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Ajacan, The Spanish Jesuit Mission

Roanoke Colony

Jamestown Colony

St. Mary's City

The French

Exploration of the Chesapeake Bay

Gabriel Archer

John Smith, A Map of Virginia, 1612

The accidents that happened in the Discoverie of the bay

What happened the second voyage to discover the Bay

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Jamestown Colony

George Percy wrote:
"...faire meddowes and goodly tall Trees, with such Fresh-waters running through the woods, as I was almost ravished at the first sight thereof."

Three ships headed down the Thames River on December 20, 1606 to start their expedition to the New World. The Virginia Company of London was a joint stock company that financed this expedition to Virginia.
Portrait of Christopher Newport
Portrait of Christopher Newport
This was a moneymaking venture. The hope was to set up a permanent colony to look for gold and other natural resources to send back to England.The three ships a 20-ton, two-masted pinnace called Discovery, captained by John Radcliffe; the Godspeed, a cargo vessel of 40 tons captained by Bartholomew Gosnold; and Susan Constant, a cargo vessel of 120 tons captained by Christopher Newport (who was also the admiral of the fleet): arrived at Cape Henry on April 26, 1607. They had been instructed by the Virginia Company to settle in an area that they could defend in case of a Spanish attack. The settlement needed to have a deep-water port and that would not encroach upon the natives. They chose Jamestown Island. It was a peninsula, surrounded by water on three sides with only one land bridge to the mainland.

Once the settlement was under way, Christopher Newport returned to England with the Susan Constant and the Godspeed. Discovery stayed at Jamestown to be used for exploration of the region. In the hold of the Susan Constant and Godspeed were stored barrels full of minerals. Christopher Newport wrote in a letter, "The country is excellent and very rich in gold and copper. Of the gold we have brought a say and hope to be with Your Lordship shortly to show it His Majesty and the rest of the lords. I will not deliver the expectance and assurance we have of great wealth, but will leave it to Your Lordship censure when you see the probabilities."[Jamestown Narratives, p. 130] Unfortunately for the Virginia Company, the minerals brought back to England proved worthless.

What was the mineral that they mistook for gold?

Jamestown was not a healthy place to live; a swamp surrounded it. Marshes had stale water, mosquitoes carried diseases, the weather was hot, and food was scarce. Over half of the settlers died in the first year. The settlers did not find gold and their many attempts at starting industries failed.

Around 1611, John Rolfe, the husband of Pocahontas, began to grow tobacco. The first year Rolfe sent tobacco back to England it made more money than anything before it. Tobacco plantations began developing along the rivers. The rivers were important to transport the heavy hogsheads (barrels) of tobacco to the ships so they could be sent to England. Most plantation owners had their own docks on the rivers.

1619 - A Year of Change

With the growing of tobacco, Jamestown and the surrounding areas started to increase in population. Many settlements had popped up along the James River and the land around the Chesapeake Bay. The landowners on these settlements wanted to have a say in colonial politics. In 1619, elected representatives from each plantation, hundred (a division of land in colonial times), or town met at the Jamestown Church for the first Legislative Assembly, which they called the House of Burgesses. The citizens were able to pass laws based on their needs within the colony. This was the first assembly of its kind in Virginia. It became the model for the later assemblies in other colonies.

When the settlement started it was considered a military expedition, so the Virginia Company did not send any women. The first two women arrived at the colony in 1608, only a year after the settlement was started. They were Mistress Forrest and her servant Anne Burras. Mistress Forrest's husband paid for her and her servant's passage. As Jamestown became established, women were needed in the colony to make it more stable. Many men were coming to Virginia and making a fortune and then going back to England. If they had wives and children in the colony they would be less likely to leave. In 1619, the first bride ships came to Virginia. The future husbands had to pay for the brides' passage in tobacco. Other women came to Virginia as indentured servants. An indentured servant worked for a number of years (in Virginia it was seven) to pay for their passage. When their time was up they were freed and given a piece of land to get started in the colony.

"Twenty and odd" Africans (very likely from Angola) arrived off of Old Point Comfort in 1619 aboard a Dutch ship. The Dutch had obtained the Africans from a Portuguese slave ship, probably by force. The Dutch exchanged the Africans for food and returned to Europe. The Africans became indentured servants and most of them would serve the Governor of the colony, Governor Yeardley. By 1649, there were three hundred blacks in Virginia, and by 1671, there were two thousand (5% of the total population).

The Old Church tower at Jamestown Island
The Old Church tower at Jamestown Island
By 1699, the statehouse had burned for the third time and the majority of the colonists lived on plantations away from Jamestown. Jamestown itself had many people in town only during assembly or court days. The Legislative Assembly decided to move to an area with fewer mosquitoes and better water. This place was Middle Plantation, which they renamed Williamsburg. After the move to Williamsburg, Jamestown fell into ruin.


House of Burgesses, May 18, 1699
"This committee having maturely considered and fully debated the matters to them referred relating to the place for
Erecting and building a State house after the nomination of Several places. Resolved That the said State house be built at the Middle Plantation."


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