Skip to comments.Jamestown -- the birth of a nation 400 years ago
Posted on 05/01/2007 3:28:31 AM PDT by Thinkin' Gal
The replica Jamestown ships, The Susan Constant, center, Godspeed, right, and Discovery ply the waters of Hampton Roads as they make their way to Virginia Beach to participate in the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, Va., Tuesday, April 24, 2007. The centerpiece of the 18-month commemoration of the 400th anniversary of America's first permanent English settlement is almost here after a decade of planning. About two-thirds of the tickets for the 'America's Anniversary Weekend' extravaganza May 11-13 remain available; 31,587 had been sold as of April 19. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
by Jocelyne Zablit
Sun Apr 29, 6:11 PM ET
JAMESTOWN, United States (AFP) - When 104 men and boys sailed across the Atlantic 400 years ago to become the first permanent English settlers in the New World, little did they know that their odyssey would give birth to history's biggest superpower.
The small group of high-born, but ill-prepared colonists who set up camp along the James River on May 14, 1607 on a swampy, mosquito-infested swath of land in Jamestown, were seeking gold and a water route to the Orient.
Instead they found famine, disease, drought and hostile natives whose fate would forever be altered by the Jamestown settlement, the 400th anniversary of which is being celebrated this year.
"The settlement of Jamestown is a tremendous legacy," Jeanne Zeidler, executive director of "Jamestown 2007," the committee organizing the celebrations, told AFP. "This is the true story of America.
"Jamestown is the story of some very good people and some people who weren't always so good and ... people who learned to live together and sometimes fought each other."
The Jamestown colony, located in the eastern state of Virginia and generally upstaged in the nation's memory by the Mayflower pilgrims who arrived to Plymouth, Massachusetts, 13 years later, also laid the groundwork for America's principles of representative democracy and free enterprise.
The highlight of the quadricentennial celebrations will be a visit by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II on May 3 and 4, followed by three days of festivities on May 11-13 that will include stage productions, a ceremonial sailing by replicas of the three ships that transported the settlers and a concert by a 1,607-member choir and an orchestra of 400 musicians.
The queen, who will be accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, also attended the 350th anniversary events in 1957 which marked her first visit to the United States as a monarch.
US President George W. Bush is also due to attend the ceremonies which have been 10 years in the planning.
But amid all the pomp and circumstance surrounding a date that marks the birth of a nation, some, especially Native Americans and blacks, are questioning whether there is much to celebrate.
For Native Americans, 1607 marks the beginning of their downfall and for African-Americans, Jamestown symbolizes the beginning of slavery in America with the arrival of the first African slaves in 1619.
"1607 marks the beginning of the English taking our land away from us," said Chief Bill Miles, who heads the Pamunkey Indian tribe in Virginia, which existed when the Jamestown settlers arrived and whose members have refused to take part in the 400th anniversary festivities.
"We are certainly proud to be Americans ... but we don't feel like it's something to celebrate or commemorate the fact that the settlers basically took our land away from us," Miles told AFP.
Of the estimated 15,000 American Indians who lived in the area near the English settlement in 1607, all but about 1,500 died within a century, most from disease or in battle with the settlers.
"When I ride though these roads here I see that only one or two percent of the people are Indians and there are all these other people," said Chief Ken Adams, who head the Upper Mattaponi tribe. "Four hundred years ago there was only us."
No Native American from the time of the English colonists is better known than Pocahontas, whose dealings with the settlers has formed the basis of many legends and a factually incorrect Walt Disney movie.
In a bid to avoid controversy and show consideration, organizers of the anniversary have toned down their wording to describe the event as a "commemoration" instead of a "celebration" and are going out of their way to include blacks and Indians in the festivities.
"We now tell the story of Jamestown as the place where the people of three cultures came together, not only the English," said Mike Litterst, spokesman for the Colonial National Historical Park.
"Certainly those three cultures didn't join hands and come together to join a society.
"But it is the contribution of all three that helped Jamestown survive and ultimately created the character of today's America."
I think the descendants of the Powhatan Indians might want to express regrets over the massacre of 1622.
Virginia, by the way, had the beginnings of representative government in 1619--the year before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock.
My husband is the history/geography expert in this household...I’m still navigating all the nooks and crannies here on the Shore.....so I’m not exactly sure exactly where his itinerary plans to take us.
