The Establishment of Jamestown in 1607

Isle of Man - Scott #1202-1207 (2007) first day cover
Isle of Man – Scott #1202-1207 (2007) first day cover

When I was growing up, I was quite blessed that my family undertook long vacations each summer from our homes in Texas, Tennessee, or Kansas. Many of these holiday trips had as their final destination the home of a relative, most of whom lived on either the Atlantic Seaboard or out west in California. En route from our mid-America starting points, we would drive from one National Parkland or historic site to another. Thus, I grew up with a keen appreciation of American geography, history, and her natural beauty.

Unfortunately, my family never visited key sites in Virginia such as Colonial Williamsburg or the Jamestown Settlement. If I knew then what I’ve learned since moving away from the United States, mostly through researching the subjects on the stamps that I have in my collection, I would have begged for slight itinerary changes during those long ago family trips. I think that, of all the early English settlements in North America, I am most interested in that of Jamestown. That is reflected in two fairly extensive articles — one about the “Indian Massacre of 1621/22” and the other detailing the life of Pocahontas — that I published on A Stamp A Day in March and April of this year.  While those articles detailed later events in the colony’s history, today marks the anniversary of the actual foundation of Jamestown as so will deal more with the background and earliest years of the settlement as well the various commemorations of the May 14, 1607, event over the years — a date often touted as the actual beginning of the United States of America.


The Jamestown settlement in the Colony of Virginia was the first permanent English settlement in the Americas. It was located on the east bank of the Powhatan (James) River about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) southwest of the center of modern Williamsburg. William Kelso writes that Jamestown “is where the British Empire began”. It was established by the Virginia Company of London as “James Fort” on May 4, 1607 (using the Old Style — Julian — calendar which is converted to May 14, 1607 on the New Style — or Georgian —calendar), and was considered permanent after brief abandonment in 1610. It followed several failed  attempts, including the Lost Colony of Roanoke. Jamestown served as the capital of the colony of Virginia for 83 years, from 1616 until 1699.

Map showing terrain of Jamestown Island (as it appeared in the middle of the 20th century). Note: roads and the causeway bridge linking the island to Glasshouse Point are not pictured. Indicated are the location where the 1607 James Fort was discovered (in 1994), as well as where it had traditionally thought to have been located.
Map showing terrain of Jamestown Island (as it appeared in the middle of the 20th century). Note: roads and the causeway bridge linking the island to Glasshouse Point are not pictured. Indicated are the location where the 1607 James Fort was discovered (in 1994), as well as where it had traditionally thought to have been located.

The settlement was located within the country of Tsenacommacah, which was ruled by the Powhatan Confederacy, and specifically in that of the Paspahegh tribe. The natives initially welcomed and provided crucial provisions and support for the colonists, who were not agriculturally inclined. Relations soured fairly early on, however, leading to the total annihilation of the Paspahegh in warfare within three years. Mortality was very high at Jamestown itself due to disease and starvation, with over 80-percent of the colonists perishing in 1609–10 in what became known as the “Starving Time”.

The Virginia Company brought eight Polish and German colonists in 1608 in the Second Supply, some of whom built a small glass factory — although the Germans and a few others soon defected to the Powhatans with weapons and supplies from the settlement. The Second Supply also brought the first two European women to the settlement. In 1619, the first documented Africans came to Jamestown — about 50 men, women, and children aboard a Portuguese slave ship that had been captured in the West Indies and brought to the Jamestown region. They most likely worked in the tobacco fields as indentured servants, but they became slaves as time went on. The modern conception of slavery in the United States was formalized in 1640 (the John Punch hearing) and was fully entrenched in Virginia by 1660.

Isle of Man - Scott #1202 (2007)
Isle of Man – Scott #1202 (2007)

The London Company’s second settlement in Bermuda claims to be the site of the oldest town in the English New World, as St. George’s, Bermuda was officially established in 1612 as New London, whereas James Fort in Virginia was not converted into James Towne until 1619, and further did not survive to the present day. In 1676, Jamestown was deliberately burned during Bacon’s Rebellion, though it was quickly rebuilt. In 1699, the capital was relocated from Jamestown to what is today Williamsburg, Virginia, after which Jamestown ceased to exist as a settlement, existing today only as an archaeological site.

Today, Jamestown is one of three locations comprising the Historic Triangle of Colonial Virginia, along with Williamsburg and Yorktown, with two primary heritage sites. Historic Jamestowne is the archaeological site on Jamestown Island and is a cooperative effort by Jamestown National Historic Site (part of Colonial National Historical Park) and Preservation Virginia. Jamestown Settlement, a living history interpretive site, is operated by the Jamestown Yorktown Foundation, a state agency of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Arrival and first Landing

Spain, Portugal, and France moved quickly to establish a presence in the New World, while other European countries moved more slowly. The English did not attempt to found colonies until many decades after the explorations of John Cabot, and early efforts were failures — most notably the Roanoke Colony which vanished about 1590.

The London Company sent an expedition to establish a settlement in the Virginia Colony in December 1606. The expedition consisted of three ships, Susan Constant (sometimes known as Sarah Constant), Godspeed, and Discovery. The Discovery was the smallest ship; the largest ship, the Susan Constant, was captained by Christopher Newport. The ships left Blackwall, now part of London, with 105 men and boys and 39 crew-members on December 20, 1608.

Jamestown Settlement's re-created Godspeed, Susan Constant and Discovery in 2007
Jamestown Settlement’s re-created Godspeed, Susan Constant and Discovery in 2007.

By April 6, 1607, Godspeed, Susan Constant and Discovery arrived at the Spanish colony of Puerto Rico, where they stopped for provisions before continuing their journey. In April 1607, the expedition reached the southern edge of the mouth of what is now known as the Chesapeake Bay. After an unusually long journey of more than four months, the 104 men and boys (one passenger of the original 105 died during the journey) arrived at their chosen settlement spot in Virginia. There were no women on the first ships.

Arriving at the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay in late April, they named the Virginia capes after the sons of their king, the southern Cape Henry, for Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, and the northern Cape Charles, for his younger brother, Charles, Duke of York. Captain Edward Maria Wingfield was elected president of the governing council on April 25, 1607. On April 26, upon landing at Cape Henry, Chaplain Robert Hunt offered a prayer, and they set up a cross near the site of the current Cape Henry Memorial. This site came to be known as the “first landing.” A party of the men explored the area and had a minor conflict with some Virginia Indians.

Exploration, Seeking a Site
John Smith, played by Dennis Farmer, claims the beach for England during a re-enactment ceremony on the 400th anniversary of the First Landing in the,
John Smith, played by Dennis Farmer, claims the beach for England during a re-enactment ceremony on the 400th anniversary of the First Landing in the, “New World.” Settlers from the ships the Godspeed, Discovery and the Susan Constant landed in Virginia Beach and stayed four days before transiting to Jamestown. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Matthew Bookwalter. Photo taken on April 26, 2007.

After the expedition arrived in what is now Virginia, sealed orders from the Virginia Company were opened. These orders named Captain John Smith as a member of the governing Council. Smith had been arrested for mutiny during the voyage and was incarcerated aboard one of the ships. He had been scheduled to be hanged upon arrival, but was freed by Captain Newport after the opening of the orders. The same orders also directed the expedition to seek an inland site for their settlement, which would afford protection from enemy ships.

Obedient to their orders, the settlers and crewmembers re-boarded their three ships and proceeded into the Chesapeake Bay. They set about exploring what is now Hampton Roads and an outlet to the bay which they named the James River. They landed again at what is now called Old Point Comfort in the City of Hampton. In the following days, seeking a suitable location for their settlement, the ships ventured upstream along the James River. Both the James River and the settlement they sought to establish, Jamestown (originally called “James His Towne”) were named in honor of King James I.

