Wednesday, February 18, 2009


My visit to Jamestown, Virginia will be one that I won’t forget. I started my day heading towards Jamestown from Richmond, VA. I left the hotel about 10am and got to Jamestown at 11am. This was my first drive south of Richmond and I was struck with the beautiful scenery all around. Even though all the leaves were off of the trees, it was still a gorgeous drive. The weather was clear, but very windy.

I first stopped at the Jamestown Settlement. Here they have a large exhibit hall to walk through and interact with the displays. A wealth of information on the Powhatan Indians that the Jamestown settlers came across. They had beautiful displays and information about what it was like living here in 1607, such hardships.

Most of the historical and museums I’ve been touring while here in Richmond are during the off season. Jamestown Settlement is a living museum where they have people dressed in character and work and do things that the early settlers did. They don’t talk in today’s time and only can answer questions pertaining to those early times. However, because it is the off season, none of that was going on. That was a little bit of a letdown, but the good side was they still had tour guides and I got them all to myself.

They had a re-created Powhatan Indian village which was interesting. The most interesting pieces for me were how they made fish nets, canoes and cleaned the fur to make leather. You can see from the picture how the fish nets were made. The canoes were made by using rocks, seashells, tree branches and burning out the center of cut logs. They, of course, had no tools so they used the resources from the land. The furs were strung up like the picture shows and dried. Once dried then the women would then take seashells to scrap the fur off and eventually all that was left was the hide. I can’t remember how long they said it would take them, but it was a long time.

The next stop was the replicas of the three ships that came to Jamestown. Those were the Susan Constant, Discovery and Godspeed. Out of the three they had on the Susan Constant and Discovery. The Godspeed was out for repair as these are actual functional ships. The Susan Constant, which was the largest of the three, was a cargo ship. It only carried 54 or 64 (I don’t remember) actual settlers and they were all men. The rest were crewmen and the captain’s crew. The quarters were so very tight that it was unbelievable that the settlers suffered 3 months on this ship. For some reason, I have no pictures of the inside. I have video, but not still pictures. The only bed (if you want to call them that) was in the Captains quarters. Men must have been small then, because I couldn’t even fit on them length wise and I’m 5’2.

The next stop at this museum was a re-creation of the Jamestown Fort. Once I went to the actual fort, this was nothing like it. There really isn’t anything to report on this.

After I was done with Jamestown Settlement, I drove next door to Historic Jamestown. This is where the actual fort existed and where the current archaeology dig is in progress and has been done. This stop in my visits around Richmond is my favorite. Actually after I visited this site, I would have never bothered with Jamestown Settlement which was next door.

To give you a picture, the fort is surrounded on the south and east by the James River. On the north it is surrounded by tar and pitch swamps. The land stretching towards the west is bordered by the James River and the tar and pitch swamps.

The pictures show bricks; these are obviously not from 1607. After the sites were excavated they were recovered with a foot of earth to protect the site. The bricks were placed to outline the site and buildings that were found. The original buildings that were built in 1607 were made out of “mud and stud” which consisted of saplings filled in with a mud and straw mixture. They had thatched roofs, dirt floors and open windows, but wooden shutters for protection.

For several years after landing in Jamestown the settlers were not very adventuresome and you immediately get that picture when you step outside the fort and see a small trail that they called the Greate Road. Journal entries tell that they found this path and thought it to be a road. In actuality it was a path used by the Powhatan Indians to their fishing grounds.

The fort sits immediately off of the James River. This really surprised me and struck me at how they were so exposed to the elements and the forces of this large river. I was there on a windy day and it was really rocking. They couldn’t have been in a worse location. They had no good water supply and the James River feed from the Chesapeake and is salt water. When the settlers arrived at Jamestown there hope was to trade with the Indians for food, however, that year there was a large drought and food sources were not as plentiful as first thought.

1609-1610 was devastating times for the colonists as the Indians attacked the fort and imprisoned the colonists inside the fort with contaminated water and low food reserved. At the end of this period only 60 settlers survived.

It wasn’t until around 1623 where the settlers expanded outside the fort. I was so amazed at the colonist’s tenacity and commitment to this new land. While I was there I felt a sense of love that these people had, a sense of their loyalty to sacrifice their lives to start a new great nation that we are today. I was humbled by the sacredness of this site as I seemed to be able to hear the silent whispers of days gone by.

As I stood in silence outside the fort and looked at it, I was overcome with emotion of the impact this visit made in my soul. I was able to have clarity of an early settlement of strong people who preserved in insurmountable odds. They lived in deplorable conditions, had very little resources and many, many people lost their lives in the quest of a new land. Jamestown gave me a glimpse of human suffering not known to many people in our times. It gave me a glimpse of hard working people willing to risk it all for their King. Remember they did not come here for religious freedom, that was many years later by different colonists.

Jamestown means different things to different people. Jamestown is the birthplace of this great nation, however it’s development was the direct impact of the Virginian Indians living here at that time. Jamestown was also the incubator for the start of slavery as they needed labor to harvest there tobacco.

For me, Jamestown represents love, hard work and sacrifice beyond one’s imagination. All my trials and challenges seemed to be somewhat insignificant when I stepped onto the sacred land of Jamestown.

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