Gravesend & Pocahontas
Updated: Oct 12
The ASHMORE'S Journey Begins. . .
The Ashmore's Link With Gravesend
The Ashmore loaded its shipment of merchandise in London before being towed by tugboat to Gravesend. This is where she picked up her passengers and their cargo. Lillie Curtis and her family boarded in Gravesend on Sunday the 21st of May 1882.
Weather in 1882
The Ashmore set sail in England’s spring where the average temperature was 16.8˚C. The average low was 7.5˚C. Daylight lasted 6.26 hours and their average rainfall was 1.61” a day. No wonder the family thought winters in New Zealand were pleasant in comparison.
The Gravesend railway station was opened in 1849. The Curtis family travelled from their home in Lincolnshire to Gravesend, a journey of 135 miles. Today it takes 150 minutes by car. I have no tickets as proof of how they travelled to Gravesend, but considering the number of children and all the household items they brought with them, this mode of transport seems the most likely.
Gravesend is an ancient town in north-west Kent. It’s 35km southeast of central London on the River Thames. The port is situated on the south bank and has been of strategic importance throughout maritime history.
The town lies north of the Roman Road that connects Gravesend to London with the Kent coast, now called Watling Street.
A leper hospital was founded in Gravesend in 1189. The first Mayor was elected in 1268 and the first town hall was built in 1573. A cast iron pier was built in 1834, having the first iron cylinders used in its construction.
The population of Gravesend in 2016 = 74,000.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Pocahontas, the American Indian, is buried in Gravesend
Pocahontas was the daughter of a Native American chieftain named Powhatan, one of his 27 children. She was coerced onto a English ship by a rival Native American group so she could be held for ransom. Captain Samuel Argall who ordered her capture, and paid the compensation with a copper kettle. While held for ransom in Jamestown, Pocahontas learned the European customs, language and religion. This made her a convenient diplomat for the English colonists to use in their negotiations with the Native Americans.
Pocahontas was sent to her father to defuse the strained situation that had begun with her own kidnapping. Pocahontas won peace, assuring her father she was happy and preferred to stay in Jamestown than return home. This prevented more bloodshed between the two groups.
Pocahontas became a symbol of peace. She met a wealthy widower named John Rolfe and the two married on April 5, 1614. Rolfe who had come over to Virginia to farm tobacco, had lost his wife and child on the ocean crossing.
Their son, Thomas, was born a year later in 1615. The family lived on Rolfe's tobacco farm and their steady marriage continued to sustain peace between the colonists and her people. This was the first recorded interracial marriage in North American history.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
John Rolfe and Pocahontas, (who had become a Christian and renamed Rebecca Rolfe), sailed to England in 1616. The arrival of a Native American “princess” described as the “daughter of the most powerful prince of the Powhatan Empire of Virginia", was treated as a curiosity. They did a whirlwind tour of England and Pocahontas was the guest of honor at grand balls. They attended plays and were received in court where she even met the king and queen. When they boarded a tallship ship to return to America seven months later, she became gravely ill and was taken off the boat when it pulled into Gravesend. She died later that day and was buried at St George’s parish under the chancel. She was then only 21 years old. (1595-1617).
John Rolfe returned to Virginia alone. He left his son back in England, as he was also gravely ill. Shortly after his arrival, his father-in-law, Powhatan, also died. With both parties who had forged the peace deceased, the truce between the colonists and the Native Americans slowly began to unravel.
Their son, Thomas Rolfe survived his sickness, and returned to America in 1635. His father, John Rolfe, died in 1622, but although the Powhatan Empire did not consider Thomas for the leadership role vacated by his grandfather, they did grant the son of Pocahontas thousands of acres of land along the James River.
Thomas used this inheritance to become the wealthiest tobacco farmer in the New World. He had a daughter named Jane, who ensured that Pocahontas’s bloodline lived on.
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