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The First Houses in Jamestown

During the spring months of 1608, the settlers cut cedar logs and prepared "clapboards" to be returned in a Supply vessel and sold in England. Later, when settlers discovered some golden colored soil, there seems to have been a mild "old rush." This all delayed early spring clearing and planting, and boded ill for the coming summer when Smith undertook additional explorations.

Settlers to Jamestown Purchased Wives

Buying WivesBecause of the hardships endured in the early settlement of James Town, one of the things permitted by the London Company was the purchasing of wives. In tracing these families, I have discovered a number of persons, before and after the 1622 massacre particularly, who returned to London to acquire a wife. This information may be gleaned from parish registers. First, disease and rat poison (arsenic) from the vessels caused a rank loss of life and the later massacre, of course, killed off a number of families. The London Company investors added this provision to their charter. Nearly 400 persons were slain in the colony on March 22, 1622.

Ships Transporting Wives

Twelve women were sent in the Marmaduke and fifty in the ship and pinnace called Tyger. The London Company detailed in their records that it was their intent to providing their first landing and to dispose of them in marriage. The passage was 12 pounds sterling and 150 pounds of the best leaf tobacco for each. Should any one or more of them die, then the proportional addition was to be paid by the rest. They were to be delivered to Mr. Ed who was to keep an accounting. "This and theire owne good deserts together with your favor and care, will we hope, marry any of them shall unwarily or fondly bestow (for the liberty of marriage we dare not infringe) upon such as shall not be able to give present satisfaction, we desire that at least as soon as ability shalbe, they be compelled to pay the true quantity of tobacco proportioned, and that this debt may have precidence of all other to be recovered." All this possible because in 1622 a monopoly for the importation of tobacco was granted to the Virginia Company and Somers Island Company. Source: The London Company on Buying Wives.

King James Opposed the Growing of Tobacco

settlers to Jamestown King James opposed the growing of tobacco in the colonies, saying that it was evil, and did everything in his power to discourage planting. Instead, the soveign addressed the London Company sharply reproving it for not growing mulberry trees for the cultivation of silk. In 1623, a letter was prepared for the colony by the privy council of the king and addressed to Sir Francis Wyatt, Knight and Captain-General of Virginia, wherein the colony was admonished to pay more attention to staple commodities, especially to that of iron, vines and silk. Then, a year later, King James prohibited the importation of foreign tobacco as well as the planting of tobacco in England and Ireland while allowing it to be planted in Virginia and on the Somer Isle because those colonies were "yet in their infancy." After the death of the king in 1625, he was succeeded by his son, Charles I. Upon descending the throne Charles I manifested the same hostile attitude towards the plant and prohibited the importation of tobacco except that grown in the colony. He not only continued its sale, however, created a monopoly for the crown, allowing planters to pay "for the privilege". The London Company proceeded to raise 200,000 pounds, but the matter fell into dispute and King Charles thought it best to establish a royal government. Accordingly, he dissolved the Company in 1626.

Worm Fences

worm fenceTobacco and Indian Corn was planted in hills as hops and secured by worm fences which are made of rails supporting one another. It is also referred to as a snake fence. Tobacco required much skill and trouble, as the plants were raised in beds and later transplanted and replanted. Two types were used, Oroonoko (strongest) and sweet-scented (mildest). Because tobacco afforded a better economy, the planters enjoyed price increases due to the demands in England as smoking became popular. The highest price paid was 3 shillings per pound. There was some complaint to the London Company in 1621 concerning the quality of tobacco being exported from the colony. This was a time when tobacco was used as money and the measure of price and value. All public and parish taxes were payable in tobacco. However, during 1639 the Grand Assembly which sat in January of the year passed a law restricting growth of tobacco in the colony to 1,500,000 pounds, and to 1,200,000 pounds during the next two years.

The Parlor House

Hall and Parlor House The "Warburton House" or "Pinewoods" of about 1680 has segmental-arched openings, T-chimneys, and chimney caps with mouse-tooth brickwork, a decoration which was fashional during the 17th century. An earlier structure also had a rear wing. The parlor and hall was probably added after the planter or tradesman had been in the colony for awhile and was more prosperous. It was a simple matter to add a "parlor" to one end of the homestead, thus making the second stage of development, the "hall-and-parlor" dwelling. In some instances, the parlor was smaller than the hall or Great Room.

