Heathcock Genealogy Database - Person Sheet
Heathcock Genealogy Database - Person Sheet
NameJohn Rolfe 1637, 10G Grandfather
Birth6 May 1585, Heacham, Norfolk, England
Death22 Mar 1622, Jamestown, James City,Virginia Age: 36
FatherJohn Rolfe (1562-1594)
MotherDorothy Mason (ca1565-1645)
Marriagebef 1609
Birth13 Nov 1595, Tidewater, James City Co VA1679
Death21 Mar 1617, Gravesend, England Age: 21
MotherWinanuske Nonoma (1571-1618)
Marriage5 Apr 16141680
ChildrenThomas (1615-ca1675)
3Jane Pierce , 10G Grandmother
Birthca 1600, Heacham, Norfolk, England
Marriagebef 25 Jan 1620, VA
ChildrenElizabeth Pierce (1620-)
Notes for John Rolfe
John Rolfe, one of the original Jamestown settlers, is known for having indroduced tobacco culture in the New World and for having been the husband of the Indian Princess Pocahantis, daughter of Chief Powhatan.1681

Research notes on John Rolfe:1637

John Rolfe sailed for Virginia in May 1609. The ship - the 'Sea Venture' in which he came was wrecked in the Bermudas, and a daughter was born there, aptly named Bermuda.

He became a prominent member of the Colony and is said to have been the first person to suggest the cultivation of tobacco. Early in April 1614 his celebrated marriage to Pocahontas took place. Though evidently greatly attached to her, he had wrestled 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 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 that his fears. This letter is referred to in Meade's " Old Churches and Families of Virginia' I p 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 Virginia when Pocahontas died at Gravesend and was buried in the Church there 21 March 1616/17. He had to leave his young son, Thomas, behind as he could not stand the voyage.

In the year 1617, John 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 American legislature, the Virginia Assembly of 1619.

He married about 1619 Jane Pierce. He died in 1622 and notwithstanding his former marriage to Pocahontas, it is supposted that he was killed in the great Indian massacre of 22 March 1622.

His will, dated 10 March 1621 was proved 21 May 1630, and he names his father-in-law, William Pierce his execitour.

Oil painting of John Rolfe and Pocahontas, Enclopedia Virginia: http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/media_player?m...=evm00000037mets.xml
Notes for John Rolfe
John Rolfe1682

John Rolfe stepped into history in May 1609, when he boarded the Sea Venture, bound for Virginia.

The Virginia Company, founded by investors, had financed and sponsored the English colony founded at Jamestown in May 1607. The Company expected the colonists to start industrial enterprises in Virginia that would return profits to the Company. The colonists in Virginia tried a number of different enterprises: silk making, glassmaking, lumber, sassafras, pitch and tar, and soap ashes, with no financial success. It was John Rolfe's experiments with tobacco that developed the first profitable export.

The Spaniards found the natives in the West Indies using the tobacco plant. They took seed to Europe where its use soon spread to other countries around the Mediterranean Sea.

Sir Walter Raleigh is often credited with the introduction of the use of tobacco in England. While he may not have been responsible for its introduction, he apparently played an important role in the spread of tobacco use among the English. Spain and Portugal monopolized the European tobacco trade; England imported tobacco from Spain.

The English colonists did not like the type of tobacco the Virginia Indians grew. They preferred the fragrant sort that Spanish colonists produced in the Caribbean and sold in large quantities at high prices to London merchants.

The Sea Venture was the flagship of a nine-ship convoy of 500 new settlers. By July, the ships had reached the West Indies where they were struck by a hurricane. The Sea Venture ran aground on a reef off the Bermudas, but the entire company of 150 safely reached shore in the ship's boats.

The colonists found Bermuda to be a hospitable place with sufficient food. In the following months, two smaller ships were built from cedar trees and salvage. By May 1610 the two ships, aptly named the Patience and the Deliverance, were ready. The ships reached the Chesapeake Bay after ten days sailing.

While on Bermuda, John Rolfe's wife had given birth to a daughter who was christened Bermuda, but the child died there. Rolfe's wife also died, probably soon after they reached Virginia.

