspx

May 13, 2016: Jamestown Colony’s 409th Anniversary


Four hundred and nine years ago today (May 13, 1607), one hundred colonists (dispatched from England by the London Company) arrived along the west bank of the James River.  The next day they founded the first permanent English settlement in what is now the Virginia, known as the”James Fort.”

As I have written in other posts on my blog, it was during the next two years that disease, starvation, and Native American attacks wiped out most of the colony.  Yet, the London Company continually sent more settlers and supplies. The colonists referred to the severe winters of 1609 to 1610, as the “starving time.” These severe winters and lack of supplies were attributed with killing most of the Jamestown colonists and the survivors to plan a return to England in the spring.

On June 10, 1610, however, Thomas West De La Warr, the newly appointed governor of Virginia, arrived with supplies and convinced the settlers to stay at Jamestown. In 1612,  John Thomas Rolfe, my 10th Paternal Great Grandfather cultivated the first tobacco at Jamestown, introducing a successful source of livelihood.  Unfortunately, on March 22, 1622, he killed in an indian massacre on the Jamestown colony.

Jamestown ChurchThis photo taken in  the 1900’s shows the fifth church in the settlement.  

In one of his books, Captain John Smith wrote of building the first structure at Jamestown that was used as a church. According to his account, the settlers stretched a sail among the boughs and used rails to build the sides of the structure. They sat on benches made of unhewn tree trunks. The altar was simply a log nailed to two neighboring trees. This was a purely temporary arrangement and is not counted as a church building.

First Church — In 1607, the settlers built the first real church inside the fort. Smith related that this was a barn-like structure, but he gave few details. The settlers worshipped in it until it was destroyed by fire in January 1608.

Second Church — The church which was built after the fire in 1608 was similar in appearance to the first church. When Lord De La Warr arrived as governor in 1610, he found that the church had fallen into a sad state of disrepair, so he had it restored and its furnishings improved. It is assumed that this is the church in which Ann Burras and John Laydon were married and their daughter, Virginia Laydon, was later baptized.

When Captain Samuel Argall came to Jamestown in 1617, he found “but five or six houses, the church down, the palisades broken, the bridge in pieces, the well of fresh water spoiled, the storehouse used for the church; the marketplace, the streets and all other spare places planted with tobacco; the savages as frequent in their homes as themselves, whereby they were to become their “experts in our arms”…the Colony dispersed all about planting Tobacco.”

Third Church — From 1617-1619, when Samuel Argall was governor, he had the inhabitants of Jamestown build a new church “50 foot long and twenty-foot broad.” It was a wooden church built on a one-foot-wide foundation of cobblestones capped by a wall one brick thick. When visiting Jamestown today, you can see these foundations under the glass on the floor of the present building. The First Assembly was held in the third church. This church is best remembered as the meeting place of the first Representative Legislative Assembly, which convened there on July 30, 1619. This church endured until 1639, when it was replaced by a brick structure.

Fourth Church — In January 1639 Governor John Harvey reported that he, the Council, the ablest planters, and some sea captains “had contributed to the building of a brick church” at Jamestown. This church was slightly larger than the third church and was built around it. It was still unfinished in November 1647 when efforts were made to complete it.  Ten years later a fifth church was functioning, probably using the walls and foundations of the fourth church. Sometime after it was finished a brick church tower was added. During Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676, this church was burned.

Fifth Church —  About 10 years after the 1676 burning, the fifth church was functioning, probably using the walls and foundations of the fourth church. Sometime after it was finished a brick church tower was added. The tower is the only seventeenth-century structure still standing above ground at Jamestown.

The tower is slightly over 18 feet square and the walls are three feet thick at the base. Originally the tower was about 46 feet high (ten feet higher than the ruins) and was crowned with a wooden roof and belfry. It had two upper floors as indicated by the large beam notches on the inside. Six small openings at the top permitted light to enter and the sound of the bell or bells to carry across river and town. This church was used until the 1750s when it was abandoned. Although the tower remained intact, the building fell into ruins by the 1790s when the bricks were salvaged and used to build the present graveyard wall. Throughout the nineteenth century the tower remained a silent symbol to Americans of their early heritage. It was strengthened and preserved shortly after the APVA acquired it in the 1890s.

 

The Present Church — The Memorial Church building was constructed in 1906 by the National Society, Colonial Dames of America just outside the foundations of the earlier churches. It was dedicated May 13, 1907.

 

Tobacco Warning From 17th Century (1606)


Smokers in an Inn (1650) by Mattheus van Helmont

Smokers in an Inn (1650) by Mattheus van Helmont

I find it awesomely amusing and astonishingly amazing that we as a world of people ignore history, despite evidence that had we heeded its details, we could have avoided much pain, suffering, and loss.  And, I say this, despite my lineage back to Pocahontas and her husband, John Thomas Rolfe through the marriage of their granddaughter, Jane Poythress Rolfe to Colonel Robert Bolling, my 9th great grandfather.

You see, it was John Rolfe (1585-1622) who emigrated in 1610 from England and settled in Henrico County, Virginia.  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.

Yet, is was in 1606 that Dr Eleazar Duncon ‘s published letter revealed to medical professionals of his concerns about tobacco smoking affirmed that there were similar concerns about the issue that date back four centuries.

The following is the article as it appeared in BBC News| UK|Scotland on Saturday, September 19, 2009:

BBC News Header

Letter written by Dr Duncon

Letter written by Dr. Duncon

Doctors in the 17th Century were worried about the dangers of young people smoking, a recently unearthed letter has revealed.

The letter, written in 1606 by Dr Eleazar Duncon, said tobacco was “hurtful” to the nation’s youth.

It was found by library staff at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE).

The Scottish Parliament will this week debate new proposals to curb tobacco and cigarette sales to youngsters.

Dr Duncon’s letter reveals medical professionals were similarly concerned about the issue four centuries ago.

‘Fascinating insight’

The letter, which was published at the time by Dr Duncon’s employer, concluded that tobacco “is so hurtful and dangerous to youth that it might have the pernicious nature expressed in the name, and that it were as well known by the name of Youths-bane as by the name of tobacco”.

Professor Sir Neil Douglas, the president of the RCPE, said it gave a “fascinating insight into historical concerns” about smoking and young people.

It would be easy for politicians to think that the problems associated with tobacco have been dealt with
Professor Sir Neil Douglas
Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh

He added: “This letter from our library collection provides a fascinating insight into historical medical concerns about the addictive nature of smoking and young people, and shows that this issue has been of concern for over four centuries.

“The Scottish Parliament has already taken a political lead, and demonstrated its commitment to tackling the harm caused by tobacco, by introducing smoke-free legislation for public places.

“However, it would be easy for politicians to think that the problems associated with tobacco have been dealt with and to lose sight of the fact that the proposed bill includes critically important measures aimed at reducing smoking in young people.”

The professor urged MSPs of all parties to take the “historic opportunity” to back the proposed bill, which would end point of sale advertising and tobacco vending machines, which he said encouraged and influenced young people to smoke.

If it is passed by Holyrood, the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Bill would also introduce a registration system for tobacco retailers.

MSPs (Members of Scottish Parliament), on the health and sport committee have also urged the government to include a provision in the proposed legislation that would make it a criminal act for adults to buy tobacco for under-age youngsters.

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

045

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.

CEDAR LEVEL

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.

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.