James City County
The summer of 2003 my family and I went on vacation to visit Williamsburg, at least that was the plan. Now myself, I'm the kind of person who packs two weeks ahead of time, so of course I went online to see what I could find out about Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown. I couldn't seem to find very much, from a tourists point of view, so I went to my back up source, the AAA Auto Club. I picked up a book for Virginia, found the section covering the three towns and started to read. The more I read, the more I discovered how little I knew and the more I wanted to know.
Now, we've all had vacations and trips that were disappointing. Our expectations were high and the reality failed miserably. This was not the case with this trip. My expectations came no-where near the beauty and wonder of the reality. I thought I knew what to expect - how wrong I was!
I hope that people seeing these pages will go out of their way to visit these wonderful historical sites, you won't be disappointed. I would suggest one thing above all else, give yourself plenty of time. A week would be good, you might get to see it all. So far we've split our trip up into two different visits, if you don't count the time I took for pictures, it would have taken us three days so far. We have another visit planned soon for the rest of Yorktown, the Yorktown Victory Center and Williamsburg, we figure at least three more days maybe four. That's without visiting the beautiful plantation houses in the area, I can't even guess how long that would take, because there are a lot.
I really hope that these pages help someone in their research and you enjoy the pictures as much as we enjoyed the visit. As I mentioned, we haven't finished our "vacation" so the pages here are not complete, we still have Yorktown, Yorktown Victory Center and Williamsburg to visit.
I want to thank all the National Park personnel, the members of the Living History Museum as well as the other folks at the other places we visited, everyone was wonderful, helpful and very nice! :)
When the English arrived in 1607, they relied both on written instructions and their own common sense to select a settlement site. Despite the low land, disease and poor water supply, Jamestown had many advantages for settlers.
Prototection from Enemies
Easily defended from possible Spanish
attack both by land and water, the site of Jamestown was an ideal place for a fort. In addition, the site was an ideal place for a fort. In addition, the site was uninhabited by Powhatan Indians, who only used it occasionally for hunting and fishing.
Ready-made Transportation Route
As English settlement spread, the colonists came increasingly to rely on the waterways for both commerce and pleasure, Jamestown, in addition to becoming the colony's first capital, also served as its offical government port city.
Settlers recorded that their ships could be tied to the tall trees right along the shoreline. Later, Jamestown would function as an offical government port city, with docks and warehouses along its banks.
Source of Food and Raw Materials
Although, many sea creatures were harvested by the settlers, the oyster perhaps yielded the most diverse types of products. In addition to being a plentiful and excellent food source, the oyster provided shells, which the settlers used for iron and pottery manufacture. Pathways, whitewash for frame houses and mortar for bricks were also provided by the oyster.
Jamestown on the James
The Role of the River in Settlement Choice
Foundations at Jamestown
The remains of Jamestown now lie buried beneath the ground. Archeologists have unearthed some of the known town site, but the original foundations of structures would erode quickly if left exposed to wind, weather, and acid rain. The foundations have been reburied. The bricks you see here today are modern reproductions of the orginal foundations underneath.
Food and Spirits
The extraordinary number of pipestems and wine bottle fragments identify both the date and purpose of the buildings here. A tavern (in front) was active here between 1665 and 1700, as were a kitchen (in back), and well. The General Assembly occasionally rented such large public spaces for meetings and court hearings, and once paid an innkeeper for use of his premises somewhere in this area of Jamestown.
The tavern was nearly 89 feet long. Beneath part of its ground floor was a vaulted wine cellar deep enough to stand in. Another section of the cellar had a window through the back wall, which could make for easy stocking of boxes and barrels.
The frame kitchen behind the tavern was identified only by a fireplace foundation and post holes. The well was brick-lined and 11 feet deep.
Iron and Industry
The raw materials for the smelting of iron were all found here: lime from oyster shells, bog ore from the swamp, charcoal from burned trees. A circular kiln, 10 feet across and lined with baked clay, sat over a pit with an air vent to the surface. Metal objects and bits of worked iron suggested a forge nearby.
This small structure played a part in the
industrial activity along the Pitch and Tar Swamp, but the exact use of its three furnaces is unknown.
Chemical analysis of the soil ruled out high-temperature industry, such as a forge. Perhaps the best clue came from Captain John Smith, who noted two "brew-houses" in Jamestown in 1629. Artifacts from the site dated from about 1620 to 1650, and included pieces of copper kettle, pipes, and a cistern. Perhaps this was the source of some Jamestown ale.
