A prepared drawing of the plat of a survey made for William Sherwood at Jamestown in 1680. “Roades” indicates the course of the “Greate Road” that connected the town with the mainland. On the left the isthmus that joined the “Island” to Glasshouse Point is shown.
The man who first made intensive experiments with native plants was Doctor Lawrence Bohun. Arriving at Jamestown in 1610, he is mentioned several times by William Strachey, who [Pg 65]also reached Jamestown in 1610, in The Historie of Travell into Virginia Britania 1612:
After the settlement had become fairly well established the colonists began building a few brick houses. In the picture English artisans are shown erecting a small brick structure at Jamestown about the year 1630. It is quite clear from the documentary records and the archeological remains that the colonists not only made their own bricks—and probably many of their roofing tiles—but that the process, as well as the finished product, followed closely the English tradition.
One seventeenth century building unearthed at Jamestown appears to have been used as a place where beer, ale, brandy, and other alcoholic beverages were made. Nearby were found pieces of lead, which may have been part of a lead cistern which held barley, and inside the building were three brick ovens, which may have been used for drying malt. A handle from a copper kettle was discovered near one of the ovens, and pieces of copper and lead pipes were recovered not far from the building. Historical objects excavated near the site revealed that the structure was used between 1625 and 1660.
Virginia in the seventeenth century was a woodsman's paradise, and there is every reason to believe that most of the furniture used in Jamestown houses was made by colonial cabinetmakers. In the forests grew magnificent specimens of oak, walnut, pine, cypress, cedar, maple, and many other varieties; and although contemporary records are scanty, it is believed that the "James Citty" furniture makers made skillful use of such woods. William Strachey, who reached Jamestown in 1610, wrote that the church furniture was made of cedar and black walnut:
It [the church] is in length threescore foote, in breadth twenty foure, and shall have a chancell in it of cedar, and a communion table of blake walnut, and all the pewes of cedar, ... a pulpet of the same, with a font hewen hollow, like a canoa....
A blacksmith, James Read by name, was a member of the first group of colonists who planted the Jamestown settlement in 1607. Perhaps he helped forge the small chisels which Captain John Smith mentioned (writing of the month of September, 1607):
As yet we have no houses to cover us, our tents were rotten, and our cabbins worse than nought: our best commoditie was iron which we made into little chissels.
Many small chisels have been unearthed at Jamestown, and one may wonder whether any were made during the hard autumn of 1607, when the state of the new colony was at such a low ebb.
Silk was made at Jamestown during the seventeenth century, but the enterprise seldom brought profit to the planters. The majority of the colonists had to struggle to grow crops and produce goods with which they were familiar, and were reluctant to experiment with a commodity which required a special skill that they did not possess. A few settlers, however, made serious efforts to raise silkworms, and at times small quantities of silk were made and shipped to England.
The silk-making venture died a hard death, but the large mulberry trees which still grow in many places in Tidewater Virginia (perhaps scions of seventeenth century ones) are reminders of a day when a few Virginia colonists fed and nurtured silkworms and "wound off" silk thread onto primitive wooden reels.
In the conjectural illustration a woman is drawing silk thread from the cods; the man is winding the thread on a wooden reel.
Timbering was one of the first activities undertaken by the Jamestown colonists and was one of the first English industries in America. The day the settlers arrived they began cutting down trees, for timber was needed to build their fort and town as well as to export to the mother country. Thomas Studley, a member of the first colony, reported that clapboards were made for loading on the ships which were to return to England:
Now falleth every man to worke, the Councell contrive the fort, the rest cut downe trees to make place to pitch their tents; some provide clapboard to relade the ships, some make gardens, some nets, &c.
Captain Newport left Jamestown in June, 1607 and aboard his two ships were clapboards and other wooden products.
Seafood was an important food for the early colonists. At times, especially during the first years of the settlement, it was one of the main foodstuffs.
During the early years of the Jamestown settlement the Virginia Company of London encouraged many agricultural pursuits, including the planting and cultivation of grape vines and the making of wine. The reasons seemed to have been twofold: first, to make money for the Virginia Company, whose stock-holders had invested much capital in the new colony; and secondly, to insure the mother country a steady flow of inexpensive wine—which was impossible as long as continental merchants charged exorbitant prices for wines sent to England. Then, too, if wine could be made successfully in Virginia, the people living in the new settlement would profit accordingly.
Pitch and tar—used by shipbuilders from time immemorial for caulking and covering seams of vessels—were made at Jamestown as early as 1608. After the second supply ships reached Jamestown in October, 1608, one of the settlers wrote:
No sooner were we landed, but the President dispersed [as] many as were able, some for glasse, others for pitch, tarre, and sope ashes.
