Charred remains of Jamestown church burned down in 1676 Bacon's Rebellion ...

Charred remains of Jamestown church burned down in 1676 Bacon's Rebellion ...
Charred remains of Jamestown church burned down in 1676 Bacon's Rebellion ...

Jamestown was the first successful English colony in the modern United States and set the conflicted tone for the future: a place which mixed idealism about democracy and freedom with slavery and conflict with Indians.

English colonists had tried and failed to set up home here before, most infamously at Roanoke, but in April 1607 finally gained a foothold which defeated starvation and drought in its first few months to become permanent.

It was named after King James I, the English king, and the first settlers came in three ships on a four month voyage which started in 1606. 

They were welcomed by the Indians with dancing and tobacco, but by the end of 1607, as many as two-thirds of the English were dead thanks to attacks by Indians who had become hostile, and the fact the colonists arrived too late to plant crops - and anyway, too many were gentlemen who lacked practical skills. 

Virginia past: A painting suggesting how Jamestown was in the early 1600s when it was the first successful English settlement

Virginia past: A painting suggesting how Jamestown was in the early 1600s when it was the first successful English settlement 

The Indians locally were led by Powhatan, and his daughter Pocahontas was to become a key part of history, when Smith was captured late in 1607 by one of her father's relatives.

Smith was later to relate to Queen Anne that she intervened to stop his brains being beaten out and 'hazarded the beating of her own brains to save mine,' securing his release and safe return to Jamestown. 

In 1608, England sent supplies, gold, and more importantly skilled laborers and slowly, the colony started to thrive.

But then came the the 'Starving Time' of 1609 and 1610 - with scientific evidence now showing evidence of cannibalism among the settlers.  

Also in 1609, colonists captured Pocahontas and held her for a year; she learned English and converted to Christianity.

By June 1610 there were just 60 survivors and ships were ready to take them to safety in Bermuda when another fleet arrived with supplies and men.

Among them were John Rolfe, who brought with him tobacco seeds from Trinidad which he started to farm upstream of Jamestown.     

He became prosperous and wealthy and in 1614 married Pocahontas, the first recorded marriage between colonists and Indians, and they had a son the following year. 

Eight years known as the Peace of Pocahontas followed - but not for the couple, who traveled to England in 1616; when they planned to return in March 1617 they got as far as Gravesend, Kent,just outside London, where Pocahontas

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