The First State House

First State HouseThere is the group of three brick edifices which comprised the "First State House" in Virginia. The three cellars and their long walls were excavated. The structure was originally two storeys and garret high. The down-river, or eastern section, and the central portion, were erected about 1635 by Governor John Harvey and were used as the capitol building of the Colony from 1641 for fifteen years. The up-river section was built before 1655 by Sir William Berkeley. But by 1670 the whole pile, with its three front gables facing the James River was burned during the Rebellion of Nathaniel Bacon against the Royal Governor. The unit floor plan comprised a hall and parlor with back-to-back fireplaces and a very narrow passageway running the length of the building on one side. It was quite similar to the typical London city house, Tudor in appearance with wrought-iron hardware. Such items as Cock's Head hinges, leaded lattice casements, and great rim locks with eight-inch keys were dug up.

Where to Find Tidbits of Information concerning Jamestown Settlers

Genealogy Tips from Jeannette Holland Austin

The early vessels to Jamestown delivered mostly male settlers. It was not until later that women were brought over for the purpose of marriage. The wife of my own ancestor, Gabriel Holland, was killed in the massacre of 1622. This is probably the situation for other ancestors as well. He then married a widow whose husband had been slain and there a slight mention of his taking up the lot previously owned by her husband. However, two or three years later, he returned to London and married the third time. Gabriel was appointed one of the Burgesses for Jamestown, and made several trips to London on the business of the colony. One issue they were discussing is the taxing of tobacco, and Gabriel was sent to have an audience with King Charles I. This was a period when the king was not convening Parliament, so Gabriel's attempts to settle this tax, went unresolved. I found some mention of this in the English Court of Chancery. We have to remember that the colony was subjugated to the King, and that the King's business was tended by Burgesses. The accounts of the House of Burgesses published in the Virginia Magazine is another instance where tidbits of information can be gleaned and studied.

Jamestown Bowl

The Hardships of our Fathers

Cold Harbour While researching my ancestors sometimes I am amazed at the hardships they bore or what happened to their good lives. Presently, there is a series of historical accounts of the monarchs of England on the television. It begins with Alfred the Great and goes through the current monarchy. Although it said nothing of my Holland ancestors, while watching, I realized that had John Holland, the Duke of Exeter, next-in-line for the throne after Richard I was defeated, then the Tudors would not have taken power and Henry VIII would not have ascended the throne and rid the country of the immensely political Catholic Church. The duke was the grandson of Joan Plantagenet who first married Sir Thomas de Holland, and later, the Black Prince. The Black Prince died early in life, and it was his son, Richard, who came to the throne. His two step-brothers, Thomas and John, were in the political arena. It was John Holland who supported the duke of Lancaster in his wars against the duke of York. He amassed great estates, Dartlington Manor in Essex, and was ultimately the Earl of Huntingdon and possessed the great Admiral Seal of England. When Richard met Edward IV on the battle field, John and Thomas Holland conspired to secure Richard's position. When Richard I was captured, however, John Holland was seized and beheaded. But Edward IV had one more heir to the throne to rid himself of. And that was Henry, son of John Holland, who inherited the Essex estate as the second and third duke of Exeter. Henry had married the ten-year old Ann Plantagenet at the behest of the Duke of York whose plan it was to make Ann the queen when Henry Holland ascended to the throne. But Henry disappointed the duke of York when he joined the duke of Lancaster. The couple had one child, a daughter. Ann hated Henry and sought to divorce Henry in 1462 and acquire possession of their grand mansion "Cold Harbour" in London. The divorce stripped Henry of his wealth and he spent the next ten or fifteen years fighting with Lancaster. Henry's dangerous esapades caused him to take refuge in the Tower of London. The tower was the castle owned by John Holland (now Henry). About the time that Edward IV seized the throne and declared himself king, Henry was found lying on a battle field in France. However, recognized as being alive by his servant, was saved. Bolingbroke, having heard, captured Henry and imprisoned him in the Tower of London. It was at this point that that castle went into the hands of Bolingbroke, and passed through the royal lineage. Meanwhile, Ann, had remarried, this time to St. Thomas de Leger. A scheme was concocted by de Leger to persuade Henry to join the Yorkists in battle. Upon returning from the adventure, they crossed the Thames river by boat and Henry Holland was drowned. The history books state that Henry was the only person who drowned, and that Thomas St. de Leger threw him overboard. With the beheading of John Holland and the drowning of Henry, Richard I was murdered, and the way was clear for Edward to be King of England. Thus, the descendants of Edward IV were Henry Tudor, including Henry VIII! From dukes and earls, riches and fame to beheadings and murder. We read about the misery of others down through history. The result of the terrible end to the lives of some of my ancestors was the ascension of Henry VIII to the throne of England, the works of Martin Luther, the Puritans, Separatists and others bore fruit and the American colonies became a haven for religious freedom and ultimately a Constitution guaranteeing inalienable rights. We do not always have the answers, yet, if we knew more details of the past, might we better understand the role that our families played in bringing about a better future?

