John Rolfe, The Immigrant

John Rolfe, The Immigrant

Male 1685 - 1622

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  • Name John Rolfe 
    Suffix The Immigrant 
    Immigration 0May 1609  Jamestown, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Died 1621-1622  Jamestown, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location  [2, 3
    • on his plantation, "Varina Farms"
    Born 6 May 1685  Heacham, Norfolk, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [2, 3
    Gender Male 
    Person ID I40738  The Hennessee Family
    Last Modified 11 Feb 2015 

    Father John Eustace Rolfe, Sr.,   b. 17 Oct 1562, Heacham, Norfolk, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 29 Nov 1594, Heacham, Norfolk, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 32 years) 
    Mother Dorothea Mason,   b. Abt 1565, Heacham, Norfolk, England Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 24 Oct 1645, Heacham, Norfolk, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 80 years) 
    Married 24 Sep 1582  Heacham, Norfolk, England Find all individuals with events at this location  [3, 4
    Family ID F14697  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Pocahontas,   b. 1595, Werowocomoco, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 21 Mar 1616, Gravesend, Kent, England Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 21 years) 
    Married 5 Apr 1614  Jamestown, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location  [2, 5
    • During her stay in Henricus, Pocahontas met John Rolfe. Rolfe's English-born wife, Sarah Hacker, and child, Bermuda Rolfe, died prior to his journey to Virginia. He had successfully cultivated a new strain of tobacco there and spent much of his time there tending to his crop. He was a pious man who agonized over the potential moral repercussions of marrying a heathen. In a long letter to the governor requesting permission to wed her, he expressed both his love for her and his belief he would be saving her soul claiming he was: motivated not by the unbridled desire of carnal affection, but for the good of this plantation, for the honor of our country, for the Glory of God, for my own salvation... namely Pocahontas, to whom my hearty and best thoughts are, and have been a long time so entangled, and enthralled in so intricate a labyrinth that I was even a-wearied to unwind myself thereout[46]

      Pocahontas' feelings about Rolfe are unknown. She married him on April 5, 1614. Though frequently the wedding is placed at Jamestown, there is in fact no surviving record indicating where the ceremony took place. Possible sites include Henricus, Bermuda City, and Jamestown. Richard Buck presided. They lived for two years on Rolfe's plantation, Varina Farms, which was located across the James River from the new community of Henricus. Their son, Thomas was born on January 30, 1615.

      Their marriage was not successful in winning the English captives back, but it did create a climate of peace between the Jamestown colonists and Powhatan's tribes for 8 years; in 1615, Ralph Hamor wrote:

      Since the wedding we have had friendly commerce and trade not only with Powhatan but also with his subjects round about us...

      Rolfe's longtime friend, Reverend Richard Buck presided the wedding.

      Pocahontas's marriage to Rolfe was the first recorded interracial marriage in North American history.[
    Children 
     1. Thomas Pepsironemeh Rolfe,   b. 30 Jan 1615, Jamestown, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 0___ 1680, Hopewell, Hopewell City, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 64 years)
    Photos
    Pocahontas with her son, Thomas Rolfe
    Pocahontas with her son, Thomas Rolfe

    The "Sedgeford Portrait", said to represent Pocahontas and her son, although its authenticity is debated.
    John Rolfe & Pocahontas
    John Rolfe & Pocahontas

    An 1850s painting of John Rolfe and Pocahontas
    Pocahontas (1595-1616)
    Pocahontas (1595-1616)

    John Rolfe (1685-1622) (right, standing behind Pocahontas) as portrayed in The Baptism of Pocahontas, 1840, by John Gadsby Chapman
    Last Modified 12 Dec 2019 
    Family ID F14694  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsImmigration - 0May 1609 - Jamestown, Virginia Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarried - 5 Apr 1614 - Jamestown, Virginia Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 1621-1622 - Jamestown, Virginia Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 6 May 1685 - Heacham, Norfolk, England Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 

  • Photos
    John Rolfe (1685-1622)
    John Rolfe (1685-1622)

    10th great grandfather to the children of John Rupert Mynatt, Sr. (1911-1961)

    He was an English businessman and expert at cultivation of tobacco, he arrived at the colonial settlement of Jamestown Virgina in 1610. In 1614 he married the Indian princess Pocahontas. They returned to Englan where she died in 1616.

