Gwynneth & I recently decided to take a trip to see the site of Pocahontas' burial. Why, you may ask what has that to do with Mingay History? Well, yes, it is a bit of a deviation but there is a link. Yon may have got to this section through a number of routes, but the Family reunion with Jo & Lee (press the 'up' link above), was truly a very special day. The first rather touching introduction to here are the rather tastfully wrought iron gates to the churchyard, simple but poignant.
Jo's husband Lee is a descendant of the union between Pocahontas and John Rolfe. I am hoping to let you have more information in the future.
We arrived at the church just before the morning service so had to wait awhile before we could go in. However it was worth the wait. The congregation were just leaving when we went in with note book, camera's etc. The people greeted us like long lost friends and pointed out all the good bits. One special character showed us the memorial windows and even offered us a grandstand view in the pulpit!!
He told us that excavations in the past had revealed some unnamed caskets, and that local legend has it that bones were identified and that they were re-buried under the statue of Pocahontas in 1953. The statue is interesting in that the original is in Virginia. Apparently a local cleric took all the documentation to Virginia and for his trouble secured a copy of the statue which was shipped over and erected in the grounds of St. Georges in 1958.
You can see some of the photo's below. The history here is just précis. The churches own site www.stgeorgesgravesend.org.uk will give you a more complete history, and some more pictures.
Here's the story.
Pocahontas was born in I believe 1595, or 1596. She was the daughter of a native American Indian Chief of around 40 villages of the Algonkian tribe. These were spread around the shores of the York & James rivers as thaey are now called, which flow into the Chesapeake bay.
Her father was called 'Powhatan' after his chief village and he named her 'Meto-aka' and then later 'Pocahontas' which means "playful little girl".
The Spanish around this time were a great threat to Powhatan's rule, together with the rest of the European invasion of those times. Needles to say the New World was ripe for the ravages of trade and conversion of the 'savages' to Christianity as they were regarded at this time. This was further fuelled by the relative peace in Europe after the death of Elizabeth I and cessation of hostilities between England, Spain, and France.
In 1607 a certain Captain John Smith arrived in the Chesapeake Bay but faced hostility by the Native American's when they tried to build a fort. Apparently the attackers were discouraged by cannon form the ships in the bay!
The ships left before winter leaving 105 men, who were saved from starvation by Capt. Smith, making trade with other tribes for corn. It was during one these trading trips when the good Capt. was taken by one of the Powhatan Chiefs. He was facing execution when the story goes that a young girl put her head over his, to prevent him being clubbed to death. It is thought that was a ritual to subdue enemies and was in fact all a sham to build relations with the invaders. He was then part of the tribe.
Smith was elected President of the Jamestown Council in 1609, but was injured in a gunpowder explosion and was put on a ship home. Others arrived and around 1610 it is believed that Pocahontas now 16 married a tribe member called Kocoum. He died some 3 years later.
1612, and Capt. Samuel Argall arrives. Being the nice man that he was he decided to ransom Pocahontas for 8 prisoners being held by Powhatan. He took her to Jamestown in 1613 where she was treated as an honoured guest, to bring good relations back to the parties involved.
During this time she was looked after by a Calvinist minister one Mr. Alexander Whitaker, who got her into Christianity.
Enter John Rolfe. He lost his wife shortly after arrival in Jamestown, having lost his daughter on the voyage over, apparently in Bermuda. The daughter was named after the island, Bermuda. Interestingly John was supposedly from Heacham in Norfolk.
Rolfe developed a strong business in tobacco and fell for the young Pocahontas. He asked permission to marry the lady from the Governor Sir Thomas Dale, who was her guardian at the time. Powhatan and Dale saw this as an opportunity to develop good relations, and so Pocahontas now baptised as Rebecca married Mr. Rolfe on 5th April 1614.
In the same month, Dale took a party including the Rolfes and their new son Thomas, back to England, and landed at Plymouth. Smith who wrote a book about the Virginian adventure, cited Pocahontas as 'The first Christian ever of that nation, the first Virginian who ever spoke English or had a child in marriage by an Englishman.
A flurry of curiosity of the 'Indians' followed in London. Pocahontas was invited to dinner by the then Bishop of London no less. (About this time we had Mayors in Norwich. One wonders if there was any contact made about that time between the two cities).
Pocahontas however was unwell. She was taken to Brentford, to get 'better air'.
She said, "You called him father, being in his land a stranger. And by the same reason so must I you". Apparently Smith contested this and she retorted, "Fear you that I should call you father? I tell you then I will, and you shall call me child, and so I will be forever your countryman." I don't quite know what this means, perhaps some of you scholars out there may be able to help clarify? It certainly seems that she wanted to stay in England.
In November 1616, Samuel Argall was elected Deputy Governor of Virginia, and was to return to Virginia together with the John & Pocahontas, (Rebecca), Rolfe. Pocahontas had by this time been introduced to the royal court and met the King. A painting was made of her at this time which looks very unflattering by today's standards, but she may have been unwell with tuberculosis at this time. They left on the 'The George in March 1617, but she never got past Gravesend, when she died. She was buried in the chancel of the original St. Georges at Gravesend which was burnt down in 1727.
Thomas (son of Pocahontas), did not return to Virginia until 1635. He married a Jane Poythress. Their daughter Jane married Col. Robert Bolling in 1675. Their descendants claim blood lines to Pocahontas.
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2playful little girl