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    A Short History of Jamestown

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    Historic Jamestowne

    Part of Colonial National Historical Park


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    NPS.govPark HomeLearn About the ParkHistory & CultureStoriesA Short History of Jamestown

    A Short History of Jamestown

    The English arrive at Jamestown.

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    On December 6, 1606, the journey to Virginia began on three ships: the Susan Constant, the Godspeed, and the Discovery. In 1607, 104 English men and boys arrived in North America to start a settlement. On May 13 they picked Jamestown, Virginia for their settlement, which was named after their King, James I. The settlement became the first permanent English settlement in North America.

    The site for Jamestown was picked for several reasons, all of which met criteria the Virginia Company, who funded the settlement, said to follow in picking a spot for the settlement. The site was surrounded by water on three sides (it was not fully an island yet) and was far inland; both meant it was easily defensible against possible Spanish attacks. The water was also deep enough that the English could tie their ships at the shoreline - good parking! The site was also not inhabited by the Native population.

    Once the spot was chosen the instructions sent by the Virginia Company, with the list of the council members (chosen by officials in England), was read. The names were kept in a sealed box on the ship (each ship had a sealed copy). The first President of the new Virginia colony was to be Edward Maria Winfield. The other six council members were: Bartholomew Gosnold, Christopher Newport, John Martin, John Ratcliffe, George Kendall, and John Smith.

    By June 15, the fort was completed. It was triangle shaped with a bulwark at each corner, holding four or five pieces of artillery. The settlers were now protected against any attacks that might occur from the local Powhatan Indians, whose hunting land they were living on. Relations had already been mixed between the newcomers and the Powhatan Indians. On June 22, Captain Newport left for England to get more supplies for the new settlement.

    Not long after Captain Newport left, the settlers began to succumb to a variety of diseases. They were drinking water from the salty or slimy river, which was one of several things that caused the death of many. The death tolls were high. They were dying from swellings, fluxes, fevers, by famine, and sometimes by wars. Food was running low, though then Chief Powhatan starting to send gifts of food to help the English. If not for the Powhatan Indians help in the early years, the settlement would most likely have failed, as the English would have died from the various diseases or simply starved.

    By late 1609, the relationship between the Powhatan Indians and the English had soured as the English were demanding too much food during a drought. That winter of 1609-10 is known as the "Starving Time." During that winter the English were afraid to leave the fort, due to a legitimate fear of being killed by the Powhatan Indians. As a result they ate anything they could: various animals, leather from their shoes and belts, and sometimes fellow settlers who had already died. By early 1610 most of the settlers, 80-90% according to William Strachey, had died due to starvation and disease.

    In May 1610, shipwrecked settlers who had been stranded in Bermuda finally arrived at Jamestown. Part of a fleet sent the previous fall, the survivors used two boats built on Bermuda to get to Jamestown. Sir Thomas Gates, the newly named governor, found Jamestown in shambles with the palisades of the fort torn down, gates off their hinges, and food stores running low. The decision was made to abandon the settlement. Less than a day after leaving, however, Gates and those with him, including the survivors of the "Starving Time," were met by news of an incoming fleet. The fleet was bringing the new governor for life, Lord Delaware. Gates and his party returned to Jamestown.

    Harvesting Tobacco. NPS Image

    In 1612, John Rolfe, one of many shipwrecked on Bermuda, helped turn the settlement into a profitable venture. He introduced a new strain of tobacco from seeds he brought from elsewhere. Tobacco became the long awaited cash crop for the Virginia Company, who wanted to make money off their investment in Jamestown.

