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Published: April 1st 2020
CHURCH, BARRACKS AND BARRICADE AT JAMESTOWNJAMESTOWN COLONY
This is the original site of the colony, and is pretty much an archaeology dig with a museum full of artifacts. The Park Service operates an interpretive center nearby that features a rebuilt colony, a couple of replica ships, and an Algonquian village. All of it is fake, but worth the visit.
A hundred years had passed since Spain began to colonize North America. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, The Virgin Queen, Sir Walter Raleigh attempted to establish an English colony called Roanoke in North Carolina. It was protected from the sea behind a string of barrier islands, and was intended to be a base for piracy against Spanish shipping. The colony soon perished through starvation, disease, and massacre by natives. A few may have survived as captives taken inland. Twenty years more had passed before a second attempt at colonization was attempted during the reign of King James. It was organized by a group of private investors calling themselves the Virginia Company and set sail from London in late December of 1606 aboard 3 ships commanded by Captain Newport. At the time the entire seaboard of North America north of Spanish Florida was known by the English as Virginia. It was named in honor of Queen Elizabeth. The new colonists, a hundred or so strong, arrived in the Chesapeake Bay in April of 1607 and set about locating a likely site for their new home. On May 14 they swaggered ashore on a spit of land on
JOHN SMITH VIEWS MODERN SHIPPING
His ghost would be both astonished and dismayed at what America has become.
the east side of the James River, and called their new community Jamestown. They were not alone in the wilderness. The site they chose was in the backyard of Chief Powhatan. He was amused by the new arrivals, but not alarmed by them. The Algonquian people were strong, and Powhatan was the big dog with the brass collar among them. John Smith was the leader of the colonists and he went to visit Powhatan to arrange trade with them. Powhatan agreed to trade, but would not allow Smith to go back home. While being captive he learned a bit of their language and customs, and sent others to do the same. Smith returned to England in 1609 and John Rolfe became leader in his place. Rolfe married Powhatan’s daughter, Pocahantas In the meantime the colonists nearly starved to death. They ate their pets, they ate their shoes, and some of them ate their friends. In 1610 another 150 colonists arrived with much needed supplies and more trade goods. Pocahantas had learned a bit of the English language and customs and she ventured to England for an audience with King James. He thought it would be a cute idea to confer
POCAHANTAS STATUE AT JAMESTOWN
When she died in London she was still a teenager. Legend credits her with saving John Smith's life when he dared to approach Powhatan with offers to trade.
a lordship on Powhatan. Pocahantas went up the flume in London. When he learned of her death Powhatan was not pleased and the offer of nobility pissed him off. Powhatan felt himself superior to the King, and a minor position in the nobility was an insult to him. Already tense relationships became more strained with the happy result that attacks and reprisals became more common.
Tobacco had caught on in England and the colony had begun to prosper using Cuban seeds. As the colony gained strength Powhatan lost strength due to European diseases that the Algonquian had no resistance to. Lord De La Warr was appointed as colonial governor to oversee the profits for the Virginia Company. The first slaves swaggered ashore at Jamestown in 1620 aboard a Portuguese vessel. They were indentured servants put to work cultivating tobacco on the governor’s plantation at Green Spring. Nobody could afford to buy them, and the Portuguese captain could not afford to feed them. America would never have up and running without slave labor. We owe them a debt of gratitude that was never appreciated. The governor established a new colony that came to be known as Delaware. A group of
ON THE LOOKOUT FOR SPANISH SHIPPING
The colony could easily have been overrun by the Spanish had they ever bothered to attack.
Indians eventually had that name conferred upon them too. A fellow named William Berkeley eventually became governor of Virginia and under his guidance a great diversity of new crops began to flourish at the Green Spring Plantation. Profits soared for everyone, and so did slavery. Berkeley favored kind treatment for the slaves and for the Indians and favored giving them suffrage so they would have voice in their own governance.
In 1676 one of Berkeley’s distant nephews, Nathaniel Bacon, wanted more voice in politics, and he wanted to increase his holdings by stealing more Indian land. He gathered some like-thinking followers and rose up in opposition to Berkeley’s frontier Indian policy. It became known as the Bacon Rebellion and would have succeeded. They burnt Jamestown to the ground and sacked the Green Spring Plantation, but Bacon got dysentery and pooped himself to death. Twenty-seven of his followers were hanged for their indiscretion, and Berkeley was recalled to London over it. He died soon as he got there. Maybe he had dysentery too. Jamestown remained the capitol city of Virginia until 1699 when it was moved to Williamsburg. It is an amazing place to visit. If you decide to go there plan to spend some time with your visit. Yorktown is nearby.
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