Monday, February 8, 2016

Nonsuch

The records and historians frequently mention "the falls".  But what do they mean? One of President Wingfield's first acts in May, 1607, after the construction of James Fort was underway, was the dispatch of a party to explore the river above Jamestown. Twenty-two men under Capt. Christopher Newport left on May 21 and proceeded inland to the falls of the James River near the Indian Towne of Powhatan.  Although the James River was navigable, small ships could not pass beyond the Falls.  Hence, upon the shallop of Newport arriving, they could not cross.  Two years later Capt. Smith sent Capt. Francis West from Jamestown to establish a settlement at the Falls where 140 men and a six months supply of food was left.  However, the site was too low in elevation and subjected to the inundation of high water. So when Capt. Smith went up river to look over the new post, he negotiated with the Indians to take over their fortified settlement on a point of high ground. This included lodgings and 300 acres of ground readie to plant, a place which Smith called Nonsuch.
The shift of site was made in West's absence and when he returned he was not happy with the situation. He preferred the site of his choice and the settlers returned again "to the open aire of West Fort," abandoning "Nonsuch."  As a result, an Indian attack followed and the settlement became untenable. West returned with his men to Jamestown having lost a goodly number at the "Falles" as well as eleven men and a boat at "Arsetocke" a few miles downstream. One more settlement had temporarily failed. Lord De La Warr attempted to re-establish the post here in 1610 and built "Laware's Fort" from which he planned to search for minerals in the coming spring. This, too, failed when illness caused him to return to Jamestown, the same sickness, perhaps, that led him to quit Virginia a little later.

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Friday, February 5, 2016

The College Lands

Some of the old deeds in York County, Virginia refer to the College lands.  The College began in 1619 with a specific interest towards Christianing the Indians and educating the infidels children. Governer Yeardley's instructions of 1618 had an order to locate a suitable place for a university in the Henrico area.  Contributions were made towards the planting of a college and 10,000 acres were set aside as an endowment. When the bishop's collection for the college reached £1,500, a decision was made. Rather than start construction with too little, it was resolved to send fifty tenants-at-halves to work on the land. Half of their income would go to the college project and half to themselves. Profits, it was expected, would augment the building and maintenance fund and help to support tutors and students. In the meanwhile, friendly relations with the Indians were important to make possible the willing education of their children. The tenants reached Virginia in November, 1619, under the command of William Weldon. Being poorly supplied, however, and inexperienced, the Governor dispersed 30 of them among the old planters and sent Weldon and the remainder to be with Capt. Samuel Mathews at Arrahatock which was actually within the College lands. This was a poor beginning and meant that little would happen within a year. In England, the early beginnings were seen not to have been too successful and the Company committee set up for the purpose explored various possibilities. In the spring of 1620, George Thorpe, a gentleman of the King's privy chamber and a member of the Company Council, was made deputy for the Company to prosecute the project. Already he had gone to Virginia in the interest of Berkeley Hundred. Previously, it appears, an additional fifty tenants had been dispatched to the Colony.
The Indian massacre of 1620/1621 took George Thorpe and 17 of the "Colledge People" located about 2 miles above "Henrico-Citie." The college project did not survive this blow even though the Company urged it and the 60 surviving tenants were returned to the land in the spring of 1623 with the hope of building houses and planting orchards and gardens.  During the year of 1624, there were 29 persons living on the college lands, and, according to the census of 1625, this had dropped to 22 who were living in 8 houses. They were then deficient in food, excepting fish, and in livestock and were not too well armed, having but 16 armors, 6 swords, and 18 fixed pieces. The excursion into ironmaking had failed after the expenditure of "the greatest parte of the stock belonginge to the Colledge." With the dissolution of the Company the spark for the project seemed gone. One student of this subject, Robert Hunt Land, has concluded: "Possibly a greater blow to Henrico College than the massacre was the revocation of the charter of the Virginia Company of London."
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Monday, February 1, 2016

Argall Town

Having been assigned 2400 acres for the transportation of 24 persons, a site west of Jamestown was selected by Samuel Argall in 1617 as settlement.  This was one of the first land grants.  Also, there were settlers with him to be employed on the land.  The occupants of this area were listed two years later which sent representatives to the Fist Assembly of 1619, viz., Thomas Pawlett and Edward Gourgaing. From all that I can determine this land was near to the present site of Williamsburg, Virginia.
Seemingly the accommodations which resulted were good ones for when, in 1619, some newly arrived Martin's Hundred people were seated here, there was good and convenient housing which enabled them to do the best of all new-comers. They reaped better crops and the list of those who died was not comparable to other places. Argall Town, however, was not destined to become a settled community. It was on the Governor's land and Yeardley proceeded after his arrival in 1619 to take a petty rente from the settlers here "to make them acknowledge that Paspaheigho by expresse wordes in the greate commission did belonge to the Governor and that they had bene wrongfully seated by Capt. Argall upon that lande."
Source:  The First Seventeen Years 1607-1725 by Charles E. Hatch Jr.