    Source : www.nps.gov

    Jamestown, Virginia

    Jamestown, Virginia

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    See also: History of Jamestown, Virginia (1607–1699)

    Jamestown, Virginia

    Jamestowne, Williamsburg

    Fort (1607) and Town (1619)

    The ruined tower of the 17th century Jamestown Church; the nave was reconstructed in 1907 on the original foundations

    Location in eastern Virginia


    Location in Virginia

    Coordinates: 37°12′33″N 76°46′39″W / 37.20917°N 76.77750°W

    Coordinates: 37°12′33″N 76°46′39″W / 37.20917°N 76.77750°W

    Colony Colony of Virginia

    Established May 14, 1607

    Abandoned briefly in 1610; again after 1699

    Founded by Virginia Company of London

    Named for James I

    The Jamestown[a] settlement in the Colony of Virginia was the first permanent English settlement in the Americas. It was located on the northeast bank of the James (Powhatan) River about 2.5 mi (4 km) southwest of the center of modern Williamsburg.[1] It was established by the Virginia Company of London as "James Fort" on May 4, 1607 O.S. (May 14, 1607 N.S.),[2] and was considered permanent after a brief abandonment in 1610. It followed several failed attempts, including the Lost Colony of Roanoke, established in 1585 on Roanoke Island, later part of North Carolina. Jamestown served as the colonial capital from 1616 until 1699. Despite the dispatch of more settlers and supplies, including the 1608 arrival of eight Polish[3][4] and German colonists[5][6][7][8] and the first two European women,[5][6] more than 80 percent of the colonists died in 1609–10, mostly from starvation and disease.[9] In mid-1610, the survivors abandoned Jamestown, though they returned after meeting a resupply convoy in the James River.

    In August 1619, the first recorded slaves from Africa to British North America arrived in what is now Old Point Comfort near the Jamestown colony, on a British privateer ship flying a Dutch flag. The approximately 20 Africans from the present-day Angola had been removed by the British crew from the Portuguese slave ship .[10][11] They most likely worked in the tobacco fields as slaves under a system of race-based indentured servitude.[12] One of their number included Angela, who was purchased by William Peirce.[13] The modern conception of slavery in the colonial United States was formalized in 1640 (the John Punch hearing) and was fully entrenched in Virginia by 1660.[14]

    The London Company's second settlement in Bermuda claims to be the site of the oldest in the English New World, as St. George's, Bermuda, was officially established in 1612 as New London, whereas James Fort in Virginia was not converted into James Towne until 1619, and further did not survive to the present day.[15]

    In 1676, Jamestown was deliberately burned during Bacon's Rebellion, though it was quickly rebuilt. In 1699, the colonial capital was moved to what is today Williamsburg, Virginia; Jamestown ceased to exist as a settlement, and remains today only as an archaeological site, Jamestown Rediscovery.

    Today, Jamestown is one of three locations composing the Historic Triangle of Colonial Virginia, along with Williamsburg and Yorktown, with two primary heritage sites. Historic Jamestowne[16] is the archaeological site on Jamestown Island and is a cooperative effort by Jamestown National Historic Site (part of Colonial National Historical Park) and Preservation Virginia. Jamestown Settlement, a living history interpretive site, is operated by the Jamestown Yorktown Foundation, a state agency of the Commonwealth of Virginia. In May 2022, BBC News reported that Jamestown is threatened by climate change.[17]


    1 Settlement

    1.1 1607–1609: Arrival and beginning

    1.2 1609–1610: Starving Time and Third Supply

    1.3 1610–1624: Rising fortunes

    1.4 1624–1699: Later years

    2 Aftermath and preservation

    2.1 American Civil War

    2.2 Preservation and early archaeology

    3 Present day

    3.1 Historic Jamestowne

    3.2 Jamestown Settlement

    4 Commemorations

    4.1 200th anniversary (1807)

    4.2 250th anniversary (1857)

    4.3 300th anniversary (1907): Jamestown Exposition

    4.4 350th Anniversary (1957): Jamestown Festival

    4.5 400th anniversary: Jamestown 2007

    4.6 2019 Commemoration

    5 In popular culture

    6 Notes 7 References 8 Attribution 9 Further reading 10 External links


    Main article: History of Jamestown, Virginia (1607–1699)

    See also: European colonization of the Americas and List of Jamestown colonists

    Spain, Portugal, and France moved quickly to establish a presence in the New World, while other European countries moved more slowly. The English did not attempt to found colonies until many decades after the explorations of John Cabot, and early efforts were failures—most notably the Roanoke Colony which vanished about 1590.

