Tenacity: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia: Part 2

Tenacityt-shirt

Exhibit souvenir t-shirt

I will now discuss some of the specific women profiled in the exhibit.

Temperance Flowerdew Barrow, a gentrywoman, is considered the first First Lady of Virginia. Her story was quite exciting and dramatic. She left England for Virginia on board the Falcoun, one of a convoy of nine ships, in 1609 with her husband Richard BarrowA terrible hurricane in the Atlantic had devastating consequences and inspired Shakespeare to write The Tempest. The passengers must have thought death was imminent. Somehow, Temperance survived to arrive on the shores of Jamestown in August of 1609, just in time for the starving period. The extraordinarily harsh winter devastated the colony. Food supplies were scarce, men raiding Pohowtan supplies were killed, spawning Indian raids. Again, Temperance survived against the odds.  Her husband died and in 1618 she married George Yeardley, who became the colony’s governor in 1619. In 1625 her household included three children and 20 servants. When George died in 1627, he left land to Temperance in his will. Temperance made the decision to marry governor Francis West, but died soon after. She is represented in the exhibit by a beautifully embroidered jacket.

 

On loan from The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, this bodice features an ornate embroidered design with trailing stems and leaves done in colored silk and metal threads. It is also decorated with metal spangles or sequins. I can’t imagine how long it must have taken someone to make this bodice by hand! While it is similar in style to the waistcoats worn by interpreters at Plimoth Plantation, it is far more ornate and luxurious, something Puritans would have frowned upon. The Tenacity exhibit also showcases a fancy coif (head covering) as well. As wife of the most important man in Virginia, Temperance would have been expected to dress in the finest style money could buy.

Another upper class woman’s story that needed telling is that of Mistress Sarah Rolfe, first wife of John Rolfe, the planter who later married Pocahontas. Pregnant when she and her husband boarded the Sea Venture bound for Virginia, the journey across the Atlantic must have been far more uncomfortable than normal. In July a massive hurricane ran the ship aground just off Bermuda. 150 people were able to make it to shore and salvage as many of the ship’s supplies as they could to survive. During their  10-month stay, Sarah gave birth to a daughter, Bermuda. Sadly baby Bermuda did not live to see Virginia and Sarah died in 1610 shortly after their arrival.

Colonial women were able to have some degree of control over their lives, particularly their marital decisions. A bride named Sarah Harrison is recorded as refusing to promise to obey her new husband, not once but three times. After she refused the third time, the clergyman went forward with the ceremony omitting the word obey. Go Sarah! Her insistence at not agreeing to obey may have contributed to her refusing her original fiancé. In spite of signing a marriage contract with her original fiancé, Sarah was never punished for breaking the contract, a serious crime under English law.

Fourteen-year-old Anne Buras arrived in Jamestown in 1608 as maidservant to Mistress Forrest. Mistress Forrest presumably died shortly after arrival, leaving Anne the ONLY English woman in Virginia! Anne didn’t have a whole lot of choices available so she chose a husband who would hopefully look after her. Two months after arrival, Anne Buras married John Laydon, a man twice her age. Anne is believed to be the first English woman to marry in Jamestown. The winter of 1609-10 was a period of great hardship in Virginia. Nearly 75% of the colonists died. Anne Buras and Jane Wright were ordered to sew shirts for the Virginia Company in 1610. They ran out of thread and with none available, they had to get creative. The women unraveled threads from the shirts they had already sewn in order to make more. Under the Virginia Company’s new Martial Law, this was considered a crime. A pregnant Anne and Jane Wright were whipped. Anne miscarried her child but showed remarkable resiliency. Anne, her husband and four daughters established a new home in Elizabeth City. She died some time in the 1630s.

Souvenir postcard depicting two women sitting and sewing

Souvenir postcard depicting two women sitting and sewing just as Anne and Jane did in 1610.

Anne’s whipping was no exception. It was common to publicly humiliate women who did wrong. In 1627 the General Court declared Jane Hill guilty of fornication. She was made to wear a white sheet and stand in front of the congregation. 1634 woman named Betsey Tucker found herself strapped to a chair connected to a long, wooden beam and dunked into water. Her crime? “Brabbling” or gossiping. An example of a dunking chair was on display in the exhibit.

 

Another Ann was not so fortunate in her experience at Jamestown. Ann Jackson arrived on the Marmaduke in 1621, joining her brother, who was already living in Virginia. The following year Powhatan Indians captured Ann and 18 other women during an attack on the settlement. While she survived capture and living with the Indians, she likely suffered from what we would recognize as post-traumatic stress syndrome. By 1628 she returned to the English under the protection of her brother until she could resume her life in England. It is unknown what happened to Ann after that. I’m sure life was never normal after that. The passage back to England, if she even made it that far, was stressful and then going back among people who had no idea of what she had been through and didn’t understand must have been painful. It’s easy to say now “I would have stayed with the Indians and had a better life,” but it had to have been pretty traumatic to be captured and worry about being killed.

The exhibit also tells the story of Sarah Woodson who defended her family against an Indian attack in 1644. After surviving the Second Anglo-Powhatan War, the Woodsons moved farther inland near present-day Richmond. Chief Opechancanough feared the influx of settlers would overwhelm his people and so went to war. When the Indians attacked her home, Sarah sent one son with a hunting rifle to the sleeping loft and hid her other son in the hole in the floor where they stored potatoes. Upon arriving home to try to save his family, Dr. John Woodson was killed in the attack. While a houseguest shot at the Indians, Sarah tipped her stewpot onto one of the Indian attackers and swing her heavy iron roasting spit at the other Indian attacker’s head, killing him. A gruesome story in which I feel sorry for the Indians yet also admire Sarah for thinking clearly and saving her family.

An ornately carved cupboard is associated with Mary Peirsey Hill Bushrod, who arrived in Jamestown in 1623 at the age of 10.

