Jamestown Settlement

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The Jamestown Settlement Colony was the first successful English settlement on the mainland of North America.[1] Named for King James I of England, Jamestown was founded in the Colony of Virginia on May 14, 1607. In modern times, "Jamestown Settlement" is also a promotional name used by the Commonwealth of Virginia's portion of the historical attractions at Jamestown. It is adjacent and complementary to the Historic Jamestowne on Jamestown Island which is the actual historic site where the first settlers landed and lived that is run by the National Park Service and Preservation Virginia.

Jamestown was founded for the purposes of a quick profit from gold mining for its investors while also establishing a permanent foothold in North America for England.[2] Jamestown followed no fewer than eighteen earlier failed attempts at European colonization of the North American mainland, including the famous "Lost Colony"[3] at Roanoke Island in what is now Dare County, North Carolina. Other successful colonies in North America were in Spanish dominions such as New Spain, New Mexico, and Spanish Florida.

Contents

The original settlement

Although Spain and Portugal moved quickly to establish a presence in the New World, other European countries moved more slowly. Not until many decades after the explorations of John Cabot did the English attempt to found colonies. Early efforts were failures, most notably the Roanoke Colony, which vanished about 1590.

Late in 1606, English entrepreneurs set sail with a charter from the Virginia Company of London to establish a colony in the New World. After a particularly long voyage of five months duration, the three ships, named Susan Constant, Discovery, and Godspeed, under Captain Christopher Newport, made landfall in May 1607 at a place they named Cape Henry. Under the first settlement orders to select a more secure location, they set about exploring what is now Hampton Roads and a Chesapeake Bay outlet they named the James River in honor of their king, James I of England.[4] On April 26, 1607, Captain Edward Maria Wingfield, elected president of the governing council the day before, selected Jamestown Island on the James River, some 40 miles (67 kilometers) inland from the Atlantic Ocean, as a prime location for a fortified settlement. The island was surrounded by deep water, making it a navigable and defensible strategic point. However, the island was swampy, isolated, offered limited space and was plagued by mosquitoes and brackish tidal river water unsuitable for drinking. In addition to the malarial swamp the settlers arrived too late in the year to get crops planted.[5] Many in the group were gentlemen unused to work, or their manservants, equally unaccustomed to the hard labor demanded by the harsh task of carving out a viable colony.[5] In a few months, fifty-one of the party were dead; some of the survivors were deserting to the Indians whose land they had invaded.[5] In the "starving time" of 1609 - 1610,the Jamestown settlers were in even worse straits. Only 61 of the 500 colonists survived the period.[5] Perhaps the best thing about it from an English point of view was that it was not inhabited by nearby Virginia Indian[6] tribes, who regarded the site as too poor and remote for agriculture.

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