The Jamestown Colony
Founded in 1607, the Jamestown colony was the first of its kind. Filled with rich European dudes who didn't know how to survive on their own and certainly didn't know how to grow things in a swamp, Jamestown was saved by the discovery of that tobacco took to the Virginia land like...uh, a potential carcinogen takes to your lungs? Also, there was Pocahontas.
|U.S. History||Colonial America: 1600-1754|
You may not know about the Jamestown Colony.
It was the first settlement in what would become the original thirteen colonies.
It was formed by The Virginia Company, a company that… well, formed colonies.
The colony forming market has dried up today but, trust us, in 1607 it was booming.
Colony.com was the top domain back then on Ye Ol’ Google.
One of the more famous members of the original colony was Captain John Smith…
who was almost hanged for mutiny before becoming a Captain.
The settlers found a river that they named the James River – shocker -
and sailed it until they found a suitable place for a town…
which they named Jamestown. Both the town and the river were named in honor of King James.
The original colonists were major suckups.
Everyone was happy that the Virginia Indians didn’t occupy the area already.
But they soon found out why. The area was swampy…
Mosquito infested… Disease ridden…
And had no game animals. Plus, many of the early settlers were “gentlemen”.
They were not well-equipped for country living. “Gentleman” is another word for lazy slob
who inherited rather than earned his money. Most of the early settlers died of disease and starvation.
Two weeks after landing, the Virginia Indians decided to attack anyway.
This attack led to the settlers building a fort.
They named it: a) Bob
b) Suzy’s Fort c) Fort Worthless
d) Can you guess what they named it?
As if things didn’t suck enough, the Virginia Company started making unrealistic demands.
Like finding a member of the lost Roanoke Colony and sending him back to England.
About this time, the Opechancanough Indians attacked the settlement.
John Smith’s life was famously saved by a Disney cartoon.
Actually, Pocahontas was real.
The daughter of Chief Powhatan, she became the mediator between the settlers and the Natives.
She helped keep the settlers clothed and fed.
She later married a settler and traveled to England, where she died.
A few more periods of disease and starvation
brought the Jamestown population down to 60 from the original 214.
Everyone was pretty much ready to toss up their hands and sail back to England when
they discovered their saving grace: Tobacco.
Everyone in Europe soon wanted to smoke
and no one had heard of lung cancer
or even health insurance premiums for smokers.
So the little colony raked in the cash.
They were quickly able to buy supplies in bulk from England…
and even spread out into other colonies. They formed what would become the state of Virginia.
Which was much better than the State of Depression in which they had been living.
Virginia was the foundation of what would become the United States.
To think that our nation almost died before it was born…
and that something so deadly would be what saved us.
Do you think the Jamestown colonists would have survived if it wasn’t for tobacco becoming
a cash crop? Or would they have headed home or gone to
Florida so they could chill with the Spanish?
What would the United States look like today if Jamestown had failed?
Shmoop amongst yourselves.