 

 

This exhibit also did an excellent job showing the tenacity of women of color as well. The “founding mother” of African-Americans in Virginia was Angela or Angelo, an enslaved woman who arrived in Virginia 400 years ago in 1619. In 1613 tobacco was introduced by John Rolfe who later married Pocahontas. The men needed more people to work the tobacco fields leading to slavery. The first Africans came from the kingdom of Ndongo in Angola, West Central Africa. They were captured during war with the Portuguese and sold into slavery, bound for Mexico. English privateers then waylaid the ship as it crossed the Caribbean, confiscating all captives on board and sailed for Virginia. In Virginia, English officials traded supplies for Angelo. Period documents show that by 1625 Angelo worked for planter William Peirce and his wife Joane on their property at Jamestown. The 1625 “Muster of the Inhabitants of Virginia” shows “Angelo, A Negro woman in the Treasuror,” living in the household of William Peirce at Jamestown. This document is significant because it identifies the ship on which Angelo arrived in Virginia, Treasurer.

 

You can learn more about Angelo and the enslaved experience in the museum’s new gallery. The amount of information is staggering and I didn’t have time to stay and read everything but I enjoyed the video.

 

The first enslaved people were treated like indentured servants. They could become free and members of a community. Mary Johnson arrived in 1623 and worked on a Southside Virginia plantation owned by Richard Bennett. She married Antonio (Anthony) Johnson. They won their freedom and by 1650, they owned 250 acres of land, eventually owning a family plantation of 900 acres. Interestingly, they had two African servants working for them. The couple later moved to Somerset County, Maryland as slave laws became more strict.

Elizabeth Key, the daughter of an Englishman and an African woman, was put into service by her father until the age of 15. After her father’s death, Elizabeth was passed from one planter to another. Finally, at the age of 25, Elizabeth had had enough. She and her English common-law husband went to court to gain her freedom. Eventually, the courts found in her favor because she had served the time of her contract, was the daughter of an Englishman, and was a baptized Christian. Her son was also freed. Unfortunately for African-Americans, the laws of servitude were codified over the next decade and slavery soon became a permanent, lifelong thing. As we know, the children of enslaved women were inherently enslaved and baptized Christians were no longer exempt from slavery.

 

Indian women were represented as well. Cockacoske, “Queen of the Pamunkey” understood the importance of preserving good relations with the English colonists. After Englishmen attacked several Virginia tribes in 1677, including the Pamunky, Cockacoske met with other Indian leaders and colonial officials to sign the Treaty of Middle Plantation. The treaty reinforced the relationship between the two English and native governments. Cockacoeske tried to unite the remaining Powhatan tribes but was unsuccessful. However, she was able to negotiate peace for her people for many years. The treaty reinforced the boundaries of their remaining Indian lands. The exhibit profiles Cockacoeske as a reminder of women’s power and influence in traditional Powhatan culture. She is represented by a the silver ornament presented to Cockacoeske (circa 1640- circa 1686), weroansqua or “queene of Pamunkey,” on behalf of Charles II marking the 1677 Treaty of Middle Plantation, on loan from the Pamunkey Indian Tribe of King William, Virginia. Read more about it on Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation blog

 

Cockacoeske’s efforts succeeded in legally protecting her people. They were allowed to retain title to their lands, continue fishing in Virginia’s waterways, and were protected from enslavement. Today, the protected land is the Pamunkey Indian Reservation in King William County. In 2016 the Pamunkey became the first Virginia Indian tribe to be formally recognized by the United States government.

 

 

The exhibit continues on to showcase the legacy of the tenacious women to present day. The Legacy Wall touch-screen display showcases stories of women from 1607 to the present day in five different categories: occupation, citizenship, marriage, education and healthcare. Visitors could also share stories of influential women across history, including their own or family members to add to the Legacy Wall.

I thought the “tenacious” theme was stretching a bit for the 17th-century women. They did what they had to do to survive. I don’t think all of the stories told exhibit tenacity but some of them do. The exhibit was also a lot smaller than I expected. It was difficult to see and learn everything with hoards of school children running around undisciplined.

See more photos from Tenacity in the exhibit’s media image galleryin the online gallery of the Daily Press.

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Tenacity: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia

TENACITYlogo

2019 marked the 400th anniversary of the arrival of English brides arriving in Virginia. The museum at Jamestown hosted a really nice exhibit on women in early Virginia. I was able to view the exhibit on my trip last October, but unfortunately, no photography was allowed. I am including some of Jamestown’s own photos from their social media sites.

The first women arrived in 1608 and more came after that. In July 1609 a fleet of nine ships left England to bring more people and supplies. 146 women decided to come for the chance to find a husband.

In 1619, the  Virginia Company ordered that “…a fit hundredth might be sent of women, maids young and uncorrupt, to make wives to the inhabitants and by that means to make the men there more settled and less movable….” Ninety arrived in 1620 and the company records reported in May of 1622 that, “57 young maids have been sent to make wives for the planters, divers of which were well married before the coming away of the ships.” They were provided a dowry of clothing, linens, and other furnishings, free transportation to the colony, and even a plot of land. They were also promised their pick of wealthy husbands and provided with food and shelter while they made their decision.

The women had documented skills such as baking, brewing, spinning and sewing. Their names are listed in the 1621 so-called Ferrar Papers, shown on an interactive touch screen. This rare document was from the papers of John and Nicholas Ferrar, backers of the Virginia Company, at Magdalene College. The document lists the names of 56 women and was on loan from Magdalene College. As an archivist, I was excited to see these papers in real life and read through them on the touch screen. Sadly, it is unknown what happened to most of these women. I’m sure there are some wonderful stories to be told there. Any historical fiction writers want to stake a stab at bringing the names of these women to light?

 

Another interactive touch screen profiles the types of women who chose to leave England. One of the profiled women was a young mother with a baby and wanted to find her husband. Another was a servant who didn’t have a choice. At least one older woman lied about her age and came for the chance to have her own home and husband. Some women were fancy, rich ladies and others were used to hard work.

