Hey guys! Here’s another blog post with your favorite friend…Will! Today I am here to talk about another significant site from history, the Jamestown Settlement. This is the first settlement that successfully settled in America. It was led by Captain John Smith, who as most of you know befriended Pocahontas. She convinced her father to help the settlers, which allowed the first successful colonization in the New World.
Jamestown started out as a place to get rich quick. Half of the first people to come Jamestown were gentlemen, men who fought in battles and were rich enough to be able to buy their own armor and weapons and lead men. These men were used to fighting and tactics, but not hard labor which led many of them to dislike their new life in the Americas. It probably would have been a downhill spiral as the two groups of people, gentlemen and commoners, fought over who would do what work in Jamestown if Smith hadn’t stepped in and said if ‘you don’t work you don’t eat’.
Jamestown also suffered many problems when it was starting up such as the fact that they had settled in native territory and slaughtered the natives there which were a part of a confederacy of natives at the time. That soured relations quite a bit and soon the settlers and the natives were at each other’s throats. The problem was that most of the men were not used to hard labor and most were unskilled and did not know how to make anything or work. They only had two trained fishermen so their food was in short supply. The drinking water was also unhealthy and some of it was even tainted with arsenic. They were, under the guidance of John Smith, able to finally build the fort which was 1 acre in all, and with the help of John Smith, soon began to trade with the natives and with Pocahontas.
The next big issue that Jamestown faced was the Starving Time. This event was caused because the settlers got on bad terms with the natives again and trade soon came to a halt. With only 2 fishermen and winter coming things were getting dire. They were soon eating their dogs, their horses, and even their own people. The first person to be cannibalized in America was Jane, a young woman. Eventually two ships who had originally come with a large fleet of ships arrived right when the settlers were abandoning Jamestown to try and find food. Horrified by the skeletal people, the new people shared their food with them and they all sailed back to recolonize Jamestown. The first big issue was that, because most of the buildings were made of wood, they were quickly deteriorating. They soon rebuilt the wooden post-in-ground houses and rebuilt with stone bases so that termites and ants could not enter the wood and so the wood was not at ground level.
Soon things were looking brighter for Jamestown. They were soon turned into the capitol of Virginia because of a huge crop that was making its way to Europe as quickly as it could be produced. A cash crop that changed Jamestown from a desolate fort that was struggling for survival into a huge port city and the capitol of Virginia. Tobacco! The people in England couldn’t get enough of the stuff. It was soon being shipped out of Jamestown and making the whole town very rich. Soon the state of Virginia made it legal to only bring tobacco out of Jamestown so that Jamestown became even more rich. This caused Jamestown to grow huge in size and led to more indentured servants and then, sadly, slaves.
The downfall of Jamestown was when the capitol of Virginia moved to Richmond and the laws that tobacco could only go through Jamestown were abolished. Soon many were leaving Jamestown as the city was losing money, and without money, no people would come. Jamestown soon fell into disrepair and the only thing left standing over the years was the old church tower that had been built out of bricks. In the 1900’s conservation efforts were made. A seawall was built to make sure that the coast would not erode more, and restoration of the stone towers was attempted. At the time it was assumed that the erosion of the shoreline had made it so that the original fort had been lost to the sea. Excavation began and soon that was proven false as they found the original ditch for the fort, several wells and post in ground holes were discovered. They also found tools that belonged to a smithy and old waste and trash that was covered up in wells or in basements. This included a helmet, a halberd, and a dagger.
After several excavations the National Parks bought the land and Jamestown fort and took over construction of the fort. They added a museum and most of the things you can now see here today. That is the long and complicated story of Jamestown. Thank you for reading and make sure to look at our other channels like YouTube, and Facebook. Goodbye for now.
Ben and Sarah Notes: Don’t picture seeing a historic town like you would in Williamsburg. While it does have several buildings, Historic Jamestowne only contains a few original structures: the original church tower (since restored and the church recreated). a house ruin, and some foundations. The rest of the buildings are recreations. There was a lot of reading, including the more in-depth Junior Ranger Program booklet. The houses and archeology pits were closed, although the Visitor Center and museum were open. The boardwalk was nice way to walk into the town area. It passes over a marshy area where we saw lots of turtles in the water. There were a few turtles upside down, which we thought was bad. Nick asked the Ranger, and he replied that some turtles can turn themselves over and they may be sunning and trying to get more warmth through the thinner belly shell. Or, they didn’t make it through the winter. Ben and I did learn one new thing I don’t remember learning in school: there was a Starving Time (where food was scarce and the town resorted to cannibalism).
- TICKETS: WITH Annual NPS Pass $10/adults, children 0-15 free. WITHOUT Annual Pass: $15/adult. COVID Restrictions: masks required, houses were closed to tours. (The extra fee, even with the NPS America The Beautiful Annual Pass, goes to Preservation Virginia.)
- HOURS: 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
- PARKING: Yes
- BATHROOM: Yes
- TIME RECOMMENDED: 1-3 hours
- *Details correct at the time of posting, but please double check before you go.