Search billions of records on

POCAHONTAS, Truth and Myth

this site last updated 25 October 2008

Today we will cover Pocahontas myth and the real person as best as I can tell from reading documentation and what I remember from the True Story of Pocahontas as presented on public television. She was born about 1594 as MATOAKA, in the village of Werowocomoco, located on the north shore of the Pamunkey River (now called the York River) Some eleven miles downstream from the present city of West Point, VA.*(see note below) Her father was; Chief Powhatan who became Chief of the 32 tribe Powhatan's in 1570. The Powhatan Confederacy were a well organized, thriving agricultural and fishing nation with a total population in the neighborhood of about 9,000 at the time Matoaka was born.

Prior to the English landing on May 20th, 1607 and the establishment of Jamestown. Powhatan’s people knew of the Spanish Jesuit (1570-1571) murdered Pamunkey River mission and they heard of the ill-fated (1580) settlement made by the English on the Carolina banks and they had entertained a ship that entered the Pamunkey River about two years prioR to Captain ChristoPer Newport’s flotilla. The earlier ship, that had been received in kindness, slew the Chief of the Powhatan's’ Rappahannocks tribe and took some of his people as hostages or slaves. So, there is no wonder that Powhatan opposed the making of any settlement on his lands.

Some 200 of Powhatan’s people attack Jamestown, killing one boy and wounding seventeen men.

Then after Capt. Newport and two of the three ships left for England. The Great Powhatan sent word of peace and a deer as an offering of good faith to President Edward Maria Wingfield. It may of been after this time that Matoaka visited the settlement and was known as Pocahontas. Being derived from the Algonkin adjective meaning "playful one, sportive, frolicsome, mischievous, frisky" so is appears that was Matoaka’s nickname. It is interesting how the English described her in 1610; of a colour browne, or rather tawnie and her age was somewhere between twelve and fourteen. round faced, with the fore part of her grosse and thick black hair shaven close, and the very long thicker part being tied in a pleat hanging down to her hips. It was also report that she liked to do cartwheels while playing with the children, which may of made her appeared virtually naked to the prudent colonist..

The settlers were advised not to let the Indians see or know of your sick and do not advertise the killing of any of our men.. But, of the 100 men and four boys left in Jamestown when the two ships set sail back to England. Only forty were alive by December, the remainder, using the James River for their drinking water as well as for their sewer, were destroyed with cruel diseases as; Swellings (salt water poisoning) , Flixes (dysentery), Burning Fever (typhoid) and by warres. Some departed suddenly, but most of them died of mere famine. Pocahontas, and her friends were credited with saving the survivoRs from starvation.

The myth of Capt. John Smith will be explained latter. But in the meantime, in September of 1609 as he was returning from a trip to the falls of the James River in an effort to expand the colony beyond Jamestown. He was injured while sleeping, when a powder-bag exploded and tore flesh from his body and thighs, nine or ten inches square and to quench the tormenting fire, he leaped over board into the river near what is now the city of Richmond.

Powhatan wanted to be a greater distance from the colonists, and towards the end of January of 1609. He moved his residence near Orapaks which was located on the upper reaches of the Chicahominy River, some fifty miles away from Jamestown.

In the spring of 1612 ? Capt. Samuel Argall, who was trading for corn along the river, learned that Pocahontas was nearby. Somehow he talked the natives he was trading with to invite her to dinner with him aboard his ship. Argall then took PocahonTas to Jamestown and held her as a hostage, at first to ransom the eight English men, plus many swords, and other tools her father had captured. Relations between Powhatan and the Virginians had become strained and Argall also hoped to use PocahonTas as a shield to prevent her father from burning Jamestown down and to negotiate a peace. (This date is in ? due to the fact that according to the True Story, she was held as a hostage for three years by the English)

She met John Rolfe who fell in love, and asked permission to marry her. Governor Thomas Daile readily agreed as he felt it would benefit Jamestown and the colony. Her father was also pleased with the proposal and news of his daughter’s wedding. Powhatan sent her uncle; Opachisco to give her away as his deputy in the church and to see the marriage blessed. Two of Matoaka’s brothers also attended the wedding.. .John Rolfe was the first gentlemen to plant tobacco in Virginia and was well respected among the colonist. Pocahontas Christian name was; Rebbeca and she was married to John Rolfe in the Anglican Church in Jamestown on 5 April 1614. Powhatan also gave the newlyweds property that included a small brick house.. Today, Fort Smith is in Surry CounTy, just across the James River and was used as a home or cottage by Pocahontas and John Rolfe when they were first married. Capt. Smith had built the small fort and used it as a military outpost in the expansion of the colony.

