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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

5/14: The Beginning of America at the Jamestown Settlement, VA

Today, we drove south on the back roads through the states of Delaware and Maryland to Virginia, hoping to catch some views of the ocean along the way. Though that was not to be as we were always one or two streets away from the water, the seaside towns were attractive. 

Views from the 23-mile long Chesapeake Bay Tunnel Bridge connecting the Delmarva Peninsula to Virginia Beach:

We spent well over an hour at the American Revolutionary War site of Yorktown, site of the war's decisive battle and the rise of George Washington as a political leader. Strangely enough, I took no photos there.

A few photos from the car as we drove next through historic Williamsburg, Virginia as we decided to not stop there because of the limited time we had.

Stopping at nearby Jamestown Settlement held more allure for us when we arrived about 3 pm. Not being a native-born American, I knew little about it beforehand and was interested to learn it was the first 'permanent' or, as some historians say, the first 'sustained' settlement in the US. For a variety of reasons, the English settlers only remained for about ten years before moving to other areas of the state.

The re-created Powhatan Indian Village at Jamestown:

We've all heard of the Indian princess, Pocahontas especially now thanks to the creative geniuses at Disney. I hadn't known that she was the daughter of Powhatan.

We boarded two of the three recreated British ships that arrived in Virginia on May 13th, 1607 (410 years and one day before we were there!) with 144 men and boys aboard to establish America's first 'permanent' settlement at Jamestown. It was interesting to read that the ships sometimes still sail with a volunteer crew to other ports.
It was amazing that only one man died on the 144 day-long journey that must have tested each man to his utmost.

After clambering over the ships, we walked a hundred yards or so to James Fort, the next section of the settlement. The English settlers built the fort in order to protect themselves from raids by the Spanish and local Indians. The fort, representing 1610-1614, had thatched-roof houses, a storehouse and a church inside a triangular palisade. 

Growing tobacco was hugely successful for the colonists. Local Indians gave the colonists their tobacco seeds to plant but it was too bitter so tobacco seeds brought from Trinidad on the stopover in the Caribbean were planted instead. It was that type that became known as the 'golden weed.' 
These were the tiniest barrels I had ever seen. There were no signs but we suspected they stored gunpowder judging by the cannonballs in the same storeroom.

While visiting the ships previously, we had heard a rifle being fired. Now we got to see the matchlock rifle with four moving parts being shot ourselves.
The rifles, which varied in weight from 12-20 pounds each, were used to defend against the Powhatan Indians.

I didn't realize initially that this building was a church as it had no steeple or exterior religious symbols.

The church, representing the Church of England faith, must have played an important role in the lives of the new Americans because it was very large in proportion to the rest of the fort. My English mother was a lifelong member of the Church of England and its Canadian equivalent, the Anglican church in Ottawa.
The plaque on the tall structure, erected on the 350th anniversary of the settlement, said 'At Jamestown began the expansion overseas of the English-speaking peoples.'
When we arrived at the Settlement just two hours before closing, we didn't think we'd have enough time to walk through the galleries that told the story of the colonists' journey to a new land so we left that for the end after seeing the other exhibits.

I found the first-person stories of these three actors representing an Indian whose life was in turmoil after the arrival of the colonists on 'their' land, an African brought to the new world as a slave and the English colonist to be absolutely riveting. Each ended their speech with the words 'I pray' before the next actor spoke. It was profoundly moving.
Before the Virginia colony began producing massive quantities of tobacco, only the wealthy in England could afford to buy it. Tobacco shops in English cities identified themselves by displaying carved wooden figures, a practice that continued for centuries. 
Next: The Wright Brothers and North Carolina's Outer Banks.

Posted from Charleston, SC, on May 16th, 2017.

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