Some women saw the opportunity to emigrate as a godsend. In a society where all women were expected to marry, having little money and/or social position was a barrier against marriage for most women. Propaganda from Jamestown encouraged women to come to this beautiful, virgin land populated by wealthy bachelors. A fun and interactive touch screen provided visitors to the museum with social media style reviews of Jamestown. Visitors could touch the emoji that closely matched their feelings about the post and then at the end, choose whether they’d stay or go based on the information provided. I get seasick so I’m staying put in England, thank you. However, the propaganda was tempting! Ladies left expecting to be immediately transplanted to a new England with cities and easy living for the wealthy. The reality was far different. The exhibit seeks to show how tenacious women had to be to risk the journey and brave the harsh realities of the new world.

After a husband was chosen, he would reimburse the Virginia Company for the travel expenses, furnishings, and land with 120 pounds (later raised to 150) of “good leaf” tobacco.

The colonial government offered female colonists freedoms and opportunities unavailable to most 17th-century Englishwomen. When settlers were first granted acres of land in July 1619, the men asked for land to be allotted to their wives as well “…because that in a newe plantation it is not knowen whether man or woman be the most necessary.” Widowed women especially had an advantage in the New World. In England, widows were only required by law to receive one-third of their deceased husband’s estate but in Virginia, widows almost always inherited more than that. Because of their inheritance, colonial widows didn’t feel as much economic pressure to remarry after their husband’s death. Many chose to remain single.

There’s too much information for just one post, so please check out my second post to read about specific women.

Virginia Indians in Jamestown and Williamsburg

What happened to the Powhatan after the clash of cultures in the early 17th century? This is one of the things I came to Williamsburg to find out. I attended two programs in the Colonial Williamsburg historic area to learn more about the Virginia Indians and how they have managed to survive.

First, we return to 17th-century Jamestown. The indoor museum at the Jamestown Settlement does a great job of explaining and examining the lives of the Virginia Indians and what happened when the English arrived. Unfortunately, the museum doesn’t allow photography. This post will be long and cobbled together from the museum exhibits, blog and other sources.

In 2018 I saw a great exhibit on Pocahontas at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC. Not only did the exhibit share the true story, it also sought to examine the meaning of the story and how Pocahontas has become a cultural icon.

Disney memorabilia wall

The image of Pocahontas is deeply embedded in American culture. Here an exhibit of Disney movie memorabilia at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC, shows just how popular Pocahontas has become over the last four centuries.

What we think we know about Pocahontas is all wrong. For starters, she was a little girl of about 12 when the incident with John Smith happened. Or did it? John Smith wrote about his rescue from death long after anyone who was around at the time could refute the story. Historians think the incident may not have happened or it was an elaborate Powhatan adoption ritual and John Smith was never in danger.

Pocahontas saves John Smith engraving

Captain Smith is saved by Pocahontas

However, Pocahontas may have visited the English fort with her father as a show of peace. Surviving documents show John Smith and Pocahontas spent time together learning each other’s languages.

In 1613, during the Anglo-Powhatan war, a sixteen-year-old Pocahontas was kidnapped by the English in order to ransom English prisoners held by Chief Powhatan. Pocahontas was also held for the ransom of tools and weapons stolen by the Powhatan Indians. Powhatan waited for three months after his daughter’s capture to return seven English prisoners and some stolen guns. Other demands were refused. Powhatan gave up his daughter to the English, forming a tenuous peace. Pocahontas stayed with the English and became a baptized Christian, taking the name Rebecca.

The Abduction of Pocahontas engraving

he Abduction of Pocahontas, copper engraving by Johann Theodore de Bry, 1618 Plate no. 7 in book ‘America’ (Part 10, translation of ‘A True Discourse of the Present State of Virginia’ by Ralph Hamor)

Her marriage to the wealthy planter John Rolfe brought about peace and prosperity to Jamestown. As her husband, he became a member of her family. They were a 17th-century power couple representing a unification of cultures, temporarily at least. Rolfe’s strain of tobacco made the new colony rich and showed the investors back in England that the colony was successful. When Pocahontas traveled to London with her husband, she was introduced as the daughter of the Emperor of Virginia and put a face on the indigenous peoples of the New World. I’ll write more about this exhibit later, complete with pictures.

Pocahontas Portrait

Pocahontas, by Unknown , English School, after the 1616 engraving by Simon van de Passe (1595 ca.-1647), National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC

By 1622, the Pohowtan and English were at war again. New immigrants seeking to make a fortune from tobacco settled too close to Indian territory for the comfort of Opitchapam and his brother (or close kinsman) Opechancanough.

Nearly a third of the English population was killed in the conflict. Over the next ten years, the English repeatedly attacked the Indian food supply. Following the end of the conflict in 1632, daily life for the Powhatan did not change very much.  There were still more Powhatan than English and their territory was larger above the James River. Their economy, religion, and political system did not change, however, the balance of power shifted towards the English. The English kept encroaching on Indian land with farms along both banks of the James River below the falls and across the Peninsula to the south side of the lower York River. By the end of the decade, the English population outstripped the Powhatan for the first time.

In 1644, relations with the English were once more strained. The English settlements had spread into Powhatan territory by this time. Powhatan’s half-brother, Opechancanough led an uprising against the colonists in April 1644. More than 400 colonists were killed in the attack. The English retaliated with raids destroying villages and cornfields. The Indians took to forests. In 1646 Opechancanough was captured and taken to Jamestown, where he was shot and killed. The remaining Powhatan people were defeated.

