Colonial American History Journal – Book 1
Chapter title – January 7, 1698 – Fire Destroys Jamestown Virginia
After its establishment in May of 1607, the colonists in Jamestown faced a harrowing existence. Salt poisoning from the briny river water they drank, dysentery and typhoid ravaged the men of the colony. The relationship with the surrounding native tribes ranged from hostility to reluctant friendship. There was the constant threat of attack by the Spanish, who often explored the area. Their arrival coincided with the beginning of a seven-year drought, thus adding to their difficulties.
A Commercial Venture
Since the settlement was primarily a commercial venture, the men had not expected to hunt or grow food. They expected provisions from England or trade for supplies with the local native tribes. These men did not wish to spend time hunting or growing crops. Additionally, the directive from the King that the first five years be an experiment in communal living had failed. They depended upon the exploration and scavenging ability of Captain John Smith, whom a few months earlier, they had condemned to death for accused insurrection. Only the intervention of Bartholomew Gosnold saved his life, but they kept him in shackles. They only released him upon discovery that his name was on a list of seven names, handpicked in England and placed in a sealed box. This list named him a member of the seven-member council that would lead the colony.
In spite of the difficulties, by January 1608 the men managed to build a storehouse, church, and several houses. They surrounded this settlement with a log palisade for protection from the Spanish and the native tribes.
Captain John Smith engaged in frequent explorations of the area surrounding them. He usually returned with corn and other foodstuffs acquired by trade or theft from the Algonquin tribes. It was on one of these missions that a party of Powhatan captured Smith after killing his two companions. The Powhatan chief threatened to kill Smith also. This was the fabled encounter with Pocahontas. Smith later claimed the eleven-year-old girl saved his life.
They allowed him to return after agreeing to give the colonists food in exchange for iron hatchets and copper trinkets.
When he returned, what remained of the population accused him of causing his companions death. The Council condemned him to death.
Supply Ship Returns
Captain Christopher Newport, after leaving the previous summer to gather supplies, returned. Captain Newport found a colony in collapse. Of the original 104 men, only 38 survived and of these, only ten were able to work. Disease and hunger had so weakened the rest that they could not walk. One of the leaders, John Smith, was under sentence of death and food was in short supply. His ship’s arrival with fresh supplies and a new contingent of colonists revived the colony.
Then, on January 7, a few days after the ship arrived, disaster struck. A spark somewhere in the colony started a fire. It took little time for the fire to spread and consume the buildings, the new supplies and the fort.
Captain Smith again saved the colony by returning to the Powhatans and negotiating for food and supplies.
The colony persevered, rebuilding the buildings and the fort by spring. The colonists eventually elected Smith leader of the colony and it was his leadership that saved the colony.
Top of Page
Mossy Feet Books on Social Media
Online Sources for Mossy Feet Books
Paul Wonning’s Books on Amazon Page
Paul Wonning’s Books on Scribd Page
Paul Wonning’s Books on Apple
Paul Wonning’s Books on Kobo
Paul Wonning’s Books on Barnes and Noble
Paul Wonning’s Books on 24 Symbols
Paul Wonning’s Books on Google Play
Paul Wonning’s Books on Indigo
Paul Wonning’s Books on Playster
Paul Wonning’s Books on OverDrive
Search Paul Wonning on Ingrams
Table of Contents
© 2021 Paul Wonning