Nearby to the east is Jamestown, the original site of the first permanent English colony in North America. On 14 May 1607, a group of just over 100 men and boys recruited by the Virginia Company of London came ashore and established a settlement at Jamestown Island. They constructed a palisaded fort there within the territory of the Paspahegh Indians, who with other Virginia Indians had frequent contact with the English. In 1619 the first English representative legislative body in North America met there, and the first documented Africans arrived. Jamestown served as the capital of the Virginia colony from 1607 to 1699. Historic Jamestowne preserves this original site and the archaeological remains.
The founding of Jamestown in 1607 was England’s first successful colonial effort. The colony, founded by the Royal Virginia Company, was the first permanent settlement in the New World. After they received the charter from King James I, the Englishmen embarked on their long journey across the Atlantic on December 20th, 1606 from England to the New World. They finally reached their desired destination around May of 1607. They sailed on a total of three ships, the Susan Constant, the Godspeed and the Discovery. The veteran sea captains Christopher Newport, Bartholomew Gosnold, and John Ratcliffe
commanded these ships. As if the long, treacherous journey across the Atlantic for months wasn’t enough, upon arriving in the Chesapeake the colonists were attacked by Paspahegh natives that resulted in the injuries of at least two Englishmen.
Before embarking on their journey across the Atlantic, the colonists established a form of government and all power was divided amongst 7 councilors: President Edward Maria Wingfield, Captain John Smith, Christopher Newport, John Ratcliffe, John Martin, Bartholomew Gosnold and George Kendall (Schuricht, 18). Among a group of 105 eager, prospecting settlers, only one nobleman was present: Sir George Percy. Although Percy was a nobleman, he was never elected to the original Virginia Council; however, he did become chief executive of the colony after the dismissal of Captain John Smith.
The summer of 1607 proved to be disastrous for the colonists. A series of illness plagued the settlement, most likely due to improper dieting in addition to the tremendous heat and high humidity and the lack of a purified water supply. Unfortunately for the colonists, conditions such as these harbor diseases such as scurvy, pellagra, dysentery, typhoid and beriberi (Grizzard and Smith, xxvi). As the seasons began changing, more colonists became ill and died from pneumonia or
influenza. The colonists neglected to cultivate the soil upon which to harvest crops, and in many cases the settlers were preoccupied with the prospects of finding gold (Schuricht, 21). Because many of them were used to ways of life in England, the colonists were ill equipped to deal with the harsh realities of the wilderness, and this ultimately led to their demise.
Christopher Newport (to which the school of Christopher Newport University is named in Newport News) lost his right arm in 1591 battling a Spanish merchant.
Grizzard, Jr. Frank E. and D. Boyd Smith. Jamestown Colony: A Political, Social, and Cultural History. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2007.
Kupperman, Karen Ordahl. The Jamestown Project. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007.
Schuricht, Herrmann. The History of the German Element in Virginia. Baltimore: Theo. Kroh & Sons Printers, 1898.
Historical Marker “Jamestown V-44,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.
“Aerial View of Jamestown Island,” Virginia’s Historic Triangle: Colonial Williamsburg, www. colonialwilliamsburg.com (accessed April 29, 2012).
“Replicas of the Discovery, Susan Constant and Godspeed,” Jamestown Settlement and Yorktown Victory Center, www.historyisfun.org (accessed April 29, 2012).
“Original charter for the Virginia Company of London,” America’s Story From America’s Library, www.americaslibrary.gov (accessed April 29, 2012).
“Map of Jamestown Fort,” Historic Jamestowne: The Dig, www.historicjamestown.org (accessed April 29, 2012).
Department of Historic Resources link not available