    Rolfe returned to Virgina where he was killed in the Jamestown Indian massacre of 1622. The location of his remains are unknown.

  • Notes 
    • John Rolfe (1585 -1622) was one of the early English settlers of North America. He is credited with the first successful cultivation of tobacco as an export crop in the Colony of Virginia and is known as the husband of Pocahontas, daughter of the chief of the Powhatan Confederacy.

      Biography[edit]

      Rolfe was born in Heacham, Norfolk, England as the son of John Rolfe and Dorothea Mason, and was baptised on 6 May 1585. At the time, Spain held a virtual monopoly on the lucrative tobacco trade. Most Spanish colonies in the New World were located in southern climates more favourable to tobacco growth than the English settlements, notably Jamestown. As the consumption of tobacco had increased, the balance of trade between England and Spain began to be seriously affected. Rolfe was one of a number of businessmen who saw the opportunity to undercut Spanish imports by growing tobacco in England's new colony in Virginia. Rolfe had somehow obtained seeds to take with him from a special popular strain then being grown in Trinidad and South America, even though Spain had declared a penalty of death to anyone selling such seeds to a non-Spaniard.[1]

      Sailing with Third Supply to Virginia[edit]
      A project of the proprietary Virginia Company of London, Jamestown had been established by an initial group of settlers on 14 May 1607. This colony proved as troubled as earlier English settlements, and after two return trips with supplies by Christopher Newport arrived in 1608, another larger than ever relief fleet was dispatched in 1609, carrying hundreds of new settlers and supplies across the Atlantic. Heading the Third Supply fleet was the new flagship of the Virginia Company, the Sea Venture, carrying Rolfe and his wife, Sarah Hacker.

      The Third Supply fleet left England in May 1609 destined for Jamestown with seven large ships, towing two smaller pinnaces. In the southern region of the North Atlantic, they encountered a three-day-long storm, thought to have been a severe hurricane. The ships of the fleet became separated. The new Sea Venture, whose caulking had not cured, was taking on water faster than it could be bailed. The Admiral of the Company, Sir George Somers, took the helm and the ship was deliberately driven onto the reefs of Bermuda to prevent its foundering. All aboard, 150 passengers and crew, and 1 dog, survived. Most remained for ten months in Bermuda, subsequently also known as The Somers Isles, while they built two small ships to continue the voyage to Jamestown. A number of passengers and crew, however, did not complete this journey. Some had died or been killed, lost at sea (the Sea Venture's long boat had been fitted with a sail, and several men sent to take word to Jamestown, and they were never heard from again), or left behind to maintain England's claim to Bermuda. Because of this, although the Virginia Company's charter was not extended to Bermuda until 1612, the Colony at Bermuda dates its settlement from 1609. Among those left buried in Bermuda were Rolfe's wife and his infant daughter, Bermuda Rolfe.

      In May 1610, the two newly constructed ships set sail from Bermuda, with 142 castaways on board, including Rolfe, Admiral Somers, Stephen Hopkins, and Sir Thomas Gates. On arrival at Jamestown, they found the Virginia Colony almost destroyed by famine and disease during what has become known as the Starving Time. Very few supplies from the Third Supply had arrived because the same hurricane that caught the Sea Venture badly affected the rest of the fleet. Only 60 settlers remained alive. It was only through the arrival of the two small ships from Bermuda, and the arrival of another relief fleet commanded by Lord De La Warr on 10 June 1610 that the abandonment of Jamestown was avoided and the colony survived. After finally settling in—although his first wife, the English-born Sarah Hacker and their child had died prior to his journey to Virginia—Rolfe began his long-delayed work with tobacco.

