Wednesday, 18 May 2016

The First English Settlement in the USA

Colonial National Historic Park - Jamestown

Historic Jamestown is the #1 attraction in the Williamsburg area according to Trip Advisor. Someone mentioned the Ranger talks, so we rang them to find out what time they ran. The Archeological Ranger Talks are at 11am and 2pm.

One of the dig sites
As it was still raining in the morning, we went got to the Jamestown Settlement just before 2pm. The docent was a guy who has spent his working life doing character reenactments. He told us the story of how the English came here in 1607. They were lucky that John Smith documented everything that went on as it gave them a wealth of information. They always thought the original settlement was out in the river. But one person didn’t believe them and begged to be able to excavate, he was given permission to search for ten years, that was 28 years ago. He had financial backers, so the Government didn’t have to pay for any of it. They have found more than 2,000 artifacts.

This is what they believed it looked like
At the time the entire eastern part of America north of Florida was called Virginia. King James granted a charter to the Virginia Company to send people to the new world in the hope they would find gold and silver.

There is a brick hearth, that makes this the cook house

One hundred and seven men and boys arrived in April 1607, and were the first successful English settlement in America. The fort was built on a marshy island because it had excellent views of any enemy coming up the James River. Disease and famine nearly wiped them out. Their idea was that they would get their food from the local Indians, and while some were happy to trade with the English, not all were. John Smith was the first Governor, though no-one wanted him because he wasn’t English. He would make deals up and down the coast with different Indian communities, some friendly, some not so friendly. So when the people finally got rid of him they had no idea what relationships were good and which ones weren’t. There was a period called the starving time in 1609-10, where people resorted to cannibalization. Science can now determine what diet people ate. If it was based on wheat, then they lived most of their life in England. If it was corn, they lived here in the colonies. They had identified the four bodies found in the church.

This shows how the walls were constructed

Tobacco arrived about 12 years later and the settlement began to thrive. In 1619, the colony established a General Assembly with members elected by Virginia’s male landowners; it would become a model for representative governments in later colonies.

This is one of the people they believed was eaten, she may have been a servant. Many servants were indentured for 5-7 years to pay for their passage

In 1622 the native Indians attacked the town and wiped out one quarter of the population. They had after all been taking their land and introducing their diseases to which they had no immunity.

John Smith - Governor of Virginia 1608

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