Jamestown Colony Facts: Read This Before Your Next History Class | Kidadl


Jamestown Colony Facts: Read This Before Your Next History Class

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The English settlers arrived in Jamestown Island in 1607 on a Dutch ship.

The pilgrims landed on Jamestown Island, located near James River, presently Williamsburg, Virginia. The people were members of the Virginia Company of London and established the first settlement of the British empire in North America.

King James I of England gave the new settlers permission to settle along the eastern coast of North America to establish a new world. The main aim of these new settlers was to find ways to make money.

In the early 17th century, England was behind in establishing a British colonial America. Spain controlled the land of the native people to form a new world in some areas of the Caribbean, Mexico, South America and Central America, as well as a small settlement in Florida. The Spanish were also moving further towards southwest America.

In the early 1600, life in Jamestown was not easy for the new settlers; it was full of danger, hardship, lack of supplies, disease, and death. The settlers hoped to develop a new world in Jamestown, Virginia, but life was full of danger and not there were not enough food supplies.

History Of Jamestown Colony

Jamestown has long attracted modern-day Americans, a town full of history and legend. It was the first settlement in English colonial America. Jamestown represented a new world, a chance to start a new life, conquer an unknown continent, and expand the English customs, traditions, and laws.

Jamestown came into existence in 1607 and for nearly 100 years, it served as the capital of Virginia. However, in 1699, the colonists shifted the capital to Williamsburg from Jamestown. A group of preservationists took the site in 1800, It is now a part of a national historic park with a museum. Daily tours are conducted and ongoing archaeological digging continues to uncover new findings and artefacts.

The pilgrims landed in three ships under the command of Christopher Newport. The Dutch ship transported 105 colonists who arrived in May 1607 and were all men. Their leader was Captain John Smith. However, the new settlers' lives in these three ships were not easy. Many of them died from starvation and illness. The native people sometimes gave food. They were called the Powhatan tribe, but the natives did not trust these strange men, and often, the two groups had conflicts.

In 1608 a fire destroyed the settlers newly built fort, church, storehouse for food, and some of the residences. Furthermore, that year a famine destroyed their crops and made survival harsher.

In 1609, the native people stopped supplying food to the colonists. Also, whoever left the Jamestown fort was attacked. During the winter of 1609 to 1610, around 80 percent of the colonists died. In Jamestown history, this period was known as the Starving Time.

In 1610, more colonists under the leadership of Gates arrived in makeshift ships made from wood found on Bermuda island. To their utter surprise, they found less than a hundred survivors. Gates ordered to abandon the area but not to burn what they had built. As they were about to leave, they found another ship approaching led by Lord De La Warr, as granted by King James I.

In 1612, a colonist named John Rolfe came to Jamestown. He grew tobacco and sold this tobacco in England. Thus tobacco became the main cash crop for the people of Jamestown and helped them to survive. John Rolfe went on to marry a native girl named Pocahontas in 1614. Pocahontas she was the daughter of the chief of the Powhatan confederation. The marriage alliance brought eight years of peace between the European settlers and the native Americans.

In 1619, the European settlers formed a democratic government. Also in this year, the first Africans were brought to North America by the European settlers, treated as servants and held as enslaved people. In 1624, Virginia was ruled by King James I and became a royal colony. So, Virginia's first capital was Jamestown; later on, the capital was moved to Williamsburg.

Economic Activities Of Jamestown Colony

Jamestown colony grew and went through many ups and downs during its early years of settlement. The economic condition determined the life of the people and their living conditions; it distinguished the poor and the rich.

During the early years of settlement, Jamestown's economy was largely influenced by the growth of cash crops, and taxes. In the early and later part of 1620, around ninety young maids from England arrived in Jamestown, to become the planters' wives. The colony also brought around new 280 tenants to stay in Jamestown. By 1920, the tobacco trade was flourishing and expanding rapidly. Also, with the conditions improving, the population of the colony was increasing in large numbers.

The settlers, who were coming to work in the tobacco plantation, affected the economy of Jamestown as they would purchase groceries and other commodities with the money they were earning from the tobacco plantation and spend on their daily needs. Due to the working class and the trading of goods, the economy of the Virginia colony started to flourish.

Since starting a colony from Jamestown, Virginia, taxes have played an important role in the U.S economy. The crown officials wanted the colonial planters in the U.S to send all their products to England. It was an important order, as it was considered an important source of royal revenue. The plantation owners had to pay the taxes to the Crown. England was greatly benefitting from the work of the American colonists as they were able to enjoy the revenue received.

By 1620, tobacco was the only crop that was making a significant profit. The Spanish introduced tobacco to the Europeans, and they were taught how to smoke by the Native Americans. Initially, the people in England smoked the tobacco grown in the West Indies, the area we know today as the Caribbean.

John Rolfe was the person who imported the tobacco seeds from West Indies and grew them in the Jamestown colony. Those who smoked the tobacco felt that the tobacco from Jamestown was much less harsh than the tobacco grown in the Caribbean. These seeds become an important turning point for the economy of Jamestown. Tobacco was even grown in the streets of Jamestown, and since it required many workers, more people were settled in Jamestown.

By 1617, tobacco export bloomed exponentially; around 20000 pounds of tobacco was exported to England. The next year, tobacco export doubled, and finally, after twelve years, one and half million pounds were exported to England. Thus John Rolfe played an important role in the economy of Jamestown because he was the one who established the economic foundation for the new colony.