      Orinoco tobacco: a cash crop[edit]
      In competing with Spain for European markets, there was another problem beside the warmer climates the Spanish settlements enjoyed. The native tobacco from Virginia was not liked by the English settlers, nor did it appeal to the market in England. However, Rolfe wanted to introduce sweeter strains from Trinidad, using the hard-to-obtain Spanish seeds he brought with him. In 1611, Rolfe is credited with being the first to commercially cultivate Nicotiana tabacum tobacco plants in North America; export of this sweeter tobacco beginning in 1612 helped turn the Virginia Colony into a profitable venture. Rolfe named his Virginia-grown strain of the tobacco "Orinoco", possibly in honour of tobacco popularizer Sir Walter Raleigh's expeditions in the 1580s up the Orinoco River in Guiana in search of the legendary City of Gold, El Dorado.[2] The appeal of Orinoco tobacco was in its nicotine, and the conviviality of its use in social situations.[3]

      His first harvest of four barrels of tobacco leaf was exported from Virginia to England in March 1614,[4] and soon, Rolfe and others were exporting vast quantities of the new cash crop. New plantations began growing along the James River, where export shipments could use wharfs along the river. In 1612, Rolfe established Varina Farms, a plantation along the James River about 30 miles (50 km) upstream from Jamestown, and across the river from Sir Thomas Dale's progressive development at Henricus.

      Pocahontas[edit]

      Rolfe (right, standing behind Pocahontas) as portrayed in The Baptism of Pocahontas, 1840, by John Gadsby Chapman
      Rolfe married Pocahontas, daughter of the local Native American leader Powhatan on 5 April 1614.[5] A year earlier, Alexander Whitaker had converted Pocahontas to Christianity and renamed her "Rebecca" when she had her baptism.[citation needed] Rolfe agonised over the potential moral repercussions of marrying a "heathen," and wrote a long letter to the governor requesting permission to wed her.[citation needed]

      Richard Buck officiated their wedding. Powhatan gave the newlyweds property just across the James River from Jamestown. They never lived on the land, which spanned thousands of acres, and instead lived for two years on Rolfe's plantation, Varina Farms, across the James River from the new community of Henricus. Their son Thomas was born on 30 January 1615.

      Their marriage created a climate of peace between the Jamestown colonists and Powhatan's tribes for several years; in 1615, Ralph Hamor wrote that "Since the wedding we have had friendly commerce and trade not only with Powhatan but also with his subjects round about us."[45]

      The land gifted by Powhatan (now known as Smith's Fort Plantation, located in Surry County) was willed to Rolfe's son Thomas, who in 1640 sold at least a portion of it to Thomas Warren.[6] Smith's Fort was a secondary Fort to Jamestown, begun in 1609 by John Smith.

      John and Rebecca Rolfe travelled to England on the Treasurer, commanded by Samuel Argall, in 1616 with their young son. They arrived at the port of Plymouth on 12 June and Rebecca was widely received as visiting royalty, but settled in Brentford. However, as they were preparing to return to Virginia in March 1617, Rebecca became ill and died. Her body was interred in Gravesend's St George's Church. Their two-year-old son Thomas survived, but was adopted to Sir Lewis Stukley and later to John's brother, Henry Rolfe. John and Tomocomo returned to Virginia.

      Late life, death, heritage[edit]
      In 1619, Rolfe married Jane Pierce, daughter of English colonist Captain William Pierce and Jane Eeles. They had a daughter, Elizabeth, in 1620, who married John Milner of Nansemond, Virginia and died in 1635.

      Rolfe died in 1622 after his plantation was destroyed in a Native American attack. It remains unclear whether Rolfe died in the massacre or whether he died as a result of illness.[7]

      His widow Jane married Englishman Captain Roger Smith three years later. He was the son of John Smith (no relation to Captain John Smith) and Thomasine Manning.