16th century drawing of an Indian warrior

a Chesapeake Bay warrior by John White 1585

In 1646 the Powhatan allied with the English to fight in the Battle of Bloody Run to fight off invaders from the Iroquois nation. The chief and 200 warriors were all killed. In 1646, Necotowance, Opechancanough’s successor, made a formal peace treaty with the Virginia government. Indians were now required to pay tribute, in skins, to the King’s representative in Virginia, the royal governor in Jamestown. The initial tribute consisted of 20 beaver skins (beaver being the most valuable fur) and 3 arrows from each of the signers and all signers agreed to a military alliance.

All the land north of the York River, north of the Pamunkey River to the Potomac was set aside as Indian land. Three mile bumpers between Indian land and English land separated the two cultures. A loophole in the treaty was one small creek. The English were allowed to settle north of the creek. Some of the settlers did so legally but others were squatters. The English settlers infringed on the Indians’ freedom to hunt, fish and farm.

17th Century Map of Virginia

Hondius, Hendrik, Cartographer. Nova Virginiae tabvla. [Amsterdam: ex officina Henrici Hondii, ?, 1642] Map. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/item/2017590615/

In 1656, Cockacoeske, a female descendant of Powhatan and Opechancanough became wereowance of the Powhatan and governed for thirty years. A shrewd leader, she worked within the system of English law to try to regain some of the earlier dominance held by her people. She led her people through another conflict with the English. In 1675-1676 the Powhatan and the English went to war again, in a conflict known as Bacon’s Rebellion, after the hot-tempered young settler who ignored the governor and lead a group of volunteers to attack the Indians, reportedly in revenge. The rebellion soon spread throughout Tidewater Virginia and the Indians sustained heavy losses.

A Chief Lady of Pomeiooc

A Chief Lady of Pomeiooc by Theodore deBry

Warren Taylor is a citizen of the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, and American Indian interpreter at Colonial Williamsburg shared the stories of his people into the 18th-century.

Weroance Cockacoeske fought for the rights of her people. On February 20, 1677, Cockacoeske petitioned the Virginia assembly for restoration of her belongings and the land she abandoned during Bacon’s Rebellion. While the assembly agreed to allow her to reclaim what she could prove was hers and return all else, the King’s Commissioners were more sympathetic, adding the Queen of Pamunkey’s name to their list of those who had suffered during Bacon’s Rebellion. They recommended that she be given a gift to compensate for her sufferings and the loss of her belongings. The King’s Commissioners were eager to have the Pamunkey on their side as allies against the more hostile western tribes. By Cockacoeske’s request, several outlying tribes were reunited under her authority.

The Treaty of Middle Plantation, signed on May 28, 1677, was an agreement between Charles II of England and representatives from various Virginia Indian tribes including the Nottoway, the Appomattoc, the Wayonaoake, the Nansemond, the Nanzatico, the Monacan, the Saponi, and the Meherrin. The signers became known as “tributary tribes.” The treat guaranteed them their homeland territories, hunting and fishing rights, the right to keep and bear arms, and other colonial protections as long as they maintained obedience and subjugation to the English Empire. Thus Middle Plantation, what is now Williamsburg, came a part of the United Kingdom much like Ireland and Scotland.

 

Peace treaty between Charles II and Indian Kings and Queens 29 May, 1677

Articles of Peace

England sent gifts to the chiefs and badges of authority to the chiefs. The Indians who lived there had to show a badge to get in or be shot. The Virginia Indians became equals under the law, able to appear in court. This allowed the two cultures to settle disputes without violence. The Pamunkey and other tribes were able to use the court system to try to hang on to their lands. They petitioned the governor, appeared before council and invoked the terms of the 1677 peace treaty.

It became increasingly difficult for the Powhatan to retain their traditional way of life on the reservation lands in Virginia. Some stayed, while others left the English part of Virginia and moved west, joining non-Powhatan tribes beyond English control. Others left the reservations and intermingled with the English, living together within small, isolated Indian communities.

 

Cockacoeske successfully renegotiated the treaty with Governor Spotswood. Instead of the tribute, each tribe would send three or more boys to the Indian school (now the College of William & Mary). Most tribes were in agreement. The Pamunkey sent four boys, the Chikahominay three, and the Delaware, Cherokee and other tribes all sent at least three. Western tribes had their own school. The purpose of the Indian school was to educate Indian boys on how to be “proper” Englishmen with a “proper” English education including converting them to Christianity so they may become missionaries to their people. The school was unlike later Indian schools because the boys were allowed to bring a male servant with whom they could speak their own language and maintain ties to their culture. The graduates returned home and to their roots. Some used their education to help promote the welfare of their people and others never returned home. By 1721 there were no students. When a dedicated building was constructed in 1723, attendance rates went up until 1775.

The charter for the school took lands from the Indians not included in the treaty. 20,000 acres of land were taken.

“Queen Ann”, Pamunkey chief and a successor to Cockacoeske, also worked to help her people. She firmly wanted the English settlers on Indian land removed and ownership of tribal lands be confirmed. When she realized beaver were nearly gone from the area due to over hunting and the Pamunkey could no longer afford their tribute, Queen Anne petitioned against using solely beaver skins as tribute. She also requested that young Indians working away from the reservations bee returned to their people and that strong liquor be kept out of Indian towns.

Over time there became less unclaimed land available for hunting and gathering. As Powhatan participation in the fur trade declined, other outside tribes took over the trade. Still, the Virginia Indians continued to fish in the spring and hunt waterfowl. Others became tenant farmers on English owned land. As their land dwindled, the Powhatan turned their attention to animal husbandry. Their method of dress changed as they adopted parts of English style dress. They bought European cloth on credit, thus getting into debt.

Virginia Indian Man in European Cloth outfit

Virginia Indian man wearing an outfit made from European cloth. Video presentation at the art museums of Colonial Williamsburg

 

The debt was paid using traditional arts to make “colonoware,” items such as chamber pots, dishes, and household objects that were used heavily. These ceramic items were cheap and expected to break. By 1676, there were regular markets set up by the Virginia government where Indians could sell items like clay pots, tobacco pipes and woven mats to the English.

