The JamestownPreviously also written variously as James Town, James Towne, Jamestowne, and James City. settlement in the Colony of Virginia was the first permanent English settlement in the Americas. It was located on the east bank of the Powhatan River about southwest of the center of modern Williamsburg. William Kelso writes that Jamestown "is where the British Empire began". It was established by the Virginia Company of London as "James Fort" on May 4, 1607 (O.S.; May 14, 1607 N.S.), and was considered permanent after brief abandonment in 1610. It followed several failed attempts, including the Roanoke Colony, established in 1585 on Roanoke Island. Jamestown served as the capital of the colony of Virginia for 83 years, from 1616 until 1699.
The settlement was located within the country of Tsenacommacah, which was ruled by the Powhatan Confederacy, and specifically in that of the Paspahegh tribe. The natives initially welcomed and provided crucial provisions and support for the colonists, who were not agriculturally inclined. Relations soured fairly early on, however, leading to the total annihilation of the Paspahegh in warfare within three years. Mortality was very high at Jamestown itself due to disease and starvation, with over 80-percent of the colonists perishing in 1609–10 in what became known as the "Starving Time". John Marshall p. 45
The Virginia Company brought eight Poles and Germans colonists in 1608 in the Second Supply, some of whom built a small glass factory—although the Germans and a few others soon defected to the Powhatans with weapons and supplies from the settlement. Jamestowne Rediscovery: A Timeline of Events and References . Retrieved July 12, 2014.Billings, Warren M. Jamestown and the Founding of the Nation. Gettysburg, PA: Thomas Publications, 1991. Originally published 1988. . p. 35. See also previous citation.Horn, James (2006). A Land as God Made It: Jamestown and the Birth of America, New York: Basic Books. . pp. 123–124."And yet the Powhatan chief no longer needed Smith; now that he could depend on the Germans, he could get what he wanted by treachery rather than trade." Horn, 2006, p. 127. The Second Supply also brought the first two European women to the settlement. In 1619, the first documented Africans came to Jamestown—about 50 men, women, and children aboard a Portuguese slave ship that had been captured in the West Indies and brought to the Jamestown region. They most likely worked in the tobacco fields as indentured servants, but they became slaves as time went on. The modern conception of slavery in the United States was formalized in 1640 (the John Punch hearing) and was fully entrenched in Virginia by 1660.
The London Company's second settlement in Bermuda claims to be the site of the oldest town 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.The Royal Gazette, World Heritage (Town of St. George's and related fortifications) Supplement, 22 February 2001. In 1676, Jamestown was deliberately burned during Bacon's Rebellion, though it was quickly rebuilt. In 1699, the capital was relocated from Jamestown to what is today Williamsburg, Virginia, after which Jamestown ceased to exist as a settlement, existing today only as an archaeology site.
Today, Jamestown is one of three locations comprising the Historic Triangle of Colonial Virginia, along with Williamsburg and Yorktown, with two primary heritage sites. 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.
The Jamestown settlers arrived in Virginia during a severe drought, according to a research study conducted by the Jamestown Archaeological Assessment (JAA) team in the 1990s. The JAA analyzed information from a study conducted in 1985 by David Stahle and others, who obtained borings of 800 year-old baldcypress trees along the Nottoway and Blackwater rivers. The lifespan of these trees is up to 1,000 years and their rings offer a good indication of an area's annual amount of rainfall. The borings revealed that the worst drought in 700 years occurred between 1606 and 1612. This severe drought affected the Jamestown colonists and Powhatan tribe's ability to produce food and obtain a safe supply of water.Blanton, Dennis B. "Drought as a Factor in the Jamestown Colony, 1607-1612." Historical Archaeology 34, no. 4 (2000): 74-81. https://www.jstor.org/stable/25616853.
Don't Know Much About History, Kenneth C. Davis Many in the group were either gentlemen unused to work or their manservants, both equally unaccustomed to the hard labor demanded by the harsh task of carving out a viable colony. One of these was Robert Hunt, a former vicar of Reculver, England who celebrated the first known Eucharist in the territory of the future United States on June 21, 1607.
