Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Famous Indian Princess Found

A Famous Indian Princess Found

What do one of the most important couples in Jamestown Colony in the 1660's have to do with a humble family in the coal fields of West Virginia in the 1950's?

It's funny the way things happen sometimes and it's always exciting to stumble onto a line of ancestors that leads to a famous character in American History.

When I started this journey, I was mainly concerned with my surname - Green. So I concentrated on my fathers family and his fathers fathers. 

I had neglected my mothers side of the chart because for some stupid reason I didn't think it would be all that interesting. Man, oh, man, was I wrong. 

So, here I am just  plugging away on filling in the blanks moving from one ancestor to another...O.K. and his father was... and his parents were...chasing these lines to see how long it would take to find family in Europe when all of a sudden a name pops up with this note attached:

"GGrandson of Pocahontas"

What? Are you kidding me? 

You mean the Pocahontas, John Smith, Jamestown story? That Pocahontas?

 Well, not quite that story. But, yes, the Indian princess, "the guardian angel of Virginia" is an ancestor of mine. Wow! What a revelation, and what a cool thing to be connected to such a pivotal story in this nations history.

Well, how did that happen?

 I traced the line to Powhatan, the principal chief over a large group of tribes in what was to become the state of Virginia.

His daughter, Pocahontas, famously saved the life of John Smith who was one of the leaders of the fledgling Virginia colony. No one knows exactly why, but it is an established fact that the young princess was her fathers favorite daughter and he could deny her nothing.

As the English explorer's head was placed on a rock, his body held in place by several warriors, and several stone axes held ready to "smash the braines out of his head", the young maiden did plead with her father to spare this live. After all else had failed, the girl put her arms around Smith's head and placed her head upon his.
 Seeing this, the Chief could no longer fight and there followed a great feast and there was peace in the land ... for a few years ... until the war ... and the kidnapping of the favored daughter...
But that is a story for another day. (I promise I will flesh out the whole story and post it separately soon.)

In the mean time, Pocahontas does not marry John Smith, but a younger John Rolfe who was the man who brought tobacco to the colony.  Tobacco, of course, became the principal cash crop for the struggling colony.

So, between the Indian maiden's help and assistance to the people of the colony and the tobacco, this couple was responsible for saving the colony and the beginning of the State of Virginia. 

John Rolfe and Princess Pocahontas had one child, Thomas Rolfe, b. Jan. 30, 1615. (She was given the title of Princess by the Queen of England - she was the daughter of a "King" after all.)

Thomas married Jane Poythress and they had only one child - Jane Powhatan Rolfe b. Oct. 10, 1665 (as the mother died later that same year - possibly due to complications of childbirth).

Jane Powhatan married into the Bolling family - Col. Robert Bolling b. Dec. 26, 1646 who passed the line down through the next 4 generations when Elizabeth Bolling b. Mar. 8, 1767 married William Grancer Short b. May 15, 1768.

The line passes down that family for another 4 generations until Mary Elizabeth Short b. Apr. 16, 1877 marries William R. Bishop b. Feb.15, 1875.

Now, it just turns out that Mary Elizabeth and William Bishop have a daughter named Ethel Mae Bishop b. Jan. 1, 1905 who lives to be my mother's mother. 

And so, there you have it. From the tidewaters of Virginia to the coal fields of West Virginia. From the daughter of a great Indian chief to the daughter of a coal miner in 300 short years... ain't genealogy fun!