The colonization of the North American continent is a long and challenging process. Before the first stable settlement in Virginia, there were many attempts which failed tragically. However, this did not lead to losing hope and desire in the English empire to conquer new territories.
Establishment and first years of Jamestown settlement
The story started back at the beginning of 17th century. In April 1607 the first settlers landed feet on the East Coast of America. The first colony called Jamestown settlement was situated in the nowadays territory of the state of Virginia. Though everyone came with big expectations, it was hard at times. The first “ citizens “ of the Jamestown settlement were not precisely the type that will grow crops. There were many respected gentlemen never aware of the field work. Even more, the period of the year was not exactly the best. By the time the Europeans arrived, it was already too late for sowing.
The first years of the existence of the Jamestown settlement were also marked by severe drought. That is another reason why the crop did not survive. People were dying too. Though help from the continent was sent every year almost eighty percent of the settlers lost their lives. Soon the first settlers were replaced by new wave. Artisans from Germany, Poland, and Slovakia were the first to start the manufacturing in Jamestown settlement.
The historical part of the development of the colony was the arrival of captain Smith. He stood ahead of the Jamestown settlement as its fourth president. This person established many rules, which helped the area grow and prosper. Unfortunately, he had an accident the next year 1609 and left the town, as he never returned. The following decades were often accompanied by hunger and poverty. Many attempts were made to develop specific manufacturing. Some of them were not so desperate. Glassware was one of them. It was fortunate craft then, and the settlement exported glass goods to the old continent for a long time. This manufacture became traditional for the area.
The years before the Third Supply was unstable. The Jamestown settlement was changing years of good and evil relations with the natives. The management of the company back in London started to wonder how good exactly this investment was. That is why they made try after try, giving land to the new settlers to grow and develop.
The crash of the Third Supply on the Bermuda Islands gave one good thing as a result. While staying there and trying to survive, one of the sailers discovers a new plant. Mr. John Rolfe was the one. Just a few years later he harvested the fruits of his work – tobacco. He brought it to the lands of Jamestown settlement and grew it successfully. Tobacco is the origin of his wealthy life for many years after. Besides were making him reach this plant also brought new hope in the area.
In the history of Jamestown settlement, he is also famous for another fact. After he got wealthy with growing tobacco for few years, he married the historic princess Pocahontas. She was the daughter of the chief of the most influential tribe at the time. The marriage has a strategic aspect, but unfortunately, Pocahontas died a few years later, and the peace was gone again.
Meanwhile, new settlers were coming. To gain back part of the expenses it made, the London company started to bring new immigrants. The deal was to give credits against years of work in the Jamestown settlement. As bad as it sounds it only produced a positive result to the economy of the area. Along with the Europeans, several servants from Africa also arrived. They were made slaves in the years following. They were even the first Africans that came on the continent at all.
The combination of many factors brought wealth and success to the settlement. In 1624 the town was pronounced to be a royal colony. After that, it was divided into eight parts according to the tradition brought from the continent.
Jamestown Settlement and the Civil War
The next stop from Jamestown settlement history is the Civil War. It was a real challenge for the stability of the settlement. By that time Jamestown was no longer capital of the colony. There were many fires that burnt the city to the ground not once or twice. Maybe it was for good. Jamestown settlement was a symbol of prosperity and struggle. At some time, it reminded of the many fights between the natives and the new settlers.
Like a typical Southern State, Virginia and its area have accepted the slavery. There were many great plantations with history known well in the territory of the settlement. The Ambler house was one of them, which was consequently burnt to the ground after at the end of the Civil War. The area around Jamestown settlement was strategic and stood in the way of Richmond the capital of the Confederation. On theirs trying to reach it the army of the Union forces captures Yorktown. Thus the settlement was left separated from the rest of the state. It was then when the military of Jamestown took the strategic decision to go above the river approximately eight miles down from Richmond. They managed to block the path to the capital for a long time but not forever though.
To keep the capital untouched for longer, the forces of Jamestown sacrificed themselves and their town. Leaving the area unfortified it soon became a center for slave refugees. Full with anger and desire for revenge, they burnt many houses and the plantations along with them.
The years after this awful war left the place very peaceful even quite some may say. Slowly the harvest and land working were put under risk from nature. As the time passed the erosion became harder. The river managed to take almost the whole west shore.
The area of Jamestown settlement in the modern times
Today life in the former Jamestown settlement is far more different than it was in the previous centuries. It keeps and reminds of the great history of the area. Officially the island of Jamestown is part of two big parks and sites. One of them is the Historic Jamestown. It is very famous since the old excavations were found which happened in 1996. The expedition wanted to see the origins of the Jamestown settlement. That is why it was essential when they found what is left of the so-called fort. Visitors today can enjoy the renovated site of the excavation. At the Archaearium they can see the recovery of how the settlement looked like and thousands of original artifacts from the area.
The other history park is named after the settlement. It is situated almost at the same place of the original one. Established in 1957 it is in no way less attractive. There the curious tourists can see models of the three ships, which brought the very first settlers to the continent. The complex of the museum also includes an area of the village of Powhatan. It was one of the communities of the natives that has very important meaning for the history of the area.
The third and last part of the museum complex is the Fort of Jamestown. It is reconstructed exactly how it looked between the years 1610 – 1614. Twelve years later Manhattan was sold to Dutch West India Company for 60 guilders (less than $1000 in today’s money)
The history of Jamestown settlement and the area has always been in huge interest for the visitors and the locals. The crucial meeting of this first colony has been celebrated through the years. There were significant festivals for every anniversary of the first English settlement, with enormous plans for the 400th year of its establishment. Commemoration together with the neighboring town of Williamsburg. It will be put attention on the first Thanksgiving and the early African settler that arrived here. Last but not least the House of Burgesses will also be memorized.