John Rolfe is credited by Ralph Hamor, then Secretary of Virginia, with the experiment of planting the first tobacco seeds that he obtained from somewhere in the Caribbean, possibly from Trinidad. "...I may not forget the gentleman worthie of much commendations, which first tooke the pains to make triall thereof, his name Mr. John Rolfe, Anno Domini 1612, partly for the love he hath a long time borne unto it, and partly to raise commodity to the adventurers..." Rolfe gave some tobacco from his crop to friends "to make triall of," and they agreed that the new leaf had "smoked pleasant, sweete and strong. The remainder of the crop was shipped to England where it compared favorably with "Spanish" leaf.

At the same time as Rolfe experimented with tobacco, other events transpired that would have profound effects on the colony.

Pocahontas, daughter of Chief Powhatan, was kidnapped and brought to Jamestown to be traded for English prisoners and weapons that Powhatan held. The exchange never took place. Pocahontas was taken to the settlement at Henrico where she learned English, converted to Christianity, was baptized, and christened Rebecca. It was about this time that she presumably came to the attention of John Rolfe.

Rolfe was a pious man who agonized for many weeks over the decision to marry a heathen. He composed a long, laborious letter to Governor Dale asking for permission to marry Pocahontas. The letter reflected Rolfe's dilemma. The tone suggests it was intended mainly for official records, but at some points Rolfe bared his true feelings. "It is Pocahontas," he wrote, "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 (could not) unwind myself thereout." The wedding took place in the spring of 1614. It resulted in peace with the Indians long enough for the settlers to develop and expand their colony and plant themselves permanently in the new land.

In 1616 Rolfe took his wife and infant son Thomas to England, Pocahontas died at Gravesend seven months later, just before returning to Virginia. A sad John Rolfe left his young son in the care of a guardian in England and returned to his adopted home.

Upon Rolfe's return to Virginia, he assumed more prominence in the colony. He became a councilor and sat as a member of the House of Burgesses. He married again to Jane Pierce, daughter of a colonist. He continued his efforts to improve the quality and quantity of Virginia tobacco.

In 1617 tobacco exports to England totaled 20,000 pounds. The next year shipment more than doubled. Twelve years later, one and a half million pounds were exported. The first great American enterprise had been established.

John Rolfe died sometime in 1622. Although a third of the colony was killed in the Indian uprising of that year, it is not known how Rolfe died. In a life that held much personal tragedy, he had given the colony its economic base.

Revised by Jen Loux, William and Mary Intern, November 1995
Notes for John Rolfe
Letter of John Rolfe, 16141683,1684

The coppie of the Gentle-mans letters to Sir Thomas Dale, that after married Powhatans daughter, containing the reasons moving him thereunto.

Honourable Sir, and most worthy Governor:

When your leasure shall best serve you to peruse these lines, I trust in God, the beginning will not strike you into a greater admiration, then 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 mee so neerely, as the tendernesse of my salvation. Howbeit I freely subject my selfe to your grave and mature judgement, deliberation, approbation, and determination; assuring my selfe of your zealous admonitions, and godly comforts, either perswading me to desist, or incouraging me to persist therin, with a religious and godly care, for which (from the very instant, that this began to roote it selfe within the secret bosome of my brest) my daily and earnest praiers have bin, still are, and ever shall be produced forth with as sincere a godly zeale as I possibly may to be directed, aided and governed in all my thoughts, words, and deedes, to the glory of God, and for my eternal consolation. To persevere wherein I never had more neede, nor (till now) could ever imagine to have bin moved with the like occasion.

But (my case standing as it doth) what better worldly refuge can I here seeke, then to shelter my selfe under the safety of your favourable protection? And did not my ease proceede from an unspotted conscience, I should not dare to offer to your view and approved judgement, these passions of my troubled soule, so full of feare and trembling in hypocrisie and dissimulation. But knowing my owne innocency and godly fervor, in the whole prosecution hereof, I doubt not of your benigne acceptance, and clement construction. As for malicious depravers, and turbulent spirits, to whom nothing is tastful7 but what pleaseth their unsavory paalat, I passe not for them being well assured in my perswasion (by the often trial and proving of my selfe, in my holiest meditations and praiers) that I am called hereunto by the spirit of God; and it shall be sufficient for me to be protected by your selfe in all vertuous and pious indevours. And for my more happie proceeding herein, my daily oblations shall ever be addressed to bring to passe so good effects, that your selfe, and all the world may truely say: This is the worke of God, and it is marvelous in our eies.

