Friday, October 30, 2015

Beeks line: Henry Rolfe 1585-1643, Immigrant

Henry Rolfe is another immigrant ancestor in the Beeks line.  He was born before September 5, 1585 in Downton or Whiteparish, Wiltshire, England.  (The two villages are very near each other.  It appears he was christened at Whiteparish but may have lived nearer to Downton.)  Someone on the webpage vault.hanover.edu/~smith/smit.gen.html has done a wonderful job of describing his or her trip to the area, and has wonderful pictures showing the villages and the actual land farmed by John Rolfe, Henry's father.  It is a very peaceful appearing location. The land showed no crops currently being grown, so it's hard to know how the land was used 400 and more years ago.  I've been unable to verify the mother of Henry, except that her name was "Honor." 

"Honor" may have been a popular name for women in that place and time period, for Henry married an "Honor" also, in fact, she was "Honor Rolfe", a first cousin once-removed.  They were married at Whiteparish, Wiltshire, England on May 28, 1621, when Henry was 30 and Honor was about 22 years old.  They seem to have had three children in England, with a fourth, Benjamin, born in Newburyport in 1638.  It isn't known for sure when they immigrated to America but it must have been no later than 1638 since his son was born there.  Henry's will, written in 1642, shows "howse and land" so he had been here long enough to accumulate some land and build a home, anyway.  This was in the town of Newburyport, now known as Newbury.  There is no record that he was ever made a freeman, so possibly he acquired the land shortly before his death. 

His inventory was valued at 153 pounds, 8 shillings, 6 pence, which seems to be farily decent considering that he was in America only a few years.  He owned quite a few animals-6 cows, four oxen, one bull and one steer, 5 "beasts", plus calves, hogs, and bees.  There is mention of a feather bed and a "flock" bed  (a flock bed was filled with wool refuse, left over materials, and the like), and 6 feather pillows.  From this, one suspects that some children slept on the floor.  He also had a musket and fowling pieces, 2 swords and bandoliers, so he was armed in typical fashion for the time. Also there were books, not identified, valued at one pound, so Henry could read.  It would be interesting to know what the books were, because that would give us a window into his mind.  Henry's wife, Honor, died in 1650 or 1653, according to different sources. 

I'd love to know more about Henry.  Was he a Puritan, or was he in America for other reason than to practice his religion?  What were those books in his inventory?  He may have had a final illness of several months, since he wrote his will several months before he died.  What was his cause of death?  Did he ever need to discharge those firearms to protect his family, or his fellow colonists? 

Once again, there are questions, but we do know that he was a brave and hard-working man, to have come to the Massaschusetts Bay Colony and to have been a financial success at his death. 

The line of descent is:

Henry Rolfe-Honor Rolfe
John Rolfe-Mary Scullard
Mary Rolph-Benjamin Dunham
Jonathan Dunham-Mary Smith
Samuel Dunham-Hannah Ruble (or possibly Chenoweth)
Jacob Dunham-Catherine Goodnight
Samuel G Dunham-Eliza Reese
Margaret Catherine Dunham-Harvey Aldridge
Cleo Aldridge-Wilbur Beeks
Mary Margaret Beeks-Cleveland Harshbarger
Their descendants