10/8/14 Wednesday in Gloucester,VA (Chesapeake Bay RV Resort-TT)
I tend to get lost in the details so I’ll try to give you some broad basic ideas to start here. You remember our exploration of Yorktown, when George Washington laid siege to the British outpost at Yorktown, winning that conflict in 1781, the battle that finally won our Revolutionary War. Our Constitution was signed on 1787 so, with that, the USA really began.
That beginning wouldn’t have happened without another beginning over 100 years before, right nearby (connected by the beautiful NPS Colonial Parkway)at the first permanent settlement of the British in 1607: Jamestown (originally James Fort). I realize we’ve talked about the Pilgrims landing in Massachusetts, but that wasn’t the first. That happened in 1619. [there was another difference: the Pilgrims were for religious freedom whereas the Jamestowne colonists were all Anglican]. There was another colony (Roanoke, VA) that they call the Lost Colony because when the ship returned from England to restock it, no one was there.
These first intrepid English, came in 3 ships, leaving here a total of 104 men and some boys. Similar to Plymouth they were indentured to the Virginia Company of London (investors). The hope was for great wealth from gold and silver, like the Spanish were already getting. As we know, they didn’t find any of that, so they struggled at first, eventually discovering (John Rolfe, a plantation owner who married Pocahontas, figured it out) that a Caribbean sort of tobacco grew well here and it made money in England. It made money here too.
Three main points to remember: This is the first permanent settlement, the first representative government began here (1619) when the House of Burgess gathered and this is where the first African s landed (1619). The last happened by accident. A Dutch ship had run into a slave ship and took the Africans along with the other cargo of that ship, then traded them for water and supplies when they landed here. These first arrivals seem to have become servants (not slaves) to colonists. Their knowledge of tobacco growing was most helpful. They were also really hard working. Laws creating slavery came later.
Note: there are two different Jamestowns here: the Historical Jamestowne on James Island, where the AVPA (Preservation Virginia) and the National Park Service are partnered to protect and share this special place. Because of this partnership, your senior pass helps, but you still have to pay $5 each ($14 each without). This will cover your time in Yorktown too (for a week). This is the REAL Fort, with actual archeology happening now. The AVPA give archeological walking tours and the NPS gives historical walking tours. Good plan to get there early to be able to enjoy all that’s available to you. The other is Jamestowne Settlement, run by the State, where you see full blown replicas of the originals: Indian village, James Fort and the 3 ships that brought the original colonists as well as interpreters. They have great walking tours as well, for inside (Museum) and outside (Indian Village, Fort, Ships). We went to the Settlement the next day ($14.40 each senior).
James Fort, built on the James River (named after King James at the time), because it had deep waters just off shore. Also, no Indians were already settled there (because it was a miserable buggy swamp with no fresh water). Our guide was wearing a t shirt with the image of the fort drawn by a Spanish spy. The Spanish felt this was too insignificant a colony to bother attacking. In time the Indians did lay siege to it, so the colonists were stuck inside, starving until most died.
One of the archeological digs inside the fort.
The Palisade (fence) and area that had a building above. The bricks mark hearths, the crosses mark graves of those buried below.
Captain John Smith. Within the first 2 weeks of arrival the first colonists were attacked by the Powhatan Indians, so John Smith got every man to help digging post holes, cutting down trees, basically building a fort.
The Archaearium (Ar KAY air ee um) is filled with actual artifacts found here. Most of their artifacts were found in the wells. Once a well (their only source of fresh water) dried up, they threw their garbage down it. Plus accidents can cause things to fall into there as well.
Most impressive was the skull they found of a young girl who had been cannibalized – based on the strike marks on her skull. They broke into the brain because it was the most nutritious. The marks were similar to those found on the horses, dogs and wild animals’ bones they found as well. Many colonists kept diaries, which is another way they found out about their life. This cannibalism occurred during the “Starving Times” (winter 1609-1610), when the Indians laid siege on the fort. In the Spring a new shipment of colonists and supplies arrived to save the day.
After our history walking tour, we headed home. Unfortunately the GPS decided on a different route-by the time we realized it, we were committed to going to the East side of the York River and thus have to pay the toll for the bridge on US17 North.
Big day, but so interesting. Glad to get home, though.