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Falling Creek Iron Works

The Iron Works at Falling Creek near Jamestown
Five years after the massacre of Jamestown, William Capps was sent by the King to Virginia with a general commission to establish a number of industries in the colony, including the manufacture of iron. The Governor and Council expressed the utmost readiness to give Capps all the assistance in their power, but Capps soon became involved in trouble and before he could issue any plans, was forced to leave the colony. Source: King to Governor and Council of Virginia, British State Papers, Colonial, vol. IV, No. 32; Sainsbury Abstracts for 1627, p. 164; Examination taken Nov. 2, 1629, British State Papers.


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Friday, January 22, 2016

Glass-making at Jamestown

Polish Glass-maker at Jamestown
It was thought that the abundance of trees necessary to fire pits to make glass was an advantage in the Colony of Virginia.  In 1608, when a number of tradesmen arrived, they were accompanied by Dutch and Poles (of the Second Supply ship) for the purpose of making a trial of glass.  A glass-house was erected about a mile from Jamestown. Capt. Smith supervised the operation and a cargo holding specimans of glass were shipped to England. In 1621, the Virginia Company of London entered into a contract with Captain William Norton who had decided to emigrate with his family.  The terms were that he was to carry over with him four Italians skilled in glass-making, and two serants, the expense of transporting six persons to be borne by Norton. As a reward, he was to receive one-fifth of the moiety of the product reserved for the Company and was to be allowed four acres of public land. He had to agree not to retain any beeds to exchange in trade with the local Indians. This contract was later reconsidered at a Quarter Court. The Company was in no condition to undergo the heavy charge of supplying eleven persons with apparel, tools, victuals and other necessities. They decided to resolve the matter by the Company granting 50 acres of land for every person sent over by private adventurers. Captain Norton succeeded in erecting a glass furnace, but unfortunately died. Treasurer Sandys was appointed to take his place, found it difficult to obtain the proper amount of sand, so sent a shallop to the Falls for a supply. However, nothing adaptable was found. But more the problem was the poor relationship with Sandys had with the Italian workmen.  Sandys, in the violence of his anger and disgust, said "that a more damned crew hell never vomited".  The Italians, anxious to return to Europe, deliberately proceeded slowly in their work, and cracked the furnace as well by striking it with a crowbar.

Source: Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 441; Muster of the Inhabitants of Virginia, 1624-5; Hoteen's Original List of Emigrants, 1600-1700, p. 235.

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Friday, January 15, 2016

Coopers and Blacksmiths

Among those who made the first voyage to Virginia in 1607, there were four carpenters, two bricklayers, a blacksmith and a mason.  Afterwards, in the first Supply ship, were included a cooper and a blacksmith and fourteen artisans arrived in the second Supply ship.  The Virginia Company of London advertised from time to time to secure members of different trades. However, in 1616 the only tradesmen referred were smiths and carpenters.   So it came to pass that when Governor Yeardley took charge in 1619, he alotted to every tradesmen who decided to follow his handicraft rather than engage in husbandry, a tract of four acres of land. This area of ground, upon which a dwelling-house was to be created, was conveyed in fee simple, subject to a quit-rent of our pence.

Source: Works of Capt. John Smith, p. 94; Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. II, p. 160.

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Friday, January 8, 2016

The General Court of Jamestown

Bacon's Rebellion
The General Court in Virginia met once a year, first at Jamestown, but it also met occasionally elsewhere in the Colony.   During 1640, it met several times in Elizabeth City, and from July to the end of the year,  sessions were held in Jamestown.   As early as 1643, the General Court occupied its own special offices in the State-House recently erected, but when this building burned down in 1656, its members found it necessary to rent an apartment for their use in the residence of Thomas Woodhouse.  A new State-House was finished before 1666 and this is where the General Court met until the general insurrection of 1676 when rebels led by Nathaniel Bacon torched that building.

Source: Acts of 1656, Randolph MS., ol. iii., p. 269 consists of the instructions with Governor Berkley received in 1642 requiring him to see to the building of a General Court-house; Minutes of Council, Feb. 18, 1690, B. T. Va., 1690, No. 14.


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