Clothing And Culture Of The First Settlers

As mentioned earlier, Jamestown was the first European settlement in the U.S in 1607, founded by the London Company. It is a country of diverse cultures and people. It all started in Jamestown in the early 17th century when people from three continents merged: the Native Americans, the Europeans, and the Africans, who were brought as enslaved people by the English. It is an important part of American history.

America's history started with the Native Americans. However, there is no written record of their culture at that time, only archaeological evidence to gain an idea of how they lived. Three cultures united at Jamestown- the Europeans, the Powhatan Native Americans, and the Africans, each with their traditions and culture. Historians compared the three cultures and learned how they interacted. The convergence of the Europeans, the Native Americans, and Africans laid the foundation of American society. Throughout history, it has been mentioned that their interactions were based on negotiation, compromises, conflict, and hardships.

Another interesting fact is that Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown formed Colonial Virginia, known as the Historic Triangle. These three cities had many common similarities, like clothing and textiles, which identified an individuals social status during the colonial era.

From the 16th to 19th century, men of all social classes wore wool, linen, cotton, and leather suits. The suits were long coats reaching to the knees, the waistcoat was the vest, and the pants were to the knees, known as breeches. Men wore white linen shirts, which were long and tucked into the pants. In the 18th century, men wore a white linen neckcloth known as a cravat. Only the wealthy men wore cravats embroidered with white lace, and the working class wore the casual cravat. Shoes were made of soft leather with a straight sole and were mostly buckled diagonally to the top of the foot.

The women wore a two-piece dress, a gown, and a petticoat matching the gown. The gown was known as mantua, the bodice was fitted, and the sleeves reached the elbows and had a skirt-like design. The skirt was open in front, and it showed the petticoat underneath. Women belonging to the elite class wore gowns made of silk, while the working class wore gowns made of cotton, linen, or wool. Underneath their dress, the women wore a corset known as stays. The stays were usually worn to influence the posture and were made of linen and stuffed with whalebone. Bonnets were worn, which were designed with frills around the face. The shoes were made of silk or leather and were fixed firmly by a clasp at the top of the foot.

Until the age of five, the boys wore long and loose gowns that had buttons at the back and were known as the bed gowns. When they reached the age of six to seven, they wore breeches. They were given a pair of breeches, which marked the celebration of the end of his childhood. So, like their father, they would wear waistcoats which were loosely fitted on top of the undershirt and a cravat. Boys also wore knee-length socks and leather shoes. 

The working class could afford only two outfits for each of their daughters. One was for wearing it daily, and the other was for formal occasions like going to church and attending some events. However, despite their social status, the girls wore dresses similar to their mothers. The daughters of the elite class wore corsets or stay that were lined with linen and stitched with whalebone. The girls wore a corset to improve their posture. Even girls as young as three years old wore the corset or stay to maintain posture and body movement. The daughters belonging to the working class did not wear a corset with their daily wear gowns. But they wore bonnets all the time.

A historical building of the colonial era in Williamsburg, Virginia. Find out the Jamestown colony facts.


What is a fun fact about Jamestown?

Although Jamestown is the first European settlement, in the early years of settlement, and especially during the winter months, settling here was no dream. Lack of proper farming knowledge, unfriendly native people, harsh winters, a lack of food and illness and disease, caused the number of colonists in Jamestown to decline from 300 to 60. This period was known as the great 'starving time,' and the colonists lived by eating snakes, dogs, and even people.

What was the colony of Jamestown known for?

The colony of Jamestown, founded in 1607, is known as the first permanent settlement in the United States. The settlement continued for almost a hundred years as the capital of Virginia, and later it was abandoned in 1699 when they shifted the capital to Williamsburg.

Why did Jamestown fail?

Jamestown failed due to conflict with the Native Americans, the unpreparedness of the colonists, famine, disease, and illness for nearly two years. Only with the arrival of the new group who came with supplies in 1610 did the colony slowly start to grow. 

Why was Jamestown the most successful colony?

In 1612, John Rolfe came to Jamestown on a wooden ship from Bermuda, a colonists from a shipwreck in Bermuda. John Rolfe introduced tobacco plantations in the region, believed to have been bought from the West Indies. Tobacco became a very profitable cash crop for Jamestown and was vital for its early economy.

What was wrong with the Jamestown colony?

For the first two years, it was difficult for the Jamestown colonist to survive due to unfriendly native people, a lack of food, famine, disease, and illness.

What three things affected Jamestown in 1619?

The three things that affected Jamestown in 1619 were: the first meeting of the general assembly, women being sent to Jamestown, and Africans being brought against their will.

Was there cannibalism in Jamestown?

Evidence has been found that Jamestown colonists at one point resorted to cannibalism. In a forensic facial reconstruction study, a 14-year-old girl known to archaeologists as Jane, was found to be a victim of cannibalism. The archaeologists believed that the colony's people consumed her in the winter of 1609-1610. This period in Jamestown is known as the 'starving time.'

Written By
Sridevi Tolety

<p>With a Master's degree in clinical research from Manipal University and a PG Diploma in journalism from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Sridevi has cultivated her passion for writing across various domains. She has authored a wide range of articles, blogs, travelogues, creative content, and short stories that have been published in leading magazines, newspapers, and websites. Sridevi is fluent in four languages and enjoys spending her spare time with loved ones. Her hobbies include reading, traveling, cooking, painting, and listening to music.</p>

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