1. Pocahontas’ Son Had Famous Descendants
After she died, John Rolfe wanted nothing to do with Pocahontas’ son, Thomas. He wanted to continue his journey back to Virginia and make his fortune tobacco farming. So, he handed the boy over to his brother, Henry Rolfe, who was willing to take care of him. Thomas would have been around 5 years old at the time.
John Rolfe did not leave any sort of child support for Thomas. Not only was this cold and heartless, but it also suggests that John Rolfe was not Thomas’ biological father, after all. However, he signed all of the legal documents in England claiming that he was the father. Even though this was a lie to cover up the crimes of the men on Captain Argall’s ship, Henry Rolfe had it in writing. He went to court to demand that his nephew should be left some sort of child support, and his petition was granted.
In 1622, the English court system gave Thomas a few acres of his father’s land when he was just 7 years old. When he grew up, he used this land to farm a plantation, and he made his living off of the land. He married a woman named Jane Poythress, whose father owned a lot of land in Virginia. They had one daughter together, also named Jane. He tried to ask the governor if it would be alright for him to visit his Native American relatives back in Virginia and bring his wife with him, but the judge said no.
Thomas Rolfe was still very famous, because of the legends of his mother. They were terrified that if he left England and chose to move to America, it would make England look very bad in the eyes of the public. It would seem like he had been kidnapped (which he had) and that he was finally returning to his true home.
According to records, John Rolfe wasn’t willing to share his money with Thomas when he was still alive, but you can’t take money with you when you’re dead. Since he had no other children, he left everything to Thomas in his last will and testament. This included a significant portion of land in Virginia when he died. Much of it once belonged to the Powhatan people. The tribe had also left land to Pocahontas’ first daughter, who Thomas never got to meet.
For the rest of his life, Thomas Rolfe was defined by his parents. Even his grave marker says “Son of Pocahontas” as the only description of who he was as a person. A Las Vegas entertainer named Wayne Newton is one of the many descendants of Pocahontas that went on to be famous. First Lady Edith Wilson also descended from Pocahontas.
Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:
The True Story of Pocahontas. Jackie Mansky. Smithsonian. 2017.
Pocahontas: Her Life and Legend. National Park Service.
The Murky Tale of John Smith and the Mermaid. Helen Thompson. Smithsonian. 2015.
Pocahontas. The Powhatan Museum.
The True Story of Pocahontas: Historical Myths Versus Sad Reality. Vincent Schilling. Indian Country Today. 2017.
The Heartbreaking Story of Pocahontas. Peter Preskar. History of Yesterday. Dec 12, 2020
Thomas Rolfe. Wikipedia.