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:

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 (  Here is the the link to DOVE OF PEACE DVD online purchase page at CBN 700 Club at Jamestown.

“Snuffing Out” Tobacco in Southern Maryland

Tobacco’s 17th Century Beginnings in the Colonies

English_Settlers_Harvest_Tobacco_1Maryland’s tobacco growing farms date back to the 17th century. Upon their arrival in 1634, Maryland settlers quickly hopped onto the tobacco bandwagon which the Virginians had started at the beginning of the century in Jamestown, Virginia. Borrowing seeds from my 11th great grandfather, Captain John Thomas Rolfe’s (1585-1622) now famous sweet-scented variety, they busily cultivated Maryland’s “tidewater area,” (geographic areas of southeast Virginia, northeastern North Carolina, part of the Atlantic coastal plain, and portions of Maryland facing the Chesapeake Bay).

Colonists quickly found that tobacco was the highest paying crop per acre. Colonial agriculture was primitive but exceedingly profitable. The annual tobacco crop brought in as much money as all the other American exports totaled. Family farms grew into plantations. Indentured servants were slowly replaced by slaves from Africa and the Caribbean.

And, the tobacco market wasn’t without its periods where sales slumped; e.g., the Revolutionary War Period (1775-1783). Yet, it still maintained and stimulated the growth of Maryland and other states throughout the colonial period. Tobacco farming became Calvert County’s main cash crop and the family farms grew rich through the generations.

Maryland’s Tobacco Farms in the late 20th Century

20th century tobacco barnIn fact, in the late 1990’s, southern Maryland tobacco generated 70% of farmers’ incomes, even though it occupied only 5% of their acres under cultivation. Scattered on small plots on almost every farm, the crop was a laborious and a year-round occupation–one of the reasons in labor-strapped southern Maryland that it was not a bigger crop.

Actually 24 years ago, when my husband, children, and I moved to Calvert County, we would see farmers in late summer harvesting tobacco leaves, turning over their hand cut leaves to others who would string them onto sticks and then hang them in their barns for curing.  After a couple of months, when the farmers were sure the leaves were completely dried, we would sometimes see them hauling their crops to a local tobacco warehouse for auction.  In our case, northern Calvert’s tobacco was either taken to the Hughesville Barns in Charles County, or the Upper Marlboro Tobacco Barns in Prince George’s County.

About seven years later, (1999), tobacco crops became almost extinct. I believe the tobacco farm on Mount Harmony Road was one of those that started growing soy beans instead of tobacco.   A late-1998 $206 Billion settlement by the nation’s largest tobacco companies and the 50 states brought the tobacco industry to a halt.  Life-long Southern Maryland tobacco farmers (whose average age was about 65), had been around long enough to see that the tobacco industry was dying. Their embrace of the wholesale buyout was both eager and sad. They were paid as much as $20,000 annually for 10 years to keep their farms and to replace their tobacco crops with other vegetation. This put about 1,100 Maryland  farmers out of the tobacco business.  

Parris N. Glendening was Maryland’s governor in 1999 when the tobacco settlements began to be paid out.  Governor Glendening vowed to use part of Maryland’s share of the windfall to close the book on “Maryland’s history as a tobacco state.”

Even so, about 100 Amish tobacco farmers refused to accept subsidies from the government.  They just changed their brand of tobacco leaves to “burley,” which was in demand in Europe.   And, some farmers sold off their farms to land developers and subdividers instead of accepting a financial settlement that would lock them into their farms for 10 years.  This decision by the farmers, might help explain the State’s third largest housing boom and population growth (nearly 20 percent increase in population) in Calvert County that took place between the 2000 and 2010 censuses.

The tobacco crops may have disappeared but, the Calvert County Flags that had tobacco leaves on them can still be found.

Calvert County Flag CollageReferences:

  • U.S. Census Bureau:  U.S. by County Population & Housing Patterns: 2000 to 2010″End of an Era For Maryland Tobacco,” By Philip Rucker, Washington Post Staff Writer, Thursday, March 1, 2007
  • “Snuffing Out Tobacco is No Easy Task for Maryland Farmers,” By Melissa Healey, Times Staff Writer, August 15, 2000

  • “Maryland Pays Farmers Not to Grow Tobacco,” World Net Daily “WND,” August 23, 2000

  • “Pulling up roots : Maryland move discourages tobacco,” Michigan Daily, February 1, 2001




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.