John Rolfe

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John Rolfe (1585-1622) was an early English settler in North America. He was the first to grow a sweeter strain of tobacco than had been previously grown, by using seeds that he took with him from Trinidad. He was first to commercially cultivate tobacco plants in North America, and exported his sweeter strain beginning in 1612. The tobacco proved popular in England, and competed well with Spain's version of tobacco. Its success helped turn the Virginia Colony into a profitable venture. Pocahontas, the daughter of a local chief, and his future wife, came to the attention of John Rolfe after she had been kidnapped and taken to Jamestown to be exchanged for English prisoners and weapons that Powhatan (her father and Chief of the local tribe)had taken in raids. She was taken to Henrico where she learned English, converted to Christianity, was Baptized and christened Rebecca. Their marriage in 1614 resulted in peace with the Indians. The peace lasted long enough for the settlers to develop and expand their colony and plant themselves permanently in the new land.[1] The couple had one son,Thomas, in 1615. In 1616 the Virginia company sponsored a trip to England for the couple and their son. Pocahontas (Rebecca) became ill, most likely with tuberculosis, and died in March 1617 as they were preparing to return to Virginia. Their son was raised by an uncle and did not return to America until 1640.[2] When he returned to Virginia he served as secretary and recorder of the colony from 1614-1619 and in 1621 he was appointed to the Council of State. He married Jane Pierce, daughter of William Pierce and they had a daughter, Elizabeth, born in 1618. He died in 1622 after his plantation was destroyed in an Indian attack. It is not clear if he died as a result of the attack or from an illness.[3]


  1. {Association for the Presentation of Virginia Antiquities}
  2. Rolfe,John. "Encyclopedia Britannica 2007
  3. Brown, Alezander. The Genesis of the United States. Bosten: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1890