| || Notes for John Rolfe:|
The following comes from, Virginia Will Records, "The Will of John Rolfe", by Jane Carson who holds the M.A. degree from the University of Virginia, is Instructor in American History, Newcomb College, Tulane University. Her special interest is Colonial Virginia and at present she is engaged in preparing a study of Sir William Berkley, Governor of Virginia.
The Will of John Rolfe
Early in the summer of 1609 a fleet of nine ships sailed from Plymouth, bearing to Virginia the Third Supply of settlers and provisions and the first group of government officials under the Company's new charter. The flagship, the Sea-Venture, carried Sir George Somers, Admiral;Sir Thomas Gates, Deputy Governor; William Strachey, Secretary; Captain Christopher Newport, and about 150 emigrants, among whom was a young man in his middle twenties, John Rolfe. Late in July a severe storm scattered the fleet, and the Sea-Venture, seriously damaged, ran aground just off one of the Bermuda. All the passengers were safely brought ashore, where they lived comfortably enough for the next eight months. With tools and timbers salvaged from the wreck, supplemented by lumber cut from the island's trees, they managed to build two small vessels which took them on to Jamestown in the spring.
The other ships of the fleet had weathered the storm and gone directly to Virginia, bringing the London plague, yellow fever, and ruined supplies to a colony already burdened with troubles enough. The terrible winter that followed is fittingly called the Starving Time. Thus Virginia's fortunes had reached their lowest point when John Rolfe arrived in May 1610. Jamestown appeared to Sir Thomas Gates "raither as the ruins of some auntient (for)tification then that any people living might now inhabit it. . . the Indians as fast killing without as the famine and pestilence within". Since houses and provisions were inadequate, Gates decided to abandon the Colony. Early in June the four available ships, loaded with all the colonists and supplies, started down the James, bound for Newfoundland; about fifteen miles from Jamestown they were met by a long boat from Lord Delaware's ship anchored at Point Comfort, announcing the timely arrival of the Governor himself with three supply ships and 150 new settlers. Once again the Jamestown experiment was renewed, but the existence of the
colony remained precarious until some solution could be found for the two most pressing problems: the threat of hostile Indians and the need of some profitable native product to provide economic security.
John Rolfe played a leading role in the discovery of a solution to each of these problems. His first three years in Virginia were difficult ones both for him and his fellow colonists. At some time during that period he experimented with the native tobacco and succeeded in producing a leaf more palatable to British taste than that grown in the West Indies. It is generally believed that he perfected a curing process which would prevent injury from the dampness of the sea voyage and the English climate, thus giving to Virginia a sound basis for economic prosperity.
His celebrated marriage to Pocahontas in April 1614, was followed by eight years of peace with all the Virginia Indians. "Ever since (the marriage)", wrote Secretary Hamor, "we have had friendly commerce and trade not only with Powhatan himselfe, but also with his subjects round about us, so as now I see no reason why the Collonie should not thrive apace." The freedom from Indian warfare and from anxious preparations for defence afforded greater opportunity for building up the colony, and general confidence in the success of the Virginia experiment may be dated from this Indian peace.
When Rolfe and his wife visited England in 1616, the enthusiastic reception accorded Pocahontas as "the Lady Rebecca" served as favorable publicity for Virginia as well. Rolfe's Relation, written for King James and Sir Robert Rich while the author was in England, presented an optimistic picture which further boosted the spirits of the King and Company. He wrote: "Our people yearely plant and reape quietly, and travel in the woods a fowling and a hunting as freely and securely from fear of danger or treacheries as in England. The great blessings of God have followed this peace, and it, next under him, hath bredd our plentie--everyie man sitting under his fig tree in safety, gathering and reaping the fruits of their labours with much joy and comfort."
After his return to Virginia, Rolfe held prominent positions in the colony. He had succeeded Hamor as Secretary in 1614 and in 1617 held the office of Recorder General as well; he was a member of the Council from 1619 until his death in 1622. He is believed to have been a victim of the massacre
(Notes at bottom of page: Ralph Hamor, A True Discourse of the Present estate of Virginia (London,1615), quoted in Mary Newton Stanard, The Story of Virginia's First Century (Philadelphia, 1928), p. 119.
John Rolfe, A True Relation of the State of Virginia at the Time When Sir Thomas Dale Left it in May,1616 in The Southern Literary Messenger, V (June, 1839), 402-3.
of that year, but the fact that he was ill in 1621, when he made his Will, casts some doubt on the truth of the tradition.
Rolfe was married three times. His first wife accompanied him on the trip to Virginia, where she died soon after their arrival. The only child of this marriage was a daughter, Bermuda, who was christened on the island for which she was named, and appears to have died there. His second wife, Pocahontas, died in England at Gravesend, while they waited for a favorable wind to take the ship back to Virginia. Rolfe's only son, Thomas, was her child. His third wife, Jane, survived him, and their daughter, Elizabeth, wasliving with them in Virginia when Rolfe made his Will.
Although John Rolfe has long been a subject of great interest to Virginia genealogists and historians, a significant figure about whom little is known, his Will has been published only in abstract. The reason may well be attributed to the fact that it contains no evidence to support the traditions pointed to find no reference to lands in Bermuda Hundred, for tradition tells that he owned a plantation about fifteen miles below Richmond at Varina. Here he is supposed to have lived with his Indian bride and to have raised his first crop of improved tobacco; and the fact of the severity of the massacre of 1622 in that region forms the chief basis for the conclusion that he was killed by the Powhatan Indians. But in spite of its omissions, the document is an important addition to the scanty source materials from which his role in history is written.
