For her, Pocahontas is all in the family

June 23, 1995|By Sandra Crockett | Sandra Crockett,Sun Staff Writer

For as long as she can remember, Kathy Morgan has heard about being a direct descendant of Pocahontas.

"My grandmother told us and always talked about it," she says. "[And] her grandmother told her." Another relative had a book on Pocahontas. "And my great-great-great-grandfather is in it," Mrs. Morgan says.

Not surprisingly, the computer software engineer, wife and mother of two from Cockeysville is delighted by the interest in Pocahontas as Disney is bringing the tale of the Indian princess to the big screen.

And, as is only fitting for the descendant of a princess, Mrs. Morgan was invited this week to a sneak preview of the movie, which opens in Baltimore today.

She gives it a big thumbs-up.

"It's a great movie!" Mrs. Morgan says. "Really wonderful, with good music." Of course, she adds, it's "not totally true."

For instance, the real Pocahontas was about 12 years old when she met Capt. John Smith in Virginia, says Mrs. Morgan, who has done her own research on the Indian princess' life. In the movie, Pocahontas appears to be much more mature.

And, to this day, historians disagree if Pocahontas really threw her body across Captain Smith to save his life. Pocahontas, a favorite child of her father's, was apparently taken with John Smith. According to the legend, Pocahontas' father tried to execute him before his daughter intervened.

"It's real questionable if that ever really happened that way," says Mrs. Morgan.

Smith first recounted the tale of Pocahontas' saving his life in a book written in 1624. However, he wrote the book about seven years after Pocahontas died and there is no corroboration.

Mrs. Morgan and historians agree on one important fact. "There is no doubt that she really did meet him," she says.

Pocahontas was born in Virginia during the mid- to late 1590s. She was the daughter of the Chief of the Powhatans. Her real name was Matoaka, although she was called Pocahontas.

After the Capt. John Smith episode, she was captured by the English and held prisoner for about a year. While she was a prisoner, her tutor, John Rolfe, taught her English.

He was about 28 and she was about 17 when they married and had a son. It is from this union that Mrs. Morgan descended. She traces her family history on her mother's side back 13 generations directly to Pocahontas.

Pocahontas traveled to England, and died there at the age of 21. Her son, Thomas, returned to Virginia and settled near Richmond, where Mrs. Morgan was raised.

Mrs. Morgan didn't inherit a trace of the physical characteristics of Pocahontas. She has dark blond hair and has green eyes. Her two children, the 14th generation of Pocahontas' descendants, are blond and blue-eyed, too. But there are other family members who possess olive skin and dark hair.

She grew up in a family of six daughters and one son. She is the only sibling with a strong interest in the Pocahontas connection: No one in the family felt necessarily unique because of it.

"There are a number of Pocahontas descendants in Richmond," she says.

But, she does remember being enchanted by the lore.

"I remember we used to play in the woods," she says of her childhood. "And sometimes we used to play near the river, walk along it and try to imagine how it must have been when she walked along the river."

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