May 11, 2013: 406th Anniversary of America’s First Settlement in Jamestown, VA

1606 Expedition from England to Virginia Coastlines

GodSpeed Replica Sail Boat

GodSpeed Replica Sail Boat

An all-male expedition led by Captain Christopher Newport departed from England in December 1606. Aboard the Susan ConstantGodspeed and Discovery ships, were 105 passengers (one of whom died during the voyage).   Many aboard these ships were upper-class Englishmen. On May 13, 1607, after two weeks of exploration of the Virginia coastline, the ships arrived at a site on the James River–selected for its deep-water anchorage and good defensive position–and, located in the midst of a chiefdom of about 14,000 Algonquian-speaking Indians ruled by the powerful leader Powhatan.  This was the founding of Jamestown, America’s first permanent English colony–-13 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in Massachusetts.  A series of cultural encounters by these early Virginians helped shape our nation and the world–its government, language, customs, beliefs, and aspirations all became part of our United States’ heritage today. 

In an unfamiliar climate, with a brackish water supply and lack of food, these conditions led to disease, starvation, and death.  

Captain John Smith, Princess Pocahontas, and John Rolfe

1614 Marriage of Princess Pocahontas and Captain John Rolfe

1614 Marriage of Princess Pocahontas and Captain John Rolfe

Captain John Smith became the colony’s leader in September 1608, but injured in 1609, he returned to England.  Smith’s departure was followed by the “starving time,” a period of warfare between the colonists and Indians and the deaths of many English men and women from starvation and disease. Just when the colonists decided to abandon Jamestown in Spring 1610, settlers with supplies arrived from England, eager to find wealth in Virginia.   The marriage of Princess Pocahontas and Captain John Rolfe marked the beginning of eight years of peace between the colonists and Powhatan Indians. Their marriage in 1614 changed the demographics of Virginia residents. Their only child, Thomas Rolfe, was the first descendant in a line that now spans many generations.  And their only child Thomas Rolfe begins my ancestral line in Virginia.  Around 1650, Thomas Rolfe and Jane Poythress had their only child, Jane. Jane went on to marry Colonel Robert Bolling in 1675–my 8th great grandfather. The couple had one son, John. John Bolling was the third in line of descendants from Rebecca and John Rolfe, and from Bolling came seven children.

Some of my family plan to revisit Jamestown on May 11, 2013, to celebrate the 406th Anniversary of the Settlement.  From its page you can plan your visit, too.  Here’s a quick view of what you’ll find:


All Day: Explore Museum Galleries. An introductory film and expansive gallery exhibits tell the Jamestown story in the context of the Powhatan Indian, English and African cultures that converged in the 1600s.

All Day: Living-History Interpretive Demonstrations.  Visit the re-created Powhatan Indian village, 1607 ships and colonial fort where costumed historical interpreters present hands-on programs and demonstrations, including canoe-making, navigation, and matchlock musket-firing.

10 a.m.: Discovery Sets Sail.  A cannon salute signals the departure of Discovery, one of Jamestown Settlement’s replica ships, from the ships’ pier to demonstrate sailing maneuvers in the James River through mid-afternoon. (Weather permitting.)

10:45 a.m. and 4:15 p.m.: Artillery.  Drill with a 17th-century falcon crew, then step back and cover your ears as the historical interpreters fire the weapon. (Weather permitting.)

11 a.m. and 2:45 p.m.: 17th-Century Music by Barry and Lynn Trott.  Enjoy popular 17th-century music on mandolin, guitar, flute and viola da gamba.

11:45 and 2 p.m.: 17th-Century Music by David Gardner.   Enjoy 17th-century sounds on the fiddle.

12:30 and 3:15 p.m.: 17th-Century Fair.  Music, juggling, and magic culminate in a 1600s-style puppet show.

All Day: “Jamestown’s Legacy to the American Revolution” Special Exhibition examines the lives of Revolutionary War-era descendants of people associated with 17th-century Jamestown, the first capital of colonial Virginia, and features more than 60 objects to be exhibited at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, to replace the Yorktown Victory Center by late 2016. 


All Day: Explore America’s Birthplace. Discover the story of Jamestown by touring the Visitor Center exhibition gallery and the Nathalie P. and Alan M. Voorhees Archaearium Museum, Memorial Church and archaeological site of the 1607 James Fort, and the waysides of New Towne.

Historic Jamestowne Glasshouse8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.: Free Enterprise and Early Industries.  Experience the work of craftsmen at the Glasshouse as they demonstrate glassmaking as practiced during the earliest years of Jamestown.

10 a.m. – 4 p.m.: “The Buried Truth.” Share in the moment of discovery at the original 1607 James Fort. Meet the Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologists and learn about ongoing excavations and the latest discoveries.  Follow my blog to learn an amazing new story of cannibalism in Jamestown around 1610 as reported by archaeologists to the Washington Post Newspaper yesterday.

10 a.m. – 4 p.m.: Protecting the Fort. Meet Captain Edward Brewster at the fort site and learn about his arrival in 1610 and the experiences faced by the settlers at Jamestown.

10 a.m. – 4 p.m.: New Discoveries at the Archaearium.  Join the archaeology curatorial staff to learn about new discoveries from the recent field season. View the New Finds exhibit which includes armor and an ivory sundial.  In addition, meet Anne Burras who will recount her experiences as one of the first women to arrive at Jamestown.

10 a.m., Noon and 2 p.m.: Ranger Walking Tour.  Take a guided Park Ranger tour to gain unique perspectives on the history of Jamestown.

Tours continue on Sunday, May 12,

12:30, 3 and 3:30 p.m.10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.: Archery Demonstrations. See American Indian and English archery demonstrations and learn about the different technologies used in Indian bows and English war bows. 

11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m.: St. Maries City Militia.  Watch this 17th-century re-enactment group as they demonstrate the weapons and battlefield tactics used in protecting themselves in case of attack.

Demonstrations continue on Sunday, May 12

10:30 a.m., Noon and 1:30 p.m.11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m.:  Archaeologist Walking Tour.  Join an archaeologist for an in-depth tour of the 1607 fort site where you will learn about this season’s excavations and new discoveries. Historic Jamestowne Archaearium

All Day: Period Games.  Join in fun and games of the 17th century, including hobby-horse racing and jousting, hoop rolling, whirligigs, stoolball, bowling, ninepins, and quoits.

Jamestown Settlement hobby-horse jousting

9:45 a.m., 12:45 & 4:15 p.m.: “Godspeed to Jamestown.”  A documentary from A+E Networks’ History® chronicles the construction of Jamestown Settlement’s replica Godspeed from 2004 to 2006.

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