The Will was drawn in Jamestown March 10, 1621, and probated in London May 21, 1630. The original copy probably remained in the hands of his executor and has disappeared. But two copies are still in London, where they may be examined today. The probate copy (PCC 1630) bears a notation showing careful comparison with the original and two signatures attesting the accuracy of this copy. The registered copy (49Scroope) is a duplicate of the probate in every detail except for variations in spelling (ie for y, tion for con and the like), less frequent capitalization and fewer marks of punctuation. Photostats of both are in the Manuscript Division of the University of Virginia Library. It is the probate copy which is here transcribed.
In the name of God Amen: The Tenth day of March Anno dni 1621 and in the yeare of the Raigne of Soveraigne Lorde James by the grace of god Kinge of England Scotland France and Ireland defender of the Faith &c That is to say of England France and Ireland the Nyneteenth And of Scotland the lvth I John Rolfe of James Citty in Virginia Esquire beinge sicke in body, but of perfecte minde and memory (laude and prayse be given to Almightie god therefore) doe make and ordaine this my laste and finall Will and Testament in forme followeinge that is to say: Firste and principally I doe Commend my soule into the hands of Almightye god my maker and Redeemer, assuredly trusteinge in the meritts of JesusChriste my Lorde and onely Savior, to have full and ample remission of all my sinnes, Angells and archaungells and blessed Sts and electe of that Eternall kingdome: And att the discretion of my executor hereafter named in such decent and Comely manner as vnto my said Executor shalbe thoughte fitte: item whereas Almightye god hath bestowed vpon me two small children of vey tender age for whose bringingvppe and education in the faith and true feare on the same god I knowe myselfe obliged to be zealously careful. Therefore I do Commend and Comitte them vnto the tuition of my deerely beloved friend and father in Lawe Levetenant William Pyers (Pierce) gent vpon whose love and favor in this behalfe I doe with greate Confidence depend: And for their better meanes of Sustentacon and educacon, I doe hereby devise and ordaine, that my said Father in Lawe shall and may have, hold, receiue, take, order and dispose of all and all Manner such estate and estates, as vnto them shall discend and come, and of Right belonge and appertaine durreing the time oftheir minority. Item whereas by certaine Letters Pattents vender the Comon or generall Seale of the Kings Mats Councell for Virginia, heretofore made and granted to me and my heyres, I ame and stande lawfully seysed of, a certaine parcell or quantity of Land situate in the Countrye of Toppahannah between the two Creeks over againste James Citty in the Contynent or Countrye of Virginia: My will and desire is, and I doe hereby devise and ordaine that the said Land or grounde, and all and singuler profits Comodityes emoluents, Rights, Royaltyes, Jurisdiccons and hereditaments what soever thereunto belongeinge or in anywise appertayneinge, shall be and shall and may remaine and be vnto my sonne Thomas, and to the heyres of his bodye lawfully begotten And I doe hereby give grante and Confirme the same premisses vnto my said sonne accordingly by these presents: And for defalte of such yssue to the vse and behoofe of Elizabeth my daughter, and to the heyres of her body lawfully to be begotten, and for defalte of such yssue, to the vse and behoofe of the Right heyres of the said John Rolfe for ever: Item my will is that if my said sonne shall happen to espouse and marry any wife, by and with the consent of my said father in Lawe within the time of his minority, and before such time as he shall accomplishe the age of one and Twenty yeares, That then vpon such espousall or marryage (by and with such consent as aforesaid) my said sonne shall or may Enter into and von the premisses and every parte thereof and receiue, perceive and enjoy the Rents issues Revenues, and profits thereof and therevy comeinge from thenceforth to his and their owne proper vse and behoffe for ever, And in case my said sonne shall happen to dye and departe this present life on this side and before such time as he shall or may accomplishe the full age of one and Twenty yeares, or be espoused and maryed as aforesaid: Then my said daughter vpon her Accomplishment of the full age of one and Twenty yeares or vpon her espousall and marriage with consent of my said father in Lawe shall or may lawfully Enter into and vpon the premisses, and receive perceive and enjoy the Rents issues revenues and profits thereof or thereby comeinge growing or arising from thenceforth to her owne proper vse and behoofe for ever: Item whereas by certaine others Letters P(Patent) heretofore sufficiently passed and made there is given granted and confirmed vnto me and my heryes amonge others, a certaine quantity or Porco of Land or grounde with the appurtenances situate lyeinge and beinge neare Mulberry Land in the Country or Continent of Virginia I doe give bequeath and dispose the same as followethvizt to the vse and behoofe of Joane my wife dureinge the tearme of her or I sic naturall Life, and from and after her decease to the vse and behoofe (of) Elizabeth for ever Item as toucheinge and concerneing alland singuler such personall estate, goodes, Chattles, Cattles and household stuffe as god hathe Lent me (my debts and funeral charges beinge deducted and payed) my will and desire is that the shall or may be equally and proportionately shared distributed and devided into three equall and indifferent partes and porcons vntobetwene and amonges Joane my said wife, Thomas my sonne, and Elizabeth my daughter, and that each of them shall or may have, hold, and enjoy one full and Entire thirde parte of and in the said goods Chattles, Cattles and household stuffe severally to their several vases and behoofes for ever; Provided alwayes that if eyther of my said Children shall happen to dy or departe this present life, before such their espousalls and marriage with such consent as aforesaid, Then my will and Desire is that