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View Tree for John RolfeJohn Rolfe (b. May 06, 1585, d. March 22, 1621/22)

John Rolfe (son of John Sr Rolfe and Dorthea Mason) was born May 06, 1585 in Heachem Norfolk, England, and died March 22, 1621/22 in Jamestown, Virginia. He married (1) unknown wife on Abt. 1610 in England. He married (2) Pochahontas Amonata Rebecca Matoaka Powhatan on April 05, 1614 in Jamestown, Virginia, daughter of Emperor and Chief Wahunsunacock Powhatan and Winganuske Nonoma. He married (3) Joane Pierce on 1617 in Jamestown, Virginia.

 Includes NotesNotes for John Rolfe:
Mr. John Rolfe was a man of industry, and apparently devoted to the welfare of the colony. He probably brought with him in 1610 his wife, who gave birth to his daughter Bermuda, born on the Somers Islands at the time of the shipwreck. We find no notice of her death.

More About John Rolfe:
Burial: Unknown, Jamestown, Virginia.

More About John Rolfe and unknown wife:
Marriage: Abt. 1610, England.

More About John Rolfe and Pochahontas Amonata Rebecca Matoaka Powhatan:
Marriage: April 05, 1614, Jamestown, Virginia.

 Includes NotesMarriage Notes for John Rolfe and Pochahontas Amonata Rebecca Matoaka Powhatan:
Much has been said about the reception of Pocahontas in London, but the contemporary notices of her are scant. The Indians were objects of curiosity for a time in London, as odd Americans have often been since, and the rank of Pocahontas procured her special attention. She was presented at court. She was entertained by Dr. King, Bishop of London. At the playing of Ben Jonson's "Christmas his Mask" at court, January 6, 1616-17, Pocahontas and Tomocomo were both present, and Chamberlain writes to Carleton: "The Virginian woman Pocahuntas with her father counsellor have been with the King and graciously used, and both she and her assistant were pleased at the Masque. She is upon her return though sore against her will, if the wind would about to send her away."
Mr. Neill says that "after the first weeks of her residence in England she does not appear to be spoken of as the wife of Rolfe by the letter writers," and the Rev. Peter Fontaine says that "when they heard that Rolfe had married Pocahontas, it was deliberated in council whether he had not committed high treason by so doing, that is marrying an Indian princesse."
It was like James to think so. His interest in the colony was never the most intelligent, and apt to be in things trivial. Lord Southampton (Dec. 15, 1609) writes to Lord Salisbury that he had told the King of the Virginia squirrels brought into England, which are said to fly. The King very earnestly asked if none were provided for him, and said he was sure Salisbury would get him one. Would not have troubled him, "but that you know so well how he is affected to these toys."
There has been recently found in the British Museum a print of a portrait of Pocahontas, with a legend round it in Latin, which is translated: " Matoaka, alias Rebecka, Daughter of Prince Powhatan, Emperor of Virginia; converted to Christianity, married Mr. Rolff; died on shipboard at Gravesend 1617. This is doubtless the portrait engraved by Simon De Passe in 1616, and now inserted in the extant copies of the London edition of the "General Historie," 1624. It is not probable that the portrait was originally published with the "General Historie." The portrait inserted in the edition of 1624 has this inscription:
Round the portrait:
Matoaka als Rebecca Filia Potentiss Princ: Pohatani Imp: Virginim."
In the oval, under the portrait:
"Aetatis suae 21 A. 1616" Below:
"Matoaks als Rebecka daughter to the mighty Prince Powhatan Emprour of Attanoughkomouck als virginia converted and baptized in the Christian faith, and wife to the worth Mr. job Rolff. i: Pass: sculp. Compton Holland excud."
