In October we finally got on the road again and explored for 2 weeks! We started our journey staying at Thousand Trails Williamsburg and our first visit was to Colonial National Historical Park. This area was really confusing so for anybody visiting let me pass along what we learned!
When we first pulled into the Jamestown area, we came to “Jamestown Settlement” which we found out is run by the Commonwealth of Virginia and wasn’t the National Park Service historic location we were looking for. The Jamestown Settlement (link here) looked fun with outdoor demonstrations and character actors, exhibits, and even a re-creation of one of the ships that came from England that you can go aboard. You can buy a combination ticket to visit this Settlement and also the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown (link here) but we chose to just do the NPS sites instead.
The Colonial National Historical Park run by NPS consists of Historic Jamestowne (link here), Colonial Parkway, and Yorktown Battlefield. Because of COVID things were weird but normally your annual NPS pass like America the Beautiful would be accepted at these locations!
Here we are at the original location of Historic Jamestowne!
I really loved the monument’s inscriptions:
“Jamestown. The First Permanent Colony of the English People. The Birthplace of Virginia and of the United States. May 13, 1607.” May 13, 2007 holds very significant meaning to me so I will always remember this date of Jamestown’s settlement, exactly 400 years earlier!
On the side of the monument it read:
“Representative Government in American began in the First House of Burgesses assembled here. July 30, 1619” I love standing on historic ground and thinking of the story written out over the years!
And the quote on the bottom:
“Lastly and chiefly the way to prosper and achieve good success is to make yourselves all of one mind for the good of your country, and your own, and to serve and fear God, the giver of all goodness, for every plantation which our heavenly father hath not planted shall be rooted out.” Advice of London Council for Virginia to the Colony – 1606
For a quick history refresher – in 1607 three wooden ships (Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery) carrying 104 Englishmen landed on this tiny island in a river they called the James. Within days the Powhatan attacked so a triangular fort was constructed for defense (John Smith was the leader).
As a side note, John Smith was quite a character! He fought as a soldier until he was captured in Hungary, taken to Turkey, and sold into slavery in Russia. There he murdered his master, escaped, and journeyed back to Hungary and then to England in time to participate in the settlement of Virginia! He was known to be arrogant, boastful, tactless and sometimes brutal which all served him well as a settler – but he also learned the Indians language and was the primary trader with them. In 1608 he was elected Governor of Virginia for one year and understood both the Indian and settlers’ needs and the colony prospered in that year.
That area of the grounds where the fort and church are located has been preserved since the 1800s by the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities and is proudly embraced as the first english settlement in America and the beginning of many of America’s great institutions including Representative government. Jamestown was also the capital of Virginia until 1699 when it moved to Williamsburg.
Some more history:
In 1609 Chief Powhatan orders a siege of the fort which led to the “starving time” that kills all but 60 colonists by the winter’s end.
In 1610 John Rolfe introduces tobacco (probably from caribbean) and finds a strain that flourishes in Virginia’s “rich blackish mould”.
1614 Pocahontas (daughter of the chief) marries Rolfe in Jamestown Church and a 7 year peace results.
The girls were very happy to see the very church building location where Pocahontas was married:
Refresher about Pocahontas: She was born in 1595 about 15 miles from Jamestown and in the year 1608 started to visit the colonists with gifts of food from her father the chief. Captain John Smith claims that she saved his life twice in those first years. She was kidnapped in April 1613 by Captain Argall who brought her to Jamestown where she was taught about Christianity and then converted and was baptized. Her marriage to John Rolfe in April 1614 at this church did usher in peaceful relations. In 1616 she went to England (as Rebecca Rolfe) with her infant son Thomas and was presented to the Royal Court. She died in March 1617 and was buried in England. This depiction of her was engraved in 1616 when she was in London:
Though the original church walls were destroyed, this bell tower on the left was constructed in the 1660s and is the only surviving 17th century structure at Jamestown. The church building around the tower was built in 1907.
And this foundation (found only in January 2019!) is part of the original church building where the General Assembly met in 1619. So you could say this dirt right here is literally the foundation of our republic:
Here is an interesting plaque in the church about that 1619 gathering which was the first elected legislative assembly in the western hemisphere:
“Our system of freedom under law, which is at once our dearest possession and proudest achievement” I love that quote!
Historians thought for many decades that the original site of James Fort (its original name) had been lost to the James River long ago but in 1994 the remains were found and archaeologists have been investigating this area ever since. It’s incredible what can be learned from artifacts.
The kids were pretty grossed out by the cellar kitchen which had turned into a colonial trash pit. A lot can be learned from a trash pit and let’s just say the archaeologists discovered the rumors of cannibalism during the starving years were true. They can even use computer modeling to give faces to those found in the trash pit. Moving on….
The museum at this location has lots of artifacts and lots to read and learn! This cross outside the museum was beautiful. The description under reads: To the Glory of God and in grateful memory of those early settlers, the founders of this nation who died at Jamestown during the first perilous years of the colony. Their bodies lie along the ridge beyond this cross, in the earliest known burial ground of the English in America.
Some of the memorable displays from the museum were:
A) A quartz crystal arrow head next to a silver sixpence with King James I on it.
B) The portrait of Anne Burras next to sewing tools from the 17th century. She was one of the first 2 english woman to arrive at Jamestown. She married John Laydon December 1609 and their daughter Virginia was probably the first child born to english parents in the colony. The family did survive the starving years and had 4 daughters in the next decade.
C) The children’s toys and silver and coral teething stick! That thing was so interesting. It was a whistle, a rattle, and had Mediterranean coral on it for teething (and also apparently for magical powers that kept children from harm).
D) The displays about Powhatan the Mamanatowick, Chief of Chiefs. His territory at its height was so large and he ruled over 15,000 people. He ruled by threat of force, marriage alliances, and persuasion. He married and fathered children across settlements to create kindship across regions and Pocahontas a favored daughter was from one of these unions. When the English arrived he adopted that same tactic expecting that intermarriage of Indian woman to the all male newcomers would bind them to his chiefdom. It seems to me there was a miscommunication there.
E) The displays about current native americans. Virginia recognizes 11 tribes – 8 of which (including the Rappahannock which is the only name I recognized! ) were associated with the great Powhatan chiefdom. Two of those tribes (Pamunkey and Mattaponi) still live on their ancient tribal lands which have been protected since the 1600s.
F) And finally the heartbreaking display of the slaves brought to Virginia. In the summer of 1619 – 2 privateers attacked a Spanish slave ship, took at least 30 Africans, and arrived in Virginia in August, which was possibly the first planting of African slavery in Virginia. As tobacco prices boomed, labor needs increased and planters would turn to a system of hereditary enslavement. Many Africans were living in freedom until 1662 when children born to slave mothers were permanently also enslaved even if their father was a free man. In 1705, The Assembly would create a race-based Slave Code that stripped all rights from people of color. Jamestown’s legacy is both inspiring and devastating. Two institutions took form here: an inspiring and amazing institution built on God-given freedom and a brutal, dark one built on money-driven enslavement. Evil will linger around good in our society until the return of Jesus. God’s people have to continue to pursue right living and exposing darkness.
There’s much to be learned from history!