The sunken, tiled floor was typical of workshops. The large fireplace and lack of interior partitions also indicated industrial use.
The furnaces, or "fireboxes," sit on brick or tile flooring. Stork holes in the side allowed tending of the fires. Two of the excavated boxes still had ash in them.
Put to the Torch
On the eve of Bacon's Rebellion in 1676, there were at least a dozen brick buildings in Jamestown. This row of four homes was possibly the residence of government officals or tavern-keepers. When Bacon's rebels set fire to the city in 1676, the row burned.
It is not known if this row was a particular target of Bacon's men. When the House of Burgesses ordered repairs to the ruined structure in 1680, however, they did note that the complex included "that house where the jail was kept." The row was rebuilt in 1680, but thre is no evidence that these homes were used after 1700.
Each house was 40 feet long and 24 feet wide, with large H-shaped double fireplaces in the middle of each home. This floor plan greatly resembled a segment of the Third and Fourth Statehouse complex, located at the western edge of town.
Ditch and Mound
Dozens of open ditches crisscrossed Jamestown. A ditch and its mound could mark a property boundary, line the edge of a road, or drain swampy soil. Ditches also served as handy trash dumps. Two major ditches, several feet wide and hundreds of feet long, interesected at this point.
Oyster shells to Mortar
Brick, lime, and pottery kilns operated throughout Jamestown. A small paved pit here, filled with oyster shells and moistened lime, marked a kiln where mortar or plaster was made. Different pits produced varying qualities of mortar and plaster. These different mortars in turn helped to identify structures built at the same time and from the same pit.
The Ambler House
The Ambler House was built by the Ambler family in the 1750s as the centerpiece of a fine plantation estate. A refined Georgian style home, it was comparable to the elegant George Wythe House in Williamsburg. The house was burned in two wars, and after a third fire in 1806, was abandoned.
Layers of Living
Standing here in 1659, you would have seen a large frame house, 55 by 20 feet. Returning in 1700, you would have been in the backyard of the fine brick home that is pictured here, and which sat atop the cellar of the old frame house. And coming back on the eve of the Revolution, you would have been in front of Ambler plantation complex, whose east wing building and walkway covered the brick home's remains.
Builders of the brick home, Structure 31, destroyed most evidence of the old frame building, Structure 38. They dug a new cellar right into the new one. Since the older structure was slightly larger, a few of its walls remain.
Builders of the Ambler House wing caused less destruction. Since the wing was a frame building without a cellar, the ruins of the brick hme remained largely undisturbed in the ground.
Numerous clues suggest who might have lived here.
Two records say that William May built a house here around 1661, and that Henry Hartwell lived in this area from 1689 to 1695. Artifacts from this structure and the one behind it dated from Hartwell's residence. Nearby excavations revealed no other foundations from that time period that were likely to have been his home.
Several glass bottle seals stamped "HH" were found here. Such seals were typically applied to European wine bottles when shipped to wealthier settlers at Jamestown.
Hartwell was an author, a clerk of the General Assembly, and a founder of the College of William & Mary, located in Williamsburg.
The formal gardens of the Ambler House were laid down over this plot in the 1700s. Hartwell's house survived only where it fell beneath the brick-rubble garden walks. Plowing has obliterated the rest. Structure 34-37 could have been Hartwell's kitchen. Fragments of a complete earthenware oven and its door were found in this area.
Loose Change of History
To judge from the many wine bottle fragments in its cellar, this small frame structure served as a store. The changing shape of bottles through the years dated activity here from 1675 to 1725. The clay on top of the cellar floor was free of debris and charred wood, indicating that the structure was dismantled, not burned or abandoned.
During the archeological excavations, a French coin dated 1772 was retrieved from a fire pit over the filled-in cellar. It is known that in 1781, the French troops of St. Simon bivouacked here on their way to aid the colonials at Yorktown. Did one of the French soldiers drop a coin by the fire?
Only 600 square feet, the structure was unlikely to be a tavern. The paved cellar was four feet deep. It's floor sloped forward to a small square recess, perhaps a place to cool food.
