First Families of Virginia – The Bollings

In this episode I begin making the case that perhaps Governor Berkeley’s greatest contribution to 17th Century Virginia and beyond was his encouraging Cavaliers to immigrate into the colony.

Beginning in the 1640s many of those Cavalier families took up Berkeley’s offer, and indeed moved many sons into the Old Dominion. The first family on our list, the Bollings, sent teen-aged Robert to the New World in 1660. He quickly worked his way into existing society, especially when he married Pocahontas’ granddaughter, Jane Rolfe in 1674.

Robert’s arrival was a case of old meets new in that the Rolfe line was one of the earliest prominent Virginia families, even if Thomas Rolfe, John and Pocahontas’ son, didn’t return to Virginia until the 1640s himself. The Rolfe’s still owned land, and it was in Thomas’ name. He received more lands over the next couple of decades, which made marrying his daughter Jane a highly prized choice.

Robert and Jane’s marriage extended genealogical links from John Rolfe and Pocahontas into the 20th Century. Their children and grandchildren were highly influential planters, merchants, and statesmen who helped shape Virginia into a powerhouse up to the American War for Independence and beyond. Because of that, as well as their connection all the way back to 17th Century Virginia’s most famous marriage, the Bolling family is my first episode in the First Family of Virginia Series.



  1. Billings, Warren M.; Selby, John E.; and Tate, Thad W. Colonial Virginia: A History. White Plains, NY: KTO Press. 1986.
  2. Billings, Warren M. Sir William Berkeley and the Forging of Colonial Virginia. Baton Rouge, LA: LSU Press, 2004.
  3. Billings, Warren. A Little Parliament: The Virginia General Assembly in the Seventeenth Century. Richmond, VA: Library of Virginia, 2004.
  4. Bolling, Robert. A Memoir of a Portion of the Bolling Family in England and Virginia. Richmond, VA: W.H. Wade and Co, 1868.
  5. Dabney, Virginius. Virginia: The New Dominion, A History from 1607 to the Present. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 1971.
  6. Evans, Emory G. A “Topping People”: The Rise and Decline of Virginia’s Old Political Elite, 1680-1790. Charlottesville, VA: UVA Press, 2009.
  7. Fischer, David Hackett. Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (America: a cultural history). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.
  8. Horn, James. Adapting to A New World: English Society in the Seventeenth-Century Chesapeake. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1994.
  9. Mapp, Alfred J. Virginia Experiment: The Old Dominion’s Role in the Making of America, 1607-1781Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, Inc., 2006.
  10. McCartney, Martha W. Virginia Immigrants and Adventurers: A Biographical Dictionary, 1607-1635. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2007.
  11. Neill, Edward D. Virginia Carolorum: The Colony under the Rule of Charles The First and Second, A.D. 1625-A.D. 1685. Albany, NY: Joel Munsell’s and Sons, 1886.
  12. Pecquet du Bellet, Louise. Some Prominent Virginia Families, vol. 4. Lynchburg, VA:  J.P. Bell Company, 1907.
  13. Robertson, Wyndham. Pocahontas: Alias Matoaka, and Her Descendants. Richmond, VA: J.W. Randolph and English, 1887.
  14. Rothbard, Murray N. Conceived in Liberty. Auburn, AL: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 1999.
  15. Tyler, Lyon Gardiner. The Cradle of the Republic: Jamestown and the James River. Richmond, VA: The Hermitage Press, 1906.
  16. Walsh, Lorena S. Motives of Honor, Pleasure, and Profit: Plantation Management in the Colonial Chesapeake, 1607-1763. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2010.
  17. Washburn, Wilcomb E. Virginia Under Charles I and Cromwell 1625-1660. Kindle Edition.
  18. Wertenbaker, Thomas Jefferson. Virginia Under the Stuarts: 1607-1688. New York: Russell and Russell, 1959.
  19. Wertenbaker, Thomas Jefferson. The Planters of Colonial Virginia. Kindle Edition.
  20. Wright, Louis B. First Gentlemen of Virginia. Charlottesville, VA: Dominion Books, 1982.




All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The Featured Image is of the Bolling Family Crest. Other images not my own are the Bolling Grave Markers, Diascund Creek, Robert Bolling, Sr., John Wesley Jarvis’s John Randolph of Roanoke, The Bolling Mausoleum, and Edith Bolling Wilson.

Music used for this episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” available on iTunes, and “Brothers” by Little Chief, also available on iTunes.


K.I. Knight Interview – First Africans and Slavery’s 17th Century Virginia Evolution (Pillars of 17th Century Virginia Society, Part 4)

1619 was a pivotal year in Virginia for many reasons, but author K.I. Knight says that one key issue that did not begin in 1619 was slavery. The “Twenty and odd” did arrive in August 1619, but according to Ms. Knight’s meticulous research the “Twenty” were in fact 14 at first, and many of those 14 went on to help save the colony after the 1622 uprising before securing land of their own. Some of them, like Anthony Johnson, even owned slaves themselves.

For sure, slavery seems to have been around the Virginia landscape in some form by the 1640s,  but it wasn’t the institution that it became by the 18th and 19th centuries. Kathryn puts together an astounding narrative weaving extant court and genealogical records together to prove that the immoral institution evolved over time, before it became legally organized by the late 1690s and early 1700s. Exact beginning dates are hard to pin down, largely due to lost records. Regardless, the foundations for American slavery were being set during the 17th Century, and this episode discusses those foundations as they occurred in Virginia.


K.I. Knight’s Books and Links:



All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author. The Featured Image is of author Kathryn Hall Knight at Fort Monroe.

**Special thanks to Terry Brown at Fort Monroe, who graciously lent his office to Kathryn and me for this interview. If you haven’t heard my interview with Terry, please, find that here.

Music used for this episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” available on iTunes, and Symphony No. 7 in C Major, Op. 60 “Leningrad”: IV. Allegro Non Troppo by Dmitri Shostakovich, performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra directed by Leonard Bernstein, also available on iTunes.