Earlier in the day we visited Yorktown, the site where the pivotal battle of the Revolutionary War took place in America's quest for independence. Now we're jumping back in history by about 175 year to the site of the first permanent settlement. Welcome to Jamestown!
Thursday, September 16, 2021
The Flowers Explore - Jamestown - 2021/08/12
From Yorktown, there was a twenty three mile drive down the Colonial Parkway, through Williamsburg and on to Jamestown. Here there's another visitor's center where the kids will be looking to collect another Junior Ranger badge.
Jamestowne is another site that charges an additional fee. This time our annual pass to the National Parks is only good for a portion of it. Because the site also conducts archeological studies, a $10 fee per adult is charged. At the main desk, the kids picked up their packages for their Junior Ranger activities.
Where the Yorktown Junior Ranger booklet was pretty difficult, this one seemed especially easy. I guess it's hard to find a balance.
Walking across the bridge over the marshlands, the kids were instructed to use their 5 senses and write what they experienced. Theresa happened to have some Rice Krispy Treats for the "Taste" sense.
Alli - I touch leyfs. I see trees. I taste riys crispy tret. I hear brd. I smell nachr (nature).
Ian - I touch a seat. I see clouds. I taste a rice krispy treat. I hear cicadas. I smell wood.
Across the bridge and close to the shoreline is the Tercentenary Monument. The base has multiple inscriptions including "Jamestown - The first permanent colony of the English people. The birthplace of Virginia and of the United States - May 13 1607."
"Virginia Company of London Founded Jamestown and sustained Virginia 1607-1624"
And so of course my mind goes to the Disney movie Pocahontas and the opening song.
"In 1607, we sail the open sea. For Glory, God, and Gold, and the Virginia Company." "On the beaches of Virginny, there's diamonds like debris. There's silver rivers flowin', gold you pick right off a tree."
And when that song get's stuck in your head, it's hard to get it out, thank you Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz.
At the river, the kids' next activity was to look for planes, helicopters, boats, ferries, jet skis, or animals and fill out a bar graph with the count of each. They saw many things, but animals was off the charts. They expanded the bar graph themselves to account for all the animals they found.
I did say that Jamestown was part of an archeological study. Here's that in action!
Did I mention it's hot yet? Temperatures are in the 90s, but the real feel is 108F.
Near the seawall, workers are digging holes and sifting through what they find using screens, similar to use panning for gold or diamonds.
Speaking to one of the students working with the team this summer, she was happy to answer any of the questions the kids had. When they asked if she'd found anything, she brought over an old bottle that was over 200 years old!
We also learned that they're supposed to stop work if the real feel gets to 110F. She reminded us to drink water and not get dehydrated.
When the settlers arrived here, they built a fort, called James Fort, along with walls, barracks, and eventually a church.
Walking into the grounds of the fort, the walls and barracks have been reconstructed.
The kids got to see how the barracks were constructed.
Building up the foundations in what was called a "mud and stud" technique.
It's great that the kids can see all this up close. In the background we can see a church.
Here there was another archeologist working in section right in front of where the church bell would be. Back in 1676, Nathanial Bacon led angry Virginia colonial settlers against the English governor William Berkley. He burned part of the Jamestown settlement, including the church according the the writings. But in 1676, the wooden church had already been replaced with a brick one, so this didn't make sense to historians. Archeologists are working from a theory that perhaps it was a wooden bell tower that burned and perhaps fell into this forecourt. They are slowly excavating the area and hoping to find charred wood which might support their theory.
Inside the church, a lot of reconstruction has been done.
Based on findings from archeologists, the original wooden foundations were uncovered, and a reconstruction of the wooden church was built inside the brick walls.
A knight is buried here! Sir George Yeardly was a three time governor of Virginia, back in 1616.
Looking out over the James River is a statue. But who gets this place of honor here at Jamestown?
It's Captain John Smith. Governor of Virginia in 1608. On it are John Smith's Coat of Arms and motto, vincere est vivere ("to live is to conquer"). John Smith isn't quite the hero that Disney makes him out to be.
Due to shoreline erosion, the exact landing point of the first colonists is likely out in the James River. But it's somewhere around here.
And the first colonists here didn't have a very easy time. There were 104 colonists who left England. They landed in Jamestown in May 1607, and by September there were only 54 still alive. 100 more colonists arrived in January 1608 in the middle of winter. By that summer, half of the colonists were dead.
More and more colonists kept arriving, but it was still hard times. The winter of 1609-1610 was especially hard and was known as the Starving Times. At the beginning of Winter there were 500 colonists, but only 61 people were alive that Spring. There were even evidence of cannibalism. Truly difficult times.
Near a museum, this cross has been erected in their memory. The inscription reads "To the Glory of God and in grateful memory of those early settlers, the founders of this nation who died at Jamestown during the first perilous years of the colony. Their bodies lie along the ridge beyond this cross, in the earliest known burial ground of the English in America."
Included in the admission is admission to the Voorhees Archaearium. Inside are hundreds of artifacts recovered here at Jamestown. There's early examples of pottery, some armor, and pieces of old muskets.
A quartz crystal arrow point, made by the Virginia Indians, and a silver sixpence with the bust of King James. These two cultures met back in 1607 here at Jamestown.
Ian found a cannon ball.
In the next room photos were not allowed, as they had human remains on display. A full skeleton thought to be Bartholomew Gosnold, one of the original settlers and who John Smith called "the brains behind the operation" was lying in full display.
Also shown was the skull of a teen girl, with knife marks and other indications that it had been pried apart. This is one of the main pieces of evidence here showing that there was likely cannibalism during the Starving winter of 1609. I definitely didn't read the kids the information panels for this one.
I wasn't sure how the kids would react to the skull and skeleton, but they just thought it was interesting to see.
Coins are always an interesting find, because they are dated.
In 1611, John Rolfe planted sweet tobacco in Jamestown, and it became the settlers most successful crop. They shipped barrels of it back to England, but the lands they grew it on was taken from the Powhatan Indians.
And to manage these crops, in 1619 African Slaves were brought in help with the work. Virginia would soon become a slave-based society. A cowrie shell, not native to Virginia, but to East Africa, was found here. It has monetary and spiritual value to the Africans and was found near the slave quarters.
There's one more statue that I've been looking to find here, and I think Alli has located it.
Chief Powhatan married and fathered children with women from many different Indian settlements. It was his way of creating ties with the various tribes in the region. Pocahontas was a favorite daughter of his.
During a conflict with the colonists in 1613, Pocahontas was captured. She was encouraged to convert to Christianity and in 1614 at age 17, she married John Rolfe. She had a son, Thomas Rolfe, the very next year. In 1616, she did indeed take a "Journey to a New World" (like the Disney Movie Pocahontas 2), and went to England, where she became something of a celebrity. Sadly she would never make it back to Virginia. She died in England in 1617, at the age of 22.
Having explored Jamestown, completed our Junior Ranger activities, and starting to get overheated, it's time to head back to the visitor's center and collect our Junior Ranger badges. Whoa! What is that flying over us?
It's a large bird of prey of some sort.
This looks to be a Turkey Vulture!
Back at the Visitors Center, the kids turned in their activity book and received their Junior Ranger badges. They're starting to get quite the collection now!
The front of the badge shows one of the three ships the first colonists to the new world took. Of the three, the Susan Constant, the Godspeed, and the Discovery, I think it's likely the flagship, the Susan Constant.
Congratulations Ian and Alli!
That night, when we got back to the RV, what movie did we watch? Of course it has to be Pocahontas. And now hopefully that song will finally get out of my head.