Pocahontas, now Rebbeca Rolfe gave birth to a son; Thomas Rolfe in 1615. Young Thomas was cared for my Pocahontas, half sister MATACHANNA and her husband TOMOCOMO. Then early in 1616, Governor Daile along with John Rolfe and his family departed for England. Matachanna and her husband Tomocomo ( who was Powhatan’s priest-counselor), along with several other young Powhatan men and women went along.

Upon their arrival in England, Pocahontas and her husband were well received by the Royal court and had an audience with the King and Queen who considered her as a princess partly due to the diligent care of Gentlemen John Rolfe spelled Rolfe in England (also spelled Rolph to-day). Pocahontas deserves her due credit, as she was well liked and in every manner a lady of the Royal Court from Virginia. She did meet Capt. John Smith in England and here is where the myth comes in along with the glorified story of the Walt Disney version of the Pocahontas Love story.

The myth, Capt. John Smith wrote his memoirs after he went back to England and before Pocahontas was a smash with the Royal Court and the King and Queen. No where- in the original script is there any mention of Pocahontas saving his life by laying across his body or that he was about to be killed. Now after he meets Pocahontas again and discovering she is highly thought of, by the Royalty of England and only after she died, did he rewrite his story to include Pocahontas saving his life...I’ll let you the members be the judge of that one as, . Capt. John Smith popularity was in decline Until he re-associated himself with Pocahontas. They were friends in Virginia, and she did befriended the colonist, but the story that history has accept as truth is highly questionable. Sad my friends, but a lot of our early history has been twisted to benefit the intruders of your homeland, another example of this is the story we all were taught about Thanksgiving. Native Americans give thanks for everyday and especially at harvest time, Virginia claims the first Thanksgiving was actually at; Berkeley Plantation in 1619 which is the birthplace of Benjamin Harrison and ancestral home of two U.S. Presidents. Please pardon this intrusion to the Pocahontas story, but it validates anoTher possible error in oUr history books and her own people were surely associated with this great event.

Pocahontas (Rebbeca) fell gravely ill aboard ship in preparation for the return trip back home to Virginia and died on 21 March 1616. Her funeral was at Saint Georges Parish Church, in Gravesend, England. Services were given by the Rev. Nicholas Frankwell, attending the funeral were; her husband, Capt. Argall the Dept. Governor of Virginia, and Rolfe Hamor. Her grave reads as entered into the church record.

"1616 March 21, Rebecca Rolfe, Wyffe of Thomas John Rolfe Gentleman, a Virginia Lady borne was buried in ye chancell. Entered by Rev. Nicholas Frankwell."

Young Thomas stayed in England and lived with his uncle; Henry Rolfe in London while his Father and his Native American Aunt and Uncle (Matachanna & Tomocomo) returned to Virginia. The descendants of Pocahontas then, come from her only son; Thomas Rolfe born in Virginia in 1615 and as follows; According to the book Pocahontas & her Descendants pub by Genealogical Publishing Co., in 1969.
*An email from the Princess Pocahontas Foundation, states that if you will refer to Smith's book you will see that Smith said that Werawocomoco was "About 25 miles" (not 10) from "where the river devidith" (West Point). This places it at present day Wicomico, the traditional location of the village and the location of Powhatan chimney, which Capt. John Smith ordered built for Powhatan near Werawocomoco. The Princess Pocahontas Foundation

    1.  Matoaka (Pocahontas) b 17 Sep 1595 m 5 Apr 1614 John Rolfe in Anglican Church,
Jamestown son Thomas born 1615  Pocahontas 1594- March 1616 died in
England buried in Gravesend, England. Thomas was left in England in care of
grandparents (another source claims it was his uncle)

   2. Thomas Rolfe b 1615   was the only child of Pocahontas and John Rolfe.
He married Jane Poythress when he was 20-25 yrs old in England.  They only had 
one child, a dtr.

