First cultivator of marketable tobacco in Virginia.
John Rolfe was responsible for the development of a cash crop in the Virginia colony; he cross-pollinated tobacco plants to create a mild blend highly desired in Europe. Rolfe, his wife, and infant daughter traveled onboard the Sea Venture from England in 1609 and were stranded in Bermuda for almost a year with other settlers before being rescued by other ships of the Virginia Company—an event that inspired Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Rolfe’s wife and child died en route, and he arrived in the Virginia colony in 1610 a widower. The colony, meant to make profits for the Virginia Company, desperately needed a staple crop, but the tobacco grown by the region’s Native Americans had a taste unfavorable in comparison to that grown by the Spanish in the Caribbean and Central America.
Between 1611 and 1612, Rolfe experimented with tobacco seeds smuggled from Spanish Surinam and developed a tobacco that, when tested in London, compared favorably with the Spanish product. In addition to being known for his work with tobacco, Rolfe also became famous as the husband of Pocahontas, whom he married in Spring 1614 after she had converted to the Church of England and taken the name Rebecca. Rolfe and Pocahontas visited England in 1616 as part of a promotional tour on behalf of the Virginia Company. Pocahontas contracted smallpox there and died, leaving Rolfe again a widower with a son, Thomas. After he returned to Virginia, Rolfe continued to plant tobacco. Virginia exported 20,000 pounds of it in 1617, and Rolfe was elected to the House of Burgesses, the colony’s representative assembly. Rolfe died in 1622 after marrying for a third time, but the cause of his death, perhaps a devastating Indian raid that year, remains unknown.
See also: Volume Two: Trade Policy.
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1585-1622 English colonist in Virginia He emigrated from England to Jamestown, Virginia, in 1610 and discovered a method of curing tobacco, which mad
Rolfe, arrived in Virginia in 1610 and married the well known Pocahontas ,daughter of Powhattan, a high Red Indian chief, in...
pronunciation John Rolfe 1585–1622 Eng. colonist