The ancient road that linked Jamestown, the original colonial capital, with Middle Plantation (later Williamsburg) followed a meandering course. It departed from Jamestown Island and then turned northeast, crossing Powhatan and Mill Creeks. As it approached Middle Plantation, it traversed a branch of College Creek that by the mid-17th century was dammed to form Rick Neck plantation’s millpond, today’s Lake Matoaka. Improvements to Jamestown Road, completed in time for the Jamestown Ter-Centennial Exposition, constituted the first project completed with the assistance of the State Highway Commission, formed in 1906.
The English colonists originally referred to what now constitutes Jamestown Road, as the “Greate Road”. The original road was a natural path that was abundantly rich in natural resources and the natives had previously used it as a hunting trail that led from the mainland to the Jamestown Forte (Grizzard and Smith, 82). Unfortunately for the colonists, this path was heavily used by the natives and since the natives were so familiar with the area, this road was a site for many sneak attacks led by the natives on the colonists.
Remnants of this ancient road still exist today and they can mostly be seen from Glasshouse Point (www.nps.org). Originally, the Greate Road was a route that began at James Fort and continued to travel west across the isthmus and onto the mainland near Glasshouse Point.
Since 1939, excavations have taken place on the various sections of the original Greate Road. It was discovered that the settlers would pack down the dirt and soil through the use of horses and oxen. As more traffic would begin to use the road, the colonists would expand the road another 30-35 feet and the road would be built up with sand (www.nps.org).
Grizzard, Jr. Frank E. and D. Boyd Smith. Jamestown Colony: A Political, Social, and Cultural History. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2007.
“The Greate Road: An Early Highway Pre 1607-1700’s. National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/jame/historyculture/new-towne-the-greate-road-an-early-highway-pre-1607-1700s.htm (accessed March 17, 2012).
Historical Marker “Jamestown Road W-38,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.
“The Great Road,” Williamsburg, Virginia, www.ancestry.com (accessed May 2, 2012).