Isle of Man - Scott #1203 (2007)
Isle of Man – Scott #1203 (2007)
The Selection of Jamestown

On May 14, 1607, Wingfield selected a piece of land on a large peninsula some 40 miles (64 km) inland from the Atlantic Ocean as a prime location for a fortified settlement. The island fit their criteria as it had excellent visibility up and down the James River, and it was far enough inland to minimize the potential of contact and conflict with enemy ships. The river channel was a defensible strategic point due to a curve in the river, The water immediately adjacent to the land was deep enough to permit the colonists to anchor their ships and offered enough land for piers or wharves to be built in the future.

An additional benefit of the site was that the land was not occupied by the Virginia Indians, most of whom were affiliated with the Powhatan Confederacy, who regarded the site as too poor and remote for agriculture. The island was swampy and isolated, and it offered limited space, was plagued by mosquitoes, and afforded only brackish tidal river water unsuitable for drinking.

Salt marshes along Jamestown Island. The ample wetlands on the island proved to be a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Photo taken on July 20, 2010.
Salt marshes along Jamestown Island. The ample wetlands on the island proved to be a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Photo taken on July 20, 2010.

The Jamestown settlers arrived in Virginia during a severe drought, according to a research study conducted by the Jamestown Archaeological Assessment (JAA) team in the 1990s. The JAA analyzed information from a study conducted in 1985 by David Stahle and others, who obtained borings of 800 year-old baldcypress trees along the Nottoway and Blackwater rivers. The lifespan of these trees is up to 1,000 years and their rings offer a good indication of an area’s annual amount of rainfall. The borings revealed that the worst drought in 700 years occurred between 1606 and 1612. This severe drought affected the Jamestown colonists and Powhatan tribe’s ability to produce food and obtain a safe supply of water.

Construction of the fort

The settlers came ashore and quickly set about constructing their initial fort. The settlers had arrived too late in the year to get crops planted. Many in the group were either upper-class gentlemen unused to work or their manservants, both equally unaccustomed to the hard labor demanded by the harsh task of carving out a viable colony. The group included very few farmers or skilled laborers. Also notable among the first settlers was Robert Hunt, a former vicar of Reculver, England who gave the first Christian prayer at Cape Henry on April 26, and held open-air services at Jamestown until a church was built there in he celebrated the first known Eucharist in the territory of the future United States on June 21, 1607.

Isle of Man - Scott #1204 (2007)
Isle of Man – Scott #1204 (2007)

Despite the immediate area of Jamestown being uninhabited, the settlers were attacked less than two weeks after their arrival on May 14, by Paspahegh Indians who succeeded in killing one of the settlers and wounding eleven more. Within a month, James Fort covered an acre on Jamestown Island. By June 15, the settlers finished building the triangular James Fort. The wooden palisaded walls formed a triangle around a storehouse, church, and a number of houses. A week later, Newport sailed back for London on Susan Constant with a load of pyrite (“fools’ gold”) and other supposedly precious minerals, leaving behind 104 colonists and Discovery.

It soon became apparent why the Virginia Indians did not occupy the site: Jamestown Island, then a peninsula, is a swampy area, and its isolation from the mainland meant that there was limited hunting available, as most game animals required larger foraging areas. The settlers quickly hunted and killed off all the large and smaller game animals that were found on the tiny peninsula. In addition, the low, marshy area was infested with airborne pests, including mosquitoes, which carried malaria, and the brackish water of the tidal James River was not a good source of water. Over 135 settlers died from malaria, and drinking the salinated and contaminated water caused many to suffer from saltwater poisoning, fevers, and dysentery. Despite original intentions to grow food and trade with the Virginia Indians, the barely surviving colonists became dependent upon supply missions.

In a few months, 80% of the party were dead; some of the survivors were deserting to the Indians whose land they had colonized. Virginia Native Americans had established settlements long before the English settlers arrived, and there were an estimated 14,000 in the region who were politically known as Tsenacommacah and who spoke an Algonquian language. They were the Powhatan Confederacy, ruled by their paramount chief known as Wahunsenacawh or “Chief Powhatan”. Wahunsenacawh initially sought to resettle the English colonists from Jamestown, considered part of Paspahegh territory, to another location known as Capahosick where they would make metal tools for him as members of his Confederacy, but this never transpired.

Isle of Man - Scott #1205 (2007)
Isle of Man – Scott #1205 (2007)

The first explorers had been welcomed by the Indians with dancing, feasting, and tobacco ceremonies. Despite the hospitality of Wahunsenacawh, the presence of the English settlers and perhaps a further expedition up the James River by Captain Christopher Newport provoked the Paspahegh, Weyanock, and other groups to mount a series of attacks on the fort during a period of violence lasting from May 27 to July 14, 1607.

First and Second Supply

Newport returned twice from England with additional supplies in the following 18 months, leading what were termed the First and Second Supply missions. The “First Supply” arrived on January 2, 1608. It contained insufficient provisions and more than 70 new colonists. Shortly after its arrival, the fort burned down. The Council received additional members from the First and Second Supply missions brought by Captain Newport. These were: Matthew Scrivener (First Supply), and Peter Winne (Second Supply).

On October 1, 1608, 70 new settlers arrived aboard the English ship Mary and Margaret with the Second Supply, following a journey of approximately three months. Included in the Second Supply were Thomas Graves, Thomas Forrest, Esq and “Mistress Forrest and Anne Burras her maide.” Mistress Forrest and Anne Burras were the first two women known to have come to the Jamestown Colony. Remains unearthed at Jamestown in 1997 may be those of Mistress Forrest.

Also included were the first non-English settlers. The company recruited these as skilled craftsmen and industry specialists: soap-ash, glass, lumber milling (wainscot, clapboard, and ‘deal’ — planks, especially soft wood planks — and naval stores (pitch, turpentine, and tar). Among these additional settlers were eight “Dutch-men” consisting of unnamed craftsmen plus three who were probably the wood-mill-men — Adam, Franz and Samuel. The “Dutch-men” (probably meaning German or German-speakers), Polish and Slovak craftsmen had been hired by the Virginia Company of London’s leaders to help develop and manufacture profitable export products.

There has been debate about the nationality of the specific craftsmen, and both the Germans and Poles claim the glassmaker for one of their own, but the evidence is insufficient. Ethnicity is further complicated by the fact that the German minority in Royal Prussia lived under Polish control during this period. Originally, the colony’s Polish craftsmen were barred from participating in the elections, but after the craftsmen refused to work, colonial leadership agreed to enfranchise them. These workers staged the first recorded strike in Colonial America for the right to vote in the colony’s 1619 election.

Working reconstruction of the Jamestown Glasshouse at Historic Jamestowne, located next to the ruins of the original glassworks constructed in 1608 by settlers from the Second Supply. Photo taken on May 1, 2009.
Working reconstruction of the Jamestown Glasshouse at Historic Jamestowne, located next to the ruins of the original glassworks constructed in 1608 by settlers from the Second Supply. Photo taken on May 1, 2009.

William Volday/Wilhelm Waldi, a Swiss German mineral prospector, was also among those who arrived in 1608. His mission was seeking a silver reservoir that was believed to be within the proximity of Jamestown. Some of the settlers were artisans who built a glass furnace which became the first proto-factory in British North America. Additional craftsmen produced soap, pitch, and wood building supplies. Among all of these were the first made-in-America products to be exported to Europe. However, despite all these efforts, profits from exports were not sufficient to meet the expenses and expectations of the investors back in England, and no silver or gold had been discovered, as earlier hoped.

The delivery of supplies in 1608 on the First and Second Supply missions of Captain Newport had also added to the number of hungry settlers. It seemed certain at that time that the colony at Jamestown would meet the same fate as earlier English attempts to settle in North America, specifically the Roanoke Colony (Lost Colony) and the Popham Colony, unless there was a major relief effort. The Germans who arrived with the Second Supply and a few others defected to the Powhatans, with weapons and equipment. The Germans even planned to join a rumored Spanish attack on the colony and urged the Powhatans to join it.

