What were the contributions of John Smith and John Rolfe to the colony of Jamestown?

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saintfester | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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Jamestown, Virginia was the first permanent English colony in North America. Although many settlers had a hand in keeping this colony going, two men in particular achieved fame due to their role; John Smith and John Rolfe.

John Smith was an English soldier who was hired by the Virginia Company to help establish a trading post in North America. Although he had a reputation as a troublemaker and was nearly executed when he reached North America, he eventually became its leader in 1608 and instituted a “No Work, No Food” policy. The colony began to grow and expand under his strict leadership. During this time he also struck up a relationship with the daughter of a powerful chief, Powahatan. The young princess, who we know commonly as Pocohontas, reportedly saved Smith and the settlement twice, but whether this was romantic relationship or not is a question of much debate. Smith eventually returned to England after a gunpowder explosion in 1609.

John Rolfe arrived with the third wave of settlers in 1610. Rolfe settled in an immediately went to work cultivating tobacco commercially, a crop which proved to be so lucrative it secured the future of the colony and led to further English settlement in the area. Rolfe became acquainted with Pocohontas while she was a hostage in Jamestown and married her in 1614.

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