Jamestown Settlement was colonized by English settlers on May 14, 1607, becoming the first permanent American settlement. Jamestown, Virginia was settled 13 years prior to Massachusetts, Plymouth Plantation.
1. Four Ships Set Sail
In December of 1606, Admiral Christopher Newport, in charge of the four ships the Susan Constant, Sarah, Godspeed and Discovery set sail from London with 104 men and boys aboard. Their destination was Virginia. On May 13, 1607, the ships reached Virginia and named their settlement Jamestown, in honor of King James I of England.
2. Attacked by Native Americans
The colonists built Fort James within one month of arriving in Virginia. When the fort was finished, Captain John Smith led an expedition along the Chickahominy River to look for food and other resources the colonists could use. John Smith and his expedition were attacked by Native Americans. They were all killed except Captain Smith who was taken prisoner and brought to the chief, Powhatan. Pocahontas, the chief’s daughter helped John Smith escape and it took him a year to make it back to Jamestown.
3. Many Deaths
When Captain John Smith arrived back in Jamestown after his capture by Native Americans, he found that only 38 settlers had survived. The colonists were devastated by famine, disease and Native American attacks.
4. John Smith Sentenced to Hang
On his return to the settlement, the surviving colonists blame Smith for the deaths of the settlers. They sentence him to death by hanging. In the meantime, the first ship of supplies arrived in Jamestown with Christopher Newport and more settlers. Newport stopped the execution of John Smith.
5. Trade with Powhatan
John Smith and Christopher Newport travel up the river to see Powhatan, hoping to begin trade. They established a trading system of beads for food and supplies. They also exchange sons resulting in Thomas Savage living with the Native American tribe and Namontack lived with the settlers.
6. More Settlers Arrive
In September of 1608, two more ships arrived in Jamestown with supplies and 70 more settlers. The ships brought Powhatan an Elizabethan bed as a gift and a barge for exploring the waterways. The first two women also arrived on the ships, Mrs. Thomas Forrest and Anne Burras. One month later, the first wedding took place in Jamestown between Anne Burras and John Laydon.
7. Settlement Expansion
King James I authorized the Virginia Company to send nine more ships, carrying supplies and 500 settlers to Jamestown in May of 1609. One of the ships flounders during a hurricane and one ship, the Sea Venture was thrown off course by the storm, landing four days later in Bermuda. Seven of the original ships arrived in Jamestown in August with almost 300 colonists.
8. Starving Time
The settlement lost the leadership of John Smith when he was wounded by an explosion and had to return to England. President Ratcliffe attempted to keep up friendly relations with Powhatan and tried to trade for food and supplies. The tribe’s women tortured and killed Ratcliffe in September. Throughout the winter of 1610, the colonists died from starvation, cold and attacks by the Powhatans, leaving on 60 out of almost 600 settlers alive.
9. Help Arrives
On May 23, 1610, Thomas Gates, William Strachey and George Somers arrived in Jamestown with 100 new colonists aboard the Deliverance and Patience. A new governor, Lord De La Warr, arrived in Jamestown in June with more supplies and hope for survival. During this time, John Rolfe plants the first crop of tobacco in the Jamestown Settlement.
Captain Argall captured Pocahontas, bringing her to Jamestown as a prisoner. While being held as a hostage at Jamestown, John Rolfe and Pocahontas fall in love and they get married. After the marriage, fighting with the Powhatan tribe ceased. The settlers were able to expand their tobacco growing and export the good to England.
Learn more with these Jamestown Settlement websites.