The Spanish were driven off by the timely arrival in July 1609 of Captain Samuel Argall in Mary and John, a larger ship than the Spanish reconnaissance ship La Asunción de Cristo. Argall’s voyage also prevented the Spanish from gaining knowledge of the weakness of the colony. Don Pedro de Zúñiga, the Spanish ambassador to England, was desperately seeking this (in addition to spies) in order to get Philip III of Spain to authorize an attack on the colony.

The investors of the Virginia Company of London expected to reap rewards from their speculative investments. With the Second Supply, they expressed their frustrations and made demands upon the leaders of Jamestown in written form. They specifically demanded that the colonists send commodities sufficient to pay the cost of the voyage, a lump of gold, assurance that they had found the South Sea, and one member of the lost Roanoke Colony. It fell to the third president of the Council Captain John Smith to deliver a bold and much-needed wake-up call in response to the investors in London, demanding practical laborers and craftsmen who could help make the colony more self-sufficient.

Captain John Smith
United States - Scott #328 (1907)
United States – Scott #328 (1907)

In the months before becoming president of the colony for a year in September 1608, Captain John Smith did considerable exploration up the Chesapeake Bay and along the various rivers. He is credited by legend with naming Stingray Point (near present-day Deltaville in Middlesex County) for an incident there. Smith was always seeking a supply of food for the colonists, and he successfully traded for food with the Nansemonds, who were located along the Nansemond River in the modern-day City of Suffolk, and several other groups. However, while leading one food-gathering expedition in December 1607 (before his term as colony president), this time up the Chickahominy River west of Jamestown, his men were set upon by the Powhatan. As his party was being slaughtered around him, Smith strapped his Native guide in front of him as a shield and escaped with his life but was captured by Opechancanough, the Powhatan chief’s half-brother. Smith gave him a compass which pleased the warrior and made him decide to let Smith live.

Smith was taken before Wahunsunacock, who was commonly referred to as Chief Powhatan, at the Powhatan Confederacy’s seat of government at Werowocomoco on the York River. However, 17 years later, in 1624, Smith first related that when the chief decided to execute him, this course of action was stopped by the pleas of Chief Powhatan’s young daughter, Pocahontas, who was originally named “Matoaka” but whose nickname meant “Playful Mischief”. Many historians today find this account dubious, especially as it was omitted in all his previous versions. Smith returned to Jamestown just in time for the First Supply, in January 1608.

In September 1609, Smith was wounded in an accident. He was walking with his gun in the river, and the powder was in a pouch on his belt. His powder bag exploded. In October, he was sent back to England for medical treatment. While back in England, Smith wrote A True Relation and The Proceedings of the English Colony of Virginia about his experiences in Jamestown. These books, whose accuracy has been questioned by some historians due to some extent by Smith’s boastful prose, were to generate public interest and new investment for the colony.

United States - Scott #330 (1907)
United States – Scott #330 (1907)

Although the life of Chief Powhatan’s young daughter, Pocahontas, would be largely tied to the English after legend credits her with saving John Smith’s life after his capture by Opechancanough, her contacts with Smith himself were minimal. However, records indicate that she became something of an emissary to the colonists at Jamestown Island. During their first winter, following an almost complete destruction of their fort by a fire in January 1608, Pocahontas brought food and clothing to the colonists. She later negotiated with Smith for the release of Virginia Indians who had been captured by the colonists during a raid to gain English weaponry.

During the next several years, the relationship between the Virginia Indians and the colonists became more strained, never more so than during the period of poor crops for both the natives and colonists which became known as the Starving Time in late 1609 and early 1610. Chief Powhatan relocated his principal capital from Werowocomoco, which was relatively close to Jamestown along the north shore of the York River, to a point more inland and secure along the upper reaches of the Chickahominy River.

In April 1613, Pocahontas and her husband, Kocoum were residing at Passapatanzy, a village of the Patawomecks, a Powhatan Confederacy tribe which did some trading with Powhatans. They lived in present-day Stafford County on the Potomac River near Fredericksburg, about 65 miles (105 km) from Werowocomoco. She was abducted by Englishmen whose leader was Samuel Argall, and transported about 90 miles (140 km) south to the English settlement at Henricus on the James River. There, Pocahontas converted to Christianity and took the name “Rebecca” under the tutelage of Reverend Alexander Whitaker who had arrived in Jamestown in 1611. She married prominent planter John Rolfe, who had lost his first wife and child in the journey from England several years earlier, which served to greatly improve relations between the Virginia Native Americans and the colonists for several years. However, when she and John Rolfe took their young son Thomas Rolfe on a public relations trip to England to help raise more investment money for the Virginia Company, she became ill and died just as they were leaving to return to Virginia. Her interment was at St George’s Church in Gravesend.

Isle of Man - Scott #1207 (2007)
Isle of Man – Scott #1207 (2007)
The Starving Time and Third Supply

After Smith was forced to return to England in  October 1609, the colony was led by George Percy who proved incompetent in negotiating with the native tribes. There are indications that those in London comprehended and embraced Smith’s message. The Third Supply mission of 1609 was to be by far the largest and best equipped. They also had a new purpose-built flagship, Sea Venture, constructed, and placed in the most experienced of hands, Christopher Newport.

On June 2, 1609, Sea Venture set sail from Plymouth as the flagship of a seven-ship fleet (towing two additional pinnaces) destined for Jamestown, Virginia as part of the Third Supply, carrying 214 settlers. On July 24, the fleet ran into a strong storm, likely a hurricane, and the ships were separated. Although some of the ships did make it to Jamestown, the leaders, and most of the supplies had been aboard Sea Venture, which fought the storm for three days before Admiral of the Company, Sir George Somers, deliberately drove her onto the reefs of Bermuda to prevent her foundering. This allowed all aboard to be landed safely.

The survivors including Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Gates, Captain Christopher Newport, Sylvester Jordain, Stephen Hopkins (later of Mayflower), and secretary William Strachey) were stranded on Bermuda for approximately nine months. During that time, they built two new ships, the pinnaces Deliverance and Patience. The original plan was to build only one vessel, Deliverance, but it soon became evident that she would not be large enough to carry the settlers and all of the food (salted pork) that was being sourced on the islands.

Mass grave at Jamestown discovered by archaeologists, beneath the foundations of one of the later capitol buildings. Photo taken on May 1, 2009.
Mass grave at Jamestown discovered by archaeologists, beneath the foundations of one of the later capitol buildings. Photo taken on May 1, 2009.

While the Third Supply was stranded in Bermuda, the colony at Jamestown was in even worse shape. What became known as the “Starving Time” in occurred during the winter of 1609–1610 when the settlers faced rampant starvation for want of additional provisions.  The colonists had never planned to grow all of their own food. Instead, their plans also depended upon trade with the local Virginia Indians to supply them with enough food between the arrival of periodic supply ships from England, upon which they also relied. This period of extreme hardship for the colonists began in 1609 with a drought which caused their already limited farming activities to produce even fewer crops than usual. Then, there were problems with both of their other sources for food. The lack of food drove people to eat snakes and even boil the leather from shoes for sustenance. Only 60 survived out of the original 214 settlers plus approximately 300 who had arrived in the First and Second Supply missions. There is scientific evidence that the settlers at Jamestown had turned to cannibalism during the “Starving Time”

The ships from Bermuda finally arrived in Jamestown on May 23, 1610. Many of the surviving colonists were near death, and Jamestown was judged to be unviable. Everyone was boarded onto Deliverance and Patience, which set sail for England. However, on June 10, the timely arrival of another relief fleet, bearing new governor Thomas West, Baron De La Warr (who would eventually give his name to the colony of Delaware), which met the two ships as they descended the James River, granted Jamestown a reprieve. Intercepting them about 10 miles (16 km) downstream from Jamestown near Mulberry Island (adjacent to present-day Fort Eustis in Newport News), the new governor forced the remaining 90 settlers to return. The colonists called this The Day of Providence.