A month later trials of pitch and tar were carried to England by Captain Christopher Newport, as reported by Thomas Studley, one of the original planters:
Captaine Newport being dispatched with the tryals of pitch, tarre, glass, frankincense and sope ashes, with that clapbord and wainscot [which] could bee provided ... returned for England.
As pitch and tar were made in Virginia throughout the seventeenth century, mainly for exporting to England, it appears that the colonists made some profit from the sale of such products.
Pitch and tar were obtained from pine trees, one of the common trees in the Tidewater Virginia woods. Tar is an oily, dark colored, product obtained in the destructive distillation of pine wood.
Soap-ashes and potash were among the first commodities produced by the English in America. Potash was made from soap-ashes (wood ashes, especially those obtained from burning ash and elm) and was used at Jamestown for making both soap and glass. Soap-ashes were exported to England as early as 1608, and throughout the remainder of the century it appears that both potash and soap-ashes were shipped to the mother country, As early as 1621 soap-ashes were selling for six shillings to eight shillings per hundred weight, whereas potash was bringing between thirty-five shillings and forty shillings per hundred weight
A pewterer who lived thirty miles from Jamestown—Joseph Copeland by name—made the oldest dated piece of American pewter which has been found. In the 1930's, National Park Service archeologists, working at Jamestown, recovered the significant specimen—an incomplete pewter spoon which is a variant of the trifid or split-end type common during the 1650-1690 period.
In order to build brick houses lime was needed by the bricklayers and plasterers for making plaster and mortar. Contemporary records reveal that "lymeburners" emigrated to Jamestown as early as 1610. As four lime kilns were found during archeological excavations, it is evident that the lime used by the Jamestown builders was made on the historic island. In the kilns oyster shells from the James River were burned and converted into lime by the limeburners.
Glass was made at Jamestown in 1608-1609, and again in 1621-1624, its manufacture being one of the first English industries in the New World.
Among the colonists who reached Jamestown in October, 1608, were "eight Dutchmen and Poles," some of whom were glassmakers. When Captain Christopher Newport sailed for England a few weeks later he carried with him "tryals of pitch, tarre, glasse, frankincense, sope ashes; with that clapboard and waynscot that could be provided." It is not known what kinds of glass were taken to England by Newport.
Making Brick At Jamestown About 1650
Shortly after the Jamestown colony was planted the English adventurers explored the rivers and bays in the vicinity of the settlement, visited many Indian villages, and traded colorful articles to the natives in exchange for foods, furs, and other commodities.
The first exploring party left Jamestown a week after the establishment of the colony. Twenty-four of the settlers sailed up the James River as far as the falls, a distance of about ninety miles. At Arahatteak (near present-day Richmond) the explorers gave the Indians "penny knyves, sheeres, belles, beades, glass toyes &c ..." for mulberries, wheat, beans, tobacco, and a "crowne which was of deares hayre, dyed redd." Before leaving the village Captain Newport presented the Indian chief with a hatchet and a red waistcoat.
The day the colonists landed at Jamestown (May 14 1607) they began building a triangular-shaped fort ("a pallizado of planckes and strong posts, foure foote deepe in the ground, of yong oakes, walnuts, &."), "A setled streete of houses," a church, a guardhouse, and a storehouse.
n 1620-21 the Jamestown colonists established an iron furnace at Falling Creek—about eighty miles upriver from Jamestown. It was the first ironworks built in America by Englishmen, and the furnace was the first one (of which there is definite record) in which iron was smelted. The contemporary records also indicate that a few tools were made in the forge shop. The enterprise was short-lived, however, for in 1622 the Indians massacred the ironworkers and their families and destroyed the furnace. Although never rebuilt, its importance cannot be overstressed, for the Falling Creek site can rightfully claim the honor of being the birthplace of the American iron industry.
The Jamestown cooper was a busy craftsman. Many barrels, hogsheads, and casks were needed in the colony, and large quantities of barrel staves were made for shipping to England. (Painting by Sidney E. King.)
On April 27 1607, the day after the Jamestown colonists landed at Cape Henry, some of the settlers began to build or assemble a small boat. George Percy, one of the original colonists, reported that it was completed and launched on April 28.
It appears, therefore, that 350 years ago—on the sandy beach near Cape Henry—the Jamestown bound colonists made their first important commodity by hand in the New World.
Contemporary records reveal that many small boats were built at Jamestown from the earliest years of the settlement. They afforded the best means of transportation through the uncharted wilderness, and were used for fishing, trade, and exploration.
