Sunday, June 24, 2012

Little Matoaca

One of the things I like about living in the Shire
is our proximity to so much of early American history.
So it's not surprising that one of the first places my husband and I visited
when we moved to Virginia so long ago was Jamestown Colony.
The glass works was there back then,
but not nearly as many exhibits as today.

Over the decades, archaeological digs have yielded many artifacts
that have helped historians reconstruct the 1607 Virginia Company settlement,
first chartered by King James I in June of 1606.

The Preservation Virginia web site cited above
 has lots of interesting information about Jamestown.
Part of the history explains the colonists' reliance
on the assistance of "Wahunsenaca" (Chief Powhatan) 
and his "most deare and wel-beloved" daughter Pocahontas
who more than once intervened on their behalf.

Like most Americans, I was familiar with the name Pocahontas,
but little else about who she really was.
I hadn't even remembered (if I ever knew)
that she was part of the Jamestown story.
But I was reminded of her importance to not only the Tidewater area,
but also the establishment of the United States, 
when we toured St. Luke's Church in Isle of Wight County recently.
One of the stained glass windows was dedicated to her memory:

According to The Preservation Virginia web site,
Pocahontas was named Matoaca at birth,
but was later nicknamed Pocahontas,
which meant "Little Wanton" because she was so playful and full of fun.
Indeed, one 17th-century account describes her turning cartwheels
around the fort along with the young English boys in the colony.

Pocahontas took the name Rebecca after her conversion to Christianity.
And from her marriage to John Rolfe in 1614,
until her death in 1617 at 22 years of age in Gravesend, England,
she was also known as Rebecca Rolfe.

A year before her death,
John Smith wrote a letter in which he credited Pocahontas
with no less than saving the English colonists from
"death, famine, and utter confusion."
Not bad for a little girl turning cartwheels.


For more information about Pocahontas,
there is this National Park Service article:
the well-documented entry "Pocahontas" in

No comments: