History

THE TRUE POCAHONTAS ~ A STORY YOU MAY NOT KNOW

Posted by on Apr 3, 2014 in Blog, Books, History, Uncategorized | 2 comments

April 5th will be the 400th anniversary of the wedding of John Rolfe and Pocahontas. It is to be commemorated this weekend at the original church site in Historic Jamestowne with a reenactment.

The story of Pocahontas that most of us learned as children is very different than the story I heard a few years ago when we relocated to within eight miles of Jamestowne/Jamestown, VA. I found out from a friend that her husband is the Mattaponi Indian tribe historian, one of the two remaining tribes of the Powhatan nation.  Several years ago, Dr. Linwood “Little Bear” Custalow and his coauthor Angela L. Daniel “Silver Star” published The True Story of Pocahontas a book, based on the sacred oral history of her people. Her story was hidden for four hundred years by her people for fear of potential retribution. Their treatise explains the motives behind the myths as well as a reasoned explanation of their version of her story.

Dr. Custalow explains that the Algonquian tribes of the Virginia Coastal Plain did not have a written language so the oral history was passed down through quiakros (Powhatan priests) within each of the tribes in a “strict and disciplined manner to maintain accuracy”. These Mattaponi elders were venerated and protected leaders to ensure their story would be truthfully told. 

The English version of her story primarily comes from the writings of Captain John Smith. However, there are significant differences in the Powhatan and John Smith/English versions of the Pocahontas story: Here are a few:

Statue of Pocahontas  at Jamestowne

Statue of Pocahontas
at Jamestowne

 

Her birth and family: 

Smith/English Version – Pocahontas was born to one of many alliance wives.

Powhatan Version – Pocahontas, whose original name was Matoaka, was born to Chief Powhatan Wahunsenaca, the paramount chief of the Powhatan chiefdom, and Pocahontas of the Mataponi, who died in childbirth. Pocahontas’ mother was his first wife, the wife of choice and the one he loved. Other wives were alliance marriages, temporary unions meant to unite the 30 plus tribes under one paramount leader and to increase the Powhatan nation. Matoaka was later called Pocahontas to honor her deceased mother. As the last child of her mother she became particularly favored by her father.

Relationship with John Smith and English:

Smith Version –Pocahontas wandered freely through the Jamestown settlement and risked her own life by to save his when he was in the midst of a four day ceremony making him werowance, a “secular chief” of the English tribe.

Powhatan –Pocahontas was ten years old and did not live near Jamestowne. As the chief’s beloved child, she would not have wandered freely but always been under protective supervision. She was often with her father when he was in the midst of the English so she would be familiar to Smith. The Powhatans accepted the English as another tribe, even making Smith werowance. During these ceremonies, in which quiakros would have been involved, children were not present. In addition to not being present, there was no need to save Smith’s life as his life was not in danger.

Pocahontas kidnapping:

English Version– Pocahontas was kidnapped and held for ransom by Captain Samuel Argall when they learned that she was staying with a northern tribe. She was to be kept as a bargaining tool, to get what food they wanted from the Indian nation and to ensure their well being. The English at Jamestown were trying multiple methods to make their venture profitable to continue to validate their presence and ensure that financing of Jamestowne continued from the Virginia Company and the crown.

Powhatan Version–Pocahontas had come of age, and for her protection and to keep her away from the “English” tribe that had grown greedy in their demands and usurpation of land, she was married to a warrior, Kocoum, brother of the chief of the Patowomac (northernmost tribe). While in his village she and her husband had a son. In order to protect his village from the English threats, the Patowomac chief collaborated with Argall and allowed him to kidnap Pocahontas. Argall gave the chief a copper pot to make it appear that the girl was given up for material goods. Sometime after she was kidnapped, Argall’s men returned to the village and killed her husband. Chief Powhatan Wahunsenaca paid the ransom for her release, but she was not returned. He was reluctant to mount a rescue attempt for fear of endangering Pocahontas.

Pocahontas conversion and marriage:

English Version – Pocahontas was transferred to a location near present day Richmond where she was instructed in the English language and ways, and taught about Christianity. She was told that her father would not meet her captor’s demands. When Pocahontas grew depressed, a request was sent to her father to send one of her sisters. During Pocahontas captivity she became acquainted with John Rolfe, an English colonist who had learned how to cultivate tobacco from the Powhatans. A pious widower, Rolfe wanted to marry Pocahontas, but required her conversion to Christianity. She was baptized, took the name Rebecca and was married to Rolfe.