In a few months, 80% of the party were dead; some of the survivors were deserting to the Indians whose land they had colonized. Virginia Native Americans had established settlements long before the English settlers arrived, and there were an estimated 14,000 in the region who were politically known as Tsenacommacah and who spoke an Algonquian language. They were the Powhatan Confederacy, ruled by their paramount chief known as Wahunsenacawh or "Chief Powhatan". Wahunsenacawh initially sought to resettle the English colonists from Jamestown, considered part of Paspahegh territory, to another location known as Capahosick where they would make metal tools for him as members of his Confederacy, but this never transpired.
The first explorers had been welcomed by the Indians with dancing, feasting, and tobacco ceremonies.George Percy, 1608, "Observations by George Percy" Despite the hospitality of Wahunsenacawh, the presence of the English settlers and perhaps a further expedition up the James River by Captain Christopher Newport provoked the Paspahegh, Weyanock, and other groups to mount a series of attacks on the fort during period of violence lasting from May 27 to July 14, 1607.
Two-thirds of the settlers died before ships arrived in 1608 with supplies and Germans, Poles, and Slovaks Artisan, who helped to establish the first manufactories in the colony. As a result, glassware became the foremost American products to be exported to Europe at the time. Clapboard had already been sent back to England beginning with the first returning ship.
The delivery of supplies in 1608 on the First and Second Supply missions of Captain Newport had also added to the number of hungry settlers. It seemed certain at that time that the colony at Jamestown would meet the same fate as earlier English attempts to settle in North America, specifically the Roanoke Colony (Lost Colony) and the Popham Colony, unless there was a major relief effort. The Germans who arrived with the Second Supply and a few others defected to the Powhatans, with weapons and equipment. The Germans even planned to join a rumored Spanish attack on the colony and urged the Powhatans to join it.Horn, 2006, pp. 129–130. The Spanish were driven off by the timely arrival in July 1609 of Captain Samuel Argall in Mary and John, a larger ship than the Spanish reconnaissance ship La Asunción de Cristo.Horn, 2006, p.154–156. Argall's voyage also prevented the Spanish from gaining knowledge of the weakness of the colony. Don Pedro de Zúñiga, the Spanish ambassador to England, was desperately seeking this (in addition to spies) in order to get Philip III of Spain to authorise an attack on the colony.
The investors of the Virginia Company of London expected to reap rewards from their speculative investments. With the Second Supply, they expressed their frustrations and made demands upon the leaders of Jamestown in written form. They specifically demanded that the colonists send commodities sufficient to pay the cost of the voyage, a lump of gold, assurance that they had found the South Sea, and one member of the lost Roanoke Colony. It fell to the third president of the Council Captain John Smith to deliver a bold and much-needed wake-up call in response to the investors in London, demanding practical laborers and craftsmen who could help make the colony more self-sufficient.Horn, 2006, pp. 128–129.
On June 2, 1609, Sea Venture set sail from Plymouth as the flagship of a seven-ship fleet (towing two additional pinnaces) destined for Jamestown, Virginia as part of the Third Supply, carrying 214 settlers. On July 24, the fleet ran into a strong storm, likely a hurricane, and the ships were separated. Although some of the ships did make it to Jamestown, the leaders, and most of the supplies had been aboard Sea Venture, which fought the storm for three days before Admiral of the Company, Sir George Somers, deliberately drove her onto the reefs of Bermuda to prevent her foundering. This allowed all aboard to be landed safely.Horn, James (2006). A Land as God Made It: Jamestown and the Birth of America, pp. 158–60. New York: Basic Books. .
The survivors (including Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Gates, Captain Christopher Newport, Sylvester Jordain, Stephen Hopkins, later of Mayflower, and secretary William Strachey) were stranded on Bermuda for approximately nine months. During that time, they built two new ships, the pinnaces Deliverance and Patience. The original plan was to build only one vessel, Deliverance, but it soon became evident that she would not be large enough to carry the settlers and all of the food (salted pork) that was being sourced on the islands.Evans, Cerinda W. (1957). Some Notes On Shipbuilding and Shipping in Colonial Virginia. Williamsburg, Virginia 350th Anniversary Celebration Corp. p. 7.
While the Third Supply was stranded in Bermuda, the colony at Jamestown was in even worse shape. In the "Starving Time" of 1609–1610, the Jamestown settlers faced rampant starvation for want of additional provisions. During this time, lack of food drove people to eat snakes and even boil the leather from shoes for sustenance. Only 60 of the original 214 settlers at Jamestown survived. There is scientific evidence that the settlers at Jamestown had turned to cannibalism during the starving time.