Monticello is high on my lists of places to see. I’m actually growing heirloom peppers that Jefferson grew there, that of course is not the only reason, but just kind of a neat tidbit of information I found in a seed catalog and so decided to get them.
We love road trip excurions, but after living 20 years in Delaware the shear size of the Commonwealth is daunting to me. Delaware has a great deal of history itself, but unlike Virginia the size was conducive to day trips. Because of our location, most places we all want to see here can’t be done that way, so it makes it a bit more complicated. But we’re working on it :)
"1607 marks the beginning of the English taking our land away from us," said Chief Bill Miles, who heads the Pamunkey Indian tribe in Virginia..."
"Our land", Chief? I thought the natives at the time didn't own any land. How could they have? They didn't even know what land ownership was until the concept was introduced by the Europeans, and even then they had difficulty understanding it.
Perfect trip for a 10 yr old. BBQ at the Lightfoot exit off I-64, a little west of Williamsburg. Enjoy!!!
I sure will!
The last time we were there for dinner we never got beyond Hooters.......it was a convenient location ofr the out of town Freepers to get to to meet the local Freeper, and then we just got comfy and decided against venturing elsewhere!!!!
Like many, I procrastinated in studying my family tree my whole life, until recently. In the course of my studies, I was shocked to learn how many of my forebears were tied to the earliest settlement of Tidewater Virginia, including those who were on these very ships. The discovery has deepened my appreciation for how blessed I am to live in this great country.
I am not familiar with the road numbers, so thank you for the info. Your post describes my perfect idea of a history viewing roadtrip excursion.
I was born and raised in NYC, but never ventured upstate to Albany. Our daughter was born in Dover, Delaware and so is familiar with the history of that city and state. So seeing Richmond is a must do on my list, and not just for her but for me, particularly now that the renovations to the capitol are done and it once again open to the public.
One of my ancestors is believed to have been among the first in Jamestown, but he didn’t stay. He went back to England (after getting shipwrecked) & returned to America on the Mayflower.
If the English settlers hadn't arrived, I wonder what would be the story to remember on this soil today.
Thanks for the nice story! I am enjoying reading the comments here. Too bad the author had to peddle the obligatory PC evil-white-man schlock.
It would have remained a malaria-infested swamp until the Jews arrived to solve the problems only to be subsequently blamed for all of the continents ills, real or imagined.
Yeah, no kiddin’. It’s nuts.
Actually, in my family, throughout many different lines, there is a tradition that we are descended from Capt. John Smith and Pocahontas. It is said that they had two children, Peregrin and Mary. Supposedly Peregrin is our forebear.
While there are no official records to back it up, I don’t totally discount it, based on the recorded events and the known history of that time.
Very interesting stuff! :-)
If you know where you come from, you understand better where and who you are - which makes it easier to discern where you’re going.
I also found others who were among the earliest in Jamestown...including one of its earliest preachers. The family tree has lots of roots in the Tidewater.
Another branch were Quakers who came into PA in the earliest days with William Penn.
They were among the first families that went into KY with Daniel Boone. The first into Missouri right after the Louisiana Purchase. The first into Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado and CA. One of my great-great-great grandfathers was Joel Estes, who discovered what is now Estes Park, CO. It is said that his wife Patsy swept the cabin with eagle’s wings. :-)
One more thing: My grandmother’s great-uncle was a man named Jesse Hiatt, one of the early settlers of Madison Co., IA. He planted a big apple orchard there. In between the rows a wild apple tree sprung up. He cut it down, but the next year it grew back. So, he cut it down again. The next year, it grew again, so he famously said, “If thee must grow, thee may.” So, he let it grow and tended it for ten years before it bore a single crop. But, when it did, it was the best apple they had ever tasted. He named it the “Hawkeye.” He took it to a fair, where a rep for a MO nursery company tasted one of these delicious apples. He was crazy about it! But Jesse had already gone home, and there was no way to contact him. So, they waited until the next year, praying he would come back. And, sure enough, he did. So, they bought the rights to the Hawkeye apple from him, which gave him a modest amount of money to fix up his house and pay some bills. The punchline? They changed the name of the Hawkeye to “Delicious,” and the rest is history! :-)