Powhatan Version – Her father sent Mattachanna, the sister who raised her, and her husband, Uttamattamakin a priest of the highest order and an advisor to Pocahontas’ father. Nothing is known of what happened during Pocahontas captivity until her sister and brother-in-law arrived.  When they were reunited, Pocahontas informed Mattachanna that she had been raped and was pregnant. Mattaponi history suggests reasons why they believe someone other than John Rolfe was the father. Pocahontas’ feelings were unknown, but as Powhatan royalty, she probably saw the alliance as helpful to her people and that would have been very important to her. Pocahontas gave birth to Thomas Rolfe sometime later.

 Pocahontas-and-Thomas-Rolfe-The-Sedgeford-Portrait


Pocahontas-and-Thomas-Rolfe-The-Sedgeford-Portrait

Pocahontas travel to England and death:

English Version – John Rolfe, Pocahontas and Thomas Rolfe, and some Powhatans (including her sister and brother-in-law) traveled to England to demonstrate the potential profitability of tobacco, thus assuring continued support for the Virginia colony. Pocahontas was presented to the crown and society, thereby assuring England that relations with Native Americans were positive. In March of 1617, shortly after departing England, Pocahontas suddenly became ill and died. Rolfe requested the Captain make port at the closest church, St. George’sChurch at Gravesend, where she was buried. The English attributed her death to pneumonia or tuberculosis.

Powhatan Version – Samuel Argall, her captor, was the Captain of the ship the Rolfe family traveled to and from England. Not yet on the open seas, Pocahontas and Rolfe dined in the Captain’s quarters. After returning to her room, she immediately began vomiting, and told her sister “that the English must have put something in her food”. Mattachanna tried caring for her but Pocahontas went into convulsions. Rolfe was summoned and she died within minutes. After her funeral, young Thomas Rolfe was given to relatives of John Rolfe in England to raise. The ship, passengers and crew continued their voyage to Virginia. Pocahontas was in good health when they left England. It is believed that she had gotten information of schemes to dethrone her father and take the Powhatan land, and that she would share that knowledge with her people. Mattaponi sacred oral history believes she was poisoned, but they do not know by whom, or how many people were involved. Chief Powhatan grew despondent and had to be relieved of his responsibilities. He died within a year. Some descendants of the Indian son Pocahontas bore are still alive today. Her son, Thomas Rolfe, was raised in England and returned to Virginia as an adult after John Rolfe was deceased. His descendants number among many prominent Virginia families.

 

~         For more information on Dr. Lin Custalow’s book: 

         The True Story of Pocahontas: The Other Side of History

http://www.amazon.com/True-Story-Pocahontas-Other-History-ebook/dp/B0028ADK1G/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1396482338&sr=1-1&keywords=the+real+pocahontas

~       For more information about the commemorative wedding service:

https://historicjamestowne.org/

 

Most of this post appeared previously in September 2012 in Colonial Quills.

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ST. PATRICK ~ British Patron Saint of Ireland

Posted by on Mar 17, 2014 in Blog, History, Uncategorized | 6 comments

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I’d share a post I did on Colonial Quills last year.

One March day at church, about fifteen years ago, I was introduced to a prayer attributed to Saint Patrick. Having Irish ancestors, I had some basic knowledge about the Irish patron saint. But I was so moved by the prayer, I decided to do some more research on this iconic and legendary character.

Did you know that St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is not Irish? 

He was born in Roman Britain to aristocratic parents around 385 A.D. Even though his father was a deacon and other members of his family were clergy, the family was not particularly religious. At the age of sixteen, he was captured by Irish pirates who took him to Ireland, probably around County Mayo, and sold him into slavery. While there he was assigned to tend sheep. It was during that period in relative isolation that his prayer life developed and he began to believe that his captivity may well have been part of God’s plan. He began to dream that he was to free the Irish people from their druid beliefs and to share the gospel of Christ with them. After six years, Patrick believed he heard from God that he was to escape and make his way back to Britain. When he had walked the two hundred miles to the Irish coast, God gave him another revelation; that he would return to Ireland as a missionary.