    1607–1609: Arrival and beginning

    Source : en.wikipedia.org

    Jamestown Colony

    The Jamestown Colony settled on the banks of Virginia's James River in 1607 and founded the first permanent English settlement in North America.

    Jamestown Colony

    Author: History.com Editors Updated: Aug 28, 2020 Original: Mar 8, 2010 MPI/Getty Images


    English Settlement in the New World

    Surviving the First Years

    Growth of the Colony

    Powhatans After Pocahontas

    Bacon's Rebellion Jamestown Abandoned

    On May 14, 1607, a group of roughly 100 members of a joint venture called the Virginia Company founded the first permanent English settlement in North America on the banks of the James River.

    Famine, disease and conflict with local Native American tribes in the first two years brought Jamestown to the brink of failure before the arrival of a new group of settlers and supplies in 1610.

    Tobacco became Virginia’s first profitable export, and a period of peace followed the marriage of colonist John Rolfe to Pocahontas, the daughter of an Algonquian chief. During the 1620s, Jamestown expanded from the area around the original James Fort into a New Town built to the east. It remained the capital of the Virginia colony until 1699.

    English Settlement in the New World

    Settlers landing on the site of Jamestown, Virginia, the first permanent English settlement in America.

    MPI/Getty Images

    After Christopher Columbus’ historic voyage in 1492, Spain dominated the race to establish colonies in the Americas, while English efforts, such as the “lost colony” of Roanoke, met with failure. In 1606, King James I granted a charter to a new venture, the Virginia Company, to form a settlement in North America.

    At the time, Virginia was the English name for the entire eastern coast of North America north of Florida; they had named it for Elizabeth I, the “virgin queen.” The Virginia Company planned to search for gold and silver deposits in the New World, as well as a river route to the Pacific Ocean that would allow them to establish trade with the Orient.

    Roughly 100 colonists left England in late December 1606 on three ships (the Susan Constant, the Godspeed and the Discovery) and reached Chesapeake Bay late the next April. After forming a governing council—including Christopher Newport, commander of the sea voyage, and Captain John Smith, a former mercenary who had been accused of insubordination aboard ship by several other company members—the group searched for a suitable settlement site. On May 13, 1607, they landed on a narrow peninsula—virtually an island—in the James River, where they would begin their lives in the New World.

    Surviving the First Years

    Known variously as James Forte, James Towne and James Cittie, the new settlement initially consisted of a wooden fort built in a triangle around a storehouse for weapons and other supplies, a church and a number of houses. By the summer of 1607, Newport went back to England with two ships and 40 crewmembers to give a report to the king and to gather more supplies and colonists.

    The settlers left behind suffered greatly from hunger and illnesses like typhoid and dysentery, caused from drinking contaminated water from the nearby swamp. Settlers also lived under constant threat of attack by members of local Algonquian tribes, most of which were organized into a kind of empire under Chief Powhatan.

    READ MORE: What Was Life Like in Jamestown?

    An understanding reached between Powhatan and John Smith led the settlers to establish much-needed trade with Powhatan’s tribe by early 1608. Though skirmishes still broke out between the two groups, the Native Americans traded corn for beads, metal tools and other objects (including some weapons) from the English, who would depend on this trade for sustenance in the colony’s early years.

    After Smith returned to England in late 1609, the inhabitants of Jamestown suffered through a long, harsh winter known as “The Starving Time,” during which more than 100 of them died. Firsthand accounts describe desperate people eating pets and shoe leather. Some Jamestown colonists even resorted to cannibalism. George Percy, the colony’s leader in John Smith’s absence, wrote:

    "And now famine beginning to look ghastly and pale in every face that nothing was spared to maintain life and to do those things which seem incredible, as to dig up dead corpse out of graves and to eat them, and some have licked up the blood which hath fallen from their weak fellows."

    In the spring of 1610, just as the remaining colonists were set to abandon Jamestown, two ships arrived bearing at least 150 new settlers, a cache of supplies and the new English governor of the colony, Lord De La Warr.

    Growth of the Colony

    The baptism of Pocahontas in Jamestown before her marriage to John Rolfe.

    MPI/Getty Images Scroll to Continue

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    Source : www.history.com

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