Monday, December 15, 2014

Ancestor Stories: Webster, Johnson, Rolfe

         John Webster of Warwickshire, England, came to the Massachusetts Bay Colony around 1630-1633. He moved from Newtown, now Cambridge, Massachusetts, to the present site of Hartford, Connecticut, in 1636, presumably with the Rev. Thomas Hooker. Hartford was then known as Suckiaug meaning black earth. John located on the south side of Little River,on what would later become known as Governor Street. He served the Connecticut Colony as follows: 1637, Officer of the Court and elected to the General Court; 1638 elected as Deputy Commissioner, 1639-1655, Magistrate or Judge; 1654, appointed Member of Congress of the United Colonies; 1655, Deputy Governor; 1656, Governor; 1657-1659 First Magistrate or Chief Judge. He was one of ten gentleman out of 153 original settlers of Hartford honored with the title of Mr. In 1659 he went with 59 other persons to establish Hadley, he lived temporarily in Northampton. He lived almost two years in Hadley before he died there in 1661. He served in 1660 and 1661 as Magistrate. His wife, Agnes, died six years later. They had seven children: Matthew, William, Robert, Thomas, Anne, Elizabeth, and Mary.

        John Johnson was born about 1590, records found in England state his family was from Abbotts Ann, County of Hampshire located just outside of Andover, West of London.  Although, known as a London man he was in business with his brother, Robert, a merchant (today we call it a grocer).
He sailed in the Virginia Company about 1611. Records show he was in Jamestowne on or before 1612. He was known as an Ancient Planter, one who came to the Virginia Colony as a permanent settler. He was also a yeoman, a small farmer or freeholder. When he patented his land, he was granted 100 acres by Governor Sir George Yeardly. John served as juror several times.
        He had 15 acres on the NE part of Jamestowne Island and 85 acres north of Archer’s Hope Creek called Jockey’s Neck, now the site of the Williamsburg Winery. Research shows he lived on the 15 acres and farmed his cash crop on the 85 acres, probably tobacco. There seems to have been a number of disputes regarding neighbors and the mistaken identity of one’s own hogs, resulting in the slaughter of each other’s swine. Johnson went to court over the issue and afterwards began branding his live stock.
        John married Ann, who was probably one of the ‘Maids’ that arrived in 1619. They had three children: Anne, John, and unknown. The family traveled back to England in the 1630s and returned with 5 servants, this entitled them to 450 acres of land. John died around 1636.
         John Rolfe served as secretary and recorder general of Virginia (1614–1619) and as a member of the governor's Council (1614–1622). He is best known for having married Pocahontas in 1614 and for being the first to cultivate marketable tobacco in Virginia. Joined by his first wife, whose name is unknown, Rolfe sailed on the Sea Venture, a Virginia-bound ship that wrecked off the islands of Bermuda in 1609. There his wife gave birth to a daughter, but mother and child soon died. In Virginia, Rolfe turned to experimenting with tobacco, a plant first brought to England from Florida. The Virginia Indians planted a variety that was harsh to English smokers, so Rolfe developed a Spanish West Indies seed, Nicotiana tabacum, that became profitable and, indeed, transformed the colony's economy. In 1614, Rolfe married Pocahontas, daughter of Powhatan, the paramount chief of Tsenacomoco. The marriage helped bring an end to the First Anglo-Powhatan War (1609–1614), but Pocahontas died in 1617 while visiting England with Rolfe and their son, Thomas. While in England, Rolfe penned A True Relation of the state of Virginia Lefte by Sir Thomas Dale Knight in May Last 1616 (1617), promoting the interests of the Virginia Company of London. Back in Virginia, he married Joane Peirce about 1619 and had a daughter, Elizabeth. He died in 1622. Source: Encyclopedia Virginia.

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