 

Window in Gloucester Cathedral                                                                                                                                      of St Patrick being taught by St Germanus

Window in Gloucester Cathedral of St Patrick being taught by St Germanus

He was reunited with his family in England briefly before departing for France where he would remain for fifteen years. In France he entered the priesthood and studied under the missionary St. Germain. However, he never lost

sight of his dream of returning to Ireland to spread “The Good News”.

Around 431, Patrick was consecrated Bishop of the Irish and returned to the island of his captivity. While he initially experienced some resistance, Patrick eventually convinced the Druids to abandon their belief system that kept them enslaved and convinced them to find freedom in Christ. He built up the church in Ireland, establishing monasteries and organizing the land into dioceses. Patrick died March 17, 461 in Saul, County Down, Ireland where he is said to be buried.

Did you know that St. Patrick did not introduce Christianity to Ireland?                                                 

He was not the first Christian missionary, but he was the most successful.

Did you know that St. Patrick did not chase the snakes out of Ireland?                                                 

That’s the stuff of legends. However, if the snake is a symbol of paganism, St. Patrick can be credited as removing paganism from Ireland and converting it to Christianity.

Do you know what the association is between St. Patrick and the shamrock?      Shamrock 2 

St. Patrick used the shamrock, a common clover, as a metaphor to teach the Irish people about the Trinity.

Do you know when St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated in the colonies?                                                 

St. Patrick’s Day was first celebrated as a Catholic Holy Day in the U.S. in Boston in 1737.

The first St. Patrick’s Day parade was not in Ireland, but in Boston in 1762 when Irish soldiers serving in the British army marched in New York to honor their Irish heritage.

 As the Irish migrated, more people became familiar with the remarkable story of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland and St. Patrick’s Day remains a Holy Day in the Roman Catholic, and some Protestant denominations. For many throughout the world, St. Patrick’s Day is a secular holiday, celebrated with parades, traditional Irish meals and all sorts of festivities.

 gold and green celtic cross

ST. PATRICK’S PRAYER

 

“I rise today in the power’s strength, invoking the Trinity believing in threeness, confessing the oneness, of creation’s Creator.

 I rise today in the power of Christ’s birth and baptism, in the power of his crucifixion and burial, in the power of his rising and ascending, in the power of his descending and judging.

I rise today in the power of the love of cherubim, in the obedience of angels and service of archangels, in hope of rising to receive the reward, in the prayers of patriarchs, in the predictions of the prophets, in the preaching of apostles, in the faith of confessors, in the innocence of holy virgins, in the deeds of the righteous.

 I rise today in heaven’s might, in sun’s brightness, in moon’s radiance, in fire’s glory, in lightning’s quickness, in wind’s swiftness, in sea’s depth, in earth’s stability, in rock’s fixity.

 I rise today with the power of God to pilot me, God’s strength to sustain me, God’s wisdom to guide me, God’s eye to look ahead for me, God’s ear to hear me, God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to protect me, God’s way before me, God’s shield to defend me, God’s host to deliver me,  from snares of devils, from evil temptations, from nature’s failings, from all who wish to harm me, far or near, alone and in a crowd.

 Around me I gather today all these powers against every cruel and merciless force to attack my body and soul, against the charms of false prophets, the black laws of paganism, the false laws of heretics, the deceptions of idolatry, against spells cast by women, smiths, and druids, and all unlawful knowledge that harms the body and soul.

 May Christ protect me today against poison and burning, against drowning and wounding, so that I may have abundant reward; Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me; Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me; Christ to the right of me, Christ to the left of me; Christ in my lying, Christ in my sitting, Christ in my rising; Christ in the heart of all who think of me, Christ on the tongue of all who speak to me, Christ in the eye of all who see me, Christ in the ear of all who hear me.

I rise today in power’s strength, invoking the Trinity, believing in threeness, confessing the oneness, of creation’s Creator. For to the Lord belongs salvation, and to the Lord belongs salvation and to Christ belongs salvation. May your salvation, Lord, be with us always.”

St. Patrick's Grave

St Patrick’s Grave, Downpatrick

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THE BATTLE OF GREAT BRIDGE

Posted by on Jan 10, 2014 in Blog, History | Comments Off on THE BATTLE OF GREAT BRIDGE

The Battle of Great Bridge was the first major land battle of the war to take place in Virginia. The patriot rout of the British on December 9, 1775 at this strategic location, twelve miles south of Norfolk, would force the English to retreat and end English rule of the largest colony in America.