The conjectural illustration shows colonists building a small boat at Jamestown Island—near Back River—about 1650.
The Central Government of the United States was at first a very feeble body, a congress of representatives of the thirteen governments, held together by certain Articles of Confederation. This Congress was little more than a conference of sovereign representatives; it had no control, for instance, over the foreign trade of each state, it could not coin money nor levy taxes by its own authority. When John Adams, the first minister from the United States to England, went to discuss a commercial treaty with the British foreign secretary, he was met by a request for thirteen representatives, one from each of the states concerned. He had to confess his inadequacy to make binding arrangements.
The United States in 1790
Making lime from oyster shells in a kiln, about 1625. (Conjectural sketch by Sidney E. King.)
Blowing glass at Jamestown in 1608. (Conjectural sketch by Sidney E. King.)
Making “trialls” Of iron. Evidences of an earth oven or small furnace were discovered at Jamestown during archeological explorations. Small amounts of iron may have been smelted in the furnace during the early years of the settlement. (Conjectural sketch by Sidney E. King.)
In 1955 a pottery kiln site was discovered at Jamestown. Nearby were found many utilitarian earthenware vessels of the 1625-40 period—definite evidence that pottery was made in Virginia over 300 years ago. Although made for everyday use, many of the pieces unearthed are symmetrical and not entirely lacking in beauty. The unknown Jamestown potters were artisans, trained in the mysteries of an ancient craft, who first transplanted their skills to the Virginia wilderness.
For everyday use the Jamestown settlers wore hardwearing clothes made of homespun cloth. (conjectural sketch by Sidney e. King.)
“Harvesting” Ice, about 1650. Archeological excavations revealed that icehouses were built on the historic island over 300 years ago. (painting by Sidney e. King
Drawing of Jamestown
A family enjoying a meal, about 1650. Many of the eating and drinking vessels portrayed, together with much of the tableware, are types which have been excavated. (conjectural sketch by Sidney e. King.)
Interior of Jamestown house
The interior of a small Jamestown house, about 1650. Although the painting is conjectural, many items shown - pottery, glassware, fireplace tools and kitchen accessories were unearthed on this historic island.
Firing a demiculverine from a bastion at “James Fort.” (Conjectural sketch by Sidney E. King.)
Enjoying a smoke in a tavern, about 1625. (Conjectural sketch by Sidney E. King.)
The first colonists were quite familiar with the use of tobacco, and it is believed that many of them smoked clay pipes. Evidently there was some demand for tobacco pipes by the early planters as one of the men, Robert Cotten, who reached Jamestown in January 1608, was a tobacco pipemaker.
In 1611-12 John Rolfe had experimented with tobacco plants in Virginia (he used Virginia plants as well as varieties from the West Indies and South America), and was successful in developing a sweet-scented leaf. It became popular overnight, and for many years was the staple crop of the infant colony. There was a prompt demand for the new leaf in England, and its introduction there was an important factor in popularizing the use of clay pipes. After 1620 the manufacture of white clay pipes in England increased by leaps and bounds.
Cultivating a small garden in Virginia.
(Conjectural sketch by Sidney E. King.)
Building a wharf, about 1650. (Conjectural sketch by Sidney E. King.)
Piers and Wharfs.—In order to accommodate such large sailing vessels, piers and wharfs had to be built at Jamestown. A 1,300-pound iron piledriver was found in the basement of a 17th-century building in 1955. It was probably used three centuries ago for driving piles in the James River during construction of a small wharf.
Brewing beer at Jamestown. (Conjectural sketch by Sidney E. King.)
Baking bread in an outdoor baking oven about 1650. (Conjectural sketch by Sidney E. King.)
A wharf scene—arrival of a ship from the mother country. (Conjectural sketch by Sidney E. King.)
During the 17th century, active trade was carried on between the Virginia colony and the mother country. Local commodities of timber, wood products, soap ashes, iron ore, tobacco, pitch, tar, furs, minerals, salt, sassafras, and other New World raw materials were shipped to England. In exchange, English merchants sold to the colonists, tools, farm implements, seeds, stock and poultry, furniture and household accessories, clothing, weapons, hardware, kitchen utensils, pottery, metalware, glassware, and certain foods and drinks.
There is also good evidence that some trade was carried on with Holland, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Mexico, and the West Indies. Many artifacts unearthed (especially pottery) were made in the countries mentioned. It is believed that certain commodities were acquired by direct trade with the country where made, in spite of the strict laws by which the Colonial Powers sought to monopolize the colonial trade for the benefit of the mother country.