Isle of Man - Scott #1206 (2007)
Isle of Man – Scott #1206 (2007)

The new governor had brought additional colonists, a doctor, food, and much-needed supplies. Deliverance and Patience turned back, and all the settlers were landed again at Jamestown, though there was still a critical shortage of food. This was certainly not a popular decision at the time with at least some of the group, but Lord De La Warr was to prove a new kind of leader for Virginia. Included in those returning to Jamestown was John Rolfe, whose wife and child had died during the shipwreck of the Sea Venture and the time at Bermuda. A businessman, he had with him some seeds for a new strain of tobacco and also some untried marketing ideas.

Sir George Somers returned to Bermuda with Patience to obtain more food supplies, but he died on the island that summer. His nephew, Matthew Somers, the captain of Patience, took the ship back to Lyme Regis, England, instead of Virginia (leaving a third man behind). The Third Charter of the Virginia Company was then extended far enough across the Atlantic to include Bermuda in 1612. Although a separate company, the Somers Isles Company, would be spun off to administer Bermuda from 1615, the first two successful English colonies would retain close ties for many more generations, as was demonstrated when Virginian general George Washington called upon the people of Bermuda for aid during the American War of Independence. In 1613, Sir Thomas Dale founded the settlement of Bermuda Hundred on the James River, which, a year later, became the first incorporated town in Virginia.

Rising Fortunes (1614-1624)

Due to the aristocratic backgrounds of many of the new colonists, a historic drought and the communal nature of their work load, progress through the first few years was inconsistent at best. By 1613, six years after Jamestown’s founding, the organizers and shareholders of the Virginia Company were desperate to increase the efficiency and profitability of the struggling colony. Without stockholder consent the Governor, Sir Thomas Dale, assigned 3-acre (12,000 m²) plots to its “ancient planters” and smaller plots to the “settlement’s” later arrivals. Measurable economic progress was made, and the settlers began expanding their planting to land belonging to local native tribes. That this turnaround coincided with the end of a drought that had begun the year before the English settlers’ arrival probably indicates multiple factors were involved besides the colonists’ ineptitude.

 An 1878 depiction of tobacco cultivation at Jamestown, ca. 1615. From A School History of the United States, from the Discovery of America to the Year 1878 by David B. Scott (1878).
An 1878 depiction of tobacco cultivation at Jamestown, ca. 1615. From A School History of the United States, from the Discovery of America to the Year 1878 by David B. Scott (1878).

In 1610, John Rolfe had brought a cache of untested new tobacco seeds from Bermuda which had grown wild there after being planted by shipwrecked Spaniards years before. In 1614, Rolfe began to successfully harvest tobacco. Prosperous and wealthy, he married Pocahontas, daughter of Chief Powhatan, bringing several years of peace between the English and natives. However, at the end of a public relations trip to England, Pocahontas became sick and died on March 21, 1617. The following year, her father also died. Powhatan’s brother, a fierce warrior named Opchanacanough, became head of the Powhatan Confederacy. As the English continued to appropriate more land for tobacco farming, relations with the natives worsened.

Due to the high cost of the transatlantic voyage at this time, many English settlers came to Jamestown as indentured servants: in exchange for the passage, room, board, and the promise of land or money, these immigrants would agree to work for three to seven years. Immigrants from continental Europe, mainly Germans, were usually redemptioners — they purchased some portion of their voyage on credit and, upon arrival, borrowed or entered into a work contract to pay the remainder of their voyage costs. Along with European indentured servants, around 20 African slaves arrived in Jamestown in 1619. These slaves were captives taken from a ship headed for Mexico. Though these Africans started in Jamestown as slaves, some were able to obtain the status of indentured servant later in life.

The inside of the current Jamestown Church, upon the general site of the original and the location where the first law in America was made. The church encompasses the only remains of a Jamestown structure existing from the time of its settlement and habitation. Although the main body of the church is a 1906 reconstruction, the tower is remaining original feature, dating to ca. 1650. The tower is slightly over 18 feet square and the walls are three feet thick at the base. Originally the tower was about 46 feet high (ten feet higher than the ruins) and was crowned with a wooden roof and belfry. It had two upper floors as you can see from the large beam notches on the inside. Six small openings at the top permitted light to enter and the sound of the bell or bells to carry across river and town. Photo taken on July 1, 2006.
The inside of the current Jamestown Church, upon the general site of the original and the location where the first law in America was made. The church encompasses the only remains of a Jamestown structure existing from the time of its settlement and habitation. Although the main body of the church is a 1906 reconstruction, the tower is remaining original feature, dating to ca. 1650. The tower is slightly over 18 feet square and the walls are three feet thick at the base. Originally the tower was about 46 feet high (ten feet higher than the ruins) and was crowned with a wooden roof and belfry. It had two upper floors as you can see from the large beam notches on the inside. Six small openings at the top permitted light to enter and the sound of the bell or bells to carry across river and town. Photo taken on July 1, 2006.

In 1619, the first representative assembly in America convened in the Jamestown Church, “to establish one equal and uniform government over all Virginia” which would provide “just laws for the happy guiding and governing of the people there inhabiting.” This became known as the House of Burgesses (forerunner of the Virginia General Assembly). Initially, only men of English origin were permitted to vote. On June 30, 1619, in what was the first recorded strike in Colonial America, the Polish artisans protested and refused to work if not allowed to vote. On July 21, the court granted the Poles and Slovaks equal voting rights. Afterwards, the labor strike was ended and the artisans resumed their work. Individual land ownership was also instituted, and the colony was divided into four large “boroughs” or “incorporations” called “citties” by the colonists. Jamestown was located in James Cittie.

After several years of strained coexistence, Chief Opchanacanough and his Powhatan Confederacy attempted to eliminate the English colony once and for all. On the morning of March 22, 1622, they attacked outlying plantations and communities up and down the James River in what became known as the Indian Massacre of 1622. More than 300 settlers were killed in the attack, about a third of the colony’s English-speaking population. Sir Thomas Dale’s development at Henricus, which was to feature a college to educate the natives, and Wolstenholme Towne at Martin’s Hundred, were both essentially wiped out. Jamestown was spared only through a timely warning by a Virginia Indian employee. There was not enough time to spread the word to the outposts.

Of the 6,000 people who came to the settlement between 1608 and 1624, only 3,400 survived.

Later Years (1624-1699)

In 1624, King James revoked the Virginia Company’s charter, and Virginia became a royal colony. Despite the setbacks, the colony continued to grow. Ten years later, in 1634, by order of King Charles I, the colony was divided into the original eight shires of Virginia (or counties), in a fashion similar to that practiced in England. Jamestown was now located in James City Shire, soon renamed the “County of James City”, better known in modern times as James City County, Virginia, the nation’s oldest county.

The original Jamestown fort seems to have existed into the middle of the 1620s, but as Jamestown grew into a “New Town” to the east, written references to the original fort disappear. By 1634, a palisade (stockade) was completed across the Virginia Peninsula, which was about 6 miles (9.7 km) wide at that point between Queen’s Creek which fed into the York River and Archer’s Hope Creek, (since renamed College Creek) which fed into the James River. The new palisade provided some security from attacks by the Virginia Indians for colonists farming and fishing lower on the Peninsula from that point.

On April 18, 1644, Opechancanough again tried to force the colonists to abandon the region with another series of coordinated attacks, killing almost 500 colonists. However, this was a much less devastating portion of the growing population than had been the case in the 1622 attacks. In 1646, the forces of Royal Governor of Virginia William Berkeley captured Opchanacanough, variously thought to be between 90 and 100 years old at the time.  In October, while in custody an English guard shot the old warrior in the back — against orders — and killed him. Opechancanough was succeeded as Weroance (Chief) by Nectowance and then by Totopotomoi and later by his daughter Cockacoeske.