The ships from Bermuda arrived in Jamestown on 23 May 1610.Vaughan (1991), p. 41.Evans, Cerinda W. (1957). Some Notes On Shipbuilding and Shipping in COlonial Virginia. Williamsburg, Virginia 350th Anniversary Celebration Corp. p. 5.Vaughan, Alden T., and Vaughan, Virginia Mason (1991). Shakespeare's Caliban: A Cultural History, pp. 38–40. Cambridge University Press. . Many of the surviving colonists were near death, and Jamestown was judged to be unviable. Everyone was boarded onto Deliverance and Patience, which set sail for England. However, on June 10, 1610, the timely arrival of another relief fleet, bearing Governor Baron De La Warr (who would eventually give his name to the colony of Delaware), which met the two ships as they descended the James River, granted Jamestown a reprieve. The Colonists called this The Day of Providence. The fleet brought not only supplies, but also additional settlers.Woodward, Hobson. A Brave Vessel: The True Tale of the Castaways Who Rescued Jamestown and Inspired Shakespeare's The Tempest. Viking (2009). All the settlers returned to the colony, though there was still a critical shortage of food.
Relations between the colonists and the Powhatans quickly deteriorated after De La Warr's arrival, eventually leading to conflict. The Anglo-Powhatan War lasted until Samuel Argall captured Wahunsenacawh's daughter Matoaka, better known by her nickname Pocahontas, after which the chief accepted a treaty of peace.
Among the colonists who survived the Third Supply was John Rolfe, who carried with him a cache of untested new tobacco seeds from Bermuda, which had grown wild there after being planted by shipwrecked Spaniards years before. In 1614, Rolfe began to successfully harvest tobacco. John Marshall p.52 Prosperous and wealthy, he married Pocahontas, daughter of Chief Powhatan, bringing several years of peace between the English and natives. However, at the end of a public relations trip to England, Pocahontas became sick and died on March 21, 1617. The following year, her father also died. Powhatan's brother, a fierce warrior named Opchanacanough, became head of the Powhatan Confederacy. As the English continued to appropriate more land for tobacco farming, relations with the natives worsened.
Due to the high cost of the trans-atlantic voyage at this time, many English settlers came to Jamestown as indentured servants: in exchange for the passage, room, board, and the promise of land or money, these immigrants would agree to work for three to seven years. Immigrants from continental Europe, mainly Germans, were usually —they purchased some portion of their voyage on credit and, upon arrival, borrowed or entered into a work contract to pay the remainder of their voyage costs.Gary Walton; History of the American Economy; page 32 Along with European indentured servants, around 20 African slaves arrived in Jamestown in 1619. These slaves were captives taken from a ship headed for Mexico. Though these Africans started in Jamestown as slaves, some were able to obtain the status of indentured servant later in life.
In 1619, the first representative assembly in America convened in the Jamestown Church, "to establish one equal and uniform government over all Virginia" which would provide "just laws for the happy guiding and governing of the people there inhabiting." This became known as the House of Burgesses (forerunner of the Virginia General Assembly). Initially, only men of English origin were permitted to vote. On June 30, 1619, in what was the first recorded strike in Colonial America, the Polish artisans protested and refused to work if not allowed to vote ("Suffrage").
After several years of strained coexistence, Chief Opchanacanough and his Powhatan Confederacy attempted to eliminate the English colony once and for all. On the morning of March 22, 1622, they attacked outlying plantations and communities up and down the James River in what became known as the Indian Massacre of 1622. More than 300 settlers were killed in the attack, about a third of the colony's English-speaking population. Sir Thomas Dale's development at Henricus, which was to feature a college to educate the natives, and Wolstenholme Towne at Martin's Hundred, were both essentially wiped out. Jamestown was spared only through a timely warning by a Virginia Indian employee. There was not enough time to spread the word to the outposts.
Another large-scale "Indian attack" occurred in 1644. In 1646, Opchanacanough was captured and while in custody an English guard shot him in the back—against orders—and killed him. Subsequently, the Powhatan Confederacy began to decline. Opechancanough's successor signed the first peace treaties between the Powhatan Indians and the English. The treaties required the Powhatan to pay yearly tribute payment to the English and confined them to reservations.
A generation later, during Bacon's Rebellion in 1676, Jamestown was burned, eventually to be rebuilt. During its recovery, the Virginia legislature met first at Governor William Berkeley's nearby Green Spring Plantation, and later at Middle Plantation, which had been started in 1632 as a fortified community inland on the Virginia Peninsula, about distant.
