Picture above: Pocahontas, Source: World Noted Women, D. Appleton and Company, 1883. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Right: Pocahontas Saving the Life of Captain John Smith, New England Chromo. Lithograph Company, 1870. Courtesy Library of Congress.


Colonial National Historic Park - Jamestown

It's a place of lore, whose story has been told many times in film. One of the first permanent European settlements in North America in 1607, more than ten years prior to Plymouth Rock. One of John Smith and one hundred and three other men and boys from the Virginia Company of London in competition with the Virginia Company of Plymouth, whose colony in Popham was on their way to failure within a year. The story is one of Pocahontas, left, the Indian maiden from the tidewater area. It is a story of harsh consequences, but it is also a story of how America was settled, for all the good and bad that it entails.

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Jamestown Then

In April of 1607, after five months at sea, three ships finally reached the destination. The Susan Constant, the Discovery, and the Godspeed, with Captain Christopher Newport at its helm, reached Cape Henry, before moving forward up the James River for forty miles till they reached Jamestown Island and decided to stay.

It would be a tough slog in an area not known as hospitable by nearby Indian tribes, known as the Powhatan Confederacy to the English, and would eventually, despite hospitable relations with the Indians early on, in a war that would lead to the capture, then release of the maiden Pocahontas. The colony would be led in the early years by Captain John Smith. Pocahontas would marry John Rolfe, who would bring tobacco seeds to the colony and begin its harvesting in 1614. Their marriage led to eight years of peace among the colonists and Indians.

The seeds of democracy as well as unrest with the Indian population would begin again and continue throughout the remainder of the 17th century. The first assembly was held in Jamestown in 1619, and three years later the Indian massacre would wipe out three hundred of its subjects. During Bacon's Rebellion in 1676, Jamestown was burned for the first time, then rebuilt. After a second fire at the satehouse, the legislature decided to abandon the island and move to Williamsburg.

Historic Dates of Jamestown and the First English Settlement

December 20, 1606 - One hundred and four English men and boys set sail to establish a permanent colony in Virginia.

April 26, 1607 - Three ships stopped at Cape Henry after the five month crossing of the Atlantic Ocean from England.

May 13, 1607 - Jamestown founded.

1619 - First representative assembly, the General Assembly, later House of Burgesses, held in America in the Jamestown Church.

August 1619 - First documented African slaves brought to English North America.

March 22, 1622 - The Indian Massacure of 1622 occurred whe Chief Opchanacanough and the Powhatan Confederacy tried to rid the colony of settlers. One third of the colony, three hundred people, were killed.

September 6, 1667 - Devastating hurricane makes landfall northeast of Jamestown and destroys 10,000 homes, crops, and livestock, followed by twelve days of rain.

1676 - Bacon's Rebellion causes the burning of Jamestown.

1699 - Jamestown abandoned after the statehouse was burned. Colonial government was moved to Middle Plantation, renamed soon after as Williamsburg.

Photo above: Foundations of the Jamestown settlement structures overlooking the river. Courtesy National Park Service. Below: More foundations of the Jamestown settlement in the New Towne section. Courtesy National Park Service.

Note: Some of the dates above are different depending on various sources.

Cabrillo National Monument

Jamestown Now

Colonial National Historical Park - This park contains over 8,000 acres on a variety of historic sites from Yorktown to Jamestown. The park has four distinct units; Cape Henry Memorial, Historic Jamestowne, Yorktown, and the twenty-four mile Colonial Parkway that connects them, as well as Williamsburg. This national park is considered to be the Beginning (Jamestown) and End (Yorktown) of English Colonial America.

Jamestown Settlement - This Virginia state run attraction next door to Colonial National Historical Park traces the settlement through film, three replica ships, the Powhatan village, and a colonial fort.

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Things You Should Not Miss

1. Both visitors centers at Yorktown and Jamestown have films that will orient you with the sites. Take the time to view them and get your first impression of the history that was made here.

2. Held on most days, but not all, from July to November, take a Living History tour in the Jamestown section. Characters portraying John Rolfe to Lady Yeardley will help you travel back in time to the days of the formation of America. It should be a good trip.

3. Visit the Powhatan Village at the Jamestown Settlement. It gives you a good glimpse into the life Pocahontas would have led in these days of 1607.

Photo above: Historic Jamestowne Glassblower House. Courtesy National Park Service.

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