Pocahontas

1595 - 1617

Pocahontas, daughter of the Native American chief Powhatan. She was born in Virginia. Her real name was Matoaka; the name Pocahontas means “playful one.” According to a legend, in 1608 Pocahontas saved the life of Captain John Smith by holding his head in her arms as he was about to be clubbed to death by her father's warriors. Many historians doubt the story, which is not found in Smith's detailed personal narrative written at the time. The story first appeared in Smith's  Generall Historie of Virginia (1624). In 1612 Pocahontas was captured by the English and taken to Jamestown. She became a convert to Christianity and took the name Rebecca. In 1614 she married John Rolfe, one of the colonists, with the blessings of both the governor and her father. Eight years of peace between the Native Americans and the English followed the marriage.

In 1615 Pocahontas had her first child, Thomas, and the following year the family went to England. She met the king and queen of England and was received with royal honor. On the eve of her return to Virginia, Pocahontas died of smallpox and was buried in the chapel of the parish church in Gravesend, England. Her son was educated in England, but returned to Virginia and became an important settler; many prominent Virginians claim to be his descendants