Camden in his "History of Gravesend" says that everybody paid this young lady all imaginable respect, and it was believed she would have sufficiently acknowledged those favors, had she lived to return to her own country, by bringing the Indians to a kinder disposition toward the English; " and that she died, "giving testimony all the time she lay sick, of her being a very good Christian."
The Lady Rebecka, as she was called in London, died on shipboard at Gravesend after a brief illness, said to be of only three days, probably on the 21st of March, 1617. I have seen somewhere a statement, which I cannot confirm, that her disease was smallpox. St. George's Church, where she was buried, was destroyed by fire in 1727. The register of that church has this record:
"1616, May 2j Rebecca Wrothe Wyff of Thomas Wroth gent A Virginia lady borne, here was buried in ye chaunncle."
Yet there is no doubt, according to a record in the Calendar of State Papers, dated "1617 29 March, London," that her death occurred March 21, 1617.
John Rolfe was made Secretary of Virginia when Captain Argall became Governor, and seems to have been associated in the schemes of that unscrupulous person and to have forfeited the good opinion of the company. August 23, 1618, the company wrote to Argall: "We cannot imagine why you should give us warning that Opechankano and the natives have given the country to Mr. Rolfe's child, and that they reserve it from all others till he comes of years except as we suppose as some do here report it be a device of your own, to some special purpose for yourself." It appears also by the minutes of the company in 1621 that Lady Delaware had trouble to recover goods of hers left in Rolfe's hands in Virginia, and desired a commission directed to Sir Thomas Wyatt and Mr. George Sandys to examine what goods of the late "Lord Deleware had come into Rolfe's possession and get satisfaction of him." This George Sandys is the famous traveler who made a journey through the Turkish Empire in 1610, and who wrote, while living in Virginia, the first book written in the New World, the completion of his translation of Ovid's "Metamorphosis."
John Rolfe died in Virginia in 1622, leaving a wife and children. This is supposed to be his third wife, though there is no note of his marriage to her nor of the death of his first. October 7, 1622, his brother Henry Rolfe petitioned that the estate of John should be converted to the support of his relict wife and children and to his own indemnity for having brought up John's child by Powhatan's daughter.
This child, named Thomas Rolfe, was given after the death of Pocahontas to the keeping of Sir Lewis Stukely of Plymouth, who fell into evil practices, and the boy was transferred to the guardianship of his uncle Henry Rolfe, and educated in London. When he was grown up he returned to Virginia, and was probably there married. There is on record his application to the Virginia authorities in 1641 for leave to go into the Indian country and visit Cleopatra, his mother's sister. He left an only daughter who was married, says Stith (1753), "to Col. John Bolling; by whom she left an only son, the late Major John Bolling, who was father to the present Col. John Bolling, and several daughters, married to Col. Richard Randolph, Col. John Fleming, Dr. William Gay, Mr. Thomas Eldridge, and Mr. James Murray." Campbell in his "History of Virginia" says that the first Randolph that came to the James River was an esteemed and industrious mechanic, and that one of his sons, Richard, grandfather of the celebrated John Randolph, married Jane Bolling, the great granddaughter of Pocahontas.
In 1618 died the great Powhatan, full of years and satiated with fighting and the savage delights of life. He had many names and titles; his own people sometimes called him