     3.  Jane Rolfe b ? m 1675  d 1676 Col Robert Bolling b 1646 d 1709  son of John 
& Mary Bolling of Alll Hollows, Barkin Parish, Tower Street, London. they had one
child, a son.

     4.  John Bolling of "Cobbs"  (Colonel) b 1676 d 1729 was a member of the house 
of Burgesses m Mary Kennon dtr of Dr. Kennon, they had one son and 5 dtrs.

      5.  John Bolling (Major) b 1700 d 6 Sep 1757 m 1 Aug 1728 Elizabeth Blair they 
had 19 Children, break down not given on how many boys vers girls.

      6a. Thomas Bolling b 7 Jul 1735 d 7 Aug 1804 m Elizabeth Gay=10c 5 sons
        7a. William Bolling (Col & M.H.D.) m  Mary Randolph=10c
                   8a1.  Willam Albert (deaf mute) m Eliza Christian
                   8a2. Thomas b 1807 m Louis Morris dtr of Richard Morris

      6b. John Bolling b 24 Jun 1737 d 179? m Martha Jefferson sister of  
Pres. Jefferson=11c
          7b1.  John Bolling m ? ____ Kennon=7c

          7b2.  Edward Bolling d 1835 m Dolli Payne=4c
                   8b2a Powhatan Bolling m _____Payne

          7b3.  Archibald Bolling m Catharine Payne=8c
                 8b3a Archibald Bolling d 1860 m Anne E. Wiggindon
                 8b3b Edward Bolling d 1855 m Anne Cralle
                 8b3c Alexander Bolling d 1878 m Susan Gray

          7b4*  Robert BoLling m Jane Payne=2c 2dtrs
6c. Robert Bolling (Col) 17 Aug 1738 d 1769 m Mary Burton (2) Susan Watson=6c
        7c1.  Linneaus  Bolling b 1773 d 1836 m  Mary  Markham=4c
             8c1a.  Phillip A. Bolling m  Mary  Eppes=1c son
             8c1b   Robert Bolling m Shara Hobson (2) Mary Watkins (3) Martha 

        7c2  Powhatan b 1767 d 1802

6d. Archibald Bolling 20 Mary 1750 d ? m Sharah Cary 1770
	 (2) Jane Randolph  1774 
	 (3) Widow Byrd 1797
	 (4) Widow Clark 1802=13c total

      7d1.  Blair Bolling b 1792 m(1)  M. A. Webster 1824 (2) Penelope StoRrs 1827
              8d1a  Archibald Bolling m Feb  1852 Eliza Trueheart Armistead
              8d1b  John Bolling m Oct 1855 Maria Page Armistead (2 m) Julia

Within seven successive generations many Educators, Ministers, Statesmen and Lawmakers descend from Pocahontas...several surnames associated with her line are; the BLAIRS, the BOLLING’s, the LEWISES, the RANDOLPH’s of which the most distinguished was John RANDOLPH of Roanoke, State Represendative of the Great State of Virginia in the House of Representatives. Other surnames are; FLEMING, ELDRIDGE, GAY, WALKE, DUVAL, CABELL, MEGGINSON, ARCHER, TAZEWELL, BENTLY, BERNARD, EPPES, WORSHAM, and possibly Jefferson.

This ends my lecture on Pocahontas Truth and Myth, hope you enjoyed it, Yours truly, GFSEd

Four Faces of Pocahontas
Jamestown Rediscovery artical on Pocahontas
The Myth behind Pocahontas, by the Powhatton Nation
Pocahontas: Savior or Savage?
The Real Pocahontas
Mini Bio and books on Pocahontas
Travel in the lands of the Powhatton
Pocahontas Family tree
Desendants of Powhatton A Pocahontas desendant website link site added 3 March 2003
Rootsweb also has a Pocahontas Roots web list you can join by emailing, in the text area place only word SUBSCRIBE
Several of the desendents of Pocahontas and members of her tribe filed applications to the Guion Millers (Cherokee) rolls and were rejected.  I will try to add these numbers to here as my time permits.  It can prove to be invalueable to those researching those lines.
        Barbara Benge
    Go back to main page