Monday, May 14, 2012

Jamestown, Va.

More of the history lesson:  Jamestown was founded in 1607, twenty years after the failed colony at Roanoke Island and 13 years before Plymouth Rock.

I knew something about Jamestown thanks to Disney and the story of Pocahontas. However, as in most of the early colonies, this was strictly business, started by the Virginia Company of London to exploit  the natural resources of this new land.

The trip to the new world on the small, cramped ships was grueling but for most of these new settlers, it was the first time they would be able to acquire land.   Each was granted 50 free acres if they would cultivate tobacco.  Life was so hard that few would survive those early years.

In exploring the grounds of this colony I saw very little evidence that there had been a community here.

These foundations mark some of the houses, stores and church but most of the town is underground.  When the colony began to be excavated and exposed the structures were so fragile that the air and acid rain began to destroy them.  So the locations were marked and then everything was re-covered to preserve it for some future examination.

The documentation of the location is in the monument that sits in the middle of the grounds.
(Click on the photos to enlarge them and to show more detail.)

 Jamestown is on an island in the James River.  It lies a very short distance from Williamsburg and Yorktown and all three communities are connected by the Colonial Parkway--a wonderful road that is part of the National Historical Park.  There are no houses or buildings or anything modern along the Parkway.  Thick woods come right to the edge of the road and it is easy to imagine what it looked like in 1607.

Excavations are taking place all the time by volunteers.

For anyone who failed 6th grade history--Captain John Smith was exploring up a river near the fort when he was captured by a relative of the Indian chief, Powhaten.  The legend is that John Smith was about to be killed when Pocahontas, Powhaten's daughter put herself between Smith and his executioner and saved his life. Some of the account is in Smith's own writings so part of the legend may be true--or not.

Pocahontas, herself, was later captured and during her captivity she became a Christian and changed her name to Rebecca. Eventually she married John Rolfe, had a son named Thomas and together they sailed to England where she became a celebrity.  Before they could return to Virginia she developed a fever and died in England.


Another cemetery.

This was a photo of the island--at the time of the settlement there was a spit of sand and marsh that connected the island to the mainland so travel did not require boats or a bridge.  Erosion over the years took out that spit.

Here is more evidence that we have "Moved the Base".  I watched people fishing all along the James River--the most anyone had caught were a few small fish no bigger than bait. 

And look how tall this woman was...Once again I wonder at the change in our size over 400 years. 

 Another piece of history that caught my attention...The first slaves arrived in Jamestown in 1619, one year before Plymouth Rock,  to work the tobacco farms.

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