SettlementSpain, 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.
1607–1609: Arrival and beginningLate in 1606, English Jamestown supply missions#Original mission, colonists set sail with a Charter of 1606, charter from the London Company to establish a colony in the New World. The fleet consisted of the ships ''Susan Constant'', ''Discovery (1602 ship), Discovery'', and ''Godspeed (ship), Godspeed'', all under the leadership of Captain Christopher Newport. They made a particularly long voyage of four months, including a stop in the Canary Islands, in Spain, and subsequently Puerto Rico, and finally departed for the American mainland on April 10, 1607. The expedition made landfall on April 26, 1607 at a place which they named Cape Henry. Under orders to select a more secure location, they set about exploring what is now Hampton Roads and an outlet to the Chesapeake Bay which they named the James River (Virginia), James River in honor of King James I of England. Edward Maria Wingfield, Captain Edward Maria Wingfield was elected president of the governing council on April 25, 1607. On May 14, he selected a piece of land on a large peninsula some inland from the Atlantic Ocean as a prime location for a fortified settlement. The river channel was a defensible strategic point due to a curve in the river, and it was close to the land, making it navigable and offering enough land for piers or wharves to be built in the future. Perhaps the most favorable fact about the location was that it was uninhabited because the leaders of the nearby Native American tribes in Virginia, indigenous nations considered the site 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 tide, tidal river water unsuitable for drinking. 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 drawings of 800 year-old bald cypress trees along the Nottoway River, Nottoway and Blackwater River (Virginia), 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. The settlers also arrived too late in the year to get crops planted.Don't Know Much About History, Kenneth C. Davis Many in the group were either 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. One of these was Robert Hunt (chaplain), Robert Hunt, a former vicar of Reculver, England who celebrated the first known Anglican Eucharist in the territory of the future United States on June 21, 1607. Two-thirds of the settlers died before ships arrived in 1608 with supplies and German and Polish Artisan, craftsmen, who helped to establish the first manufactories in the colony. As a result, glassware became the foremost American products to be exported to Europe at the time. Clapboard (architecture), Clapboard had already been sent back to England beginning with the first returning ship. The delivery of supplies in 1608 on the Jamestown supply missions#First supply mission, 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 authorise 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 John Smith (explorer), 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.
1609–1610: Starving Time and Third SupplyAfter Smith was forced to return to England due to an explosion which gave him deep burn wounds during a trading expedition, 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 Full rigged pinnace, 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 it onto the reefs of Bermuda to prevent its foundering. This allowed all aboard to be landed safely. The survivors (including Lieutenant-General Thomas Gates (governor), Sir Thomas Gates, Captain Christopher Newport, Sylvester Jordain, Stephen Hopkins (settler), 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 Full rigged pinnace, pinnaces ''Deliverance'' and ''Patience''. The original plan was to build only one vessel, ''Deliverance'', but it soon became evident that it would not be large enough to carry the settlers and all of the food (salted pork) that was being sourced on the islands. While the Third Supply was stranded in Bermuda, the colony at Jamestown was in even worse shape. In the "Starving Time" of 1609–1610, the Jamestown settlers faced rampant starvation for want of additional provisions. During this time, lack of food drove people to eat snakes and even boil the leather from shoes for sustenance. Only 60 of the original 214 settlers at Jamestown survived. There is scientific evidence that the settlers at Jamestown had turned to cannibalism during the starving time. The ships from Bermuda 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, 1610, the timely Jamestown supply missions#"Fourth" supply mission, arrival of another relief fleet, bearing Governor Thomas West, 3rd 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. The Colonists called this ''The Day of Providence''. The Jamestown supply missions, fleet brought not only supplies, but also additional settlers. All the settlers returned to the colony, though there was still a critical shortage of food. Relations between the colonists and the Powhatans quickly deteriorated after De La Warr's arrival, eventually leading to conflict. The Anglo-Powhatan War lasted until Samuel Argall captured Wahunsenacawh's daughter Matoaka, better known by her nickname Pocahontas, after which the chief accepted a treaty of peace.
