Friday, April 05, 2024

Today in 1614, Pocahontas Marries Brit

When she was 11 in 1607 she is said to have saved the life of Jamestown settler John Smith:

He traded for corn (maize) with the local Indians and began a series of river voyages that later enabled him to draw a remarkably accurate map of Virginia. While exploring the Chickahominy River in December 1607, he and his party were ambushed by members of the Powhatan empire, which dominated the region. He was ultimately taken to their emperor, Chief Powhatan, also known as Wahunsenacah. According to Smith’s account, he was about to be put to death when he was saved by the chief’s young daughter of age 10 or 11, Pocahontas, who placed herself between him and his executioners.

A painting of said event.

For larger image, click here.

A few years later she learned English and converted to Christianity — while held in “friendly” captivity by the British — and took the name Rebecca. 

John Rolfe, a prominent tobacco farmer in the Jamestown area, asked for and received permission to marry her from both her father Chief Powhatan and the Virginia governor. 

This was a pretty radical move in 1614, a white Brit marrying an Indian princess — but it bought a few years of peace in the region, which is probably one of the primary reasons everyone was good with it.

She bore him a son the following year and in 1616 they traveled back to his home in England. Things went well until they didn’t:

In the spring of 1616 Pocahontas, her husband, their one-year-old son, Thomas, and a group of other Native Americans, men and women, sailed with Governor Dale to England. There she was entertained at royal festivities. The Virginia Company apparently saw her visit as a device to publicize the colony and to win support from King James I and investors. While preparing to return to America, Pocahontas fell ill, probably with an upper respiratory ailment (though some historians believe that she may have contracted smallpox or dysentery). Her illness took a turn for the worse and interrupted her return voyage before her ship left the River Thames. She died in the town of Gravesend at about age 21 and was buried there on March 21, 1617. Afterward her husband immediately returned to Virginia; her son remained in England until 1635, when he went to Virginia and became a successful tobacco planter.

She was just 21 when she died — but in all honesty, that sounds like one adventure-filled life.

By 1622 nearly everyone at Jamestown was dead, murdered in a surprise raid by the Powhatan tribe — her father had passed in 1618, this was not on him — in what came to be known as the Jamestown Massacre

Hmm, I wonder if they showed that in the Disney movie…