The Black Plague 1346 A. D. to 1353 A. D.

Black Death During the 1300s Europe was swamped by the grim reaper. It was the era of one of the most devastating pandemics in human history. An estimaed 75 to 200 million people in Eurasia and Europe died between 1346 and 1353. Despite the plague, the hundred years war between England and Normandy was ongoing. The Battle of Crecy under Edward III marked the first use of cannon when it defeated a French army under the command of Philip VI in 1340 A. D. It also signalled the beginning of a dastardly black plague. As the English king sent his knights to invade Normandy and to die on the battle field, who can say whether it be from wounds or the plague? Meanwhile, the Pope, whose home was in Avon, France at the time, secluded himself from exposure by assigning important tasks to the cardinals. The plague is calculated to have ended by 1356 A. D. when the Prince of Wales defeated the French at the Battle of Poitiers and civil chaos broke out in France when the French king, John II, was captured and taken to England. Yet nothing was able to stop the reaper. The average age during the year was 30 years. It is said that the plague originated in the East when ships carrying rats infected with vermin. For centuries, ships dusted arsenic around its food barrels. Going forward, the first Supply ship delivering settlers to the colony of Virginia, also used arsenic to poison its rats. The bones of an archaeological dig at Jamestown suggested deaths arose from arsenic poisoning!

1619 Immigrants from Newgate Prison to Kikotan

When the English colonists arrived in Jamestown in 1607, there was a tribe of Algonquian Indians residing in the vicinity of Hampton Roads. The natives were treacherous under Chief Powhatan, who had slain the weroance at Kikotan in 1597. He then appointed his young son Pochins as successor at Hampton Roads. Some of the tribe had escaped and resettled along the Plankatank River, but Powhatan found and annihilated them in 1608. Actually, the English explorers were welcomed in 1607 by friendly Indians. However, two years later, after John Smith sent Captain Martin to take over the island inhabited by the Nansemonds, while he was doing so, seventeen men mutinied and went to Kikotan to purchase corn, but were killed. Martin abandoned his cause to take Nansemond Island and returned to Jamestown. The colonists then built Fort Algernon at Old Point Comfort beside their main village in October 1609. Although unwelcome at Kikotan, the English continued to land at Hampton Roads. In 1619 the English ship Margaret from Bristol landed at Kikotan on November 30th. A list of names is available to members of 8 Genealogy Websites under "Immigrants"

What is a Magazine Ship?