1610–1624: Rising fortunesDue to the aristocracy (class), 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 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."The lost colony and Jamestown droughts."
1624–1699: Later yearsIn 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 Charles I of England, King Charles I, the colony was divided into the original eight shires of Virginia (or County (United States), 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. Another large-scale "Indian attack" occurred in 1644. In 1646, Opchanacanough was captured and while in custody an English guard shot him in the back—against orders—and killed him. Subsequently, the Powhatan Confederacy began to decline. Opechancanough's successor signed the first peace treaties between the Powhatan Indians and the English. The treaties required the Powhatan to pay yearly tribute payment to the English and confined them to reservations. 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 (governor), William Berkeley's nearby Green Spring Plantation, and later at Middle Plantation (Virginia), Middle Plantation, which had been started in 1632 as a fortified community inland on the Virginia Peninsula, about distant. When the statehouse burned again in 1698, 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. Rather than rebuilding at Jamestown again, the capital of the colony was moved permanently to Middle Plantation in 1699. The town was soon renamed Williamsburg, to honor the reigning monarch, William III of England, King William III. A new Capitol building and "Governor's Palace" were erected there in the following years. This was a dramatic change that spelled the decline and doomed the town.
Aftermath and preservationDue 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 heavily cultivated, primarily by the Travis and Ambler families. During the American Revolutionary War, although the Battle of Green Spring was fought nearby at the site of former Governor Berkeley's plantation, Jamestown was apparently inconsequential. In 1831, David Bullock purchased Jamestown from the Travis and Ambler families.
American Civil WarDuring the American Civil War, in 1861, Confederate States Army, Confederate William (Orgain) Allen, William Allen, who owned the Jamestown Island, occupied Jamestown with troops he raised at his own expense with the intention of blockading the James River and Richmond, Virginia, Richmond from the Union Navy. He was soon joined by Lieutenant Catesby ap Roger Jones, who directed the building of batteries and conducted ordnance and armor tests for the first Confederate ironclad warship, CSS Virginia, CSS ''Virginia'', which was under construction at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Gosport Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia, Portsmouth in late 1861 and early 1862. Jamestown had a peak force of 1,200 men. 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, Virginia, 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 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. Following the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, Appomattox Courthouse, the oath of allegiance was administered to former Confederate soldiers at Jamestown.
Preservation and early archaeologyIn 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 not discovered until 1996. In 1932, George C. Gregory, 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. 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 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. Harrington, 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-authore
Present dayIn the present time, as part of the Colonial National Historical Park, the Jamestown Island area is 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 (Virginia), James River for vehicles and affords passengers a view of Jamestown Island from the river.
, 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 (formerly known as the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities); the remaining are held by the National Park Service and is part of the Colonial National Historical Park. 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;
Jamestown SettlementJamestown Settlement is a living-history park and museum located 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 –1614, and seagoing replicas of the three ships that brought the first settlers, ''Susan Constant'', ''Godspeed (ship), Godspeed'', ''Discovery (1602 ship), Discovery''.
CommemorationsWith the national independence of the United States established by the end of the 18th century, Jamestown came to be looked at as a starting point. Its founding in 1607 has been regularly commemorated, with the most notable events being held every fifty years.
200th anniversary (1807)The wikt:bicentennial, bicentennial of Jamestown on May 13–14, 1807, was called the Grand National Jubilee. Over 3,000 people attended the event, many arriving on vessels which anchored in the river off the island. May 13 was the opening day of the festival, which began with a procession which marched to the graveyard of the old church, where the attending bishop delivered the prayer. The procession then moved to the Travis mansion, where the celebrants dined and danced in the mansion that evening. Also during the festivities, 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. Attending were many dignitaries, politicians, and historians. The celebration concluded on May 14 with a dinner and toast at the Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg.
