In 1606, King James l of England gave permission, called a charter, to a company who wanted to go to North America and found a new colony. It was called the Virginia Company. They wanted to find gold and get rich fast. 104 men in three ships left England in December, 1606. These ships were called the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery. Captain Christopher Newport led the expedition. Four months later, on April 26, 1607, they landed in Virginia.
Their first task was to choose exactly where to build a settlement. They decided on an island because it would be easy to defend, being surrounded by water on 4 sides. They named the settlement Jamestown.
Unfortunately, the spot they chose was extremely hot in summer and filled with mosquitoes. In winter it was bitterly cold because there was no natural protection from cold wind. During the first year, half of the men died from lack of food or disease. Some were killed by the local Native American population. The survivors had help from the local Powhatan tribe and from a supply ship which came in January, 1608.
The area around Jamestown was inhabited by 144,000 Algonquian-speaking Indians. At first, relations with the local Native Americans weren't good. After John Smith became the leader in 1608, they improved. He came to know the Powhatan tribe. Pocahontas, the daughter of the chief, helped to save his life. John Smith was a seaman and a soldier. Some of the settlers didn't like him because he was too tough. He said that if a settler didn't work, he didn't eat. He asked the Virginia Company to send over skilled craftsmen to help them build and make things. However, due to an injury, he had to go back to England in October, 1609. More colonists arrived from England.
During the winter of 1609-1610, all but 60 of the 500 surviving settlers died. This was called the 'starving time.' The survivors wanted to look for a new location, but a new group of colonists with supplies arrived in the spring of 1610, so they stayed on.
For a few years, the colony barely made it, but in 1613, John Rolfe gave them an idea to grow tobacco to send back and sell to England. Their financial condition began to get better. Later, John Rolfe married Pocahontas and took her to England to visit. They had one son. She died from illness before they could return to Jamestown.
Jamestown became the capital of the colony of Virginia. Settlers moved out of Jamestown onto land inhabited by the Algonquian Indians. Jamestown remained the capital until 1698. On July 30, 1619, the first elected body in the colonies, the House of Burgesses, met in Jamestown.
In 1619 also, the first boatload of black indentured servants arrived in the Virginia colony. They were to work the land for a certain number of years and give money to their sponsors. After their time of being indentured, they would own the land. However, by the mid-1600's, African slaves were imported to do all of the work of growing tobacco. Tobacco became their 'cash crop.' It provided a steady and good income for the settlers.
In 1624, the king dissolved the Virginia Company, and Virginia became a colony of the King. In 1699, the capital of Virginia moved to Williamsburg. By the mid 1700's Jamestown was no longer inhabited.
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