The men are described as tall, straight, and of comely proportions; no beards; hair black, coarse, and thick; noses broad, flat, and full at the end; with big lips and wide mouths', yet nothing so unsightly as the Moors; and the women as having "handsome limbs, slender arms, pretty hands, and when they sing they have a pleasant tange in their voices. The men shaved their hair on the right side, the women acting as barbers, and left the hair full length on the left side, with a lock an ell long." A Puritan divine--"New England's Plantation, 1630"--says of the Indians about him, "their hair is generally black, and cut before like our gentlewomen, and one lock longer than the rest, much like to our gentlemen, which fashion I think came from hence into England."
Their love of ornaments is sufficiently illustrated by an extract from Strachey, which is in substance what Smith writes:
"Their eares they boare with wyde holes, commonly two or three, and in the same they doe hang chaines of stayned pearle braceletts, of white bone or shreeds of copper, beaten thinne and bright, and wounde up hollowe, and with a grate pride, certaine fowles' legges, eagles, hawkes, turkeys, etc., with beasts clawes, bears, arrahacounes, squirrells, etc. The clawes thrust through they let hang upon the cheeke to the full view, and some of their men there be who will weare in these holes a small greene and yellow-couloured live snake, neere half a yard in length, which crawling and lapping himself about his neck oftentymes familiarly, he suffreeth to kisse his lippes. Others weare a dead ratt tyed by the tayle, and such like conundrums."
This is the earliest use I find of our word "conundrum," and the sense it bears here may aid in discovering its origin.
Powhatan is a very large figure in early Virginia history, and deserves his prominence. He was an able and crafty savage, and made a good fight against the encroachments of the whites, but he was no match for the crafty Smith, nor the double-dealing of the Christians. There is something pathetic about the close of his life, his sorrow for the death of his daughter in a strange land, when he saw his territories overrun by the invaders, from whom he only asked peace, and the poor privilege of moving further away from them into the wilderness if they denied him peace.
In the midst of this savagery Pocahontas blooms like a sweet, wild rose. She was, like the Douglas, "tender and true." Wanting apparently the cruel nature of her race generally, her heroic qualities were all of the heart. No one of all the contemporary writers has anything but gentle words for her. Barbarous and untaught she was like her comrades, but of a gentle nature. Stripped of all the fictions which Captain Smith has woven into her story, and all the romantic suggestions which later writers have indulged in, she appears, in the light of the few facts that industry is able to gather concerning her, as a pleasing and unrestrained Indian girl, probablv not different from her savage sisters in her habits, but bright and gentle; struck with admiration at the appearance of the white men, and easily moved to pity them, and so inclined to a growing and lasting friendship for them; tractable and apt to learn refinements; accepting the new religion through love for those who taught it, and finally becoming in her maturity a well-balanced, sensible, dignified Christian woman.
According to the long-accepted story of Pocahontas, she did something more than interfere to save from barbarous torture and death a stranger and a captive, who had forfeited his life by shooting those who opposed his invasion. In all times, among the most savage tribes and in civilized society, women have been moved to heavenly pity by the sight of a prisoner, and risked life to save him--the impulse was as natural to a Highland lass as to an African maid. Pocahontas went further than efforts to make peace between the superior race and her own. When the whites forced the Indians to contribute from their scanty stores to the support of the invaders, and burned their dwellings and shot them on sight if they refused, the Indian maid sympathized with the exposed whites and warned them of stratagems against them; captured herself by a base violation of the laws of hospitality, she was easily reconciled to her situation, adopted the habits of the foreigners, married one of her captors, and in peace and in war cast in her lot with the strangers. History has not preserved for us the Indian view of her conduct.
It was no doubt fortunate for her, though perhaps not for the colony, that her romantic career ended by an early death, so that she always remains in history in the bloom of youth. She did not live to be pained by the contrast, to which her eyes were opened, between her own and her adopted people, nor to learn what things could be done in the Christian name she loved, nor to see her husband in a less honorable light than she left him, nor to be involved in any way in the frightful massacre of 1622. If she had remained in England after the novelty was over, she might have been subject to slights and mortifying neglect. The struggles of the fighting colony could have brought her little but pain. Dying when she did, she rounded out one of the prettiest romances of all history, and secured for her name the affection of a great nation, whose empire has spared little that belonged to her childhood and race, except the remembrance of her friendship for those who destroyed her people. THE END


More About John Rolfe and Joane Pierce:
Marriage: 1617, Jamestown, Virginia.

Children of John Rolfe and unknown wife are:
  1. Bermuda Rolfe, b. Abt. 1611, d. date unknown.

Children of John Rolfe and Pochahontas Amonata Rebecca Matoaka Powhatan are:
  1. +Thomas Rolfe, b. January 30, 1614/15, Jamestown, Virginia (Smith 's Plantation) Henrico, County, d. 1676, Virginia/North Carolina.
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