Jamestown, Virginia was founded in 1607 as the first Virginia Colony settlement. it was the capital of Virginia until 1699 when Williamsburg was made the capital. It has a rich history as a fort and it is a tourism site that has a number of standing reminders of its rich history. This paper seeks to delve into the foundation of Jamestown in 1607.
Jamestown hosted the first permanent English settler who came to the Americas. According to William Kelso, it was the cradle of the British Empire. Jamestown was first known as James Fort when the Virginia Company of London set it up. At the time of the arrival of the Company, the settlement, located in the then Tsenacommach country was administered by the Paspahegh tribe of the Powhatan Confederacy. The natives welcomed the colonists and even gave them crucial provisions. During the Starving Time, 1609 1610, mortality led to the perishing of over 80% of the colonists due to starvation and disease. The annihilation of the tribe happened in 3 years of warfare due to deteriorated relations with the newcomers.
The establishment of the Virginia Colony was done in the 1606 after the expedition commissioned by the Virginia Company of London. Three ships were sent for the expedition. They included Godspeed, Discovery and Susan Constant. The ships stopped for a while at Puerto Rico in order to increase the supply. In 1607, the expedition ships reached the Chesapeake Bay. Only about 100 people managed to reach the destination, Virginia. Along the way, some of the passengers of the crew died. The first ships that went for the expedition only contained men and boys and not women. Their arrival at the Chesapeake Bay marked the new name of the places such as the Northern capes of Virginia that were named after their kings heirs. Some of these places include; Cape Henry, for the Prince of Wales, Prince Henry Fredrick.
In addition the arrival of the first ships in Virginia also marked the opening of the Virginia Company that was previously under sealed order. The opening of the company named Captain John Smith as one of the governing council members. Captain John was a prisoner and was to be hanged. However, he was released by Captain Newport after the opening of the orders. The content of the orders included; directing the expedition to safer places where they could not be attacked by their enemies. The order further directed the expedition to seek an inland settlement which also was aimed at protecting them from the enemies.
With the order to seek inland settlement, they reached Chesapeake Bay. Some of them proceeded to seek settlement along James River. Those who found settlement along the James River renamed the place as Jamestown in memory of their first king, King James I.
Jamestown became a settlement place for the colonist because of its strategic position as per the order, which directed them to seek a place safer from enemy attack. Jamestown Island became the best place hence chosen by the colonists.
Some of the features of the island that made it more suitable to be selected by the colonist include; the island was situated at a high place where it became more suitable for better visibility. They could obtain better visual of their enemies approaching. Secondly, the water around James River was deep enough forming better harbor for their ships to anchor. The land around the river was free and therefore, it was a place that could contain the population that arrived. Despite the advantages of the shallow harbor along the river, it also became a challenging factor to them because the harbor alienated them from the mainland.
The first settlers in the island managed to build a fort within the first month of their arrival. The fort also was named after the king, James Fort. However, the first fort that was built on woods and this became more challenging. The fort was burnt down within the year.
The new settlers in Jamestown Island found the area unoccupied. This is because of the climatic nature of the region. The region is swampy and therefore the natives around the area could not stay there. Furthermore, the island is extremely isolated from the mainland, this also contributed to the natives staying away from the area. The impacts of the settlement in the island include; there was massive destruction of the forest to create room for the settlers. In addition, the settlement led to extinction of wild animal species in the island, because the island was very small and hunting was the only source of food available.
The new settlers were faced with greater challenges and these include; first, the area was swampy and this made it more suitable for mosquito breeding. This led to the mass spread of malaria amongst them. The water in the river was not that much clean for consumption. However, it was the only source available that could support them. As a result, most of them suffered from the waterborne diseases such as dysentery. The illness left so many people dead.
The first expedition that left London under the order of King James I, found the new settlement area very challenging more than they expected. The following reasons intensified their suffering in the new place, island. First, they never carried enough supply that could support them for long time. Secondly, most of those who first arrived in the island were upper- class people in London and therefore, they were not conversant with the manual jobs. This further intensified their suffering in the region because they only depended on the supplies they carried. Another factor that contributed to the suffering was that, those who reached the island were upper class and hence they never had the basic skills of farming or any other work that could sustain their staying there. Another primary factor was the death of many people due to the change of climate in the island. Death of many people resulted out of lack of enough food to sustain the population. This further reduced the population including the productive resources such as those who had the farming and labor skills. Most of people starved to death.
They were rescued by one of the crew which sailed back to London and returned with supplies. This was the first rescue mission that marked the end of the suffering of those who were in the island. This first rescues arrived in Jamestown Island in January 1608. This supply was not enough and therefore, the second rescue was sent from London. The second supply reached the island in October 1608. They were also supported by the laborers who were sent from London. These were non- natives of England who were trained to work in the industries. Most of them were craftsmen and industry specialists. The population of the region increased as a result of the new arrival of those who brought supply. The new settlers who arrived in the island were mostly equipped with the skills and knowledge required to develop the area. This resulted to the establishment of industries
In 1608, Captain John Smith was chosen to be the head of the region. However, Smith was never taken warmly by the people and the workers. This followed his actions and the way he treated people, especially the workers who were non- English. Smith was withdrawn from the position after the accident that left him seriously wounded. Smiths rule was not accepted by most of people especially the stakeholders of the project who took him as rude and disrespectful. After the accident, Smith went back to London to get treatment and this marked the end of his rule in Jamestown Island.
After Smith left the island, there followed a long period of starvation that left several people dead. The first group that arrived in the region was not farmers; they could not find any other sources of food after exhausting the hunting places in the area. The expedition to Jamestown Island was funded by the Virginia Company that aimed at making good profit from the expedition. Those who first reached the island were also depending on the company to supply them with enough food. However, this never happened according to their expectations. As a result, most of people died out of starvation. The problem continued for a period of time after which another rescue crew was sent from London to the colony. Only seven ships managed to reach the colony.
This could not support the large population in the area. The suffering was further intensified by the breakdown of one of the rescue ships that was loaded with most of the foodstuffs. In addition, death of their able leaders also contributed to the long suffering of people in the colony.
In conclusion, Jamestown was established under hardship and most of those who first arrived in the island suffered. The expedition was aimed at profiting the business elites in London who funded the expedition project. The expedition led to loss of lives; out of starvation and civil war.
Horn, James. A Land as God Made It: Jamestown and the Birth of America, New York: Basic Books, 2006.
Jocelyn R. Wingfield, Virginia's True Founder: Edward Maria Wingfield and His Times. Booksurge, 2007.
Vaughan, Alden T., and Vaughan, Virginia Mason (1991). Shakespeare's Caliban: A Cultural History. Cambridge University Press.
Woodward, Hobson. A Brave Vessel: The True Tale of the Castaways Who Rescued Jamestown and Inspired Shakespeare's The Tempest. Viking, (2009).
Rountree, Helen C. Pocahontas, Powhatan, Opechancanough: Three Indian Lives Changed by Jamestown. University of Virginia Press: Charlottesville, 2005
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