Subsequently, the Powhatan Confederacy began to decline. In 1846, Opechancanough’s successor signed the first peace treaties between the Powhatan Indians and the English. The treaties set up reservations, some of the oldest in America, for the surviving Powhatan. It also set up tribute payments for the Virginia Indians to be made yearly to the English. The war resulted in a boundary being defined between the Indians and English lands that could only be crossed for official business with a special pass. This situation would last until 1677.

A generation later, during Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676, Jamestown was burned, eventually to be rebuilt. During its recovery, the Virginia legislature met first at Governor William Berkeley’s nearby Green Spring Plantation, and later at Middle Plantation, which had been started in 1632 as a fortified community inland on the Virginia Peninsula, about 8 miles (13 km) distant.

Ruins of Jamestown, Virginia
Ruins of Jamestown, Virginia

On October 20, 1698, the statehouse (capitol building) in Jamestown burned for the fourth time, this time accidentally, the legislature again temporarily relocated to Middle Plantation, and was able to meet in the new facilities of the College of William and Mary, which had been established after receiving a royal charter in 1693. While meeting there, a group of five students from the College submitted a well-presented and logical proposal to the legislators outlining a plan and good reasons to move the capital permanently to Middle Plantation. The students argued that the change to the high ground at Middle Plantation would escape the dreaded malaria and mosquitoes that had always plagued the swampy, low-lying Jamestown site. The students pointed out that, while not located immediately upon a river, Middle Plantation offered nearby access to not one, but two rivers, via two deep water (6-7′ depth) creeks, Queen’s Creek leading to the York River, and College Creek (formerly known as Archer’s Hope) which led to the James River.

Several prominent individuals like John Page, Thomas Ludwell, Philip Ludwell, and Otho Thorpe had built fine brick homes and created a substantial town at Middle Plantation. And, there was of course, the new College of William and Mary with its fine new brick building. Other advocates of the move included the Reverend Dr. James Blair and the Governor, Sir Francis Nicholson. The proposal to move the capital to higher ground (about 12 miles or 20 km) away) at Middle Plantation was received favorably by the House of Burgesses. In 1699, the capital of the Virginia Colony was officially relocated there. The town was soon renamed Williamsburg, to honor the reigning monarch, King William III. A new Capitol building and “Governor’s Palace” were erected there in the following years.

Postcard showing the Capitol Building in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Postcard showing the Capitol Building in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Aftermath & Anniversaries

Due to the movement of the capital to Williamsburg, the old town of Jamestown began to slowly disappear from view. Those who lived in the general area attended services at Jamestown’s church until the 1750s, when it was abandoned. By the mid-18th century, the land was owned and heavily cultivated, primarily by the Travis and Ambler families. A military post was located on the island during the Revolutionary War and American and British prisoners were exchanged there.  Although the Battle of Green Spring was fought nearby at the site of former Governor Berkeley’s plantation, Jamestown was apparently inconsequential.

The 200th anniversary of the establishment of Jamestown was celebrated in May 1807, with the Grand National Jubilee, designed to celebrate the country’s independence and its historical roots. About 2,000 people attended the four-day event with many arriving on thirty-two vessels which anchored in the James River off the island.

The opening day began with a procession of pilgrims who marched to the graveyard of the old church, led by the Bishop of Virginia, Revolutionary War veterans and a group of people who lived in Jamestown. Six people carried a cannon ball said to weigh 500 pounds and believed to have been brought to Virginia by Captain Christopher Newport. The attending bishop delivered the prayer at the old church tower. The procession then moved to the Travis mansion, where the celebrants dined and danced in the mansion that evening. Speeches were made during the festivities and students of the College of William and Mary gave orations. An old barn on the island was used as a temporary theater, where a company of players from Norfolk performed. Many dignitaries, politicians, and historians were in attendance as well as peddlers selling wares. Jamestown’s bicentennial celebration concluded on May 14, 1807, with an elaborate dinner and ball at the Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg.

In 1831, David Bullock purchased Jamestown from the Travis and Ambler families.

Fort interior at Jamestown Settlement, Virginia. Photo taken on August 4, 2016.
Fort interior at Jamestown Settlement, Virginia. Photo taken on August 4, 2016.

In 1857, the Jamestown society organized a celebration marking the 250th anniversary of Jamestown’s founding. According to the Richmond Enquirer, the site for the celebration was on 10 acres (40,000 m²) at the site where some of the colonists’ houses were originally built. However, it is also speculated that the celebration was moved further east on the island closer to the Travis grave site, in order to avoid damaging Major William Allen’s corn fields.

The attendance was estimated at between 6,000 and 8,000 people. Sixteen large steam ships anchored offshore in the James River and were gaily decorated with streamers. Former U.S. President John Tyler of nearby Sherwood Forest Plantation gave a 2½ hour speech, summing up his message by saying, “Here a small band of men planted the seeds of a mighty empire.” Other highlights included a flotilla and a parade featuring sixteen military companies, as well as displays, a grand ball and fireworks. Overnight cabins, a “refreshment saloon,” and a dining hall accommodating 500 people were erected to handle the crowds.

In 1861, during the American Civil War, Confederate William Allen, who owned Jamestown Island at the time, occupied Jamestown with troops he raised at his own expense with the intention of blockading the James River and Richmond from the Union Navy. He was soon joined by Lieutenant Catesby ap Roger Jones (the “ap” in his name is a Welsh patronymic meaning “son of”), who directed the building of batteries and conducted ordnance and armor tests for the first Confederate ironclad warship, CSS Virginia, which was under construction at the Gosport Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth in late 1861 and early 1862. Jamestown had a peak force of 1,200 men.

John Smith monument at Jamestown, Virginia.
John Smith monument at Jamestown, Virginia.

During the Peninsula Campaign, which began later that spring, Union forces under General George B. McClellan moved up the Peninsula from Fort Monroe in an attempt to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond. The Union forces captured Yorktown in April 1862, and the Battle of Williamsburg was fought the following month. With these developments, Jamestown and the lower James River were abandoned by the Confederates. Some of the forces from Jamestown, and the crew of Virginia, relocated to Drewry’s Bluff, a fortified and strategic position high above the river about 8 miles (13 km) below Richmond. There, they successfully blocked the Union Navy from reaching the Confederate capital.

Once in Federal hands, Jamestown became a meeting place for runaway slaves, who burned the Ambler house, an eighteenth-century plantation house, which along with the old church was one of the few remaining signs of old Jamestown. When Allen sent men to assess the damage in late 1862, they were killed by the former slaves.[60] Following the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, the oath of allegiance was administered to former Confederate soldiers at Jamestown.

Preservation, early archaeology & Celebrations

In the years after the Civil War, Jamestown became quiet and peaceful once again. In 1892, Jamestown was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Edward Barney. The following year, the Barneys donated 22½ acres of land, including the ruined church tower, to the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (now known as Preservation Virginia).

By this time, erosion from the river had eaten away the island’s western shore. Visitors began to conclude that the site of James Fort lay completely underwater. With federal assistance, a sea wall was constructed in 1900 to protect the area from further erosion. The archaeological remains of the original 1607 fort, which had been protected by the sea wall, were discovered in 1994.

Postcard showing an aerial view of the 1907 Jamestown Exposition at Norfolk, Virginia.
Postcard showing an aerial view of the 1907 Jamestown Exposition at Norfolk, Virginia.

The 100th anniversary of the Surrender at Yorktown in 1781 had generated a new interest in the historical significance of the colonial sites of the Peninsula. Williamsburg, a sleepy but populated town of shops and homes, was still celebrating Civil War events. However, as the new century dawned, thoughts turned to the upcoming 300th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown. The Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities started the movement in 1900 by calling for a celebration honoring the establishment of the first permanent English colony in the New World at Jamestown to be held on the 300th anniversary in 1907.

