John Rolfe was born in Heacham, Norfolk, England. He was baptized on 6 May 1585.
NOTE: A 1990 article questions the claim that the John Rolfe baptized May 1585 was the same as the emigrant to Virginia. See the g2g thread attached to this profile for discussion.
John Rolfe came over in the famous "Sea Venture" in 1610 which was blown ashore at the Bermudas; the passengers survived 10 months there, during which time Rolfe's wife gave birth to a baby girl, christened Bermudas 11 Feb 1610. Both the baby and his wife died shortly thereafter.
He became a planter and is credited with the first successful cultivation of tobacco as an export crop in the Colony of Virginia and is known as the husband of Pocahontas, daughter of the chief of the Powhatan Confederacy."
Rolfe was probably instrumental in importing tobacco seed from Trinidad in 1610 and 1611. He crossed the imported breed with indigenous tobacco to produce a plant well adapted to the local soil and reportedly of pleasant taste. When the English cargo vessel Elizabeth sailed from Virginia on June 28, 1613, it presumably carried Rolfe's first crop for export. In April of the following year, John Rolfe married Pocahontas in the Jamestown's Church. He was killed when the natives massacred the colonists in 1622 but was survived by his and Pocahontas's son, Thomas Rolfe.
Rolfe replaced Ralph Hamor as Secretary in 1614 (thus becoming a member of the Council) and held the post until 1619.
In 1614 he married Pocahontas, a daughter of the American Indian Chief Powhatan.
"John Rolfe was a very religious man who agonized for many weeks over the decision to marry Pocahontas after she had been converted to Christianity, "for the good of the plantation, the honor of our country, for the Glory of God, for mine own salvation..." "Pocahontas was baptized christened Rebecca, and later married Rolfe on April 5, 1614."
"A general peace and a spirit of good will between the English and the Indians resulted from this marriage.
"John Thompson (William John) the eldest son of Rev. William Thompson, born circa 1650, married Elizabeth the widow of John Salway the plantation called "Smith's Fort" on which Thomas Warren, father of Alice Mariott had build "ye fiftyfoot brick house". This property formerly belonged to the Indian King, Powhatan who gave it to John Rolfe when he married Pocahontas, daughter of Powhatan...
Pocahontas gave birth to a son, Thomas Rolfe, 30 January 1615.
In 1616, John took Rebecca/Pocahontas and their son Thomas to England, where she died the following year. Thomas remained in England to be raised by relatives.
After Pocahontas' death, John returned to Virginia and married Jane Peirce 1619.
"Ancestors and Descendants of John Rolfe", in Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 21, No. 1 (Jan 1913), p. 105, No. 2 (Apr 1913), p. 208.
Stanard, W.G: "Virginia Land Patents", in Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 1 #4 (Apr 1894), p. 445.
Robertson, Wyndham: Pocahontas and her Descendants, p. 23.
Jennings, John Melville: "A Biographical Sketch", p. 11, prefaced to Taylor's edition of John Rolfe's True Relation, see next.
Rolfe, John: A True Relation of the State of Virginia in 1616, original version, ed. Henry C. Taylor, Yale Univ. Press (1951). Another version, in Southern Literary Messenger, Vol. 5 no 6 (Jun 1839), p. 401, reproduced in Virginia Historical Register, Vol. 1 no. 3 (Jul 1848), p. 101.
"Letter of John Rolfe to Sir Thomas Dale", in Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 22, No. 2 (Apr 1914), p. 150. Originally published in Ralph Hamor's True Discourse (1615)
Ralph Hamor's True Discourse (1615), reprint ed. Harwell (1957), p. 11. Hamor's own report of the wedding (gives the date as "about 5th April"). Also letter of Dale, p. 51, and letter of Whitaker, p. 59, reporting the marriage. Also Rolfe's letter to Dale, p. 61.
"Will of John Rolfe", ed. Carson, in Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 58, No. 1 (Jan 1950), p. 61. From the probate copy (PCC 1630). The will had previously been abstracted by Waters, from the register copy (49 Scroope), in N.E.H.G.R, Vol. 38 no. 1 (Jan 1884), p. 68, with notes by Waters. (Note date is 1884, not 1844 as given by Carson)
Petition of Henry Rolfe to the Virginia Company, as recorded in the Court Book, in Kingsbury, S.M, Records of the Virginia Company of London, Vol. 2 (1906), p. 105 (7th Oct 1622).
Randolph, Richard (as "R.R"), "Varina", in Virginia Historical Register, Vol. 1, no. 4 (Oct 1848), p. 161. (Randolph is described by Stanard (1913) as the "once well-known Virginia antiquary".)
Randolph, Richard (as "R.R"), "Henrico County", in Southern Literary Messenger, Vol. 25, no. 1 (Jul 1857), p. 68.
Hotten, John Camden (1874), Original Lists, p. 270, land at Tappahanna; p. 271, land at Mulberry Island.
Stith, William: History of Virginia (1747), p. 129 (marriage, but gives the wrong date), p. 146 (descendants).
Robertson, Wyndham: "The Marriage of Pocahontas", in Southern Literary Messenger, Vol. 31, no. 2 (Aug 1860), p, 81. Explains and corrects the mistaken date of 1613 given by Stith and many other early writers. Also in Virginia Historical Reporter, Vol. 1 (1860), p. 65.
McCartney, Martha W. (2007). Virginia Immigrants and Adventurers, p. 606.