Making lime from oyster shells in a kiln, about 1625. (Conjectural sketch by Sidney E. King.)
A physician bleeding a patient. (Conjectural sketch by Sidney E. King.)
One of the members of the first colony was a surgeon, William Wilkinson by name. As the colony grew, other surgeons, physicians, and apothecaries, emigrated to Virginia. Their lot was not easy, for it appears that they were seldom idle in an island community having more than its share of “cruell diseases, Swellings, Flixes, Burning Fevers, warres and meere famine.”
During archeological explorations, drug jars, ointment pots, bleeding bowls, mortars and pestles, small bottles and vials, and parts of surgical instruments were recovered. These, undoubtedly, were used countless times at Jamestown by unknown “chirurgions,” doctors of “physickes,” and apothecaries—men who tried to keep the colonists well with their limited medical equipment and scant supply of drugs.
Spinning thread or yarn and weaving cloth were endless chores for the women living in the small wilderness settlemenT. (Conjectural sketch by Sidney E. King.)
Settlers trading with the indians—bartering casting counters and other trade goods for furs. (Conjectural sketch by Sidney E. King.)
One reason why the colonists selected a site for Jamestown some miles up the James River was to develop the Indian trade over an extensive area. During the early years of the colony, trade with the natives was encouraged. It is clear from the early records that the settlers bartered such items as beads, cloth, penny knives, shears, bells, glass toys, whistles, hatchets, pots and pans, brass casting counters, and similar objects in exchange for Indian corn (and other vegetables), fish, game, fruits and berries, and furs.
Playing a Jew’s harp—enjoying a little music in the Virginia wilderness. (Conjectural sketch by Sidney E. King.)
A large assortment of iron and brass Jew’s harps (also known as Jew’s trumps) have been found. This small instrument is lyre-shaped, and when placed between the teeth gives tones from a bent metal tongue when struck by the finger. Modulation of tone is produced by changing the size and shape of the mouth cavity.
Archeological explorations revealed that the colonists enjoyed archery. The iron lever shown, known as a “goat’s foot,” Was used for setting the string of a light hunting crossbow. It was found 4 miles from Jamestown. Illustration showing the use of a “goat’s foot” From Weapons, A Pictorial History by Edwin Tunis.
Jamestown soldiers carrying polearms (a halberd and a bill). (conjectural sketch by Sidney E. King.)
A Jamestown sentry on duty shouldering his heavy matchlock musket. (Conjectural sketch by Sidney E. King.)
The early Jamestown settlers were advised to equip themselves with “one armour compleat, light.” (Conjectural sketch by Sidney E. King.)
Harvesting tobacco at Jamestown, about 1650. (Painting by Sidney E. King.)
Fishing provided food as well as recreation for the colonists. (Conjectural sketch by Sidney E. King.)
When the first settlers planted their small colony at Jamestown, the tidewater rivers and bays and the Atlantic Ocean bordering the Virginia coast teemed with many kinds of fish and shellfish which were both edible and palatable. Varieties which the colonists soon learned to eat included sheepshead, shad, sturgeon, herring, sole, white salmon, bass, flounder, pike, bream, perch, rock, and drum, as well as oysters, crabs, and mussels. Seafood was an important source of food for the colonists, and at times, especially during the early years of the settlement, it was the main source.
Those in England who planned to go to Virginia were always advised to provide themselves (among other items) with nets, fishhooks, and lines.
During archeological explorations, fishhooks, lead net weights, fish-gigs, and small anchors were uncovered. These are reminders of a day when fish and shellfish were abundant in every tidewater Virginia creek, river, and bay.
Pilgrims Returning from Church
As military leader Miles Standish at once became conspicuous in the life of the colony. He was born in Lancashire, England, in 1584, of a noble family, but was in some way deprived of his estates. Going to the Continent he became a valiant and daring soldier in the Netherlands. Feeling a deep interest in the cause of the Pilgrims, he joined them when they sailed for America in the Mayflower, and made their fortunes his own.
Small of stature, quick-witted, hot-tempered, and ready to brave any danger, this stout-hearted man was a fitting leader for the little Pilgrim army of something like a score of men who were obliged to defend themselves and their families against wild beasts and unfriendly Indians
Like Miles Standish, some of the soldiers had swords at their sides, and all carried either flintlock or matchlock muskets so big and heavy that, before they could fire them off, they had to rest them upon supports stuck into the ground for the purpose.