The men went around to the English towns to sell rockfish, an English delicacy. Many other Indians combined their traditional economic activities with part-time work for the English in a variety of different jobs. The Virginia Indians then fell into debt again but were able to maintain their way of life. The Pamunkey and other tribes lived in longhouses with doors and windows through the 1770s.

The period of Indian autonomy grew to a close as the 18th-century went on. The English introduced laws in the 18th-century regarding native peoples. In 1705, the Acts of Assembly (“black codes”) banned Indians and people of color from holding civic or military office unless appointed by the queen. Nor could they take white person to court or testify against him. Tribes were not allowed leave Virginia or make treaty with foreign Indians without a Virginia representative present. The laws codified slavery including Indian enslavement for life. However, tributary Indians were still protected under English law for a time.

Warren Taylor mentioned how the murder of an Englishman in Fredericksburg, Virginia resulted in 40 Indian men hanging and many women and children sold into slavery. Following this incident, natives began to limit interactions with other people.

During the time frame represented by Williamsburg, the natives still came to town to sell. Some tribes disappeared or were blended into other tribes. Two 16-year-old Indian boys from the school enlisted in the Continental Army. Three tribes took the American side. Fourteen Pamunkey men were killed during the Revolution. Their widows received a pension. Robert Mursh, a Pamunkey Indian from King William County became a pastor after the Revolutionary war. More and more Indians became Christians; women took domestic jobs while men farmed. It was during this time that the Virginia Indians changed from a matrilineal society to patrilineal.

Virginia Indians managed to hold on to their culture and survive. They are here today to share their stories and culture with us. Two other men joined Mr. Taylor for Colonial Williamsburg’s Indian Delegation program. They shared some of the above information again as well as showed off objects important to native peoples in the 18th-century. They discussed how Virginia Indians participated in the Revolutionary War and patiently answered guests’ questions. It was too cold to take out my pencil and take notes but it was very interesting to learn more about the Virginia Indians and their daily lives during the time frame represented by Colonial Williamsburg.

Check out the following sources to learn more.

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Jamestown Settlement Part 2

A few more pictures of the fort before moving on to the Powhatan village.

The armory was the one building with an interpreter to speak to. He explained how people tend to think of armor as Spanish, but the Jamestown colonists needed to protect themselves against the Spanish to the south and sometimes the Indians.  I’m aware of English armor. I’ve seen Miles Standish’s suit of armor in his (recreated) house at Plimoth Plantation.

I especially liked the little period details that make the 17th-century come to life. In the photos below you’ll see shoes and a chamber pot by the bed, pottery and scenes of domestic life.

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Chickens crowd the workshop area. They were pretty loud but avoided the camera. These chickens were used for eggs and meat. Today I would imagine the museum uses them as pest control as well.

jamestownfortceiling

Thatched roof from the inside

That’s all from the fort but I will be learning more from their online programs during this period of sheltering in.

Jamestown Settlement

While I was in Virginia in October, I had the opportunity to visit the Jamestown Settlement museum and fort. Getting there from Williamsburg on public transportation was a pain, the ticket price is expensive, the museum was overrun with elementary school children on field trips but the museum was well worth the visit and the price. It includes galleries, interactive exhibits, films, a special exhibit hall, the outdoor fort and Powhatan village and the replica ships. I didn’t have time for ALL of that. I suggest carving out an entire day open to close in order to see everything.

The main galleries discuss the history of Jamestown in great detail, including the hard stuff like interactions with the Powhatan and African slavery. You can take a virtual tour free through an app.

In 2019 he Commonwealth of Virginia acknowledged four historic events that took place in 1619: the first legislative assembly meeting at Jamestown; the first official English Thanksgiving at Berkeley Plantation; the arrival of the first documented Africans; and the recruitment of Englishwomen to join the colonists in Virginia. The Jamestown museum had rare documents, artifacts and exhibits commemorating these events.

Jamestown was founded in April 1607 when 104 men arrived on three ships: The Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery.

Jamestownship

Replica of one of the three ships carrying Englishmen to Jamestown. I saw the Susan Constant on her 2007 tour.

They were gentlemen, laborers, sailors, a preacher and other assorted men. Reasons for coming were varied: converting the Indians to Christianity, specifically the Church of England so they could establish an English hold on the New World and thereby exploit resources to use in England. Others hoped to find the mythical gold and riches some hoped to to discover a northwest passage to the Orient. The Virginia Company,  of London, a joint-stock commercial organization provided the rights of trade, exploration and settlement in Virginia.

The men spent two weeks exploring the area before selecting a spot on the James River with deep water deep water anchorage and good defensive position. On May 14, the passengers came ashore began work on the settlement. Initially, the colony was governed by a council of seven, with one member serving as president.

The English settlers soon built a fort for protection against Spanish raids. A contemporary account of the original fort as seen in 1610 describes a triangular shaped fort with walls of planks and posts. Bulwarks at each corner supported artillery.

Jamesfortsign2

James Fort

The colonists were instructed to first build the public buildings. The original buildings included a storehouse to hold supplies and exports, an Anglican church and a guardhouse as headquarters for military activity.

Jamesfortsign

James Fort

The colony had many of problems to begin with: no fresh water, no farmers, and weather problems led to lack of food and a “starving time” and war with the Indians. At this time, 4,000 Algonquian-speaking Indians ruled by the powerful leader Powhatan, inhabited the area.

In September 1608, the infamous Captain John Smith became leader of the colony. He established a “no work, no food” policy.  The famous story of John Smith being captured by the Powhatan and rescued by Pocahontas likely never happened or was an elaborate adoption ritual. Pocahontas was a little girl of about 12 at the time, not a comely maiden who fell in love with the Englishman. (Sorry Disney fans). John Smith tried, unsuccessfully to purchase the fortified Powhatan town known as Tsenacomoco in order to settle English colonists there.

