History Travel – See Jamestown Settlement
Initially, Jamestown was a private commercial venture, sponsored by the Virginia Company. Its stockholders hoped to profit from the natural resources of the New World, but they also supported English goals – counterbalancing Spanish colonization, spreading Christianity among the Native Peoples, and finding a northwest passage to the Orient. Extreme hardships and Indian battles took their toll though, and in 1624, control of Virginia passed to the crown of England. Interestingly, as a royal colony Jamestown finally was able to go into a period of relative peace and wealth. In succeeding years, it already became a land of opportunity for the English poor who signed on as indentured servants, bound by contracts to work for several years in return for their passage to America. When their contracts expired, many were able to buy land at a low cost and begin working their own farms.
The Jamestown Settlement of today is a Living History museum, built to commemorate these important early years. For young and old, it offers much to enjoy. Begin your visit in the expansive indoor museum complicate, where a film presents an overview of Jamestowns origins in England and its first 20 years as a colony. characterize galleries combine artifacts from the period with graphics and reproductions to expand on the Jamestown story.
After this arrangement, step outside to analyze four representative Living History sites populated by interpreters in period clothing. Seventeenth-century activities and special events bring Jamestown back to life.
Powhatan Indian Village – At their height of strength, the Powhatan Indians held a territory that stretched from south of the Potomac River to the south side of the James River. The nearby English colonists traded goods with them. They also traded sons, who served as interpreters and links between very different people – young Thomas Savage of Jamestown lived with the Indians, and Namontack lived with the English for short periods. While both peoples realized the mutual assistance of peaceful relations, the goodwill did not last. War erupted, and the Powhatans were crushed. Around the mid-1600s, the first Indian reservations were established; they limited the land Natives could use for hunting and fishing.
Today, the Powhatan Indian village at Jamestown Settlement is a remarkably authentic re-creation of better times. The houses, garden and ceremonial dance course of action are based on eyewitness drawings and written accounts in addition as archaeological findings. Interpreters in Indian attire cultivate crops, craft pottery, make bone tools, tan deerskin and weave plant fibers into rope.
James Fort – closest upon arriving in the New World, the Jamestown colonists focused on ways to avoid the mistakes made at ill-fated Roanoke Island (Englands first two attempts at colonization). The site they chose for settlement was low and swampy but highly defensible from both land and sea. They divided into three groups: one to build a fort, another to clear the land for crops and then plant the seeds they had brought, and a third to analyze the river upstream for a possible passage west to the Orient. (Clearly, they didnt realize that the desired Orient was well beyond reach.) The hope was that Jamestown would become a factory-fort (trading post), able to effectively protect itself and be self-sustaining. It was a very humble beginning.
James Fort played an important role until the mid-1620s, when the colony expanded into a New Town to the east. While the fort fell to ruin, it was not lost forever. Here at Jamestown Settlement, you can visit an extraordinary representation based on eye observe accounts, a sketch from the period, educated guess-work and information emerging from remains of the original fort being unearthed just a mile away at Historic Jamestowne. Inside the wooden palisade are thatch-roofed, wattle-and-daub structures approximating the colonys church, storehouse, homes and armory. Jamestown interpreters in period clothing are busy working around the fort, engaged in the daily activities typical of the early 1600s, including gardening, cooking, carpentry, blacksmithing and military matters such as musket practice.
Susan continued, Godspeed & Discovery – Three merchant ships loaded with passengers and cargo had embarked on the voyage from England to Virginia on December 20, 1606. Destined to set the time of American history were many gentlemen, a blacksmith, four carpenters, two bricklayers, a barber, a minister and some general laborers. They endured 4-1/2 grueling months at sea, wracked by storms and illness. And in addition, of the 144 people on board – all men and boys – only one died during the voyage.
approximately a month after Jamestown was established, the Susan continued and Godspeed returned to England with 39 crew members, leaving 104 courageous settlers to build a viable colony in an alien land. The smaller ship, Discovery, stayed behind and was used by Captain John Smith to trade goods with Indian villages along the Chesapeake Bay and Tidewater rivers. It also was used to chart the Cape Cod area of Massachusetts and to acquire fish from northern waters for the Virginia colony.
Today, you can board complete-extent replicas of these three English vessels and talk with costumed interpreters about the spirit of adventure that motivated the early colonists. The barque-rigged Susan continued is especially beautiful. Re-produced at Jamestown Settlement, she was commissioned in 1991 and now regularly plies the waters of Virginia and Chesapeake Bay as a goodwill ambassador canal.
Riverfront Discovery Area – At discovery stations along a winding pathway, historical interpreters provide a wealth of information about colonial life in America. They highlight the role of waterways in seventeenth-century travel, commerce and cultural exchange from the perspective of Powhatan Indian, European and African traditions.
***Jamestown Settlement is located at the Colonial Parkway and SR 31 in James City County, VA, near Historic Jamestowne. Open daily except December 25 and January 1. Admission charged. Tickets obtainable for Jamestown Settlement alone or in combination with nearby Yorktown Victory Center.
Excerpted from new travel guide Americas Living History-The Early Years, Red Corral Publishing, May 2007, http://www.AmericasLivingHistory.com Suzanne and Craig Sheumaker, Authors.