They embarked in the Speedwell, at Delft Haven, a port twelve miles from Leyden, and sailed for Southampton, on the south coast of England. Here they joined some friends who had made ready another vessel, the now historic Mayflower. But a brief delay was occasioned by lack of money. In order to secure the necessary amount, about four hundred dollars, it was necessary to sell some of their provisions, including much of the butter. Funds being secured, the two vessels at last put to sea, but twice returned on account of a leak in the Speedwell. Finally, deeming that vessel unseaworthy, one hundred and two Pilgrims, including men, women, children, and servants, took passage in the Mayflower, sailing from Plymouth, September 16, 1620.
Roger Williams's Meeting-House
Roger Williams was a man of pure and noble soul. He did not seem to bear any grudge against the people of Massachusetts. For when, in 1637, the Pequots tried to get the Narragansett Indians to join them in a general uprising against the whites, and especially against those living in Massachusetts, he did all he could to frustrate their plans. At this time he set out one stormy day in his canoe to visit Canonicus, chief of the Narragansetts, and succeeded, at the risk of his life, in preventing the union of the two tribes against the whites.
Near the meeting-house stood the block-house. This was a rude, strongly built structure, where the people of the village could take refuge in case of attack from Indians.
A Puritan Fireplace
Brewster's and Standish's Swords
The settlers discovered that great profits resulted from raising tobacco. The soil and climate of Virginia were especially favorable to its growth, and more money could be made in this way than in any other. But since tobacco quickly exhausted the soil, much new land was needed to take the place of the old, and large plantations were necessary. Every planter tried to select a plantation on one of the numerous rivers of Virginia, so that he could easily take his tobacco down to the wharf, whence a vessel would carry it to Europe.
All must have perished but for the bravery and strength of one man, John Smith, who for several years kept the struggling colony alive by his personal authority and wise treatment of the Indians. Born in [Pg 46]England in 1579, he was at the time of the settlement of Jamestown twenty-eight years old. While but a boy he was left an orphan, and was early apprenticed to a trade; but he had such a longing for adventure that he soon ran away and went to the Continent to seek his fortun
When Bacon got control of Jamestown, then a mere village of some sixteen to eighteen houses, he burned it to prevent its falling into Berkeley's hands. The people's leader had been successful, and had risked his life and his fortune for the common rights. But the strain of the past four or five months in the malarial swamps broke down his health, and after a short illness, he died of fever at the home of a friend, in October, 1676.
Ruins of Jamestown
Sir Walter Raleigh
by a simple act of courtesy he won the admiration of the powerful queen Elizabeth. It happened in this way. On one occasion, when with her attendants she was about to cross a muddy road, Raleigh stood looking on. Noticing that the queen hesitated for an instant, he took from his shoulder his beautiful velvet cloak and gallantly spread it in her pathway. The queen, greatly pleased with this delicate attention, took Raleigh into her Court and in time bestowed upon him much honor.
Routes Traversed by De Soto and De Leon
While Cortez and Pizarro had been conquering Mexico and Peru, other Spaniards had been seeking their fortune in Florida. Thus far these men had brought back no gold and silver, but their faith in the mines of the interior was so great that De Soto wished to conquer and explore the country. Having already won great influence by his achievements, he secured the favor of the king, who made him governor of the island of Cuba, and appointed him leader of an expedition to conquer and occupy Florida. He was to take men enough with him to build forts and plant a colony, so as to hold the country for Spain.
The First Voyage of Columbus
On Christmas morning (December 25, 1492), while it was still dark, as he was cruising along the shores of[Pg 16] Hayti (or Hispaniola), the Santa Maria went aground on a sand-bar, where the waves soon knocked her to pieces. As the Pinta had already deserted, there now remained but one ship, the Niña. This little vessel was too small to accommodate all the men, and forty of the number, wishing to stay where they were, decided to build a fort out of the timbers of the wrecked vessel and put her guns in the fort for their defence. These men had provisions for a year, and constituted the first Spanish colony in the New World.
The three caravels that were at length got ready for the perilous expedition westward in search of the Indies were not larger than many of the fishing-boats of to-day. The largest of the three—the flagship of Columbus—was called the Santa Maria. The other two were the Pinta and the Niña ("Baby"). The Santa Maria alone had a deck covering the entire hold of the vessel.
Columbus was a man of commanding presence. He was large, tall, and dignified in bearing, with a ruddy complexion and piercing blue-gray eyes. By the time he was thirty his hair had become white, and fell in[Pg 4] wavy locks about his shoulders. Although his life of hardship and poverty compelled him to be plain and simple in food and dress, he always had the air of a gentleman, and his manners were pleasing and courteous. But he had a strong will, which overcame difficulties that would have overwhelmed most men.