Early Gunsmith's Home and Shop
"...for I doe protest unto you, that I have eaten more in a day at home than I have allowed me here for a Weeke... and if Mr. Jackson had not releived me, I shoud bee in a poore Case, but he like a father and shee like a loveing mother doth still helpe me...Goodman Jackson pityed me & made me a Cabbin to lye in always when I come up... Oh they bee verie godlie folkes... and will doe anie thing for me..."
As a young indentured servant from Martin's Hundred, Richard Frethorne's letter in 1623 to his parents in England indicated the care and compassion John Jackson showed him. Anyone who has ever been far away from home can appreciate Richard's plight and Jackson kindness.
Imagine the sights and sounds of a bustling home and shop where John Jackson, gunsmith, and his family lived and worked. On this site a house, cabin, livestock enclosures and a forge and/or gunsmith shop stood. This is one of the earliest domestic town sites in British North America associated with an ordinary craftsman.
In 1934 this was the first site excavated by the National Park Service. Archeologists in the late 1990s fully exposed the footprint of a home site to gain a better understanding of its significance and function. The home measured 16 feet X 24 feet, facing west toward the fort and church.
Artifacts recovered relect the activities of gunsmithing and domestic use. The footprint of the cabin that Richard wrote about has not been discovered.
Fences and Livestock
Jametown had a large number of four-footed and feathered residents. A chronicler wrote of "two hundred ... cattle, as many goats, infinite hogs in herds all over the woods." The government required fences to keep the free-roaming livestock out of the edible harvest.
Several Jamestown families lived in row houses. This row of three houses was occupied at least from 1650 through 1720. Elaborate ironwork found here suggested that the row was handsomely furnished. Perhaps the row was home to the government officials and merchants who prospered in the colony's capital.
A great number of pipestems and wine bottle fragments suggest that in later years, the row might have housed its own tavern, or "ordinary." A wit of the day recorded "about a dozen families
getting their livings by keeping of ordinaries, at extraordinary rates."
The houses were linked along the long side of each house, instead of end-to-end as elsewhere in Jamestown. Each house was about 20 feet wide and 40 feet deep, with separate cellars about four feet deep.
"No country better!" Local writers extolled the prosperity of Jamestown. "Mrs. Pearce, and honest and industrious woman," gathered "near one hundred bushels of excellent figs" from her Jamestown garden in 1629. Fig bushes are a Mediterranean import.
Water and Well
"... not at all replenished with springs of fresh water... their wells brackish, ill-scented... and not grateful to the stomach." If a well at Jamestown was sunk to the right depth, it could yield "sweet water." Too deep a well would hit saltwater; too shallow a well would be contaminated with human waste. Fevers and "fluxes were common.
A Great Find
This modest cottage yielded a premier artifact of Jamestown -- a spoon dated 1675. Made by Joseph Copeland in Chuckatuck, Virginia, the pewter piece provided a time marker for other objects found with it.
No other distinctive artifact was found, the remaining household objects being typical of an ordinary home. The large fireplace, though, hinted that the house may have had some additional, industrial use.
Brick floors were common in Jamestown. The single line of bricks cutting across the floor was a familiar drainage solution. The break in the paving of the floor was made in the 1700s, when a drain heading toward the river was dug through the abandoned foundation.
Gardens and Crops
Tobacco, sassafras -- the Jamestown gardener was distracted by quick-money crops for export to Europe. Tobacco was even grown in the streets. In 1624 the General Assembly tried to aid the struggling silk and wine industries by ordering each plot owner to plant four mulberry trees for silk, and 20 vines for wine.
An Estate in Town
This was the main dwelling of an estate that was active after the capital moved to Williamsburg in 1699. A floor plan and a group of surrounding buildings help to identify this home.
The dimensions and the layout of the house were like those of the brick home at Smith's Fort Plantation, in nearby Surry County. Both houses had a central hallway, an architectural feature not used until the 1700s.
Several smaller foundations surround this one, and were aligned in the same north/south direction. These were frame-structured outbuildings that served the estate.
Structure 8, behind you to your left, was a secondary office or dwelling. Structure 11, to the right, had a central fireplace and was the kitchen. Nearby, Structure 12 had a central cistern and was possibly a dairy.
Only a fireplace foundation remained of Structure 10, probably a slave house. Structures 7 and 9 were rear wing extensions.
The James River was a lifeline. Ships from England brought tools, seeds, cloth, food, more settlers -- and hope. The colonists sent back timber, tobacco, pitch, potash, furs, iron-ore -- and stories. By 1650, wharves reached out to the river channel. An iron weight of 1300 pounds, capable of driving piles for a pier, was found not far from here.
