Historic wedding comes to life



Henrico citizens had the chance to experience a royal wedding of sorts at Dorey Park earlier this month – a few weeks before Prince William and Kate Middleton formalize their royal union in a more official, and more publicly scrutinized, wedding in England.

The Varina Woman's Club April 10 sponsored a re-enactment of the wedding of Pocahontas and John Rolfe, a ceremony that originally took place in Jamestown April 5, 1614.

Pocahontas, the daughter of Chief Powhatan, and Rolfe, an English settler whose strain of Spanish tobacco is credited with helping to save the Virginia Colony in 1612, lived for a time at Rolfe's Varina Farms plantation. Their marriage helped bring a period of peaceful relations between English settlers and Powhatan Indians in Virginia.

The re-enactment was performed according to the original ceremony and vows and featured a number of costumed re-enactors from the Chickahominy Tribe and Henricus Historical Park.

They included Pocahontas (portrayed by Dr. Mayflower Edwards), Rolfe (portrayed by Jared Lawson), Governor Sir Thomas Dale (portrayed by Dennis Strawderman) and Rev. Alexander Whitaker (portrayed by Mike Bell).

Though Whitaker did not perform the original ceremony, the Woman's Club opted to have his character perform the re-enacted version, since he was the rector of Varina Episcopal Church and taught Pocahontas.

Following their marriage in 1614, Pocahontas (also known as Rebecca Rolfe) and her husband lived at Varina Farms until 1616, when they traveled to England with their infant son, Thomas. But Pocahontas became ill and died in England as the family was preparing to return to Virginia.

Rolfe did return, remarried and died in 1622 – the same year the Powhatan Indians massacred English settlers in the region.

Members of the Chickahominy Tribe assisted with this month's wedding re-enactment. Birdie Sours of the tribe helped to arrange for other tribe members to appear, including her daughter, who portrayed Pocahontas, and her brothers, Troy "Dancing Hawk" Adkins and Oscar Adkins. Troy Adkins portrayed Chief Opitchapam, while Oscar Adkins portrayed Chief Opechancanough.

The two chiefs were brothers of Chief Powhatan and appeared at the wedding in his place, because he feared settlers would try to kidnap him.
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