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  • Writer's pictureWandering Wanda

A New Life and Beginning for Many in Jamestown

My second day of small-town explorations in the Hampton Roads area took me to Jamestown. What I thought I knew of this city was greatly expanded with the learning I gained while onsite. The initial goal was to visit both Jamestown and Williamsburg, but I became so fascinated in all the artifacts and stories that my time became too short to get to both.

When I arrived in the area, I was greeted by the stillness and tranquility of the James River. Its beaches and riverbanks were pristine and the drive along the Colonial Parkway offered many scenic pull offs to view the historical markers and read about what had happened in that location. But once I arrived on the Jamestown Island at the Visitor Center, the education was about to begin.

As a collector of flags during my international travels, I was attracted to the flag poles that donned the exterior entrance of the building and upon a closer look saw that each flag represented the 50 states with a brief description of the state with the countries that originally explored and settled beyond the original Native American people and when it joined the union.

Whenever visiting a National Park, I like to take in the video if there is one available and this site provided a great introduction film. Jamestown is home to the ruins of the first permanent English settlement in North America. Although I knew a little about the Native American tribes in the area, I was surprised to see the information on the three cultures that resided in the area in the early 1600’s which included the indigenous Algonquian (Powhatan) people, the first group of Africans from Angola and the settlers from England. The indoor visitor center provided a journey from the early settlements to current storylines.

The journey to Virginia began on three ships: the Susan Constant, the Godspeed, and the Discovery and replicas of two of the ships were onsite. In 1607, 104 English men and boys arrived in North America to start a settlement which was named after King James, becoming the first permanent English settlement in North America. A fort was built which protected the settlers from the local Algonquian tribes that inhabited the area, and a replica was available onsite to peruse through. A replica of the Algonquian tribal homes and setups were also available.

After tobacco became a profitable crop in Virginia, the settlement began to flourish. The first documented Africans from Angola that had been kidnapped by the Portuguese were brought to Virginia as resources for the labor-intensive tobacco, which also became the beginning of the American slave trade.

Although there were some peaceful times between the Algonquin people brought on by the marriage of Pocahontas (her real name was Amonute) and John Rolfe in 1614 (not John Smith as sometimes reported), there was much fighting between the two cultures for over ten years, until a tenuous peace was reached in 1632. Eventually the English encroachments on Powhatan lands continued as more settlers arrived in the Colony and unfortunately with the death of the tribal leader Opechancanough, the Powhatan Chiefdom was reduced to tributary status which made the Powhatan people subjects of the English. It made me wonder how the world would be different now if the original people of this country were still in power and had not been duped of their land.

Several fires destroyed the area and eventually the government and capital were moved from Jamestown to Williamsburg. People continued to live on Jamestown Island and owned farmlands, but it ceased to be a town and remains now as an archaeological site.

Going into this journey I knew that Jamestown was a major port for the slave trade of Africans coming into the New World and wondered if I would have any feelings or sensations of spirits from the ancestors that came here before me. But there was nothing. Only feeling that the crispness of the air with the gentle breeze of the river made for a beautiful day of history and learning as I maneuvered through the visitor center and explored the outdoor village replicas for over four hours. I was grateful for the history lesson and instructional moments as my prior limited knowledge had been expanded.


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