Daughter of Chief Powhatan of the Algonquinn Red
Indians, Pocahontas has been immortalised by Walt
Her father Chief Powhattan of the Algonquinn Indians is
said to have had over 100 wives and many many children.
It is believed that Pocahontas was born around the year
1595 and was actually called Matoaka Rebecka. She is
said to have been one of Chief Powhattans favourites and
according to the Powhatan Indians 'Pocahontas' was
actually a nickname which meant ‘naughty one’ or
When Sir Walter Raleigh explored the country of North
America which he named Virginia after Queen Elizabeth
the first, his accounts of the richness of the country
caused an English company to be formed called the
"London Virginia Chartered Company". It was this company
who sent English settlers to North America of
which Captain Smith was one of them. Smith was captured
by the Indians whilst exploring their teritory.
Now according to Walt Disney and the legend Pocahontas
is said to have saved the life of Captain John Smith by
laying her head over his when her father had ordered
that Captain Smith be clubbed to death.
There is no real proof that it
was Pocahontas who saved Smith's life as there are no
documents about it and Smith only began to mention this
incident after Pocahontas had died. If it did take place
then Pocahontas would have been around 12 years old.
Whatever did or did not happen Chief Powhatan did not
have Smith clubbed to death but instead initiated him
into his tribe as a subchief. He feasted him, and
then returned him safe and sound to the colony. When
later Smith's colony ran out of food, it was Pocahontas
who kept the colonists from starving to death. By
visiting them regularly with food and acting as an
intermediary between her father and the colonists.
Then in 1613 Pocahontas was lured abroad a ship ‘The
Treasurer’ by a Captain Samuel Argyll, where she was
held hostage to ensure the good behaviour of the
natives. Or it may have been that he planned to
trade her for Englishmen held captive by the Indians. On
board ship her jailor was the Revd Whittaker and his
wife who gave her Christian teaching from the bible
helped by one John Rolfe. She was baptised 1613/1614 in
Jamestown and renamed Rebecka. It is said that she was
the first Indian to have been baptised.
John Rolfe (1585/1586–1622) of Heacham
Hall had left the family home for America to seek his
fortune he was involved in the tobacco trade and was the
first Englishman to introduce the regular cultivation of
tobacco into Virginia. He embarked with his FIRST wife
on one of a number of ships carrying settlers into the
new world but his first wife died with their child at
some stage during the journey.
Some say that Pocahontas fell in love during her
Christian teachings and that Rolfe was captivated by her
looks, her bravery and her gentle manner, others suggest
that Rolfe thought having a daughter of a Indian Chief
as a wife would greatly assist his long term aims in
America. They were married around 1614 probably in
Jamestown, (which incidentally was named after the
reigning King of England of that time.) Pocahontas's
father is said to have agreed to the wedding but did not
attend the ceremony.
John Rolfe and Pocahontas had a child Thomas who was
born around 1615. The whole family returned to England
in 1615/1616 and Pocahontas was presented at court where
she caused a sensation with her exotic looks. King James
had her father Powhatan coronated Emperor of Virginia,
which made Pocahontas a princess, theoretically
outranking a lot of the English nobility. Some rumours
say that James 1st never forgave John Rolfe for marrying
a Princess without his Sovereigns leave. She attended
plays by William Shakespeare at the Globe Theatre,
attended balls and also met Captain John Smith again.
The family decided to return to Virginia in 1617.
Pocahontas succumbed to the English disease of small pox
and died on the eve of her return to America at
Gravesend. Others say that she had actually boarded ship
and then fell ill and had to be taken off. She was
buried at Gravesend. Unfortunately in 1727
Gravesend Church burnt down and the exact location of
her grave was lost. The register is said to record
'Pocahontas 1616 March 2 buried in ye Chauncell'.
John Rolfe returned to America married
for the THIRD time but died with his wife during the
fighting which took place during the Indian massacres in
Pocahontas's son Thomas remained in England until he was
23, then he returned to America possibly to
Virginia where there is a village called Heacham which
dates from the time of his return.
Inside the church of St. Mary at Heacham there is a
memorial to Pocahontas carved by a pupil of 'Rodin', she
is also shown on the village sign of Heacham. In both
she is dressed in a stylish Jacobean trilby hat and
great neck ruff. A picture which is believed to be of
Pocahontas and her son can be found at the Kings Lynn
Museum. There is also a memorial to Pocahontas in the
church at Jamestown.
Heacham Hall was unfortunately destroyed by fire during
the Second World War.