White Mulberry Tree
The white mulberry was imported from Europe to establish silk production as a Jamestown industry. Mulberry leaves host the silkworm, whose cocoon was spun into cloth. Despite persistent government promotion, the industry never turned a profit here
From Fort to Town
The exact date of the demise of James Fort is not known. By the end of the 1620's it no longer dominated the landscape. Not long after the establishment of the fort, Jamestown grew from a military outpost to the center of commerce and government for the growing colony.
John White's Structure 163
In 1644, John White patented a parcel of Land in James City (this is NOT the same John White of 16th century Lost Colony fame.)
The parcel is discribed as:
"one acre of land lyeing in James Citty bounded West upon the Church Yard East upon the land apprtining to The State house North towardes the Land of mr. Thomas Hampton, and South upon James River the length being Twenty three poles and Breadtch seaven poles almost"
These are the remains of a 50' x 30' structure that was destroyed by fire before 1650. The brick rubble is the remains of the burned floorboards. The building was almost certainly built and used by merchant, politician, planter and land speculator, John White. A building as massive as this, located on the waterfront, and the fact that White was a merchant, suggests that this was a warehouse and house combined. Good examples of this type of building still stand in the southeast of England.
"reduced to a five square form" -- John Smith
Captain John Smith wrote that in September of 1608, the fort was
"reduced to a five square form."
This has long been taken to mean a five-sided fort. The archaeological evidence to date supports this interpretation. This section of palisade, added on to the original, is likely part of the addition that Smith wrote about.
In order to protect the fragile remains of James Fort, a layer of geotech fabric was placed over the site before it was backfilled. The new palisade posts are placed where archaeologists have found clear proof of a palisade fence. The white blocks were placed where the archaeologists believe the palisade fence to have been, but not yet excavated.
"the fort should be pallisadoed" -- John Smith
Archaeologists have discovered the remnants of the palisade walls of James Fort. All that remains are stains in the soil where the original timbers have long since rotted away. Before archaeologists can see evidence of earlier land use, they must excavate the plowzone. This soil level is the result of the 150 years of agricultural use of the island between the 1740's and the 1890's. Once the plowzone is removed, anywhere the soil has been disturbed will shop up against the lighter clay subsoil.
Finding James Fort
The APVA Jamestown Rediscovery archaeological excavations began April 4, 1994. It took archaeologists only 2 1/2 years to uncover enough evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the remains of 1607 James Fort, the beginning of the first permanent English settlement in America, existed on the 22 acre A.P.V.A. Jamestown Island property. The site of James Fort was not washed into the river, as most people believed for the past 200 years. Archaeologists
uncovered over 250 feet of log palisade wall lines, the east cannon projection (bulwark), three filled in cellars, and a building, all part of the triangular James Fort. An added wall line and a large building were found attached to the main fort.
As the project continues, further discoveries will help archaeologists learn about the town growth, evolving architectural types, and day to day life at early 17th century Jamestown.
Thousands of Artifacts
Seven excavation seasons have uncovered over 350,000 artifacts dating to the first half of the 1600's, nearly half dating to the to the first years of English settlement, (1607-1610). These objects are the evidence of daily life at Jamestown from May 13, 1607 to about 1611. The settlers were not lazy, do-nothing gentlemen, as period accounts suggest. Indeed, objects they discarded into the pit, poweder magazine and dungeon, probably around 1610, clearly indicate that Jamestown was a very industrious place.
Glass & Gold
Settlers made trade jewelry in precisely the designs and of the material, copper, that the natives most desired. They experimented with glass, a commodity much needed in England, and they refined ore in search of precious metals, in an attempt to make a profit for the Virginia Company London Merchants, their sponsors.
Foundations for Success
Based upon the archaeological and historical discoveries, the people of Jamestown were hard at work, doing many of the things they had to do to succeed. They continually cut down trees for palisades, and to support houses. They dug clay pits, cellars for the powder magazine and dungeon, postholes four houses, slot trenches to plant and repair palisade timbers, and they dug graves and built coffins.
Struggle to Survive
Busy settlers made "survival" products like shot, bullets, iron tools and implements from spare armor, and they repaired guns. Of course, much time was also required to hunt, fish, and repel Virginia Indian attacks.