Magazine Ships

The magazine is the name of a place where ammunition is stored on board a vessel and included explosive materials. The London Company was quite strict in the weapons sent to the colony and the affairs of the magazine were administered by a director who was assisted by a committee of five counselors. One the cargo was received into the colony, the accounts thereof were required to be passed upon by a team of auditors specially nominated in a Quarter Court. Thus, the weapons received into the colony for defensive maneuvers were carefully guarded as they were sorely needed by the colonists as a defense against a huge population of marauding Indian tribes in the region. This means that the adventurers held separate meetings to conduct all routine business affairs. During the settlement of Jamestown, no outside trader was permitted to ship supplies into the Colony. The first vessels were referred to as Supply ships because they transported supplies into the Colony as well as a those passengers proposing to reside in Virginia. Fevers, dysentery and Indian attacks were a way of life and restricted the settlers to reside within the confines of a palisade fence. The first ten years or so, a number of Supply ships arrived in the colony and it was not uncommon for the settlers to assume the return voyage to England in search of a new wife to replace the one which had died. After the year of 1619, the vessel which conveyed articles and supplies into the Jamestown settlement were called a magazine ships. The articles purchased by the adventurers who entered into a joint stock (known as the magazine) were conveyed by the magazine ship to the New World. Also, its cargo was confined to necessities. Several immigrants were appointed to take charge of the goods both before and after the vessel arrived in Jamestown. The first magazine vessel was called the Susan, a small vessel whose cargo was restricted only to that clothing which the Colonists needed the most. The goods of the Susan were placed in the care of Abraham Piersey as the Cape Merchant, both during the voyage and after Virginia was reached. As the struggling colonists commenced their chores, the only commodities produced were those which assured a profit when sold in England, such as tobacco and sassafras. The exported cargo was then exchanged for the contents of the arriving magazine ship.

James City County Genealogy, Wills, Estates, Settlers to Jamestown

Map of Jamestown James City County was created in 1634 as James City Shire by order of King Charles I. The county seat is Williamsburg which was first settled in 1607 by English colonists. Jamestown, which evolved into James City County, was named for King James I. When King James revoked the charter of the London Company in 1624, Virginia became the first royal colony of the king. By 1634, the colony divided into eight counties, among them were James City and the Charles River, now known as York. The division into counties laid the foundation for strong local government that later served as a model to states as they were admitted into the union. Every year until 1632, the Assembly met at the Jamestown church. The Assembly is believed to have met in the home of the governor until about 1699 when the capital was moved inland to Middle Plantation, which was renamed Williamsburg. Moving the county seat was unpopular with local residents, however in 1715 it was was moved from Jamestown to Williamsburg. Some very historical events occurred in Jamestown. For one thing, the rebellion of Nathaniel Bacon and his followers in an effort to get the governor to prevent Indian raids and massacres, burned Jamestown.

James City County Records available to members of Virginia Pioneers

  • 1607 Settlers of Jamestown(list of names)

Digital Images of Will Book No. 1, 1865 to 1887

Testators: Allen, William ;| Ashlock, Richard |Barnes, William H. | Bennett, Abel | Bragg, Hugh | Bratcliff, George | Browning, A. J. | Browning, Absalom, estate | Bush, William, estate | Canaday, Jonathan | Chapman, Aaron | Clowe, John, estate | Davis, Benjamin Allen | Debriss, William | Dibble, A. S. | Fielding, Jeremiah, estate | Fox, George W. | Hankins, George | Harrell, Burrell | Harris, Abby | Hazlewood, George | Henley, Thomas | Hinson, John | Hockaday, Susan | Hockaday, William, estate | Hubbard, Charles M. | Hubbard, William B., estate | Hundley, Judith | Hundley, Thomas | Jackson, John | Jones, Henley (trust) | Jones, John W. | Jones, William M. | Knight, Garrett | Marston, Dandridge | Merridith, John | Minor, William J. | Moore, Horace, estate | Moore, Moses | Morris, James S. | Mulford, Furman | Peggott, Nathaniel | Pierce, Elizabeth B. | Pitts, Simeon | Post, Christopher | Power, H. S. B. | Ratcliffe, John | Richardson, B. M., estate | Richardson, Elizabeth | Russell, Simon, estate | Scarborough, James | Slater, Beverly | Spencer, Martha | Stewart, George W., estate | Spraggins, S. B., estate | Taylor, Frances P. | Taylor, Mathew, estate | Taylor, P. A. | Taylor, Robert P. | Taylor, Thomas | Turner, Archer | Vaiden, Ann | Van Horne, Cornelius | Waller, Littleton | Wallis, Archer | Walls, William B. | Whitaker, R. H., estate | Wilbern, William | Wilkins, John W., ward | Wise, David, estate | Wynne, Thomas | Yerby, William, estate

