Tag Archives: colonial history

Yorktown, Virginia

Old Yorktown, Virginia * http://www.yorkcounty.gov/tourism/

Yorktown, Virginia

Yorktown was named after England’s York and was established as a port for shipping tobacco to Europe. It is the 3rd part of Virginia’s infamous “Historic Triangle” that connects it with Jamestown and Williamsburg. Yorktown is a small village of roughly 203 citizens (2000 census) and is considered a “Census-designated place” in York County, Virginia. It is also York County’s county seat and is one of the eight original shires that formed in colonial Virginia in 1634. Yorktown is most famous for the surrender of General Cornwallis of the English army to General George Washington of the newly forming United States of America in 1781. It was this surrender that effectively ended the American Revolutionary War even though the war continued for another year. It was here as well that another American war – the American Civil War (1861-1865) prominently figurred as a placehold in being a major port that supplied northern and southern towns thereby placing it into being a battlefield a second time. There are only 9 buildings that survive from the Colonial period as well as many of the earthworks dug by the besieging American and French forces. There is also a memorial to the French war dead of the battle. Its a small quaint town. Nothing like Jamestown or Williamsburg and holds an attraction of its own. While I was visiting, most of the museums of historic buildings were closed and there were no activities. It does have a nice public white-sand beach great for summer activities and a little bit of shopping. Its a nice exit to the excitement of Jamestown and Williamsburg. Rating 3.5 stars out of 5. Visited 5/22/2008.

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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.

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Captain John Smith statue, Jamestown, Virginia

statue of Captain John Smith

Captain John Smith
[ insert from the interpretive display at Jamestowne park ]

“John Smith was born about 1580 the son of a yeoman farmer of modest means. As a young man he travelled through Europe and fought as a soldier in the Netherlands and in Hungary. There he was captured, taken to Turkey and sold into slavery in Russia. He murdered his master, escaped, and journeyed back to Hungary to collect a promised reward of money and a coat-of-arms. He returned to England in time to participate in the settlement of Virginia. He was a arrogant and boastful man, often tactless and often brutal. Physically strong and worldly wise, he made an excellent settler. However, his personality, his obvious qualifications and his low social position infuriated many of the colonists leaders and settlers. Despite this, he was named to the first Council in May 1607. He learned the Indians’s language and became the colony’s principal indian trader. During the summer of 1608 he led a 3,000 mile expedition in an open boat to explore and map Cheasapeake Bay and ints principle rivers. On September 10, 1608 – the Council elected him Governor of Virginia for a one-year term. He was an able leader who understood both the Indians and the settler’s needs and the colony prospered. Captain Smith returned to England in October 1609, following an accidental gunpowder burn and became Virginia’s most effective propagandist and historian. His True Relation of Virginia (1608), Map of Virginia (1612), and General History of Virginia (1624) presented the colony as Smith understood it. In 1614 he made a short voyage to New England where he explored and mapped the coast from Cape Cod to Maine. Smith returned to England and never visited Virginia again, never married, and never received the recognition he thought he deserved. He died June 21, 1631 and was buried in St. Sepulchre’s Church in London. The statue erected by William Couper was erected in 1909.


Jamestown National Historical Site, Jamestown, Virginia

Jamestown National Park (Jamestown, Virginia)

Another location I haven’t been to since childhood, and a site dear to my heart of inspirations that were just one more brick in the road of my childhood that led me into Archaeology as a life passion. I remember vividly when my father took me to Jamestown, Williamsburg, Mesa Verde, and a dozen other Archaeological parks. Jamestown is much more the historical “archaeological” section of Virginia’s famous “Historical Triangle”. While Colonial Williamsburg is much more popular (and certainly more touristy) in many ways, Jamestown is much more textbook and on-hands educational and informative (in my opinion). So I knew I’d be spending most of the day at this park. I was also inspired upon entrance that instead of paying the $10 entrance fee, that I would purchase an Annual pass to the National Parks ($80) as I know I’ll be hitting quite a few of them through the year. I always felt I should have been given a life pass to them since I used to work for the National Park Service, but I suppose that’s one perk they just don’t give to their employees.

Jamestown Colonial National Historical Park, Virginia

In 1893 the landowners Mr. and Mrs. Edward Barney donated 22 1/2 acres of land which held the archaeological remains of the original Jamestown settlement, the 1639 tower of the Jamestown Church, and the original fort that encompassed most of Jamestown Island. They gave it to APVA Preservation Virginia which at that time was known as the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities. In 1934, the National Park Service teamed together with APVA and created the National Park Site that exists now that is often called “Historic Jamestowne”. It was designated the “Jamestown National Historic Site” on December 18, 1940 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966 protecting it forever. This was the original site of the 1607 James Fort that was the first permanent British colony in North America and the later 17th century city of Jamestown that became the capital of the Virginia Colony that is located on Jamestown Island on the James River. Through the years erosion from the river had dissolved most of the western shore and visitors to the area just deduced that the site of James Fort was underwater. Thanks to federal assistance, a sea wall was constructed in 1900 to prevent furthere erosion and the archaeological remains were excavated and discovered in 1994. Evidence soon showed remnants of Bacon’s Rebellion that occured on this site in 1676 when the statehouse was burned and after its 2nd burning when the capital was relocated to higher ground at Middle Plantation (1699) which became the site of Colonial Williamsburg. After the relocation, this site reverted to little used farmland and became the site of Confederate earthworks during the Civil War with the intention to provide river defenses against Union gunboats. The Ambler Farm was then burned by escaped slaves and the remains slowly sunk into the vast marshes and wooded lands of the Island until its rediscovery and scientific explorations that made it the site that exists today. A very popular tourist spot, even Queen Elizabeth visited on May 4, 2007 for her second visit (the first being October 1957). Jamestowne is one of the three popular locations that comprise Virginia’s famous Historic Triangle that is nestled along the National Park Services scenic 22 mile long biway known as the Colonial Parkway.

Historic Jamestowne Island, Virginia

ongoing excavations (5/21/08 view) on Jamestowne Island, Virginia

Governor Yeardley’s Lot, 1620’s
[ insert from the interpretive display at Jamestowne park ]
“… for his conveniency and the more Commodity of his houses and dwellings.” (Yeardley’s land patent, 1624)

“George Yeardley arrived in Jamestown in 1610, was appointed captain of the guard, and eventually lieutenant governor. Later knighted and appointed Governor of Virginia in 1618, he issued the Great Charter in 1619, establishing the first representative government in Virginia. In 1620, Yeardley acquired a seven-and-a-quarter-acre lot extending east of this location. A 1625 muster roll listed the member’s of Yeardley’s large household: Yeardley, his wife Lady Temperance Yeardley; their three children; and 24 servants, including three African men and five African women (8 of the first 9 Africans documented at Jamestown). Their muster also listed 50 cattle, 40 swine, and 11 goats and kids on Yeardley’s lot. In addition to three dwellings, Yeardley owned three boats … a barque, four ton shallop, and skiff. At this location, archaeologists excavated the brick foundations of a structure that may have been Yeardley’s. Scattered building materials along Back River suggest that two additional dwellings, perhaps for servants, may have been located at the eastern end of his lot. ”