But to avoid tedious preambles, and to come neerer the matter: first suffer me with your patence, to sweepe and make cleane the way wherein I walke, from all suspicions and doubts, which may be covered therein, and faithfully to reveale unto you, what should move me hereunto.

Let therefore this my well advised protestation, which here I make betweene God and my own conscience, be a sufficient witnesse, at the dreadfull day of judgement (when the secret of all mens harts shall be opened) to condemne me herein, if my chiefest intent and purpose be not, to strive with all my power of body and minde, in the undertaking of so mightie a matter, no way led (so farre forth as mans weakenesse may permit) with the unbridled desire of carnall affection: but for the good of this plantation, for the honour of our countrie, for the glory of God, for my owne salvation, and for the converting to the true knowledge of God and Jesus Christ, an unbeleeving creature, namely Pokahuntas. To whom my hartie and best thoughts are, and have a long time bin so intagled, and inthralled in so intricate a laborinth, that I was even awearied to unwinde my selfe 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 plainely see and discerne the safe paths wherein to treade.

To you therefore (most noble Sir) the patron and Father of us in this countrey doe I utter the effects of this setled and long continued affection (which hath made a mightie warre in my mediations) and here I doe truely relate, to what issue this dangerous combate is come unto, wherein I have not onely examined, but throughly tried and pared my thoughts even to the quick, before I could Snde and fit wholesome and apt applications to cure so daungerous an ulcer. I never failed to offer my daily and faithfull praiers to God, for his sacred and holy assistance. I forgot not to set before mine eies the frailty of mankinde, his prones to evill, his indulgencie of wicked thoughts, with many other imperfections wherein man is daily insnared, and oftentimes overthrowne, and them compared to my present estate. Nor was I ignorant of the heavie displeasure which almightie God conceived against the sonnes of Levie and Israel for marrying strange wives, nor of the inconveniences which may thereby arise, with other the like good motions which made me looke about warily and with good circumspection, into the grounds and principall agitations, which thus should provoke me to be in love with one whose education hath bin rude, her manners barbarous, her generation accursed, and so discrepant in all nurtriture frome my selfe, that oftentimes with feare and trembling, I have ended my private controversie with this: surely these are wicked instigations, hatched by him who seeketh and delighteth in mans destruction; and so with fervent praiers to be ever preserved from such diabolical assaults (as I tooke those to be) I have taken some rest.

Thus-when I had thought I had obtained my peace and quitnesse, beholde another, but more gracious tentation hath made breaches into my holiest and strongest meditations; with which I have bin put to a new traill, in a straighter manner then the former: for besides the many passions and sufferings which I have daily, hourely, yea and in my sleepe indured, even awaking mee to astonishment, taxing mee with remisnesse, and carlesnesse, refusing and neglecting to performe the duetie of a good Christian, pulling me by the eare, and crying: why dost not thou indevour to make her a Christian? And these have happened to my greater wonder, ven when she hath bin furthest seperated from me, which in common reason (were it not an undoubted worke of God) might breede forgetfulnesse of a farre more worthie creature. Besides, I say the holy spirit of God often demaunded of me, why I was created?

If not for transitory pleasures and worldly vanities, but to labour in the Lords vineyard, there to sow and plant, to nourish and increase the fruites thereof, daily adding witt the good husband in the Gospell, somewhat to the tallent, that in the end the fruites 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: wo unto him that hath these instruments of pietie put into his hands and wilfillly despiseth to worke with them. Likewise, adding hereunto her great apparance of love to me, her desire to be taught and instructed in the knowledge of God, her capablenesse of understanding, her aptnesse and willingnesse to receive anie good impression, and also the spirituall, besides her owne incitements stirring me up hereunto.

What should I doe? Shall I be of so untoward a disposition, as to refuse to leade the blind into the right way? Shall I be so unnaturall, as not to give bread to the hungrie? or uncharitable, as not to cover the naked? Shall I despise to actuatethese pious dueties of a Christian? Shall the base feare of displeasing the world, overpower and with holde mee from revealing unto man these spirituall workes of the Lord, which in my meditations and praiers, I have daily made knowne unto him? God forbid. I assuredly trust hee hath thus delt with me for my eternall felicitie, and for his glorie: and I hope so to be guided by his heavenly graice, that in the end by my faithfilll paines, and christianlike labour, I shall attaine to that blessed promise, Pronounced by that holy Prophet Daniell unto the righteous that bring many unto the knowledge of God. Namely, that they shall shine like the starres forever and ever. A sweeter comfort cannot be to a true Christian, nor a greater incouragement for him to labour all the daies of his life, in the performance thereof, nor a greater gaine of consolation, to be desired at the hower of death, and in the day of judgement.