As a celebration was planned, virtually no one thought that the actual isolated and long-abandoned original site of Jamestown would be suitable for a major event because Jamestown Island had no facilities for large crowds. The original fort housing the Jamestown settlers was believed to have been long ago swallowed by the James River. The general area in James City County near Jamestown was also considered unsuitable, as it was not very accessible in the day of rail travel before automobiles were common.

As the tricentennial of the 1607 Founding of the Jamestown neared, around 1904, despite an assumption in some quarters that Richmond would be a logical location, leaders in Norfolk began a campaign to have a celebration held there. The decision was made to locate the international exposition on a mile-long frontage at Sewell’s Point near the mouth of Hampton Roads. This was about 30 miles (48 km) downstream from Jamestown in a rural section of Norfolk County. It was a site which could become accessible by both long-distance passenger railroads and local streetcar service, with considerable frontage on the harbor of Hampton Roads. This latter feature proved ideal for the naval delegations which came from points all around the world.

U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt's visit to the 1907 Jamestown Tercentennial Exposition was a highlight of the eight-month event.
U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt’s visit to the 1907 Jamestown Tercentennial Exposition was a highlight of the eight-month event.

The Jamestown Exposition of 1907 was one of the many world’s fairs and expositions that were popular in the early part of the 20th century. Held from April 26, 1907 to December 1, 1907, the celebrations drew 1.2 million visitors during its seven-month run. Attendees included U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, the Prince of Sweden, Mark Twain, Henry H. Rogers, and dozens of other dignitaries and famous persons. Construction delays and wet weather meant that the first guest on April 26 — Cape Henry Day — were met by a production in shambles. Critics in the national press quickly dubbed the unfinished site the “Jamestown Imposition.”

The exposition was filled with exhibits highlighting advances in transportation, machinery, manufacturing, metals, education, and history. A significant portion of the fair was devoted to amusements and the wonders of the world. One of the main attractions was the design and architecture of magnificent houses representing states across the nation, a number of which remain today on “Admirals Row” at the Norfolk Naval Base.

Postcard portraying the International Naval Review of the 1907 Jamestown Exposition.
Postcard portraying the International Naval Review of the 1907 Jamestown Exposition.

The exposition showcased not only the history and culture of Virginia, but also the history and culture of twenty-one states and several countries. There were naval fleets from around the world. President Theodore Roosevelt, author Mark Twain, and Tuskegee Institute founder Booker T. Washington were featured speakers during the observance. President Roosevelt used the exposition to launch a world tour of the Navy’s “Great White Fleet,” a show of America’s growing military might. U.S. military officials and leaders were impressed by the location, and the Exposition site later formed the first portion of the large U.S. Naval Station Norfolk in 1918 during World War I.

The U. S. Post Office Department issued a series of three stamps in honor of the Jamestown Exposition (Scott #328-330). Organizers of the exposition had requested that the POD issue a set of commemorative stamps, as it had done for other fairs since the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Postmaster General George B. Cortelyou initially declined, stating that the post office did not issue special postage stamps in commemoration of expositions. When President Theodore Roosevelt expressed his desire that the stamps be issued, however, Cortelyou quickly changed his mind.

Postcard mailed from Norfolk, Virginia, one week following the opening of the 1907 Jamestown Exposition with
Postcard mailed from Norfolk, Virginia, one week following the opening of the 1907 Jamestown Exposition with “Jamestown Celebrations” postmark.

At the outset, the Post Office Department planned two denominations, a 1-cent and a 2=cent stamp, to meet the domestic postcard and letter rates, respectively. The stamps were to feature images of the ruins of the historic Jamestown church and the arrival of the English ships. Post Office officials, however, anticipated public disappointment should portraits of Captain John Smith, the colony’s military commander and civil leader, and Indian princess Pocahontas not be included.

Moreover, when the Department of the Navy confirmed that there would be a vast assemblage of foreign war ships in Hampton Roads for the exposition, postal officials saw the need for a 5-cent stamp to meet the foreign postage rate.

Clair Aubrey Huston, a Bureau of Engraving and Printing artist, designed the 1-cent stamp with a portrait of Captain John Smith inspired by an engraving by Crispin Van de Passe the younger. In addition, the design includes medallions in the upper corners of Pocahontas and her father, Chief Powhatan. This stamp paid the one-cent post card rate; 78 million were produced.

United States - Scott #329 (1907)
United States – Scott #329 (1907)

The red 2-cent stamp, designed by Marcus W. Baldwin, depicts the landing at Jamestown in 1607 flanked by a tobacco plant and stalk of Indian corn. One colonist, with a sword in one hand and a flag in the other, leads the men in rowboats as they disembark. The fleet lies at anchor behind them and includes the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery. The stamp paid the first-class domestic rate; 149 million were printed.

The 5-cent stamp was designed by Clair Aubrey Huston and features Pocahontas in an oval frame and is based on a 1616 engraving by Simon Van de Passe which is currently in the holdings of National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution collection. The engraved portrait of Pocahontas is modeled on a likeness created in 1616 which appeared in a book published by John Smith in 1624. The 5-cent denomination paid large weight and foreign destination rates; about 8 million were issued.

The three engraved stamps were printed from plates of two hundred subjects in four panes of fifty each. The first day of issue for the two lower values coincided with the first day of the exposition, April 26, and the 5-cent stamp’s first day followed less than two weeks later. The Norfolk, Virginia, post office opened a branch office on site, called Exposition Station. It used a special cancel until the closing of the fair on November 30, 1907. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing printed the small die proof illustrated as the object of the month for display at a subsequent fair, the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. The 1-cent and 5-cent stamps of the 1907 stamp set have each been previously featured on ASAD.

In 1932, George Craghead Gregory of Richmond was credited with discovering the foundation of the first brick statehouse (capitol) building, circa 1646, at Jamestown on the land owned by Preservation Virginia. Around 1936, Gregory, who was active with the Virginia Historical Society, founded the Jamestowne Society for descendants of stockholders in the Virginia Company of London and the descendants of those who owned land or who had domiciles in Jamestown or on Jamestown Island prior to 1700.

Jamestown Tercentennial Monument. Photo taken on December 23, 2008.
Jamestown Tercentennial Monument. Photo taken on December 23, 2008.

Colonial National Monument was authorized by the U.S. Congress on July 3, 1930, and established on December 30, 1930. In 1934, the National Park Service obtained the remaining 1,500-acre (6.1 km²) portion of Jamestown Island which had been under private ownership by the Vermillion family. The National Park Service partnered with Preservation Virginia to preserve the area and present it to visitors in an educational manner. On June 5, 1936, the national monument was re-designated a national historical park, and became known as Colonial National Historical Park.

From 1936, J.C. “Pinky” Harrington worked on the NPS’s excavations at Jamestown. In 1954, John L. Cotter took charge of field projects at Jamestown, conducted with the site’s 350th anniversary (1957) in mind. Cotter worked with Edward B. Jelks and Harrington to survey the area’s colonial sites. In 1957, Cotter and J. Paul Hudson co-authored New Discoveries at Jamestown. Cotter contributed, along with Jelks, Georg Neumann, and Johnny Hack, to the 1958 report Archaeological Excavations at Jamestown.

With America’s increased access to automobiles, and with improved roads and transportation, it was feasible for the 350th anniversary celebration to be held at Jamestown itself in 1957. Although erosion had cut off the land bridge between Jamestown Island and the mainland, the isthmus was restored and new access provided by the completion of the National Park Service’s Colonial Parkway which led to Williamsburg and Yorktown, the other two portions of Colonial Virginia’s Historic Triangle. There were also improvements of state highways. The north landing for the popular Jamestown Ferry and a portion of State Route 31 were relocated.

