Captain John Smith: Historic Ties Between England and America

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Historic Ties Between England and America

By Glynn Burrows


Glynn Burrows, owner of Norfolk Tours in England, discusses Captain John Smith’s historic ties between England and America on Big Blend Radio.



For someone born in the C16th, Captain John Smith has a lot of books written about him and any Hollywood star would be proud of his web presence too!

John Smith is thought to have been born around 1579 and one candidate, the one which most people say is correct, is the son of George Smyth who was baptised on 9th January 1579 in Willoughby, Lincolnshire.

His family must have been very affluent because, according to the majority of his biographies, he was educated at Alford and Louth Grammar Schools before taking an apprenticeship with King’s Lynn Merchant Thomas Sendall. Thomas Sendall was one of the richest merchants in the town and had even entertained Sir Walter Raleigh at his home. After his father died, in 1596, John became a mercenary, travelling all over Europe and the Mediterranean.


He was back in England in time to join a voyage to America in 1607, but that trip was not without its problems. It appears that some of the others didn’t like Smith and they were ready to hang him, when others on the journey stepped in and calmed the situation. Arriving in Chesapeake, it was discovered that Smith had been chosen as one of the seven councillors by The Virginia Council in London and this met with not a little anger. He was eventually allowed to take his place and, as one of the very few with experience in combat, he was able to help get the settlement established and protected. The story of Pocahontas has been told and retold millions of times and fact has been embellished and altered over the centuries but I will add only that she became the wife of John Rolfe, a man from Heacham, only a few miles from King’s Lynn, where John Smith was apprenticed to Thomas Sendall.

Yet another Norfolk connection for this story, is Henry Spelman, who went on an expedition with John Smith, up the River James, where he also met Pocahontas and Powhatan. Henry’s brother Thomas was also in Virginia and when his will of 1627 mentions a daughter, Mary, in Virginia. John Smith doesn’t appear to have married or fathered any children and there is one story that an accident caused some major health problems.


Smith returned to England a settled in London, where he died in 1631. His will mentions a sister in law and a cousin, Steven Smith, among other friends and acquaintances.

Editor’s Note: The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail is a series of water routes in the United States extending approximately 3,000 miles along the Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary, and its tributaries in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and in the District of Columbia. The historic routes trace the 1607–1609 voyages of Captain John Smith to chart the land and waterways of the Chesapeake. Along with the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail, it is one of two water trails designated as National Historic Trails. Watch the video about the historic trail or learn more at

Glynn Burrows is the owner of Norfolk Tours in England. For help or advice about tracing your family history, or if you are thinking about taking a vacation to England visit


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About the Author:

Glynn Burrows is the owner of Norfolk Tours in England and a frequent contributor to Big Blend Magazines. For help or advice about tracing your family history, or if you are thinking about taking a vacation to England visit

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