Pocahontas marries John Rolfe at Jamestown

Today on April 5th 1614, Pocahontas marries John Rolfe, sparking peace between the colonial settlers and Powhatan Indians.

During the early 1600s, English explorers and colonists began settling along the James River in present day Virginia. The colony of Jamestown became the first permanent English settlement in North America. However, the colonists at Jamestown were immediately plagued by rampant famine and disease. They were also constantly being attacked by indigenous people living in the area. Its estimated there were thirty Tidewater tribes in the Powhatan Indian Confederacy and were commanded by Chief Wahunsonacock (known as Chief Powhatan to the English). The Chief’s thirteen-year old daughter, Pocahontas, was often used as an emissary to the colonists.

Interestingly, her real name was actually Matoaka and Pocahontas was just a nickname used by her father, meaning “the playful one”. In 1607, Pocahontas famously intervened to save English-adventurer John Smith from being executed by her father. Six years later she was taken hostage by the English Captain of Jamestown and used as a bargaining chip for a permanent peace agreement. She converted to Christianity after spending so much time in the colony. At the young age of seventeen she fell in love with the tobacco planter, John Rolfe. Their eventual marriage initiated a period of peace between the English colonists and Powhatans, which lasted for several years.

In 1615, Pocahontas gave birth to their first child named Thomas. The next year, the couple sailed to England and the native princess immediately became popular among the English gentry. She was even presented to the court of King James I. The day before they were to depart from England, Pocahontas suddenly fell ill with smallpox and tragically died. She was buried at the parish church of St. George in Gravesend, England. John Rolfe eventually returned to Virginia but was killed during an Indian massacre in 1622. Their son Thomas lived in Jamestown and became a prominent member of society.

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