Jamestown Festival Park's replica fleet, circa 1957
Jamestown Festival Park’s replica fleet, circa 1957

Major projects such were developed by non-profit, state and federal agencies. Jamestown Festival Park was established by the Commonwealth of Virginia adjacent to the entrance to Jamestown Island. Full-sized replicas of the three ships that brought the colonists, Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery were constructed at a shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia, and placed on display at a new dock at Jamestown, where the largest, Susan Constant, could be boarded by visitors. On Jamestown Island, the reconstructed Jamestown Glasshouse, the Memorial Cross and the visitors center were completed and dedicated. A loop road was built around the island.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II addressed an estimated 25,000 at Jamestown Festival Park on October 16, 1957.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II addressed an estimated 25,000 at Jamestown Festival Park on October 16, 1957.

Special events included army and navy reviews, air force fly-overs, ship and aircraft christenings and even an outdoor drama at Cape Henry, site of the first landing of the settlers. This celebration continued from April 1 to November 30 with over a million participants, including dignitaries and politicians such as the British Ambassador and U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon. The highlight for many of the nearly 25,000 at the Festival Park on October 16, 1957, was the visit and speech of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and her consort, Prince Philip. Queen Elizabeth II loaned a copy of the Magna Carta for the exhibition. It was her first visit to the United States since assuming the throne.

At the request of the National Memorial to the Progress of the Colored Race in America Association, the Virginia 350th Anniversary Commission agreed to mark the anniversary of the arrival of the first documented Africans at Jamestown in 1619. The Celebration of the Arrival of the First Africans at Jamestown took place on August 24, 1957, and featured presentations by the National Freedom Day Association, Elder Solomon Michaux Radio Choir, and the Booker T. Washington High School Band from Norfolk. On another day, Virginia Indians were represented at Jamestown Festival Park by Chief O. Oliver Lone Eagle Adkins of the Chickahominy Tribe who presented a flag to be flown at the Court of Welcome.

United States - Scott #1091 (1957) first day cover
United States – Scott #1091 (1957) first day cover

The International Naval Review and Jamestown Festival was commemorated with a 3-cent blue green stamp on June 10, 1957 in Norfolk, Virginia (Scott #1091). The super carrier of the Forrestal class with escort vessels is featured at sea in the Atlantic Ocean approaching a map of the Hampton Roads. On the left is the three sailing ship logo of the Jamestown Festival 1607-1957. Richard A. Genders designed the stamp; 118,470,000 were printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing on the rotary press.

The 1957 Jamestown Festival was so successful that tourists still kept coming long after the official event was completed. Jamestown became a permanent attraction of the Historic Triangle, and has been visited by families, school groups, tours, and thousands of other people continuously ever since.

Historic Jamestowne and Jamestown Settlement
View of archaeological excavations at Jamestown, Virginia.
View of archaeological excavations at Jamestown, Virginia.

As part of the Colonial National Historical Park, the Jamestown Island area is currently home to two heritage tourism sites related to the original fort and town. Nearby, the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry service provides a link across the navigable portion of the James River for vehicles and affords passengers a view of Jamestown Island from the river.

Historic Jamestowne, located at the original site of Jamestown, is administered by Preservation Virginia and the National Park Service. The central 22½ acres of land, where the archaeological remains of the original James Fort were found, are owned by Preservation Virginia; the remaining 1,500 acres (6.1 km2) are held by the National Park Service and is part of Colonial National Historical Park.

The Virginia State Quarter commemorating Jamestown was issued by the U.S. Mint in 2000.
The Virginia State Quarter commemorating Jamestown was issued by the U.S. Mint in 2000.

The site gained renewed importance when in 1996 the Jamestown Rediscovery project began excavations in search of the original James Fort site, originally in preparation for the quadricentennial of Jamestown’s founding. The primary goal of the archaeological campaign was to locate archaeological remains of “the first years of settlement at Jamestown, especially of the earliest fortified town; [and the] subsequent growth and development of the town”.

Today, visitors to Historic Jamestowne can view the site of the original 1607 James Fort, the 17th-century church tower and the site of the 17th-century town, as well as tour an archaeological museum called the Archaearium and view many of the close to two million artifacts found by Jamestown Rediscovery. They also may participate in living history ranger tours and Archaeological tours given by the Jamestown Rediscovery staff. Visitors can also often observe archaeologists from the Jamestown Rediscovery Project at work, as archaeological work at the site continues. As of 2014, the archaeological work and studies are ongoing. In addition to their newsletter and website, new discoveries are frequently reported in the local newspaper, the Virginia Gazette based in nearby Williamsburg, and by other news media, often worldwide.

Jamestown Settlement is a living-history park and museum located 1.25 miles (2.01 km) from the original location of the colony and adjacent to Jamestown Island. Initially created for the celebration of the 350th anniversary in 1957, Jamestown Settlement is operated by the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, and largely sponsored by the Commonwealth of Virginia. The museum complex features a reconstruction of a Powhatan village, the James Fort as it was c. 1610–1614, and seagoing replicas of the three ships that brought the first settlers, Susan Constant, Godspeed  and Discovery.

400th Anniversary
U.S. News & World Report, January 29-February 5, 2007, issue.
U.S. News & World Report, January 29-February 5, 2007, issue.
Time Magazine, may 7, 2007
Time Magazine, May 7, 2007.

Early in the 21st century, new accommodations, transportation facilities and attractions were planned in preparation for the quadricentennial of the founding of Jamestown. Numerous events were promoted under the banner of “America’s 400th Anniversary” and promoted by the Jamestown 2007 Commission. The commemoration included 18 months of statewide, national and international festivities and events, which began in April 2006 with a tour of the new, more historically accurate, replica Godspeed built in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, to replace the previous 1984-built replica  which had been sent on a tour of the UK and is currently on permanent display Westenhanger Castle in Kent.

In January 2007, the Virginia General Assembly held a session at Jamestown, where a speech was given by U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney, and Virginia’s Governor Tim Kaine delivered the “State of the Commonwealth” speech. The commemoration was launched in May 2007 with the 2006 Godspeed Sail, a visit of the replica ship to Alexandria, Virginia; Baltimore, Maryland; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; New York City; Boston, Massachusetts; and Newport, Rhode Island. Other major events included Tavis Smiley’s 2007 State of the Black Union, the American Indian Intertribal Festival and Jamestown Live!, a webcast reaching more than a million students.

U.S. President George Bush visits the re-created Susan Constant. Photo taken on May 11 2007.
U.S. President George Bush visits the re-created Susan Constant. Photo taken on May 11 2007.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor introduces Queen Elizabeth II during Her Majesty's May 2007 visit to Jamestown Settlement.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor introduces Queen Elizabeth II during Her Majesty’s May 2007 visit to Jamestown Settlement.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness, The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, visit Jamestown Settlement on May 4, 2007, as part of a two-day visit to Virginia.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visits Jamestown Settlement on May 4, 2007, as part of a two-day visit to Virginia.

In November 2006, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom announced that she and her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, would make a state visit to the U.S. in May 2007, her first since 1991. She arrived in Virginia on May 3, 2007. On May 4, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip attended a ceremony commemorating the 400th anniversary of the settlement’s arrivals, reprising the honor they paid in 1957. Elizabeth is not only direct descendant of James I of England, the settlement’s namesake, but also the direct descendant of George III of the United Kingdom, under whose reign Great Britain lost the same territory in the American War of Independence.

The centerpiece of the commemoration was America’s Anniversary Weekend, a three-day festival and observance held on the weekend of Jamestown’s 400th anniversary from May 11–13, 2007. One of the commemoration’s greatest achievements was active participation by the three Jamestown cultures — the Europeans, American Africans and Virginia Indians. While major Jamestown observances have been held every 50 years since 1807, America’s 400th Anniversary marked the first time representatives of all three cultures developed their own events and messages.

