Jamestown Settlement



On May 14, 1607, a group of roughly 100 members of a joint stock company called the Virginia Company of London founded the first permanent settlement near the James River in the state today known as Virginia. The settlement was built on the marshy lands of the Chesapeake and consisted of a wood built triangular fort containing a church, a store house, and a number of living quarters . The colonist were governed by a council that consisted of 7, one of whom was the president of the colony and at the time it was John Radcliffe. During the first couple of months the colony had fallen into great despair. The colonist were dying in large numbers to due to Illness. On top of that, malnutrition and lack of provisions started to rise. The cause of this was the lack of farmers and artisans, for most of the travelers consisted of upper class Englishmen. Not to mention too, the goal of the colony was to form an enterprise that would transfer riches and goods back to England. As a result the Jamestown colony faced many hardships during their first year, and didn't start to improve until Captain John Smith took over and implemented the no work, no eat policy.

Leadership-Captain John Smith

Captain John Smith played a huge role in the development of the Jamestown Colony. He came from a small farm in England, and at age of 16 set off to sea. He served as a mercenary in King Henry the IV of France's army against the Spaniards. Two years later he set off for the Mediterranean Sea working on a merchant ship. In 1600, he joined the Austrian forces to fight the Turks. He was captured and sold as a slave, but eventually escaped. After being released from the service he received a large reward, in which some of his reward went towards the planning to colonize Virginia. During the passage to the New World, Christopher Newport, had planned to execute Smith when they arrived due to Smith's opinionated outbreaks, but discovered Smith's name was on the appointed list of governors. As a result, Smith did not die, but was limited in his powers. In December of 1607 Smith was captured by the Powhatan, there he became befriended by Chief Powhatan and was released. As Smith returned to the settlement he found the government in chaos and eventually became the president of the local council. He incorporated a policy of rigid discipline, strengthened defenses, and encouraged farming. He also made the rule that, " He who does not work, will not eat."

Interactions with the Indians

With the formation of the colony, the relationship between the English and the Indians was constantly susceptible to change. Initially when the English had docked, they were met with hostility from Indian groups such as the Powhatan. The cause of this hostility was partly due to the Spanish explorers that had once explored the coastline and mistreated the natives. This hostility towards the English change though, when the Powhatan had captured John Smith. Chief Powhatan admired John Smith's skills and was fascinated by the English's tools. As a result Smith was able to establish trade between the natives and English. This agreement of trade allowed the colony to have food and continue on for another year.
Jamestown Interactive Game

Play Jamestown interactive game. Learn more about the history of Jamestown and what happened there.