James Fort Journal
May 13, 1607
now falleth every man to work: The council contrive the fort... no exercise at arms or fortifications but the boughs of trees cast together in the form of a halfmoon, by... Captain Kendall (John Smith)
May 25, 1607
... the president was contented that the fort should be palisadoed, the ordinance mounted and his men armed and exercised. For many were the assults and ambuseadoes... (John Smith)
June 15, 1607
... we had built and finished our fort, which was triangle-wise, having three bulwarkes at every corner like a half moon, and four or five pieces of artillary mounted in them. (George Percy)
January 8, 1608
... [THE] new supply being lodged with the rest, accidentlly fired the... quarters and so the town, which being but thatched with reeds, the fire was so fierce as it burnt [our].. palisadoes though eight or ten yards distant, with [our]... arms, bedding, apparel and much private provision. (John Smith)
September 10, 1608
... the fort [was changed into]... a five-square form, the order of the watch renewed, the squadrons trained; the whole company every Saturday exercised in the plain by the west bulwark prepared for that purpose, we called Smithfield (John Smith)
July 9-July 15, 1610?
...[James] fort, growing since [first construction] to more perfection, is now at present... on the north side of of the river is cast almost into the form of a triangle and so palisaded. The south side next the river (howbeit extended in a line or curtain sixscore foot more in length than the other two, by reason the advantage of the ground doth so require) contains 140 yards, the west and east sides a hundred only. At every angle or corner, where the lines meet, a bulwark or watchtower is raised and in each bulwark or watchtower is raised and in each bulwark a piece of ordinance or two well mounted. ...And thus enclosed...round with a palisade of planks and strong posts, ...of young oaks, walnuts, etc, the fort is called, in honor of his Majesty's name, Jamestown. (William Strachey, Secretary of the Colony)
"With eight hundred or one thousand soldiers be [Philip III of Spain] could [destroy]... this place [Jamestown] with great ease... the forts which they have are of boards and so weak that a kick would break them down. (Don Diego do Molina, Spanish Agent)
The place [first and] best fortified... James City... [has] been suffered by the Colony of late to grow to decay that (it has)... become of no strength of use.
"two faire rows of houses" - Ralph Hamor
"a homely thing, like a barn" - John Smith
These two different descriptions of the buildings at Jamestown could be be accurate, depending on the viewpoint of the author.
The architecture at James fort was of earth-fast or post-in-ground construction. Main structural posts were placed directly into the ground without the use of footings. These structures leave tell-tale patterns of rotted posts or "postholes."
From the patterns of post remains it is likely that the early structures were constructed in a style called "Mud and Stud." Documentary evidence supports this interpretation.
"they were, at first, pargeted and plastered with bitumen or rough clay" - William Strachey
"The church was a homely thing, like a barn, set upon cratchetts... the best of our houses of the like curiosity but the most part much worse workmanship" - John Smith
"the houses have wide and large country chimneys" - William Strachey
"our people do dress their chambers and ward rooms, which make their houses so much the more handsome" - William Strachey
The first blockhouse built in 1609 stood directly ahead of you about 1,000 feet from the end of the seawall. It defended the island from attack across the isthmus. A second blockhouse on Back River prevented attack from that quarter.
John Smith was born about 1580 the son of a yeoman farmer of modest means. As a young man he travelled throughout Europe and fought as a soldier in the Netherlands and in Hungary. There he was captured, taken to Turkey and sold into slavery in Russia.
He murdered his master, escaped and journeyed back to Hungary to collect a promised reward of money and a coat-of-arms. He returned to England in time to participate in the settlement of Virginia.
He was an arrogant and boastful man, often tactless and sometimes brutal. Physically strong and worldly wise, he made an excellent settler. However, his personality, his obvious qualifications and his low social position infuriated many of the colony's leaders and settlers. Despite this, he was named to be the first Council in May, 1607. He learned the Indian's language and became the colony's principal Indian trader. During the summer of 1608 he led a 3,000 mile expedition in an open boat to explore and map Chesapeake Bay and its principal rivers. On September 10, 1608 the Council elected him Governor of Virginia for a one-year term. He was an able leader who understood both the Indians and the settler's needs and the colony prospered.