Special Jamestown license plates first became available for motorists in 1997 and continued throughout the quadricentennial period.
Special Jamestown license plates first became available for motorists in 1997 and continued throughout the quadricentennial period.
Commemorative $1 coin marking the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement, issued by the U.S. Mint in 2007.
Commemorative $1 coin marking the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement, issued by the U.S. Mint in 2007.
Commemorative half-crown ($5) gold coin issued by the U.S. Mint to mark the 400th anniversary of the establishment of Jamestown, Virginia, in 2007.
Commemorative half-crown ($5) gold coin issued by the U.S. Mint to mark the 400th anniversary of the establishment of Jamestown, Virginia, in 2007.

The 400th anniversary of Jamestown’s settlement was the subject of two United States commemorative coins — a silver dollar and a gold five dollar coin — issued in 2007. Surcharges from the sale of the coins were donated to the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Secretary of the Interior and Preservation Virginia to support programs that promote the understanding of the legacies of Jamestown.

A first-day-of-issuance ceremony for the U.S. Postal Service “Settlement of Jamestown” stamp was held at Jamestown Settlement on May 11, 2007.
A first-day-of-issuance ceremony for the U.S. Postal Service “Settlement of Jamestown” stamp was held at Jamestown Settlement on May 11, 2007.

United States - Scott #4136 (2007)

United States - Scott #4136 (2007)

United States - Scott #4136 (2007)
United States – Scott #4136 (2007)

The United States Postal Service issued a 41-cent stamp issued on May 11, 2007 (Scott #4136). The stamp is triangle-shaped as was the original James Fort. The selvage area on the front of 20-stamp sheets showed a painting of early Jamestown by Richard Schlect, reviewed by archeologists then excavating the original site. Banknote Corporation of America printed 60 million in the offset process with microprint “USPS“. In a reader’s poll conducted by Linn’s Stamp News, the Jamestown 400th anniversary stamp was voted as the favorite overall stamp issue of 2007. The stamp also ranked first among 19 commemorative issues as the best designed and most important.

Bermuda - Scott #944-945 (2007) first day cover; image from active eBay auction [NIMC 2018]
Bermuda – Scott #944-945 (2007) first day cover; image from active eBay auction [NIMC 2018]

Bermuda issued a pair of stamps marking the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement on June 21, 2007 (Scott #944-945). These depict the Deliverance off the Bermuda coastline. Because the Jamestown settlers and in particular this ship feature so much in the island’s own early colonial history, there have been several philatelic commemorations over the years.

The most extensive stamp issue marking the establishment of the Jamestown issue that year came from a seemingly unusual source. The Isle of Man released a set of six stamps of April 26, 2007 (Scott #1202-1207). Designed by Julia Ashby Smyth, the stamps were printed by Cartor Security Printers of France using offset lithography in sheets of 15 (3 x 5), perforated 13½. They were withdrawn from sale on April 25, 2008. The 28-pence stamp (Scott #1202) featured a map of the Atlantic Ocean showing the route undertaken by the initial Jamestown colonists. Captain John Smith (with a missing arm?) is seen on the 31-pence denomination (Scott #1203) along with the three ships of the fleet and a pinnace bringing settlers ashore in the James River. Scott #1204 is valued at 44 pence and features an aerial view of the triangular James Fort. Virginia Indians and colonists are portrayed exchanging a bowl of born on the 54-pence denomination (Scott #1205). Jamestown colony buildings are pictured on the 78-pence stamp (Scott #1206) while a native village is shown on the 90-pence value (Scott #1207).

Isle of Man - Scott #1202-1208 (2007) first day cover, reverse side
Isle of Man – Scott #1202-1208 (2007) first day cover, reverse side

The Isle of Man is located in the middle of the northern Irish Sea, almost equidistant from England, Northern Ireland, Scotland (closest), and Wales (farthest). It is 32 miles (52 km) long and, at its widest point, 14 miles (22 km) wide. Besides the island of Mann itself, the political unit of the Isle of Man today includes some nearby small islands: the seasonally inhabited Calf of Man, Chicken Rock on which stands an unmanned lighthouse, St Patrick’s Isle and St Michael’s Isle. The last two of these are connected to the main island by permanent roads/causeways.

Vikings arrived on the Isle of Man at the end of the 8th century. They established Tynwald and introduced many land divisions that still exist. In 1266, King Magnus VI of Norway ceded the islands to Scotland in the Treaty of Perth; but Scotland’s rule over Mann did not become firmly established until 1275, when the Manx were defeated in the Battle of Ronaldsway, near Castletown.

In 1290, King Edward I of England sent Walter de Huntercombe to take possession of Mann. It remained in English hands until 1313, when Robert Bruce took it after besieging Castle Rushen for five weeks. A confused period followed when Mann was sometimes under English rule and sometimes Scottish, until 1346, when the Battle of Neville’s Cross decided the long struggle between England and Scotland in England’s favor.

The replica Susan Constant docked at Jamestown Settlement pier on May 12, 2007, as part of the America's Anniversary Weekend celebrations.
The replica Susan Constant docked at Jamestown Settlement pier on May 12, 2007, as part of the America’s Anniversary Weekend celebrations.

English rule was delegated to a series of lords and magnates. The Tynwald passed laws concerning the government of the island in all respects and had control over its finances, but was subject to the approval of the Lord of Mann.

In 1866, the Isle of Man obtained limited Home Rule, with partly democratic elections to the House of Keys, but an appointed Legislative Council. Since then, democratic government has been gradually extended.

So, what is the connection with Jamestown? Many of the early colonists in the Hampton Roads region had come from the British island. Today, the Isle of Wight has a namesake in Virginia in the form of a county located in the Hampton Roads region. As of the 2010 census, the population was 35,270. Isle of Wight County is located in the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC Metropolitan Statistical Area. Its northeastern boundary is on the coast of Hampton Roads waterway and features two incorporated towns, Smithfield and Windsor. The first courthouse for the county was built in Smithfield in 1750. The original courthouse and its associated tavern (The Smithfield Inn) are still standing. The county seat is located in the unincorporated community of Isle of Wight.

The first English plantations along the south shore within present-day Isle of Wight County were established by Puritan colonists, beginning with that of Christopher Lawne in May 1618. Several members of the Puritan Bennett family also settled there, including Richard Bennett. He led the Puritans to neighboring Nansemond in 1635, and later was appointed as governor of the Virginia Colony.

Official State Highway Map for Virginia, 2006-2008 edition
Official State Highway Map for Virginia, 2006-2008 edition

By 1634, the entire Colony of Virginia consisted of eight shires or counties with a total population of approximately 5,000 inhabitants. Warrosquyoake Shire was renamed in 1637 as Isle of Wight County, after the island off the south coast of England of the same name. The original name was derived from the Native American tribe of the area; it went through transliteration and Anglicization, eventually becoming known as “Warwicke Squeake”.

Isle of Wight’s St. Luke’s Church, built in the 17th century, is Virginia’s oldest church building. In the late 20th century, it was designated as a National Historic Landmark in recognition of its significance. Many landmark and contributing structures on the National Register are located in Smithfield including the Wentworth-Grinnan House. In 1732 a considerable portion of the northwestern part of the original shire was added to Brunswick County; and in 1748 the entire county of Southampton was carved out of it.

During the American Civil War, Company F of the 61st Virginia Infantry of the Confederate Army was called the “Isle of Wight Avengers.”As the county population developed, leaders thought they needed a county seat near the center of the area. They built a new courthouse near the center of the county in 1800. The 1800 brick courthouse and its associated tavern (Boykin’s Tavern) are still standing, as are the 1822 clerk’s offices nearby. Some additions have been made. The 1800 courthouse is used daily, serving as the government chambers for the Board of Supervisors, as well as the meeting hall for the School Board. The chambers are sometimes used as a court for civil trials if the new courthouse is fully in use. The new courthouse opened in 2010; it is across the street from the sheriff’s office and county offices complex.

Flag of VirginiaJamestown 400th AnniversaryIsle of Man Post

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