Ruins of Jamestown after Bacon's Rebellion

Ruins of Jamestown after Bacon's Rebellion


A Brief History of Bacon's Castle

Arthur Allen first patented land which became a part of Bacon's Castle on March 14, 1650. He received 200 acres for the transportation of three servants and Alice Tucker, who either was, or would shortly become, his wife. Where Allen came from, why he came to Virginia, when he arrived, and how he obtained his money are all mysteries.

Arthur Allen first appeared in the records in 1650 with the land patent. He was appointed one of the Justices of the Peace for Surry County when it was formed in 1652, but that was the only political office he held. He was one of the wealthiest men in the county and may have been the wealthiest. He was probably one of the merchant-planters common in Tidewater Virginia in the mid-seventeenth century, as he was referred to as "Arthur Allen, merchant" in a deed in 1656.

On October 3, 1661, Allen purchased 500 acres from John and Peleg Dunstan, the sons and heirs of John Dunstan, between Lower Chippokes and Lawns Creek adjoining his other land. Four years later, Arthur Allen built his magnificent brick home, Bacon's Castle, on this tract. It was 1665 and he was 57 years old. Why he built such an elegant house in the wilds of Virginia when he was a relatively old man is unknown. Also unknown are the models Allen used to design his house, the names of the builders and workmen, and how long it took to complete the house.

Arthur Allen did not live to enjoy his house. He made his will on March 10, 1669 and died about three months later. He left Bacon's Castle to his son Arthur in entail. Presumably, he gave other legacies to his daughters Joan, Mary, and Elizabeth.

Arthur Allen II, usually known as Major Allen, was born about 1651. He was charged with the taxes for Bacon's Castle as early as 1670, and he was mentioned several times in the records in the next few years. In 1675, at the age of 24, Governor Berkeley appointed him a Justice of the Peace of the Surry County Court.

Allen was a firm supporter of the Governor in Bacon's Rebellion. Allen was present at the fateful court session of August 10, 1676 when the Surry justices voted to send supplies to the rebel Nathaniel Bacon. He must have opposed the decision and shortly thereafter he hid his silver, left his home and followed Governor Berkeley. He was at Jamestown when Bacon attacked and burned the town, and he later became one of Berkeley's most trusted officers. He was "Captain Allen" by later November 1676, and he led some of the attacks on the rebels from one of the ships in the York River in front of West Point.

In the meantime, much happened at Bacon's Castle. On Friday, September 15, 1676, John Finley, Allen's overseer, returned home on horseback from Jamestown where he had been visiting with Allen. Joseph Rogers, one of Bacon's supporters, arrested him almost within sight of Bacon's Castle. Rogers questioned Finely, then released him. Before Finley rode half a mile further on, Rogers and other Baconian supporters re-arrested Finley, disarmed him, and stole his horse. In time, Finley was sent to Charles City County where he was imprisoned for the next 11 weeks.

Three days later, on September 18th, a Monday evening, 70 of Bacon's followers, led by William Rookings, Arthur Long (Allen's brother-in-law), Robert Burgess, Joseph Rogers and William Simmons seized, occupied and garrisoned Bacon's Castle. They went about with a military bearing complete with officer's ranks (Rookings was Commander, Rogers was Lieutenant, Long was Captain, Simmons was Ensign) and colors. They wrought havoc both inside and outside the house while they remained there. They shot and ate some of Allen's cattle, ground his wheat into meal in a hand mill and trampled his crops of wheat, tobacco and grain into the ground.

The Baconian Rebels also plundered the house and stole (among other items) three fine saddles, some bridles, 22 pairs of fine dowlas sheets, six pairs of new Holland sheets, 56 pillow cases (most of them new), 24 fine napkins, two table cloths, 24 fine Holland dowlas aprons, 36 fine dowlas towels, 26 women's shifts - most of them fine, dowlas and new, several pairs of sleeves, handkerchiefs, women's head linen of all sorts, a new bed and bolster, three pewter basins, 14 new pewter plates, two pewter porringers and three mustard pots. Undoubtedly they drank the contents of the large Dutch case with six or seven three-pint bottles in it. They looked unsuccessfully for Allen's silver.