Againe by my reading, and conference with honest and religious persons, have I received no small encouragement, besides serena mea conscientia, the cleerenesse of my conscience, clean from the filth of impurity, quoe est instar muri ahenei, which is unto me, as a brasen wall. If I should set down at large, the perhioations and godly motions, which have striven within mee, I should but make a tedious and unnecessary volume. But I doubt not these shall be sufficient both to certifie you of my tru intents, in discharging of my dutie to God, and to your selfe, to whose gracious providence I humbly submit my selfe, for his glory, your honour, our Countreys good, the benefit of this Plantation, and for the converting of one unregenerate, to regeneration; which I beseech God to graunt, for his deere Sonne Christ Jesus his sake.

Now if the vulgar sort, who square all mens actions by the base rule of their owne filthinesse, shall taxe or taunt me in this my godly labour: let them know, it is not any hungry appetite, to gorge my selfe with incontinency; sure (if I would, and were so sensually inclined) I might satisfie such desire, though not without a seared conscience, yet with Christians more pleasing to the eie, and lesse fearefull in the offence unlawfully committed. Nor am I in so desperate an estate, that I regard not what becommeth of mee; 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 mach to my great content: nor have I ignorantly passed over my hopes there, or regardlesly seek to loose the love of my- friends, by taking this course: I know them all, and have not rashly overslipped any.

But shal it please God thus to dispose of me (which I earnestly desire to fulfill my ends before sette down) I will heartely accept of it as a godly taxe appointed me, and I will never cease, (God assisting me) untill I have accomplished, and brought to perfection so holy a worke, in which I will daily pray God to blesse me, to mine, and her eternall happines. 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 raine downe 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 off

John Rolfe
Notes for Sarah (Spouse 1)
John Rolfe’s first wife and infant daughter Bermuda died and were buried on Bermuda before the original party continued on the Sea Venture to establish the Jamestown settlement in 1609.
Notes for Rebecca Matoaka Pocahantas (Spouse 2)

When the Disney movie about Pocahontas came out, we tried to tell some of the media people the truth about the actual status of Pocahontas, but nobody would listen. Just recently we received a letter from Stephen Bunford, in England, containing an article that had been published there some time ago. We are recording all of it herewith:


Pocahontas (meaning "playful little girl") was the daughter of the powerful chief Powhatan, ruler of some 40 Algonquin tribes who lived along Chesapeake Bay in what is now the American state of Virginia. She was born in 1595.

When Pocahontas was 12 years old colonists arrived to tame the 'native savages" and build Jamestown as a foothold in the New World of America. Captain John Smith was put in charge of fortifying the new settlement against attack and went off alone in search of food. But he was captured by warriors and dragged before chief Powhatan and condemned to death.

Smith was placed on a sacrificial rock and before the executioners stone clubs were brought down the chief's daughter, Pocahontas, rushed over and lay her head across Smith's, thus saving his life.

Pocahontas went on to save many more lives by warning them of impending attacks, but when she was 18 she was taken hostage by settlers as ransom for eight Englishmen held captive by her father. It was at this time that she converted to christianity and was baptised Rebecca. She also fell in love with 28 year old Englishman John Rolfe, who originated from Norfolk and who had sailed with Sir Francis Drake. They married and went on to establish a tobacco plantation and have a son, Thomas.

In 1616 when she was 21 the family travelled to England. The "Princess" had become a celebrity through the stories told by Captain Smith. She visited Sir Walter Raleigh and danced at court as a guest of King James I and Queen Anne.

In March 1617 the "Princess" was arranging to sail home from Gravesend, Kent, when she contracted smallpox and died aged 22. She is buried in St. George's church in Gravesend.
Last Modified 4 Jun 2015Created 15 Jun 2022 using Reunion for Macintosh
Click a name for research notes about the person.
Click the camera icon for photos and other media.
Click on the tree icon for a 5-generation pedigree of the person.