Jamestown, Virginia - Historic Sites & Points of Interest
The first permanent English settlement in the New
World was established here on the banks of
Virginia's James River in 1607.
One of the most historic sites
in North America, this point on
the James River was the site
of the first English settlement.
ChurchThe brick tower at the
front of the church was built in
1690 and is the only standing
17th century structure at the
A reconstructed stockade,
cannon and exhibits help
visitors see the fort as it
appeared in 1607.
First Permanent English Settlement
Site of Old Jamestowne, Virginia
Ruins on the James River
Ruins from Jamestown's later
years can be seen on the
banks of the James.
|Copyright 2010 & 2014 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Updated: May 14, 2014
On May 14, 1607, a small company of
settlers landed at a point on the James River
in Virginia and established the settlement of
Jamestown. It was the first permanent
English settlement in the New World.
The Spanish were already well-established
in Florida by this time, having founded the city
of St. Augustine in 1565. While that city holds
the true title of "first permanent settlement" in
the United States, the planting of Jamestown
by the English established King James'
claim to North America and set the stage for
years of war and dispute between the
powers of Europe for control of the new lands
across the ocean.
The first settlers of Jamestown, led by the
famed Captain John Smith, built a fort,
church, storehouse and other structures in
their first three months at the settlement,
even as sickness and starvation stalked the
new colony. By 1609, ships had brought 214
English settlers to Jamestown. By the
summer of that year, only 60 remained alive.
These survivors decided to give up and go
home, but after burying their cannon and
preparing to leave, they were stunned by the
site of sailing ships entering the James
River. The vessels turned out to be the relief
flotilla of Lord De La Ware, who brought food,
supplies and new colonists. The crisis
passed and Jamestown survived.
During these first months of the English
presence in Virginia, an incident took place
that captured the imagination of writers and
romantics for generations to come. While on
an expedition from the new fort into the
interior, Captain John Smith was captured by
the warriors of Powhatan, the powerful chief
of the Algonquin Indians who lived in this
area of coastal Virginia.
Carried to Powhatan's village, Smith said that
he was first welcomed with a feast, but
suddenly was grabbed and stretched out on
rocks to be executed with clubs. At this point,
according to his account, a young daughter of
the chief suddenly covered his body with her
own and saved his life. Her name, of course,
Anthropologists believe the incident may
have been part of a traditional ceremony and
that Powhatan meant Smith no harm. The
legend has survived, however, as has the
name of Pocahontas, who eventually married
another settler and returned with him to
England. She died there of tuberculosis at
the age of 22.
Jamestown slowly took root and prospered
in Virginia. Relations with the Algonquin
soured and in 1622 they attempted to drive
the English into the sea. Some 300 colonists
were killed and many homes and farms
burned, but the Indians were unable to
capture the fort itself.
Jamestown is remembered in American
history for a number of reasons. Not only was
it the first permanent English settlement, it
was the place where the tobacco industry
was developed, leading eventually to the
worldwide use of the product. Jamestown
was also the place where African-American
servants were introduced into the South.
A Dutch captain traded his cargo of Africans
for provisions and other supplies at
Jamestown in 1619. These people became
indentured servants, with slavery as we know
it today not being introduced in Virginia until
another 60 or so years later.
Jamestown thrived over the next century and
grew into a prosperous community. Ruins
that dot the landscape today come mostly
from the post-1622 era. Although it had long
been assumed that the site of the original fort
had been washed away by the river, recent
archaeological discoveries have revealed
that the site is largely still intact.
Jamestown was the capital of Virginia until
1698, when the statehouse building burned
to the ground. Williamsburg assumed the
status of capital at that time, but Jamestown
remained an important settlement for many
years to come.
The site of Jamestown is preserved today
through the efforts of the Association for the
Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, also
known as Preservation Virginia, and the
National Park Service. It is open daily from
8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Admission is $10 for
adults. Ages 15 and under are admitted free.
Jamestown can be reached via either the
Colonial Parkway from Williamsburg and
Yorktown or the ferry that crosses from Surry
and the Southside of the James.
Please click here to visit the official National
Park Service website.
Preservation Virginia offers an excellent free
website detailing the recent archaeological
work at Jamestown.
Please click here to learn more.
Grave of an English Knight
Inside the church can be
found the carefully preserved
grave of an English knight
who died at Jamestown.
Colonial Sites in the South