Jamestown Island, Jamestown, Virginia

Jamestown Island / Jamestown National Park (Jamestown, Virginia)

first views of settling America
waterways of Colonial Jamestown Island, Virginia

Upon exiting Jamestown Historical Site visitors are presented with an option to explore the remainder of the island, and to take the 3 or 5 mile driving tour around the loop following the higher ground of the island. Planted every 1/4-1/2 mile usually is a marker telling the tale of the island outside of the Jamestown settlement. You’ll pass the site of a Confederate fort, through the Pitch and Tar Swamp, At the point of the island is a small hiking trail that leads to the Black Point that hosts white sand, marsh, pine trees, swamps, and beautiful views. The island formed many thousands of years ago, from a series of shoals along the James River. The Colonists arrived in 1607 to find an isthmus that connected the island to the mainland as well as a “paradise” of virgin hardwoods suitable for building their settlement. Unfortunately in the 1800’s, the isthmus eroded away and the forests cleared for farming. After Jamestown moved to Williamsburg, the island became a plantation run by the Ambler and Travis families. During the Civil War, confederate forts guarded the river channel. Today its in the hands of the National Park service where it has been healed and is regenerating. I quite enjoyed the peaceful drive and walk about the area. Rating: 3 stars out of 5. Visited 5/21/08.

driving map route of Historic Jamestowne Island, Virginia

Black Point, Jamestowne Island, Virginia

pathway to Black Point

“Bricks and Tiles”

The colonists at Jamestown produced most of their own brick and tile locally at each building site. Bricks were used for houses, wells, and walkways, tiles for floors and roofs. Three kilns have been excavated at Jamestown, each producing bricks of unique size and shape. Bricks also varied in hardness and color with the clay used and the length of time they were fired. Such differences can help date archaeological remains to a time a kiln was active.

Hardwood Harvest
[ insert from the interpretive display at Jamestowne Island driving tour ]
“By the 1600s hardwood lumber was scarce in England. Early exports of the colony were potash, used in the production of glass and soap ash, which would yield liquid soap. The ashes of hardwood logs were mixed with water, strained, and heated to a syrup-like consistency. Cooled and hardened in pots, the mixture could be shipped to England. In time the settlers cleared all of the hardwood forests from Jamestown island. Today’s forest is regrowth, mostly of pine.”

Harvesting Ice
[ insert from the interpretive display at Jamestowne Island driving tour ]
“Among the ruins of New Towne was a seven foot pit dug in colonial times. Not deep enough for a well, the hole tapered from 14 feet wide at the rim to 6 feet wide at the sandy bottom. In Britain in the 1600s, perishables were often stored in huts built over pits filled with layers of fresh-water ice and straw. The trapped frigid air could keep meat and dairy products fresh until Autumn. The colonists brought with them their Old World patterns of subsistence: milling, baking, brewing, and preserving food. The hole found at New Towne was very likely a traditional English ice pit.”

Early Medical Discoveries
[ insert from the interpretive display at Jamestowne Island driving tour ]
“Death and disease stalked the colony year round. Over the first 18 years, six of seven residents of Jamestown perished – over 6,000 deaths. Dr. Lawrence Bohun arrived at Jamestown in June of 1610; and stayed until the spring of 1611. Colonists spoke of a “seasoning time” in which newcomers passed through successive epidemics such as typhoid, dysentry, and influenza. Bohun experimented with native plants, herbs, extracts, and minerals seeking remedies for distresses of the Old World and the New. ”

Bowl, Pot, and Pipe
[ insert from the interpretive display at Jamestowne Island driving tour ]
“By 1640 Jamestown potters were making thick-walled jugs, bowls, and pots for everyday use. Symmetrical design and an occasional slip-coat of color show that skilled artisans were at work. The local ware fired red, due to the iron-rich Tidewater clay, Jamestown kilns produced earthenware objects of unglazed clay, as well as of lead-glazed clay. The colonists also made hand-modeled tobacco pipes. These home-made red pipes avoided the King’s duty on white pipes from England. ”

Virginia’s Vintage
[ insert from the interpretive display at Jamestowne Island driving tour ]
“The plentiful grape vines in the New World raised hopes of a profitable wine making industry. Native and imported varieties produced a drinkable vintage, but the wine often spoiled during the shipment to England. The venture failed. A local market did exist, especially since drinking water was brackish. Large finds of wine bottle fragments, as well as several cooling pits and cellars, mark the sites of Jamestown stores and taverns. Wealthier colonists also consumed wine from Europe, their stock marked with personalized seals. ”

On Roads of Water
[ insert from the interpretive display at Jamestowne Island driving tour ]
“Within three days of reaching the New World, the first Jamestown colonists had assembled a small boat to go exploring in the wilderness. Once settled they gathered raw materials of boat building for for export as well as for their own use. hardwood for masts, staves, and planks; pine trees for pitch, resin, and tar. From their shallow boats or ‘shallops’ the colonists harvested the teeming waters and traded along the shores of coastal Virginia. ”

Iron for Corn
[ insert from the interpretive display at Jamestowne Island driving tour ]
“For the first years at Jamestown, the English needed food from the natives in order to survive. The Powhatans for their part sought the colonist’s commercial goods, iron tools and pots, hatchets and knives, bells and glass beads. Exchanges could be forceful or friendly. The Powhatans sometimes offered corn and other staples as a gift; at other times, they refused contact or attacked those who had come to trade. The English wrote home of successful trading, yet at occasion they stole or raided at gunpoint. ”

The Golden Weed
[ insert from the interpretive display at Jamestowne Island driving tour ]
“King James called smoking a ‘filthy novelty’ but Tobacco proved to be the salvation of his Virginia colony. Seeds from South America and the West Indies grown on Virginia’s soil and climate, produced a pleasing leaf. From 1615 to 1619, tobacco experts increased twentyfold. In 1617 a captain found “the marketplace and streets and all other spare places planted with Tobacco.” After four more years, a report confessed ‘There is no other commodity but Tobacco.’ ”

Silk Worn and Silk Spun
[ insert from the interpretive display at Jamestowne Island driving tour ]
“England – and Jamestown – imported silk from the Mediterranean and the Orient. In 1619, the Colony secretary bragged that the cow keeper and the collier’s wife had suits of ‘fresh flaming silk.’ Spinning fibers from the silkworm coccoon was a lengthy smelly chore. Despite orders from the Virginia company to produce silk as a staple commodity, the colonists preferred to raise tobacco. Jamestown silk, like Jamestown wine, was not the hoped for New World treasure. ”

The Island House
[ insert from the interpretive display at Jamestowne Island driving tour ]
“To the right just beyond this narrow marsh, lay the 80-acre “Island House” tract which was planted and seated prior to 1619 by Richard Kingsmill, ‘ancient planter’, burgess, and man of property and affairs. His daughter Elizabeth and her husband Nathaniel Bacon, later sold it to Nicolas Meriwether, an ancestor of Meriwether Lewis, one of our great western explorers. ”

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