When the statehouse burned again in 1698, this time accidentally, the legislature again temporarily relocated to Middle Plantation, and was able to meet in the new facilities of the College of William and Mary, which had been established after receiving a royal charter in 1693. Rather than rebuilding at Jamestown again, the capital of the colony was moved permanently to Middle Plantation in 1699. The town was soon renamed Williamsburg, to honor the reigning monarch, King William III. A new Capitol building and "Governor's Palace" were erected there in the following years. This was a revolutionary change.
During the American Revolutionary War, although the Battle of Green Spring was fought nearby at the site of former Governor Berkeley's plantation, Jamestown was apparently inconsequential. In 1831, David Bullock purchased Jamestown from the Travis and Ambler families.
During the Peninsula Campaign, which began later that spring, Union forces under General George B. McClellan moved up the Peninsula from Fort Monroe in an attempt to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond. The Union forces captured Yorktown in April 1862, and the Battle of Williamsburg was fought the following month. With these developments, Jamestown and the lower James River were abandoned by the Confederates. Some of the forces from Jamestown, and the crew of Virginia, relocated to Drewry's Bluff, a fortified and strategic position high above the river about below Richmond. There, they successfully blocked the Union Navy from reaching the Confederate capital.
Once in Federal hands, Jamestown became a meeting place for runaway slaves, who burned the Ambler house, an eighteenth-century plantation house, which along with the old church was one of the few remaining signs of old Jamestown. When Allen sent men to assess the damage in late 1862, they were killed by the former slaves. Following the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, the oath of allegiance was administered to former Confederate soldiers at Jamestown.
By this time, erosion from the river had eaten away the island's western shore. Visitors began to conclude that the site of James Fort lay completely underwater. With federal assistance, a sea wall was constructed in 1900 to protect the area from further erosion. The archaeological remains of the original 1607 fort, which had been protected by the sea wall, were discovered in 1994.
In 1932, George Craghead Gregory of Richmond was credited with discovering the foundation of the first brick statehouse (capitol) building, circa 1646, at Jamestown on the land owned by Preservation Virginia. Around 1936, Gregory, who was active with the Virginia Historical Society, founded the Jamestowne Society for descendants of stockholders in the Virginia Company of London and the descendants of those who owned land or who had domiciles in Jamestown or on Jamestown Island prior to 1700.
Colonial National Monument was authorized by the U.S. Congress on July 3, 1930 and established on December 30, 1930. In 1934, the National Park Service obtained the remaining 1,500 acre (6.1 km²) portion of Jamestown Island which had been under private ownership by the Vermillion family. The National Park Service partnered with Preservation Virginia to preserve the area and present it to visitors in an educational manner. On June 5, 1936, the national monument was re-designated a national historical park, and became known as Colonial National Historical Park.
From 1936 J.C. "Pinky" Harrington worked on the NPS's excavations at Jamestown. In 1954 John L. Cotter took charge of field projects at Jamestown, conducted with the site's 350th anniversary (1957) in mind. Cotter worked with Edward B. Jelks and Harrington to survey the area's colonial sites. In 1957 Cotter and J. Paul Hudson co-authored New Discoveries at Jamestown. Cotter contributed, along with Jelks, Georg Neumann, and Johnny Hack, to the 1958 report Archaeological Excavations at Jamestown.
The site gained renewed importance when in 1996 the Jamestown Rediscovery project began excavations in search of the original James Fort site, originally in preparation for the quadricentennial of Jamestown's founding. The primary goal of the archaeological campaign was to locate archaeological remains of "the first years of settlement at Jamestown, especially of the earliest fortified town; [and the] subsequent growth and development of the town".
Today, visitors to can view the site of the original 1607 James Fort, the 17th-century church tower and the site of the 17th-century town, as well as tour an archeology museum called the Archaearium and view many of the close to two million artifacts found by Jamestown Rediscovery. They also may participate in living history ranger tours and Archaeological tours given by the Jamestown Rediscovery staff. Visitors can also often observe archaeologists from the Jamestown Rediscovery Project at work, as archaeological work at the site continues. , the archaeological work and studies are ongoing. In addition to their newsletter and website, new discoveries are frequently reported in the local newspaper, the Virginia Gazette based in nearby Williamsburg, and by other news media, often worldwide.