Captain Smith returned to England in October, 1609 following an accidental gunpowder burn and became Virginia's most effective propagandist and historian. His "True Relation of Virginia (1608), Map of Virginia (1612) and General History of Virginia (1624) presented the colony as Smith understood it. In 1614 he made a short voyage to New England where he explored and mapped the coast from Cape Cod to Maine. Smith returned to England and never visited Virginia again, never married and never received the recognition he thought he deserved. He died June 21, 1631and was buried in St. Sepulchre's Church in London.
The statue by William Couper was erected in 1909.
The first representative assembly in the New World was convened at Jamestown on Friday, July 30, 1619. It met in response to orders from the Virginia Company "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."
John Pory, a member of the Council and Secretary of the Colony, filed a "report
The First Representative Assembly
of the manner of procceding in the General assembly convened at James citty, July 30, 1619 consisting of the Governor, the Council of Estate, and two Burgesses elected out of eache Incorporation and plantation." The members of the Council were:
Mr. Samuel Macock
Mr. John Rolfe
Mr. John Pory
Captain Nathaniel Powell
Captain Francis West
Reverend William Wickham
Pory continued, "First Sir George Yeardley, knight, Governor and Captaine general of Virginia having sente his summons all over the Country, as well to invite those of the Counsell of Estate that were absente, as also for the election of Burgesses there were chosen and appeared:
For James Citty
Captaine William Powell
Ensigne William Spense
For Charles Citty
For the Citty of Henricus
Captaine William Tucker
Capt. John Martins plantation
Mr. Thomas Davis
Mr. Robert Stacy
For Smythes Hundred
Captain Thomas Graves
Mr. Walter Shelley
For Martins Hundred
Mr. John Boys
For Argals Guifte
Mr. [Thomas] Pawlett
Mr. [Edward] Gourgainy
For Flowerdieu Hundred
Ensigne [Edmund] Rossingham
Mr. [John] Jefferson
For Captain Lawnes plantation
Captain Chirstophor Lawne
For Captaine Wardes plantation
Captain [John] Warde
Lieutenant [John] Gibbes
Pocahontas was favorite daughter of Powhatan, who ruled the Powhatan Confederacy. She was born about 1595, probably at Werowocomoco 16 miles from Jamestown. Captain John Smith believed she had saved his life twice during the colony's first years. In 1608-1609 she was a frequent and welcome vistor to Jamestown, often bringing gifts of food from her father.
From 1609 to 1613 she was part of Indian society and was not seen by the settlers. In April, 1613 she was captured by the English while she was living on the Potomac River and was brought to Jamestown as a hostage. She soon converted to Christianity and was baptized.
Her marriage to John Rolfe in April, 1614 helped to establish peaceful relations between the Indians and the English. In 1616 she visited England with her husband and infant son, Thomas, and was presented to Royal Court. While returning to Virginia she died on March 21, 1617 and was buried in St. George's Church in Gravesend, England. Today many Americans claim descent from her through her son and granddaughter.
The statue, by William Ordway Partridge, was erected in 1922.
The Great Road
You are standing in the first English highway in America. It ran along the river shore, then turned inland and passed behing the church. It continued over the swamp to your left and out across the isthmus near where you came on the island. Here the roadway was 30 to 35 feet wide. It was repaired from time to time by smoothing out the ruts and adding a few inches of sand.
Jamestown is the site of the first permanent English colony in America. On May 13, 1607, one hundred forty-four Englishmen arrived in three small ships and moored them to the trees on this island. The following day the English came ashore -- never to leave.
Jamestown is more than this. For 92 years it was the capital of Virginia, England's oldest, largest and richest colony. The first Protestant church service was held here in 1607, and the first English church was built here the same year. The first representative Assembly in the New World was established here in July, 1619. One month later the first black men in English America were brought ashore. They were servants, not slaves, but their servitude would turn to slavery before the century was over.
Jamestown was the scene of numerous early skirmishes between the English and the Indians. In 1676 much of the drama of Bacon's Rebellion happened here and Jamestown was burned by Bacon's forces. During the Revolutionary War, large numbers of British, French and American troops successively occupied the island. In 1861 the Confederate forces built a fort here hoping to repel Union advances up the James River.
Jamestown has been the object of many a pilgrimage by the famous, by heads of state and by the common citizen. In 1704 Governor Francis Nicholson propsed a "Jamestown Jubilee" for 1707. While that was never held, there was a Jamestown Jubilee in 1807. LaFayette's triumphal return was feted at Jamestown in 1824, and great festivals were held here in 1857, 1907 and 1957.