Artist's rendering of Great Bridge

Artist’s rendering of The Battle of Great Bridge

Come by Colonial Quills to learn more about the early Revolutionary War battle that caused the British to leave Virginia alone for three years while the war raged on elsewhere.

http://colonialquills.blogspot.com

I enjoyed a terrific tour of this battle site by a very knowledgeable docent from the Great Bridge Battlefield and Waterways History Foundation. The Visitor’s Center is anticipated to begin construction this year.

http://www.gbbattlefield.org/

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CHRISTMAS IN WILLIAMSBURG

Posted by on Dec 18, 2013 in Blog, History, Media Sharing, Uncategorized | 2 comments

Pineapple, apples, okra, dried flowers and wheat

Pineapple, apples, okra, dried flowers and wheat

Every year Williamsburg comes alive at Christmas. A daytime stroll down Duke of Gloucester Street, the main thoroughfare in the historic district, and you’ll see wreaths, swags, and evergreen roping on many of the homes, shops and taverns. 

 

For more information on Williamsburg’s Grand Illumination which heralds in the Christmas season, and some of the history of the village, and details of the décor, see my post from Colonial Quills http://colonialquills.blogspot.com/2011/12/williamsburg-christmas.html

IMG_2626

pine cones, apples, artichokes, pomegranates adorn this wreath

Meanwhile, take a walk down Duke of Gloucester Street with me and see just a few of the beautiful, natural decorations.

 

IMG_2666

Wheat, dried flowers, orange slices, cinnamon sticks

 

 

Pomegranates, pineapple, apples, magnolia leaves.

Pomegranates, pineapple, apples, magnolia leaves

 

IMG_2630

Wreaths with apples and horseshoes

IMG_2654

dried flowers, pine cones, cotton, nuts and nutshells

IMG_2651

apples, pomegranates, okra and pheasant feathers

IMG_2638

dried flowers and wheat

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AMERICA’S FIRST THANKSGIVING ~ BERKELEY PLANTATION

Posted by on Nov 26, 2013 in Blog, History, Uncategorized | 5 comments

Front of Berkeley Mansion

Front of Berkeley Mansion

A visit to Berkeley Plantation in Virginia will take you on a journey back to one of the earliest English settlements in America and the sight of the first Thanksgiving.

Berkeley Plantation is twenty-nine miles from the first English settlement at Jamestown that was established in 1607. It is one of many plantations situated along the James River in southeastern Virginia. Traveling by land, it is located twenty-three miles southeast of Richmond along historic Rte 5 where one will see farmland, some modest commercial ventures, and exits to many other plantations.

There were a variety of reasons people emigrated from England to the colonies in the 1600’s. Some came for religious freedom, others to escape poverty, over population, and failing industries. There were also immigrants pursuing financial opportunities. Profit was the motive in 1618 when four English gentlemen met in London to establish a company to start the “Berkeley Hundred and Plantation” on the 8,000 acres and three miles of waterfront granted them by King James I.  Their expedition sailed on the “Good Ship Margaret” in August of 1619 from Bristol, England to settle, grow crops, and establish commercial ventures. One of the men, John Smyth of Nibley, was the historian of the Berkeley family and Berkeley castle in England. He also chronicled the “Berkeley expedition” and settlement of Virginia from 1609-1622.

 

View of the James River

View of the James River

 

The First Official Thanksgiving in America

Most of us associate the first Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621. Actually, the first official Thanksgiving occurred 590 miles south of Plymouth and almost two years before the Pilgrims and Indians shared a harvest feast. The “Margaret” dropped anchor at the Berkeley site December 4, 1619, and upon going ashore the Captain John Woodlief and the company of men dropped to their knees and prayed:

 

First Official Thanksgiving Commemoration Plaque -2

First Official Thanksgiving Commemoration Plaque -2

First Official Thanksgiving Commemoration Plaque

First Official Thanksgiving Commemoration Plaque 1

 

 

 

“We ordaine that this day of our ships arrival,

at the place assigned for plantacon (plantation) in the land of Virginia,

shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy

as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God.”

