The Virginia Company sent three ships named the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery full of settlers to the New World to set up trade between America and England. The settlers arrived in April 1607 and set up the first colony in America which they named Virginia. After spending a few weeks looking for a good site for their settlement, they found a location which they named Jamestown in honor of the English King James.
The group consisted of 105 men led by Captain Christopher Newport. They built a fort near a river that flowed into Chesapeake Bay. They named the river James after King James I.
Unfortunately the fort the men built was on a swamp which contained mosquitoes that carried the deadly malaria virus. Many of the men died because of this.
The settlers did not build permanent houses or grow food after they arrived. Instead many hunted for gold. On top of this, they were not good hunters. By the end of the first year, 67 out of the 105 men had died.
The Pamunkey tribe led by Chief Powhatan lived in that part of Virginia. Fourteen thousand Algonquian-speaking natives lived in the Chesapeake Bay area when the English came. In December 1607 while hunting, John Smith was captured by the Pamunkey. When the warriors brought John Smith to Powhatan's village, Chief Powhatan felt that danger might come from the white men living on his land because the white men carried fire-sticks. Pocahontas thought her tribe should not be afraid of John Smith. She thought he looked like a friend.
Powhatan said that the warriors must enjoy a feast before talking. After the feast, John Smith tried to tell the chief that his people had come in peace and that there was much land to share. Powhatan said Smith must die. As one of the warriors raised a stone club to kill Smith, Pocahontas asked her father to give Smith to her. In Pocahontas's tribe women could save a prisoner by asking for the prisoner to be given to them. Powhatan let Pocahontas have Smith because he thought the white men might attack if they killed him. After this, the Native Americans began bringing some food to the men at Jamestown.
The Virginia Company continued to send men to Jamestown. After half of them died during the winter of 1608, John Smith ordered the men to build houses and farm.
Smith spent the summer of 1608 looking for food and exploring. During this trip, Smith drew up a map of the Chesapeake Bay area. While he was away, Smith left his friend Matthew Scrivener in charge. Since Scrivener was not a good leader, Smith was elected as president by the colony's council upon his return. As president he established a “no work, no food” policy.
Smith was about to give up and leave Jamestown when more settlers came. This time with food and supplies.
Smith went back to England in 1609 after being badly burnt in a gun powder explosion.
The next winter was the worst ever. Many colonists died from fire, drought, disease, Indian attacks, and little food. The colony was almost destroyed going from 500 to 600 people to only 60 by the end of the winter.
Two small boats came in May to Jamestown. After seeing the empty houses, they had decided to abandon Jamestown. The people changed their minds on June 7 when a large ship captained by Samuel Argall came with food, supplies, and new settlers.
In 1610 Thomas De La Warr, the new governor, arrived with three ships of supplies. New settlers were encouraged to come with an offer of 50 acres of free land. The Native Americans were unhappy about this.
Pocahontas was captured by the settlers and held in Jamestown. While in captivity, she converted to Christianity. Eight years of peace came between the American Indians and the settlers when Pocahontas married John Rolfe, a tobacco grower living in Jamestown.
John Rolfe and Pocahontas visited London. While there, Pocahontas was treated like royalty. Pocahontas died in London before returning to her home.
Sources of Information