These signs were erected in 1982 by the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities to commemorate the 375th anniversary of the first landing. The Association, the oldest state-wide historic preservation society in the United States, was chartered in 1889. Four years later Mr. and Mrs. Edward E. Barney donated 22 1/2 acres of Jamestown Island to the Association so it could preserve and maintain it for all Americans. For 41 years the Association worked alone, performing research, undertaking archaeology and preserving and interpreting the island to increasing numbers of visitors. In 1934 the A.P.V.A. was joined by the United States government when it acquired the remainder of the island and included it in Colonial National Historical Park.
We hope that you enjoy your visit and find it meaningful.
Maize, or corn as we call it today, was the great gift of the Indians to the settlers. The Indians planted five or six kernels in a hill together with beans and pumpkins. They spaced the hills four to five feet apart and thinned them to two or three plants per hill. Thereafter, little work was needed until harvest. When harvested the plants stood six to ten feet high and produced one to four ears per plant with 500 to 700 kernels per ear. These were shelled by hand and pounded in a mortar with a pestle.
From the beginning the settlers traded with the Indians for maize. They soon learned how to grow it, but not until 1619 did they raise enough to supply the colony without Indian help. The colonists adopted Indian methods, although they often added peas, squash or melons to the hills. Shelling was done with flails instead of by hand and the kernels were ground in small hand mills or pounded in a mortar and pestle. The leaves and tops were often picked while green, dried and used for fodder.
Corn was traded by the barrel which contained five bushels and weighed 280 pounds. Normally corn sold for 10 to 12 shillings per barrel (about three to four days wages).
When the settlers arrived they found the Indians smoking a native tobacco, Nicotiana rustica, which was "but poor and weak and of a biting taste." By 1612 John Rolfe, a confirmed tobacco smoker, was experimenting with Nicotiana tobacum, a variety from Trinidad. In 1613 he sent 105 pounds to England which was well received. Thereafter, tobacco production increased from 2,300 pounds in 1615 to 1,500,000 pounds by 1629.
In the seventeenth century tobacco seeds -- which were so small that 10,000 fit in a teaspoon -- were sown in early spring in beds. In May the plants were transplanted to small hills, about 1,000 to an acre. The flower was removed from the plant in June as were the suckers which constantly sprouted leaving from 10 to 25 leaves per stalk. The plants were harvested in late August or September, allowed to dry briefly in the sun, then the stalks were split nearly to the bottom of the plant. These were hung, first on lines, later on oak splints in tobacco sheds to cure. When cured the tobacco was packed tightly in hogsheads (barrels), rolled or carted to waiting ships and sent to England.
Before being used, tobacco was spun into long ropes. Pieces were then cut off and smoked in long-stemmed, white clay pipes.
The Indians in eastern Virginia whom the settlers encountered in 1607 were members of the Algonquian stock. They were divided into about 35 different tribes although all spoke a similar language. John Smith estimated that the Indians had about 3,000 fighting men; perhaps the total population was about 8,000.
The Indians lived semi-nomadic life. In the spring they gathered in about 160 villages along the shores of the James, York, Rappahannock and Potomac rivers and their tributaries. There they fed on oysters, clams, crabs and fish and planted their crops of corn, beans and pumpkins. As summer approached they dispersed into the uplands and lived on berries, fruits and game. They gathered in their villages again in the autumn, harvested their crops and gorged themselves. Then they dispersed again in small groups to forage for the winter. Warfare and lengthy religious ceremonies interrupted the routine.
In the thirty years before the settlers arrived, the Pamunkey Indians, led by their poweful chieftan Powhatan conquered most of the tribes between the James and Potomac rivers. These tribes kept their own chiefs (called werowances) but paid tribute of corn and other commodities to Powhatan. They also provided men to fight Powhatan's enemies to the north and west. This loose confederation, known as the Powhatan Confederacy, faced the settlers.
Fortunately the Indians were not sure how to treat the settlers. Some Indians wanted peace and trade, others wanted to exterminate the settlement. After some years of indecision, Powhatan made peace with the settlers in 1614, a peace sometimes known as the "Peace of Pocahontas." It was shattered on March 22, 1622 when the Indians rose against the settlers in an attempt to drive them out of Virginia. Jamestown was spared when Richard Pace -- told of the impending attack by an Indian boy Chanco -- warned the town. However, 347 settlers were killed on the outlaying plantations.