May 13 was the opening day of the festival, which began with a procession which marched to the graveyard of the old church, where the attending bishop delivered the prayer. The procession then moved to the Travis mansion, where the celebrants dined and danced in the mansion that evening. Also during the festivities, students of the College of William and Mary gave orations. An old barn on the island was used as a temporary theater, where a company of players from Norfolk performed. Attending were many dignitaries, politicians, and historians. The celebration concluded on May 14 with a dinner and toast at the Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg.
The attendance was estimated at between 6,000 and 8,000 people. Sixteen large steam ships anchored offshore in the James River and were gaily decorated with streamers. Former US President John Tyler of nearby Sherwood Forest Plantation gave a 2½ hour speech, and there were military displays, a grand ball and fireworks.
The 100th anniversary of the Surrender at Yorktown in 1781 had generated a new interest in the historical significance of the colonial sites of the Peninsula. Williamsburg, a sleepy but populated town of shops and homes, was still celebrating Civil War events. However, as the new century dawned, thoughts turned to the upcoming 300th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown. The Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (now known as Preservation Virginia) started the movement in 1900 by calling for a celebration honoring the establishment of the first permanent English colony in the New World at Jamestown to be held on the 300th anniversary in 1907.
As a celebration was planned, virtually no one thought that the actual isolated and long-abandoned original site of Jamestown would be suitable for a major event because Jamestown Island had no facilities for large crowds. The original fort housing the Jamestown settlers was believed to have been long ago swallowed by the James River. The general area in James City County near Jamestown was also considered unsuitable, as it was not very accessible in the day of railroad before automobiles were common.
As the tricentennial of the 1607 Founding of the Jamestown neared, around 1904, despite an assumption in some quarters that Richmond would be a logical location, leaders in Norfolk began a campaign to have a celebration held there. The decision was made to locate the international exposition on a mile-long frontage at Sewell's Point near the mouth of Hampton Roads. This was about downstream from Jamestown in a rural section of Norfolk County. It was a site which could become accessible by both long-distance passenger railroads and local streetcar service, with considerable frontage on the harbor of Hampton Roads. This latter feature proved ideal for the naval delegations which came from points all around the world.
The Jamestown Exposition of 1907 was one of the many world's fairs and expositions that were popular in the early part of the 20th century. Held from April 26, 1907 to December 1, 1907, attendees included US President Theodore Roosevelt, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, the Prince of Sweden, Mark Twain, Henry H. Rogers, and dozens of other dignitaries and famous persons. A major naval review featuring the United States' Great White Fleet was a key feature. U.S. Military officials and leaders were impressed by the location, and the Exposition site later formed the first portion of the large U.S. Naval Station Norfolk in 1918 during World War I.
Major projects such were developed by non-profit, state and federal agencies. Jamestown Festival Park was established by the Commonwealth of Virginia adjacent to the entrance to Jamestown Island. Full-sized replicas of the three ships that brought the colonists, Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery were constructed at a shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia and placed on display at a new dock at Jamestown, where the largest, Susan Constant, could be boarded by visitors. On Jamestown Island, the reconstructed Jamestown Glasshouse, the Memorial Cross and the visitors center were completed and dedicated. A loop road was built around the island.
Special events included army and navy reviews, air force fly-overs, ship and aircraft christenings and even an outdoor drama at Cape Henry, site of the first landing of the settlers. This celebration continued from April 1 to November 30 with over a million participants, including dignitaries and politicians such as the British Ambassador and U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon. The highlight for many of the nearly 25,000 at the Festival Park on October 16, 1957 was the visit and speech of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and her consort, Prince Philip. Queen Elizabeth II loaned a copy of the Magna Carta for the exhibition. It was her first visit to the United States since assuming the throne.
The 1957 Jamestown Festival was so successful that tourists still kept coming long after the official event was completed. Jamestown became a permanent attraction of the Historic Triangle, and has been visited by families, school groups, tours, and thousands of other people continuously ever since.
In January 2007, the Virginia General Assembly held a session at Jamestown. On May 4, 2007, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and Prince Philip attended a ceremony commemorating the 400th anniversary of the settlement's arrivals, reprising the honor they paid in 1957.
In addition to the Virginia State Quarter, Jamestown was also the subject of two United States commemorative coins celebrating the 400th anniversary of its settlement. A silver dollar and a gold five dollar coin were issued in 2007.