250th anniversary (1857)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 on the spot 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 (Orgain) Allen, 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 US President John Tyler of nearby Sherwood Forest Plantation gave a 2½ hour speech, and there were military displays, a grand ball and fireworks.
300th anniversary (1907): Jamestown ExpositionThe 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 (now known as Preservation Virginia) 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 (Virginia), 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 railroad, 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, Virginia, 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 downstream from Jamestown in a rural section of Norfolk County, Virginia, 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. 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, attendees included US 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. A major naval review featuring the United States' Great White Fleet was a key feature. 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.
350th Anniversary (1957): Jamestown FestivalWith 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, Virginia, 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 (Virginia), State Route 31 were relocated. 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 (ship), Godspeed'', and ''Discovery (1602 ship), Discovery'' were constructed at a shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia, 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. Special events included army and navy reviews, air force fly-overs, ship and aircraft christenings and even an outdoor drama at Cape Henry, Virginia, 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. 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.
400th anniversary: Jamestown 2007Early 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 replica ''Godspeed''. In January 2007, the Virginia General Assembly held a session at Jamestown. On May 4, 2007, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip attended a ceremony commemorating the 400th anniversary of the settlement's arrivals, reprising the honor they paid in 1957. In addition to the Virginia State Quarter, Jamestown was also the subject of two United States commemorative coins celebrating the 400th anniversary of its settlement. A Jamestown 400th Anniversary silver dollar, silver dollar and a Jamestown 400th Anniversary gold five dollar coin, gold five dollar coin were issued in 2007.
2019 CommemorationIn 2019 Jamestown, in cooperation with Williamsburg, will hold a commemoration that marks the 400th anniversary of three landmark events in American history: the first meeting of the General Assembly, the arrival of the first Africans to English North America, and the first Thanksgiving.
In popular culture* A fictional romantic adventure set at Jamestown, ''To Have and to Hold'', was the Publishers Weekly list of bestselling novels in the United States in the 1900s, bestselling novel in the United States in 1900. The novel was later adapted into two feature films, in To Have and to Hold (1916 film), 1916 and To Have and to Hold (1922 film), 1922. * A highly fictionalized version of the Jamestown settlement is depicted in the animated The Walt Disney Company, Disney film ''Pocahontas (1995 film), Pocahontas'' (1995) as well as its direct-to-video sequel ''Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World'' (1998). Among other inaccuracies it is shown as being near mountains, when it was actually located on the Tidewater region. * A feature-length film, The New World (2005 film), ''The New World'' (2005), directed by Terrence Malick, covers the story of Jamestown's colonization. Although the historical details are accurate in most ways, the plot focuses on a dramatized relationship between John Smith (explorer), John Smith, played by Colin Farrell, and Pocahontas, played by Q'orianka Kilcher. It also features John Rolfe, played by Christian Bale. Many scenes were filmed on-location along the James River (Virginia), James and Chickahominy Rivers and at Henricus Historical Park in Chesterfield County, Virginia, Chesterfield County, Virginia. * Another feature-length film, ''First Landing: The Voyage from England to Jamestown'' (2007), documents the 1607 landing of English colonists. * In 2017, Sky 1 launched a new series based in Jamestown. Jamestown (TV series), The series, named after its eponymous setting, revolves around the societal change triggered by the arrival of women to the settlement to marry the male citizens of the area, and is made by the producers of Downton Abbey. * The story of Bartholomew Gosnold and the establishment of Jamestown is told in the 2018 musical ''To Look For America'' written by Richard Digance and Eric Sedge. * In alternate history TV show ''For All Mankind (TV series), For All Mankind'', United States has its first moon base named Jamestown.
Further reading* Christopher M. B. Allison, "Jamestown's Relics: Sacred Presence in the English New World." Essay. In Conversations: An Online Journal of the Center for the Study of Material and Visual Cultures of Religion (2016).