It was named after John Smith, who led two voyages in the Chesapeake Bay. English officials instructed Smith to map the area, claim land, find gold/other riches, and trade with the natives.
Smith also played an important role in the establishment of the Jamestown colony (the first permanent English settlement in North America). He trained the first settlers to farm and work in 1607, ensuring the colony flourished.
Smith wrote of a situation that occurred in the same year, involving his capture by the Powhatan tribe. He was brought to meet the chief, but was released without harm when Pocahontas threw herself across his body– effectively saving his life.
Smith’s account of the situation has been questioned by many historians, but was sensationalized in Disney’s 1995 animated film, Pocahontas.
Many believe that through the years, the name changed from Captain John to Cabin John.