Next up on our agenda here in the Historic Triangle of Virginia was a visit to Jamestowne. We had two choices, one was to visit another living museum in a recreated Jamestowne or to visit the National Historic Site where the original Jamestowne was located. We opted to visit the real site rather than the recreated site. We both really wanted to walk where people like Captain John Smith and Pocahontas roamed…
The original settlement’s site is co-owned by Preservation Virginia and the National Park Service so our America the Beautiful Pass got us in for $5.00 each vs. the $16.00 normal fee. I had always thought that Jamestowne was America’s first settlement but that isn’t true. On July 27, 1585 English ships carrying 75 settlers landed on Roanoke Island, off the coast of North Carolina. These settlers were the first group of colonists sent by Sir Walter Raleigh to form the first English settlement. Others arrived later but by 1590 the settlers had vanished and this became known as the lost colony.
The next attempt (and first successful one) was to establish a colony at what is now historic Jamestowne. This became the first permanent English settlement in North America and was founded in May of 1607. It was the original capital of Virginia for 83 years, from 1616 until 1699.
Not all was rosy and cheery as there was lots of strife in the early days of the settlement. While the Powhatan tribe initially welcomed the new visitors they soon grew a distaste for them and vice versa. Before long the settlers clashed with the natives and completely annihilated them within 3 years. However, during those three years there was a great toll taken in the settlement as the mortality rate at Jamestown was very high due to clashes with the Indians, disease and starvation.
A gruesome time in the settlement occurred during the winter of 1609-1610 when 80% of the settlers perished in what was dubbed the "Starving Time." The surviving settlers at Jamestown were trapped inside the fort by the Indians with not enough provisions for the winter. Evidence suggests resorted to cannibalism during this starving time.
Lots of history occurred here such as Pocahontas's legendary saving of Captain John Smith. But other interesting tidbits we learned while visiting were that Jamestown was where tobacco was first cultivated as a crop by John Rolfe who would later marry Pocahontas. Pocahontas meanwhile would only live into her early twenties as she died at an early age while returning to the Americas after visiting England.
We also discovered Jamestowne is where slavery actually began in the Americas. In 1619 about 50 men, women and children of African heritage came to Jamestowne aboard a Portuguese slave ship. It is widely believed that they worked in the tobacco fields as indentured servants. Slavery wasn’t “formalized” however, until 1640 as a result of the John Punch hearing but by 1660 slavery was an institution in Virginia.
It was really cool to visit Historic Jamestowne to see the original site of the 1607 James Fort. There remains today a lone 17th-century church tower along with remnants of the foundations of the 17th-century town. One of the neatest things we saw was an archaeological museum called the Archaearium. The receptionist at the entrance said they were the only Archaearium in the world because they made up the term Archaearium, HAH!
With close to two million artifacts found by the Jamestown Rediscovery (an archeological project that began in 1994) it is a fascinating place visit! There are still archaeologists from the Jamestown Rediscovery Project digging on site and we were lucky enough to chat with one of them who let us hold a piece of a "Bartmann krug" (bearded man jug) discovered there that was some 400 years old! Amazing…
As we were leaving we decided to take the nearby Jamestown-Scotland Ferry service (since it was free) to look at the settlement from the James River. It provided a great view of Jamestown Island from the river and we saw a nice rainbow in the horizon… What a great day we had!