Established in 1607 by the Virginia Company under a charter given by King James I, Jamestown was the first English settlement in North America. Unfortunately, it was doomed to fail, but it can be remembered as America’s birthplace.
- England was a relatively poor country in the late 1500s and Queen Elizabeth and King James were not willing to risk state money for exploration.
- Instead, wealthy investors pooled their money together to charter ships for exploration.
- 104 settlers arrived in Jamestown, which was situated on Jamestown Island, 60 miles from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia. They quickly began building a fort, but were attacked within days by the Powhatan Indians.
- The company succeeded in building a fort and planting crops, mostly tobacco, but they struggled with disease, starvation, and Indian attacks.
- John Smith was good at trading glass beads, copper, and iron tools with the Indians in exchange for food. He was injured in a gunpowder explosion and sailed back to England in 1609.
- After his departure, the settlers endured a very hard winter from 1609 to 1610, which they called “the starving time.” Out of the 300 men living in the fort only 60 survived.
- In 1614 Pocahontas, daughter of Indian chief Powhatan married tobacco grower John Rolfe. The colony was peaceful until Powhatan’s death when his brother became chief and ordered his men to attack the colony in 1622, killing one-third of the men.
- In 1619, the first representative assembly met to organize an equal government. Just a few weeks later, the first slaves arrived from Africa.
- The town of Jamestown spread further east and the fort was abandoned. In 1676, the town was burned almost to the ground by Nathaniel Bacon and his men in a rebellion against the governor of Virginia.
- In 1699, the capital moved to Williamsburg and the town of Jamestown disappeared, becoming farm land.
- Today, archaeologists continue to uncover remnants and artifacts from the early settlement of Jamestown. Visitors can view these artifacts and learn about the culture of the settlers and Powhatan Indians.
- Departure: someone’s leaving
- Artifact: tools, clothing, and belongings left behind by a group or individual
Questions and Answers
Question: Why did the settlers go to Jamestown?
Answer: Unlike the Puritans, who were seeking religious freedom, the settlers came to Virginia looking for gold and a passageway to the Pacific Ocean.
Visit Historic Jamestowne’s website.