Miscellaneous Documents

Broadribb, William, LWT, transcription
Madison, James, LWT (1812), transcription
Randolph, John (Sir) of Williamsburg, LWT (1735), transcription
Rolfe, Johis, LWT, transcription
Sherwood, William, LWT, transcription
Taliaferro, Richard, LWT, transcription


  • 1704 Quit Rent Rolls

Traced genealogies and family histories of James City County available to Members !

Bassett Burris Corker Dunn
Ellyson Harrison Holland Menefie
Percy Tooke

The Conditions in the Colony Under King James I

growing tobacco in the streets In History of Virginia by Arthur and Carpenter, the need to plant tobacco was discussed. "The first articles of commerce to the production of which the early settlers almost exclusively devoted themselves, were potash, soap, glass and tar." After the costly experiments in the cultivation of the vine, the growing demand for tobacco enabled planters to turn their labor into a profit. Meanwhile, "The houses were neglected, the palisades suffered to rot down, the fields, gardens and public squares, even the very streets of Jamestown were planted with tobacco. The townspeople, more greedy of gain than mindful of their own security, scattered abroad into the wilderness, where they broke up small pieces of rich ground and made their crop regardless of their proximity to the Indians, in whose good faith so little reliance could be placed." In 1626, Charles I had established himself as a tobacco merchant and monopolist, issued a proclamation renewing his strong monopoly and appointing certain officers in London to seize all foreign tobacco not grown in Virginia or in the Bermudas, for his own benefit and also to purchase all of the tobacco coming from said plantations for resell. Profits were going so well for His Majesty, that in 1630 and 1634 he issued proclamations prohibiting the landing of tobacco anywhere except at the quay near the Custom House of London. The laws surrounding his monopoly ultimately diminished trade and ruined the Virginia Company altogether.

Jamestown Colonists Slaughtered by Indians in 1622/3

Hardships in the Colony: Crop: A Field of Flax. More than 300 Englishmen, women and children died in the massacre of 1622. Effectually, their settlements were reduced to six or seven in number. The several children who survived the massacre had hidden themselves in the woods. A great hunger and hardship settled upon the English. The glass-making houses could no longer be built at Jamestown, and the iron works planned at Falling Creek after some ore was found on the ground, slipped into oblivion. King Charles, being informed of the slaughter and ruination of the colony sympathized and dissolved the Virginia Company in 1626. The result was that the country and government was reduced, and he appointed the governor and council himself, this time directing that all patents and processes to issue in his own name, and he would receive a quit-rent of two shillings for every hundred acres of land. He established a constitution to be by a governor, council and assembly for apportioning land and granting patents to particular adventurers. The libery of taking up land, and the ambition each man had of being lord of a vast, though unimproved territory, together with the advantage of the many rivers, which afford commodious roads for shipping at every man's door, made settlement of towns difficult. Source: The History of Virginia by Robert Beverley.

Markets and Fairs

Norwich Market1799 Norwick Market in England. In 1649, the local authorities decided to hold markets every week in Jamestown, which was one form of a familiar English fair. English fairs were the oldest of the trade institutions and were encouraged during an age when the population was sparse. People could come together from a distance and exchange their products. The Jamestown markets were restricted to Wednesdays and Saturdays of each week and the boundaries of a site were carefully laid off. The market place in Jamestown extended from the eastern side of the James River for two miles. Source: Hening's Statutes, vol. I, p. 362.

More information concerning Virginia adventurers and their origins is found under "Origins" and available to members of Virginia Pioneers

Glassware Factory Near Jamestown

Jamestown Glassware Curiously enough, the first industrial enterprise undertaken in America was a factory for the manufacture of glass bottles. It was built very early in the history of the Virginia colony, and stood about a mile from Jamestown in the midst of a woodland tract. Later on, other factories were erected, many of them being prompted to manufacture the important glass beads to be used in trading with the Indians.