      Rolfe's son with Pocahontas, Thomas, who grew up in England, married Elizabeth Washington in September 1632 at St James's Church in Clerkenwell and they had a daughter Anne in 1633. Elizabeth died shortly after Anne's birth. Thomas returned to Virginia two years later, where he married Jane Poythress.[8][9] Her English parents were Francis Poythress and Alice Payton.[10] Thomas and his second wife had one child, Jane, who married Robert Bolling in 1675 and had a son, John, in 1676. She died later that same year [3]
    • John Rolfe the son of John and Dorothea Rolfe married in England and sailed for Virginia in May 1609. The ship in which he came was wrecked on the Bermudas and here a daughter was born, who was named Bermuda and christened Feb. 11, 1609-10. They reached Virginia in May 1610 and Rolfe's wife and child had either died at the Bermudas or only lived a short time after reaching Virginia.

      He became a prominent member of the Colony and is said to have been the first person to sugest the cultivation of tobacco. Early in April 1614 his celebrated marriage with Pocahontas took place. Though evidently greatly attached to her, he had wrestling in spirit (he had much of the Puritanism so prevalent in the eastern counties of England) before he could make up his mind to marry one of the heathen birth.
      He wrote to Governor Dale: "Nor am I out of hope but one day to see my countrie, nor so void of friends, nor mean of birth, but there to obtain a match to my great content", but love was stronger than his fears. The curious and interesting letter referred to is most accessible in Meade's "Old Churches & Families of Virginia", I. 126-129.

      In 1616 Rolfe and Pocahontas went to England and her reception there and the interest she excited are well known.

      They were about to set sail for Virgnia, on their return, when Pocahontas died at Gravesend and was buried in the Church there March 21, 1616-17. Some confusion has been caused by John Rolfe's name appearing on the register as "Thomas Wrolfe;" but this is no doubt to be accounted for by the fact that he was a stranger only at Gravesend to embark, and that the clerk or rector made a mistake in the name. The Virginia Society of Colonal dames will at an early date erect a memorial to Pocahontas in Gravesend Church.

      He tried to bring his infant son Thomas with him to Virginnia; but when the ship touched at Plymouth it was obvious that the child could not stand the voyage, and he was left there with Sir Lewis Stukeley, until he could be transferred to the care of his uncle Henry Rolfe of London.

      On his return to Virginia Rolfe wrote a letter to Sir Edwin Sandys dated Jamestown, June 8, 1617 in which he speaks of his grief at the death of Pocahontas and explains why he had to leave his son. This letter was printed in this Magazie X 134-138.

      In the year 1617 Rolfe was appointed Recorder and Secretary General of the Colony, and in 1619 was a member of the Council. As a member of this body he sat in the first Amerian legislature, the Virginia Assembly of 1619, and is the only member of that Assembly who is known to have descendants living at the present day. He married in or before 1620 Jane, daughter of Captain William Pierce (also of the Virginia Council) and had a daughter Elizabeth born 1620. John Rolfe died in 1622 and it is probable that he was killed in the great Indian Massacre of that year. In addition to the letters referred to Rolfe was the author of a "relation" of events in Virginia. Smith, Hamor and all of the early writers speak of him as an honest and worthy gentleman.
      His will has been published (in abstract) in Waters' "Gleanings" and is as follows:

      John Rolfe, of James City in Virginnia, Esq., dated 10 March 1621, proved May 21, 1630 [in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury] by William Pyers [Pierce], Father-in-law William Pyers, gentleman, to have charge of the two small children of very tender age. A parcel of land in the Country or Continent of Virginia, to son Thomas Rolfe and his heirs, failing his issue to my daughter Elizabeth; [The land here bequeathed was no doubt the "Smiths Fort" tract], next to my right heirs. Land on Mulberry Island Virginia, to my wife Jane, during her natural life then to daughter Elizabeth. To my servant Robert Davies twenty pounds.

      Witnesses: Temperance Yeardley, Richard Buck, John Cartwright, Robert Davys and John Milwarde. [1]

  • Sources 
    1. [S5212] http://algw.org/butler/families/rolfe.htm.

    2. [S4037] http://www.smokykin.com/tng/getperson.php?personID=I43252&tree=Smokykin.

    3. [S4046] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Rolfe.

    4. [S4058] http://www.geni.com/people/John-Rolfe/6000000002908624814.

    5. [S4039] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pocahontas.