Pocahontas, the Native American woman from Jamestown, Virginia, died 400 years ago today. She was only 19 years old and was the most important woman in colonial America.
My new book is being released today. POCAHONTAS AND HER TWO HUSBANDS: The TRUTH, Not Animated Fiction, About Kocoum and John Rolfe (Not John Smith). It’s available as a physical book and as a Kindle ebook from Amazon.
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In the summer of 2010, almost 400 years later, archeologists have finally located the foundation of the Jamestown church John Rolfe and Pocahontas were married in, which was built in 1608. It was the second church built in Jamestown, as the first church had burned down along with everything else on January 7, 1608. Then in the summer of 2011, archeologists finished excavating the entire footprint of the 1608 church and were surprised at how large it was, 64 feet by 24 feet. This is larger than the later 20 feet by 50 feet brick church which has now been reconstructed. It was much larger than any other building, and would have dominated the 1.1 acre fort.
On April 13, 1613, after receiving a favorable answer to his ransom demands, Captain Samuel Argall leaves Potowomac, but sails to Jamestown rather than to meet Chief Powhatan and receive the ransom. After reaching Jamestown, Princess Pocahontas is sent to the new village of Henrico, 55 miles upriver from Jamestown. Sir Thomas Dale, the Marshal, is headquartered in Henrico.
In Jamestown, between August 11 and August 14, 1609, the other seven ships of the Third Supply arrive. Captain Gabriel Archer on the Blessing reports that they were in high winds and seas for about 44 hours, less than half of the more than 96 hours that the Sea Venture endured. The Sea Venture doesn’t arrive and is thought lost.
The other seven ships of the Third Supply add about 400 settlers to Jamestown.
The Sea Venture, with John Rolfe on board, loses contact with all the other ships of the fleet in the first day. They cut loose the ketch on the fear that the ketch will swamp and pull both ships under, and the ketch and those aboard are never heard from again.
The other six ships emerge from the storm after 48 hours. Eventually all six of the other ships and the Virginia, which had turned back and started again after repairs, all reach Jamestown in good time. Only the Sea Venture is blown along with the storm and endures much, much more.
William Strachey, who was aboard the Sea Venture with John Rolfe, was born in 1572 in Essex of minor gentry. He entered Cambridge University in 1588. In 1605 he was in London as a member of Gray’s Inn where he studied law. He is a stockholder in Blackfriars Theater and has many friends in literary circles. He is close friends with John Donne, Thomas Campion, and Ben Jonson. He certainly has friends in common with and probably knows William Shakespeare. In 1606 Strachey became secretary to the English ambassador to Constantinople, Turkey, and moved there. They didn’t get along and Strachey was fired. He returned to London in 1608. He buys two shares in the Virginia Company of London, and in 1609 he sails on the Sea Venture to Jamestown.
A week into the voyage the Virginia discovers it is leaking seriously and turns back for repairs, so the fleet of the Third Supply is reduced to eight ships. The Virginia will continue on to Jamestown after repairs.
Captain Samuel Argall
Captain Samuel Argall, who looms large later in the history of Jamestown, reaches Jamestown on July 13, 1609, in only nine weeks instead of the usual 16 weeks. But the Sea Venture fleet doesn’t know this, as it departs only ten days after Argall. Captain Argall tells the colonists in Jamestown that the Third Supply fleet will be arriving soon.
Colonial Clay Pipe
As a young adult, John Rolfe likes to smoke a pipe of tobacco. A gentleman typically smokes only one bowl of a pipe in an evening. So the quantity of tobacco smoked is nothing like the quantity of cigarettes, which were developed 200 years later, smoked by a typical smoker today.
In Rolfe’s time in the early 1600’s, clay pipes for smoking tobacco are very small. The tiny bowl of the pipe holds only about one twenty-fifth of an ounce of tobacco. You can see an historic pipe in the museum at Jamestown. The entire bowl of the clay pipe is about the size of the tip of my little finger from the bottom of the fingernail to the end, and I have small hands.
John Rolfe’s first accomplishment was his sole responsibility for the economic success of the Virginia colony. For years the colony could find no gold, silver, pearls, or cash crop. John Rolfe developed the first and only cash crop, which assured the success of the colony and made it not only viable but wildly successful financially. The History Channel’s 2010 production America: The Story of Us called Jamestown after the success of John Rolfe’s tobacco America’s first boomtown. Without the entrepreneurship of John Rolfe, Jamestown would have been a ghost town.
Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement in the Americas, thirteen years before the Virginia Company of London granted a land patent to colonists on the Mayflower allowing them to settle at the mouth of the Hudson River in 1620. However, they sailed to the north and settled in what is now New England.
The Virginia colony was in serious trouble financially and the colonists were constantly dwindling in number and strength because of disease, starvation, and Indian attacks, and likely wouldn’t survive. Two accomplishments by John Rolfe turned things around for Jamestown, for Virginia, and ultimately for the future United States.