In a few years the colony stood on its own feet economically and began to thrive, especially with the introduction of tobacco cultivation. Englishman John Rolfe became one of the chief exporters of the “noxious weed”. In the course of time, he grew to love Pocahontas and sought marriage. The pagan religion of the natives presented a great barrier to Rolfe, for the Scripture prohibits being “unequally yoked”. Pocahontas agreed to catechizing and other instruction from the local pastor of the colony, and she came to faith in Christ. The seventeen-year-old Matoaka married John Rolfe in 1614 and a year later gave birth to a son named Thomas. In 1616 the Rolfe family sailed for England. She was given a “Christian” name, Rebecca, and due to her royal status became known as Lady Rebecca. After their introduction to King James and Queen Anne, it was recorded that the monarchs expressed their displeasure in the Rolfe marriage, since Matoaka was royalty and Rolfe but a merchant.
The Marriage of John Rolfe and Pocahontas, April 1614
Pocahontas contracted an illness aboard ship on the way back to Jamestown and died on the first day of spring in 1617; she was buried at the church in Gravesend, in a site now unidentified. Her son Thomas Rolfe lived on to marry and become the father of one daughter. Today, thousands of people can trace their lineage back to the Rolfes and thus to the chief of the Powhatans.
Although she was not considered royalty in the Powhatan culture, by English standards, Matoaka possessed royal blood. The conversion of queens and princesses contributed powerfully to the Protestant Reformation of the previous century in Europe. The promise of a royal convert in the first permanent English settlement of the New World reminded some Englishmen of the potential for great spiritual fruit of the Gospel among the native tribes. In the providence of God, the compelling story of Pocahontas did not result in a spiritual awakening among the natives in Virginia, but in just a few years, many among native tribes of New England responded to evangelism and established Christian communities of their own.