  

Where the Massachusetts celebration was primarily a social occasion with the Indians, the Berkeley event was strictly a religious one. The London Company gave specific instructions that this religious ceremony was to be repeated annually, and it was . . . for a time. The Virginia settlers and the Indians initially enjoyed friendly relations; however on March 22, 1622, in a calculated plan, Chief Opechancanough led a massive attack at many of the settlements for 140 miles on either side of the James River and Berkeley was among those that perished. Jamestown prepared for the attack as they were warned of the intended massacre by an Indian named Chanco, so were able to defend themselves. The Massacre of 1622 ended the settlement of Berkeley and the annual celebration of Thanksgiving until 1958 when it was reinstated.

(This is in part a re-print of a blogpost I posted on Colonial Quills.)

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this Thursday, 394 years after that first Thanksgiving in Virginia, my prayer is that we will all draw closer to God, and be thankful for the many ways He has blessed us individually and as a nation. 

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FIFTY YEARS LATER ~ REMEMBERING THE DEATH OF C. S. LEWIS

Posted by on Nov 20, 2013 in Blog, Commentary, History, Uncategorized | 6 comments

I was a teenager sitting in a high school English class on November 22, 1963, when we heard through the PA system of the assassination of President Kennedy. Most people over the age of sixty remember exactly where they were when they learned of this horrific event.

What has sadly been overlooked is that on that same day, a gifted man and devout Christian evangelist, with an incredible resume, and Irish roots, also passed away. The vast work of Clive Staples Lewis, better known to the world as C. S. Lewis, and to his friends and family as “Jack”, has entertained and influenced many generations. He was a renowned scholar, poet, novelist, academic, essayist, and Christian apologist. Six by Lewis

C. S. Lewis was born November 29, 1898 near Belfast, Ireland. His father was a solicitor and his mother was the daughter of a Church of Ireland (Anglican) priest.  He was brought up in the Christian church, but abandoned his faith as a teenager and became an atheist. His mother died when he was a young child and his relationship with his father was distant. Lewis was educated at boarding schools and by tutors. After serving in the British Army, he completed his university education at Oxford with a focus on literature and philosophy.

In 1925 Lewis was elected as a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, where he spent nearly thirty years on the staff. He left Oxford in 1954 to accept the position of chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University.

It was while he was at Oxford that he joined fellow faculty members, his brother, Warren Lewis, and a group of writers, in a guild known as the “Inklings”. His close friendship with J. R. R. Tolkien and other members of the group, as well as his interest in the works of George MacDonald, made him discard atheism, return to the Anglican Communion, and embrace a relationship with Jesus Christ. 

Three by LewisDuring World War II, he gave very popular wartime radio broadcasts on the subject of Christianity, and his talks brought many listeners into a living faith with Christ. These broadcast speeches would later make up one of his most famous works, Mere Christianity.

Lewis, a long time bachelor, struck up a relationship through correspondence with Joy Davidman Gresham, an author and American educator. She was an intellectual of Jewish background, and a former Communist, whose troubled marriage finally ended when she converted to Christianity. She and Lewis renewed their friendship when she traveled to England with her two sons. In 1956 they learned Joy’s visa could not be renewed, so to insure she could remain in Great Britain, they chose to have a civil marriage even though they continued to live apart. However when Joy was diagnosed with bone cancer, they realized the depth of their affection. Joy and Jack wanted to be married in the church, but as a divorcee that was not possible. However an Anglican priest, and close personal friend, performed the ceremony at Joy’s hospital bedside on March 21, 1957. Her cancer went into remission and they enjoyed three happy years together until she died in July of 1960. Lewis’s book, A Grief Observed, originally published under a pseudonym, describes his struggles with his faith and his intense grief after her death. C. S. Lewis developed a heart condition and passed away three years later.

His scholarly work has perhaps been overshadowed by his many Christian non-fiction and fiction books that have continued to be reprinted and enjoyed by people throughout the world. Here are just a few:

 

Fiction

The Chronicles Of Narnia

The Chronicles Of Narnia

The Pilgrim’s Regress

The Screwtape Letters

The Chronicles of Narnia

The Space Trilogy

 

Non-fiction

Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (autobiography)

Mere Christianity

Miracles

The Problem of Pain

The Abolition of Man

A Grief Observed (1961; first published under the pseudonym N. W. Clerk)

 

On the 50th anniversary of C.S. Lewis’s death, he will be honored with a memorial in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-20426778

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