Jamestown, the first Permanent British Settlement in America, is Established in Virginia

Funded by The Virginia Company of England, a group of Englishmen sail to the new, mysterious land, which they called Virginia in honor of Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen, and begin a settlement. The company had given them rules that no one was to own private property and that they would all follow the rules of one leader. Half of the Jamestown settlers were artisans, craftsmen, soldiers, and laborers, including a tailor, a barber, and two surgeons among them. The other half were “gentlemen,” men of wealth who did not have a profession, and who may have underestimated the rough work necessary to survive in the New World. After eight months, only 60 of the 214 pioneers were still alive. Among the survivors was Captain John Smith, adventurer and explorer. Despite the hardships, he kept the colony going with his solid leadership those first two years, as Jamestown grew to 500 with new arrivals from England.

After he left in 1609, however, more trouble came. Weather conditions were rough and supplies were low. Only 60 of the 500 colonists survived the harsh winter that followed Smith’s departure. Jamestown, though it possessed a good harbor, was swampy, infested with mosquitoes, and lacked freshwater sources. The people fought against disease, famine, and the Algonquian Indians, whose land the British settlers now claimed. The Algonquian chief, Powhatan, at first allowed the visitors to settle, build, and farm in his territory, but as more and more came, he grew tired of the colonists’ expansion on his land. Some of the tribe attacked settlers working in the fields.

But there were some years of peace and prosperity. Peace came when Pocahontas, daughter of chief Powhatan, married John Rolfe, a tobacco farmer in Jamestown. Also, new supplies and leadership eventually arrived from England.


Recommended Books:

Although it was the first permanent English settlement in North America, Jamestown is too often overlooked in the writing of American history. Founded thirteen years before the Mayflower sailed, Jamestown’s courageous settlers have been overshadowed ever since by the pilgrims of Plymouth. But as historian James Horn demonstrates in this vivid and meticulously researched account, Jamestown-not Plymouth-was the true crucible of American history. Jamestown introduced slavery into English-speaking North America; it became the first of England’s colonies to adopt a representative government; and it was the site of the first white-Indian clashes over territorial expansion. As we approach the four-hundredth anniversary of Jamestown in 2007, A Land As God Made It offers the definitive account of the colony that give rise to America.


Savage Kingdom: The True Story of Jamestown, 1607, and the Settlement of America Paperback – April 8, 2008

Four centuries ago, and thirteen years before the Mayflower, a group of men—led by a one-armed ex-pirate, an epileptic aristocrat, a reprobate cleric, and a government spy—arrived in Virginia aboard a fleet of three ships and set about trying to create a settlement on a tiny island in the James River. Despite their shortcomings, and against the odds, they built Jamestown, a ramshackle outpost that laid the foundations of the British Empire and the United States of America.

Drawing on new discoveries, neglected sources, and manuscript collections scattered across the world, Savage Kingdom challenges the textbook image of Jamestown—revealing instead a reckless, daring enterprise led by outcasts of the Old World who found themselves interlopers in a new one.


A New York Times Notable Book and a San Jose Mercury News Top 20 Nonfiction Book of 2003  In 1606, approximately 105 British colonists sailed to America, seeking gold and a trade route to the Pacific. Instead, they found disease, hunger, and hostile natives. Ill prepared for such hardship, the men responded with incompetence and infighting; only the leadership of Captain John Smith averted doom for the first permanent English settlement in the New World.The Jamestown colony is one of the great survival stories of American history, and this book brings it fully to life for the first time. Drawing on extensive original documents, David A. Price paints intimate portraits of the major figures from the formidable monarch Chief Powhatan, to the resourceful but unpopular leader John Smith, to the spirited Pocahontas, who twice saved Smith’s life. He also gives a rare balanced view of relations between the settlers and the natives and debunks popular myths about the colony. This is a superb work of history, reminding us of the horrors and heroism that marked the dawning of our nation.


What was life really like for the band of adventurers who first set foot on the banks of the James River in 1607? Important as the accomplishments of these men and women were, the written records pertaining to them are scarce, ambiguous, and often conflicting, and those curious about the birthplace of the United States are left to turn to dramatic and often highly fictionalized reports. In Jamestown, the Buried Truth, William Kelso takes us literally to the soil where the Jamestown colony began, unearthing the James Fort and its contents to reveal fascinating evidence of the lives and deaths of the first settlers, of their endeavors and struggles, and of their relationships with the Virginia Indians. He offers up a lively but fact-based account, framed around a narrative of the archaeological team’s exciting discoveries.

Once thought to have been washed away by the James River, James Fort still retains much of its structure, including palisade walls, bulwarks, interior buildings, a well, a warehouse, and several pits, and more than 500,000 objects have been cataloged, half dating to the time of Queen Elizabeth and King James. Artifacts especially reflective of life at James Fort include an ivory compass, Cabasset helmets and breastplates, glass and copper beads and ornaments, ceramics, tools, religious icons, a pewter flagon, and personal items. Dr. Kelso and his team of archaeologists have discovered the lost burial of one of Jamestown’s early leaders, presumed to be Captain Bartholomew Gosnold, and the remains of several other early settlers, including a young man who died of a musket ball wound. In addition, they’ve uncovered and analyzed the remains of the foundations of Jamestown’s massive capitol building.

Refuting the now decades-old stereotype that attributed the high mortality rate of the Jamestown settlers to their laziness and ineptitude, Jamestown, the Buried Truth produces a vivid picture of the settlement that is far more complex, incorporating the most recent archaeology to give Jamestown its rightful place in history and thus contributing to a broader understanding of the transatlantic world.

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