What is: Historic Jamestowne, VA

What was: In 1607, Jamestown is where the English established their first permanent in the New World. For a long time the actual site of Jamestown was believed to have washed into the James River by erosion and tides.

The winter of 1609-10 is known as the “Starving Time” caused by drought and a fear of leaving the fort. The colonists ate anything they could: various animals, leather from their shoes and belts, and sometimes fellow settlers who had already died. By early 1610, 80-90% had died due to starvation and disease.

It was here that Captain John Smith explored the Chesapeake Bay and tributaries making overtures and enemies with various Indian Tribes. In 1612, John Rolfe helped turn the settlement into a profitable venture with the successful planting of tobacco seeds he had brought from elsewhere, making it the long-awaited cash crop for the Virginia Company and underpinning of American economic growth. It was also the site of glass making, considered the first manufacturing business in the New World.

The first representative assembly in English North America convened in the Jamestown church on July 30, 1619. Also, in 1619, the Virginia Company recruited and shipped 100 women to the colony to become wives and start families. It was also the year of the first documented African slaves arriving, adding the human resources needed for labor intensive tobacco crops. In another first, in 1624 Richard Cornish, a ships master, was executed for an alleged sexual attack on one of his male stewards, the first recorded sodomy prosecution in American history.

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