20 Unsettling Events in the Life of the Settlers of Jamestown, Virginia
20 Unsettling Events in the Life of the Settlers of Jamestown, Virginia

20 Unsettling Events in the Life of the Settlers of Jamestown, Virginia

Larry Holzwarth - August 11, 2018

20 Unsettling Events in the Life of the Settlers of Jamestown, Virginia
Smith recorded several different versions of his being saved by Pocahontas, thus saving the colony, which have long endured. Wikimedia

The General Assembly

Until 1619 the colony which by then consisted of numerous small towns, villages, hamlets, and plantations, was run under military authority. Control was in the hands of the governor, appointed by the commissioners in London. In 1619, following the instructions of the Virginia Company in London, the General Assembly was created, which met in Jamestown’s recently completed wooden church. The General Assembly oversaw the economic, legal, and religious affairs of the colony, and controlled negotiations with the natives of the Powhatan confederacy. It also assumed independent control of the colony’s military affairs. The assembly also sat as a court of law, adjudicating cases brought before it both civil and criminal.

By the middle of the following decade the Assembly managed the affairs of English settlements on the York peninsula, the Eastern shore of Virginia, and as far inland as present day Richmond. The area of the original Jamestown settlement became less populated as settlers moved inland, and the importance of James Fort as a means of defense grew less critical. Other fortresses were erected at strategic points on tributaries of the James River, which became a nautical highway connecting the settlements and the plantations along its banks. By 1630 Middle Plantation, which later became Williamsburg, was designated as the anchor for a wooden palisade across the peninsula separating native lands from those of the English. It was completed in 1634.

20 Unsettling Events in the Life of the Settlers of Jamestown, Virginia
England’s Charles I mandated how the Virginia colony would be divided into shires and governed. Wikimedia

Under English Law

In 1624 the Virginia Company was dissolved when its charter was revoked by order of King James. The colony continued to grow steadily, with those fleeing religious and political oppression in England choosing to relocate to the North American possessions. Virginia also received those unhappy with the growing Puritan colonies in the Cape Cod region of New England. In 1634, under the royal command of King Charles I, the colony of Virginia was divided into eight shires, with Jamestown designated as James City and located in James City Shire. The shires were the original eight counties of Virginia. Each shire was named by the Burgesses of the General Assembly, and had its own local officers.

The royal decree also established the cities of Elizabeth City, Charles City, and James City, though the settlement was still for the most part referred to as Jamestown in local parlance. The Virginia colony grew steadily during the next several decades, especially in the tidewater areas along Chesapeake Bay and the inland rivers of the Potomac, Rappahannock, York, and James. Other conflicts with the natives led to the Powhatan Confederacy crumbling into its several tribes independently of each other, and wars between the tribes and the whites continued as English settlement pushed the natives back along the rivers and streams of inland Virginia.

20 Unsettling Events in the Life of the Settlers of Jamestown, Virginia
An illustration of Jamestown in ruins from 1878. Wikimedia

Jamestown fades away

During Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676 Jamestown was overrun and burned, but the town was rebuilt and remained the capital of the colony, though the Burgesses met in Middle Plantation during the rebuilding of the statehouse. In 1698 the statehouse again burned to the ground, and the Burgesses again met in the new College of William and Mary at Middle Plantation. While there the Burgesses decided to permanently move the capital to the site, renaming Middle Plantation Williamsburg in honor of their sovereign. Work soon began on a home for the Assembly and the Governor in the thriving town, and Jamestown lost its last measure of importance to the colony.

By the time of the American Revolution most of the village of Jamestown was gone, its church abandoned by its congregation, the palisaded fort collapsed and overgrown, and most of the fields cultivated in tobacco and wheat. Jamestown itself gradually returned to the condition in which it appeared when the first English settlers arrived in 1607, minus the population of the Powhatan Confederacy. In the late twentieth century archaeological studies have located the sites of many of the early Jamestown buildings, including the first brickworks and ironworks in North America, which nature reclaimed from the early founders of what became the Commonwealth of Virginia.

 

Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“John Smith: English Explorer and Colonist”, by Arthur M. Schlesinger and Tara Baukus Mello, 2009

“A Land as God Made it: Jamestown and the Birth of America”, by James Horn, 2006

“Why Jamestown Matters”, by James Horn, American Heritage Magazine, Winter, 2008

“The Complete Works of John Smith”, by John Smith (1580-1631), ed. by Philip L. Barbour

“A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World”, by Tony Horwitz 2008

“Harwich: Remembering a hero”, by the Harwich and Manningtree Standard, August 31, 2007

“Love and Hate in Jamestown: John Smith, Pocahontas, and the Start of a New Nation”, by David A. Price, 2003

“‘Proof’ Jamestown settlers turned to cannibalism”, by Jane O’Brien, BBC News, May 1, 2013

“Sea Venture: Shipwreck, Survival, and the Salvation of the First English Colony in the New World”, by Kieran Doherty, 2008

“Thomas West, 3rd Baron Delaware”, entry by Darryl Roger Lundy, The Peerage, February 23, 2011

“The Tempest”, by Avery Kolb, American Heritage Magazine, April/May 1983

“Letter of John Rolfe to Governor Sir Thomas Dale”, by John Rolfe, 1614, online

“Of Raleigh and the First Plantation”, by A. L. Rowse, American Heritage Magazine, June 1959

“Cradle of America: Four Centuries of Virginia History”, by Peter Wallenstein, 2007

“Finding the Real Jamestown”, by William M. Kelso, American Heritage Magazine, Winter 2008

“Beyond Jamestown”, by Terence Smith, Smithsonian Magazine, April 30, 2007

“1622 Three Hundred and Seventy-five Years Ago Massacre”, by Frederic D. Schwarz, American Heritage Magazine, February/March 1997

“Savage Kingdom: The True Story of Jamestown, 1607, and the Settlement of America”, by Benjamin Woolley, 2008

“Digging Up Jamestown”, by Ivor Noel Hume, American Heritage Magazine, April 1963

“Rethinking Jamestown”, by Jeffrey Sheler, Smithsonian Magazine, January 1, 2005

Advertisement