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Jamestown


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Capital of Virginia (1607–98), situated on what is now an island but was formerly a peninsula in the James River, about 40 miles above Norfolk. The first permanent English settlement within the boundaries of the present U.S., Jamestown was founded (May 13, 1607) on what may once have been the site of a Spanish colony by some hundred colonists under the command of Sir Christopher Newport. During the winters of 1608 and 1609, the colony was threatened with extinction by disease, starvation, and Indian attacks, and it was preserved only by the leadership of such men as John Smith. Fear of Spanish attack was also almost constant. Newport, Sir Thomas Gates, and Sir George Somers reached Jamestown with 150 colonists (1610), but found conditions so deplorable that they were about to give up the settlement. Lord De la Warr arrived unexpectedly at this juncture, bringing more colonists and supplies, and hope was renewed. In 1611, 650 additional colonists were brought. The rapid expansion of tobacco cultivation soon made the community self-supporting. An outstanding example of the acceptance of the whites by the Indians is the marriage of Pocahontas to John Rolfe. America's first legislative assembly was held at Jamestown (1619), and slavery was introduced on this continent that year. Never prosperous, the town had several severe fires, one deliberately set by insurgents in Bacon's Rebellion (1676). Abandoned after Williamsburg became the capital (1699), its ruined buildings were partly restored (c.1900). Contemporary treatments of early Jamestown include those by Captain John Smith, Richard Rich, and George Sandys, and later historical novels include John Davis, The First Settlers of Virginia (1806), J. E. Cooke, My Lady Pokahontas (1885), and Mary Johnston, To Have and To Hold (1900).

Subjects: Archaeology — Literature.


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