After Smith was injured by burning gunpowder the following year, he returned to England leaving the colony in trouble. Thus followed a period of warfare between the colonists and Indians as well as the deaths of the colonists from starvation and disease. When the colonists ran out of food, they urged pressured the Virginia Indians for help, which the Indians refused. Powhatan ordered a siege of the English fort, which lasted through the winter of 1609–1610 causing warfare and starvation for the settlers. The colonists endured by eating snakes, rats, mice, musk turtles, cats, dogs, horses, and possibly even each other. Only about 60 colonists survived by May 1610.

Finally, when all hope seemed lost, a supply ship arrived in the spring of 1610. The ship also brought new settlers seeking wealth in Virginia. They brought with them a charter from King James I. The charter provided for stronger leadership. A governor would serve with group of advisers. During this period martial law was introduced and those who did not obey were harshly punished. The new governor, Lord de la Warre, launched a holy war against the Indians. It was bloody and gruesome on both sides. Pocahontas was kidnapped and instructed in Christianity. She was used as a bargaining chip but her father stalled on negations with the English. The war ended basically with a truce and Pocahontas chose to remain with the English and become a Christian. In 1614 she married the planter John Rolfe and peace prevailed for the next few years.

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Chesapeake Log Canoe

A hollowed out log represents the type of watercraft that dominated the Chesapeake in the 17th-century. Each canoe was made from a single log, hollowed out by burning. These shallow canoes were ideal for navigating and fishing along the Chesapeake waterways. Fashioned from single trees by Powhatan Indians, the log canoe was the dominant watercraft at the time English colonists arrived at Jamestown in 1607. The suitability of this open, shallow vessel for navigating and fishing along the Chesapeake waterways led to its adoption and assimilation by European colonists using imported tools and technology. The English adopted and adapted the log canoe.

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Boat building represents English, Virginia Indian and West African boat building techniques

Upon arriving in Virginia, the English expected tap the rich resources of land and water. Fresh and saltwater fish, as well as shellfish, helped supplement the food rations colonists were given by the Virginia Company. Englishmen fished with hook and line as well as with nets. Virginia Indians fished the local waters as well. Fish was one of their main food sources, especially in spring. Some Africans who arrived later had lived on or near rivers at home. They were familiar with fishing from canones made in a manner similar to those of the Powhatan. Coastal fishing was important to the West African economy. In Virginia, fish supplemented the diets of the African servants and slaves.

 

 

The gardens represent English foodways. The English diet was heavily grain based. They were used to eating a grain-based porridge known as pottage and bread, cheese, a variety of vegetables and sometimes meat. When the English arrived at Jamestown, they relied more on native crops such as corn because English grains couldn’t grow in Virginia and supplies did not arrive frequently. Their diets became dependent on hominy, a corn-based porridge that sometimes included meat.

The recreated Jamestown fort represents the time between 1610-1614. The outdoor fort area was recreated based on archaeological evidence found at the Historic Jamestowne (operated by the National Park Service. I went there in 2008).

Inside the walls of the fort, the largest, most imposing buildings are what was known as row houses. One row house is set up for the most prominent members of the colony and the other is the governor’s house.

The governor’s house is a 66- by 18-foot, two-and-a-half-story building recreated from archaeological evidence. It has a cobblestone foundation, walls of wattle and daub, wood plank floors, and a thatch roof.

This house would have been the chief administrative center of the colony.

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Business would be conducted in the governor’s home

Two doors on each side open into small “lobbies.” The first floor hall or main public room features a table with a fancy armchair suitable for an important person such as the governor.

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The governor’s house features extremely fancy furnishings

 

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Fancy table and chair, elaborately carved desk in governor’s house

Next to the main room is the parlor where the governor may have entertained guests. This room is furnished with a smaller table and chairs, clothes press and cupboard.

Two bedrooms, one on either end of the building, are interpreted as rooms for the governor and for his higher-up servants, like his physician or secretary. Two chimneys with back-to-back fireplaces provide a hearth in each of the four rooms.

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The governor’s bed chamber features a bed with fancy, carved bed posts and canopy

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A smaller, less elaborate bedroom for a member of the household

 

This house is clearly the home of an important person. The fine furnishings, such as elaborately carved wood furniture and Turkish carpets covering tabletops were very expensive. The governor may have used these items to show off his wealth and status in the colony.

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Suit of armor reminds visitors of the very real threat of Spanish invasion

The men tried different businesses to keep the colony going. They had glassmaking, a woodshop, pitch and tar and potash manufacturing and a blacksmith.

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Woodworking Shop

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Blacksmith’s Forge

 

I didn’t make it to the glasshouse but I watched a blacksmith demonstration.

 

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The leatherworks and tannery: Animal hides were used to make leather pouches, horse bridles, sword scabbards, book covers, gloves, etc. Cattle, swine, sheep and goats were the most frequently used animal skins. Read all the gruesome details on the National Park Service’s site for Historic Jamestowne. I can’t bear to read about it.

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Red kidskin

This red piece of hide is kidskin. I can see why it was used for gloves. It’s so soft. I felt squeamish about touching it but in the interest of historical learning I did it.

I stopped in the recreated wooden church. According to the hornbook, this is a Church of England church, “a Protestant church that followed Anglican doctrines combining Roman Catholic (unbroken connection to the early church) and the Protestant churches (non acceptance of Papal authority). In the United States today it would be closest to the Episcopal Church. The first colonists were chiefly members of the Church of England, although a few may have been of other Protestant denominations or even Catholic.”

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Recreation of the second church in Jamestown

Even this primitive church is much fancier than the New England meetinghouses and plain churches I’m used to. The church was ordered repaired by Lord De La Warr in 1610. He had the furnishings improved. The wattle and daub church was designed with a thatch roof, a joinery technique that dated back to 15th century England, and mortise and tenon joints with wood pegs.