Warfare followed as settlers retaliated. Finally peace returned in the 1630's. This was shattered on April 18, 1644 when the Indians again rose and killed 500 settlers, mostly on the frontiers near the falls of the rivers. Warfare again followed and the Indians were defeated. Thereafter, peaceful relations came to eastern Virginia except for isolated incidents. The Indian attacks of 1676 which led, in part, to Bacon's Rebellion, were caused by other pressures and other Indians.
The clash of cultures between the Indians and the settlers was acted out in many places: Jamestown, Werowocomoco, the shores of the rivers, the Indian villages and the Virginia plantations. There were many people involved: John Smith, Powhatan, Pocahontas, Opechankano, Governors Dale, Yeardley and Berkeley and others. In the end the settlers won because of military and numerical superiority.
The Earliest Settlers
The earliest settlers came to Virginia in 1607 and 1608. There were at least 334 of them. Since we do not know how many sailors came in 1608, there were probably more.
Listed below are the 262 settlers and sailors whose names we know, together with their occupations. You might enjoy looking to see if any of your ancestors are among them. Remember, seventeeth-century people frequently spelled their names in two or more ways. For example, the name Smith might be spelled Smith, Smyth, Smithe, Smythe or even Smit or Smitt. Listed in brackets are a few of the less common spellings which exist for the person.
Near where you are standing, 27-year-old Nathaniel Bacon, with over 500 armed followers, demanded a commission from 70-year-old Governor Sir William Berkeley authorizing him to lead his followers against the Indians. It was June 23, 1676 and the Assembly was meeting . Twice before the Governor had refused to grant the commission to Bacon. Once, he had captured Bacon, then pardoned him. This time, thoroughly enraged, the Governor strode out of the statehouse, his Council following, approached Bacon and denounced him as a traitor and rebel. Dramatically he bared his breast to Bacon and cried out, "Here! Shoot me! Before God, a fair mark, shoot!" Then he drew his sword and challenged Bacon to a fight.
Bacon answered him that he had come to redress the people's grievances and added, "I came not nor intend to hurt a hair of your Honor's head, and for your sword your Honor may please to put it up, it shall rust in the scabbard before ever I shall desire you to draw it.
I came for a commission against the Heathen who daily in humanely murder us and spill our brother's blood, and no care taken to prevent it." Then, losing control of himself, he swore, "God damn my blood, I came for a commission and a commission I will have before I go." Seeing the members of the Assembly leaning out of the windows of the upper story of the statehouse, he instructed his soldiers to shoot at them. Someone wisely cried out not to shoot, they would see that Bacon received his commission. The next day, a furious Berkeley signed the commission and Bacon left, ending one of many confrontations in Bacon's Rebellion.
Bacon's Rebellion had many causes. Indian attacks on the frontier were an important one. Real or imagined grievances of the smaller planters and farmers against an aristocratic and unresponsive government were another. Underlying these causes were a decade-long depression caused by low tobacco prices and the social strains caused when new and wealthy immigrants displaced native settlers in positions of power. Fueled by these powerful forces, Bacon and Berkeley let a minor dispute over the right to lead an expedition against the Indians erupt into a civil war.
Jamestown was the scene of a number of the events. Both sides occupied the town, retreated from it and reoccupied it. Finally on September 19, 1676, Bacon attacked the island from the isthmus (over which you came to arrive on the island). He occupied the town, then burned it to the ground, although he saved all the government records. Berkeley fled to the Eastern Shore.
Five weeks later Bacon died in Gloucester County. Thereafter, Berkeley was able to defeat the remnants of Bacon's followers (he hanged 22) until the last of them surrendered in January, 1677. One of the last places recaptured was Arthur Allen's brick house in Surry County. Known as "Bacon's Castle" since the late eighteenth century, it is now owned and preserved by the A.P.V.A
This Live Oak, dedicated on June 15. 1965, Commemorates the 750th Anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta on June 15, 1215.
Out of these roots have sprung great liberties of man, great principles of Law.
The Magna Carta Commission of Virginia
The Hunt Shrine
This Shrine is dedicated to the memory of the Reverend Robert Hunt (1568-1608), the first Anglican minister of the colony.
Island Loop Drive
A three or five mile island loop drive winds its way through a landscape of woodlands and marsh. Interpretive paintings and signs portray early industries attempted by the colonists.
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