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Church ceiling beams and thatched roof

During the time of martial law (1610-1619), everyone was required to attend services twice daily with severe penalties for repeated offences. All colonists were required to swear allegiance to the Church of England. Longer services were held on Sundays with sermons and religious instruction.

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Plain, hard, wooden pews

 

The original 17th century church is historically important for two reasons. On April 5, 1614, Pocahontas married John Rolfe. The third church was significant because it was the site where the first Legislative Assembly met in 1619. (Government meetings of the Council were likely commonly held in hall of the Governor’s house but it was not suitable enough or suitable enough for a meeting of the Governor, the Council and 22 represenatives). This meeting allowed representatives to pass laws pending approval from the Virginia Company. This is where American government began. Inside the gallery, I had the opportunity to view The Proceedings of the First General Assembly of Virginia, July 1619 by John Pory. This 400-year-old, rare document is on loan from the National Archives in the UK. It’s the first time anyone on this side of the Atlantic has seen this document in 400 years! It was here, in the original church that American government began, as documented in the Proceedings. The colonists voted to select two burgesses (representatives) from each settlement to represent them and speak for them. The first assembly passed laws that represented concerns of both the Virginia Company officials and of the local residents, served as a court for hearing petitions from colonists and established the basic procedures of Virginia government.

(fort tour to be continued)

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Colonial Williamsburg: Governor’s Palace

As the sun set on my final day in Williamsburg, I took a quick self-guided tour of the Governor’s Palace. I really, really wanted to make it to the kitchens but didn’t get done in enough time. Costumed interpreters were stationed throughout the house to answer questions. I didn’t take notes so I hope I remember the rooms correctly.

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Governor’s Palace

Construction began in 1706, stalled due to lack of money, began again in 1711 with the completion of the entrance hall. The word “Palace” was first used for the governor’s house about 1714. Each governor made repairs until 1749 when the Palace was declared “ruinous”. The original Palace was renovated in the 1750s. The Palace hosted extravagant events such as galas and balls for Williamsburg society. The original Palace burned down in 1781 and the site eventually passed to the College of William & Mary until the 1920s when The CW Foundation purchased the property and began excavating and researching the site. The present structure was rebuilt between the 1950s and 1980s and renovated again in the 2000s to reflect the occupation of Lord Dunmore, the last of the royal governors, and his family.

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The entrance hall features accurate replication of the arms arrangement of the time when Lord Dunmore, the last royal governor, lived here. The arms represent a show of power and wealth. They were meant to send a message about imperial might.

The ballroom was added in 1752, following the a trend among English aristocrats to build special rooms dedicated to dancing and socializing. The back wall holds portraits of King Charles II and his wife Catherine of Barganza because Lady Dunmore had Stuart blood.

Heading upstairs…

The first bedroom is for the young ladies. Lady Catherine was the eldest, born 1760; Lady Augusta in 1761, Lady Susan, the youngest daughter but one born in 1767 and Lady Virginia born in Virginia in 1774. This camp bed belonged to the young ladies’ governess. I assume the doll belongs to one of the younger daughters of Lady Dunmore. I like how she’s all tucked in under the beautiful compass blanket.

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Colonial Williamsburg: Visit With a Nation Builder: Part 3

Gowan Pamphlet

 

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African-American Baptist preacher, young Gowan Pamphlet passionately shares his story with an audience

My last visit with a nation builder was with fiery, passionate young Baptist preacher Gowan Pamphlet. Gowan Pamphlet, an enslaved Baptist preacher preaches messages of equality before God. He is owned by Mrs. Jane Vobe, owner of the King’s Arms Tavern. Don’t feel too harshly towards her, he says. She’s had her own troubles. (She can’t legally free him under the law. It’s very difficult at this time to free slaves). She once had her tavern at the other end of the town from where it is now. When the Methodists set up a meeting house across the street she wasn’t pleased at first. She soon saw the light and got the message about equality.

Gowan was well-educated in manners, etiquette and services for genteel tavern diners. This serves him well as a preacher. When he was ordained in 1772, he became the only ordained black preacher of any denomination in the country. He gives fiery speeches about freedom, believing the conflict with Britain will escalate into war and soon everyone will be free. He later followed his calling and risked his life to build Williamsburg’s First Baptist Church. Large gatherings of African Americans were prohibited out of fear of slave uprisings and Baptist preachers faced harassment as dissenters from the officially recognized Church of England.

Gowan Pamphlet believes war is imminent, America will win and the slaves will be free. It was tough to listen to his optimism knowing that his hopes were unfounded.

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African-American Baptist Preacher Gowan Pamphlet shares his hopes for the future

wow! This interpreter, whose name I have discovered is Joseph Feaster, really gets into his role. He is loud enough to hear from the top of the amphitheater and when I moved closer I could see him spitting as he talked. I can only imagine what Mr. Pamphlet would have sounded like in his meetings. He explained the difference between church vs. meeting. Since the Church of England was the official state religion, all others were outlawed so when people gathered for services, they couldn’t officially announce they were going to church or they’d be arrested. They were simply going to a meeting. This was something I never understood before, in spite of living in the land of meeting house, the first colony to separate religion from the state.

Mr. Pamphlet was excited when I told him I’m from the state where his religion was founded and in his day (1774) they are building a brand new, large meeting house. I wish he could have visited and preached there but his spirit lives on in Colonial Williamsburg. The amount of information I found about this man is rich especially considering he was a man of color.

I’ve always been impressed with Colonial Williamsburg’s first person interpreters. Their depth of knowledge and skill at portraying a real person from the history books or a person forgotten by the books is just incredible. I’m even more impressed that they have uncovered lost stories of African-Americans to include in their historic programming. It’s been 40 years since they first began African-American interpretation and that interpretation is constantly evolving.

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Colonial Williamsburg: Visit With a Nation Builder: Part 2

Caesar Hope

Colonial Williamsburg has moved away from the reenactments in the streets towards telling specific stories about specific people. This allows them to tell more stories than just the figures represented by the history books. I chose to learn more about people of color in 18th-century Williamsburg. I attended an audience with Caesar Hope, barber.

Caesar Hope tells his story. He is quite the character and writing down his story doesn’t do him justice. He started by critiquing the choice of an older man in the audience to wear a beard and the man kept trying to justify his choices rather than play along with the reenactment allowing Caesar to give him fashion advice and explain what he can do for this man.

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Caesar Hope tells his story

Born in Africa and kidnapped as a small boy, he was sold into slavery in Virginia. As an adult he was manumitted and took up the profession of barbering, something he had learned from his first owner.

Caesar serves the most elite gentlemen in Williamsburg. He is known more for his conversation and wit than his barbering skills!

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Caesar Hope tells his story

Caesar is working hard to save money for his wife and son. He and his wife agreed he would first free their son and then Mrs. Hope if he could. Sadly, it will take him many years to save up to buy his child and probably his whole life before he can afford his wife. Even then, they will still legally be slaves, as his property according to the law.

The audience mainly wanted to discuss this last point, about how much money Hope’s wife would cost to buy and the intricacies of slavery at this time. I was more interested in Caesar’s Hope’s personal story and his job but there wasn’t ample opportunity for my to ask more questions.

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Colonial Williamsburg: Historic Trades Part 3

Shoemaker

The firm of George Wilson, who moved to Williamsburg from Norfolk, Virginia in the late 1760s. In 1773, George Wilson specialized in “Boots and Shoes for Gentlemen.” Boot making was considered the most sophisticated and prestigious branch of the trade. It followed a centuries-old tradition. The making of boots and shoes for men and the making of shoes for women were separate pursuits.

Shoemaker and apprentice explain the process of making shoes

Shoemaker and apprentice explain the process of making shoes

Men could select shoes from a stock of “sale shoes” in popular-styled, already-sized shoes. Alternately, if his feet were an unusual size, he could order a pair made order, which required a day’s wait. The firm’s specialty was boots for riding. Wilson’s sister-in-law was the proprietor of the shoe factory of Mary Wilson and Company.

Apprentice demonstrating process of working leather into shoes

Apprentice demonstrating process of working leather into shoes

The chart on the wall shows the prices of goods sold.

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The chart on the wall shows the prices of goods sold.

Printing and Binding Office

The printer spent hours just to produce a newspaper or book. Setting type for one page of the weekly newspaper required 25 hours of hand labor.

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Printer demonstrating hand press

The type is set in the galleys backwards, locked into the chase and secured. Learn more about the process of printing  Colonial Williamsburg Almanack

In the 18th-century the book binding office served as a stationer’s, a post office, an advertising agency, an office supply shop, a newsstand, and a bookbindery. It sold magazines and books, maps and almanacs,and even sealing wax!

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The place to buy your paper goods

Books were sold unbound. Customers liked to choose their own bindings to show off status and wealth or to personal tastes. Here you could have a book bound from start to finish.

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tool of the trade

Groups of printed pages or signatures of four, eight, 12, or 16 pages contained two or more pages on each side of a sheet. When folded and cut the signatures presented the text in the proper order for binding.

A bookbinder compiled the signatures and beat them with a heavy hammer to make the sheets lie close. He arranged them on a sewing frame and stitched them together at the back fold with linen thread. As he sewed, he looped the strands around thick hemp cross threads, which created characteristic horizontal ridges across the spine and unified the assembly. were laid on a sewing frame and stitched to cords at the back fold with linen thread. These cords formed horizontal ridges across the spine

The book binder demonstrates sewing a book.

 

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Colonial Williamsburg : Historic Trades Part 1

In the afternoon, as the rain tapered off, my friend and I browsed some of the trade shops. I continued my visit the next day when it was too cold and windy to stay outside for too long.

I was especially interested in the spinning, weaving and dyeing house as I do spinning and weaving at the museum where I work. I teach elementary school groups about textile production including showing them how to card and spin a piece of wool on a drop spindle and do simple weaving on a small upright loom. In colonial New England people made their clothes at home out of necessity. In Virginia the situation was quite different as they were a much wealthier colony.

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Textiles woven in Colonial Williamsburg

Until just before the Revolutionary War most people imported textiles from Britain. Because of non-importation agreements and war, British textiles became scare. A clothing factory opened outside of Williamsburg in 1776. They mostly made cloth for the military.

Spinning was a domestic chore not much practiced in colonial Virginia, as it was very time-consuming, and most cloth was imported. It would take 12 spinners of wool to keep the weaver busy at the loom, and 100 spinners of cotton to keep him busy.

Dyes came from the natural world. Cochineal, an insect from South America,makes the color red. 70,000 cochineal are needed to make a pound of red dye. Brown comes from walnuts, blue from indigo from South Carolina, Spain, or South America. Purple comes from the Spanish log wood tree, and turmeric from India gives yellow its hue. Orange comes from the root of the madder plant.

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Dyed yarn. Red was a color associated with poor people while green was for the wealthy because it required double dyeing in yellow and blue.

Weavers were men who served a 7-year apprenticeship to learn their trade.

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Press the pedals underneath, throw the shuttle through, repeat in the other direction

Weavers can create plain or intricate patterns depending on how they set up the loom and the order in which they push the pedals that move the harnesses of the loom in the correct sequences.

He insists it isn’t hard to learn. Weaving is MUCH easier to do when you have a long arm span and long legs to reach the pedals. It’s easy enough to make a simple stripe but to create more complicate patterns requires more knowledge and artistry.

Colonial Williamsburg’s weavers weave on two types of looms that represent the types available to eighteenth-century Virginians. The smaller is a cantilever loom, developed during the eleventh century in Spain. The larger is a four-post box loom, created in England in the sixteenth century.

 

To learn how to weave, Colonial Williamsburg offers weaving workshops.

For more information on the historic trade, visit the Weaver page of Colonial Williamsburg’s website.