Finally, the Baconians fled on the night of December 27th, when British marines from the ship Young Prince moved up to Surry from Isle of Wight County. The rebels stole more of Allen's household linen and books by stuffing them into pillow cases, their breeches, and whatever else was handy. Allen later sued the rebels in both Surry and Charles City County courts for about 25,000 pounds of tobacco for damages. He compromised with some of the smaller men in Charles City and accepted a payment of 250 pounds of tobacco each, but he insisted on full payment from the leaders.


Preliminary Events

1570s: Spanish Jesuits set up an Indian mission on the York River in Virginia. They were killed by the Indians, and the mission was abandoned.

Wahunsonacock (Chief Powhatan) inherited a chiefdom of six tribes on the upper James and middle York Rivers. By 1607, he had conquered about 25 other tribes.

1585-1590: Three separate voyages sent English settlers to Roanoke, Virginia (now North Carolina). On the last voyage, John White could not locate the &ldquolost&rdquo settlers.

1597: Powhatan conquered the Kecoughtans, a large a prosperous tribe at the mouth of the James River. Captain Bartholomew Gosnold explored New England, naming some areas near Martha&rsquos Vineyard.

1602: Captain Bartholomew Gosnold explored New England, naming some areas near and including Martha&rsquos Vineyard.

1603: Queen Elizabeth I died James VI of Scotland became James I of England.


Ruins of Jamestown after Bacon's Rebellion - History


Jamestown started as a fort, placed on an island without permission from the current inhabitants
Source: National Park Service, Jamestown - Sidney King Paintings, Watching the Colonists Construct James Fort

The investors in the Virginia Company named their first town after the king of England, who granted the charter that authorized their business venture. English sea captains were politically-correct as well, and the large tributary known locally as "Powhatan's River" was renamed the James River.

Christopher Newport followed his orders and brought the 104 colonists far upstream from Hampton Roads when selecting the site for Jamestown. The colonists cleared the land, built a fort, and by the end of summer they had started to die.


starting at Jamestown required cutting trees and making a palisade for the fort, plus timbers for houses and the church
Source: Internet Archive, A School History of the United States, from the Discovery of America to the Year 1878 (p.33)

The colonial capital struggled through hard times initially. England had experience with settling Ireland, but Virginia was far different.

Powhatan skillfully milked the colonists for ornamental copper and beads, plus the iron tools (hatchets, needles, etc.) that dramatically improved Algonquian agriculture and the manufacture of clothing. He even obtained guns and training to use them. The English were aliens who just appeared without warning in his territory, and Powhatan restricted their expansion outside the settlement for several years.

The English had abandoned Roanoke Island twice in 1584 and again in 1585 before the third colony in 1587 was "lost." Jamestown was abandoned too, in 1610. After the 1609-10 winter known today as the "Starving Time," the English settlers crowded aboard ship and fled Virginia.

They sailed down to the mouth of the James River, headed home in defeat. To their surprise, they met Lord De le Ware's ship, arriving from England with new supplies and new people. The colonists abandoning Virginia had not burned the fort at Jamestown before leaving, and Powhatan had not done so either. The English were able to return to Jamestown and start over again in June, 1610.

The colony struggled along through the first Anglo-Powhatan War in 1609-14, which ended essentially when Powhatan decided to adopt other tactics and signaled peace by allowing his daughter Pocahontas to marry John Rolfe in 1614. Rolfe identified how the colony could make a profit, after he imported sweet-scented tobacco seeds from the West Indies and grew a crop successfully.

Tobacco, an agricultural product which had no value as a food, quickly became a wildly marketable product in Europe. The colony had discovered an economic basis for survival, and all open spaces - even the streets of Jamestown, at one time - were planted in tobacco.


after hearing of the demand for tobacco, residents of Jamestown supposedly grew tobacco in the streets of Jamestown (which were already cleared of trees)
Source: Internet Archive, A School History of the United States, from the Discovery of America to the Year 1878 (p.40)

Jamestown did not grow into a major population center initially, because the whole colony was slow to grow even after the success of tobacco became clear. To attract immigrants, the Virginia Company allowed colonists to establish a form of self-rule via a House of Burgesses. This ended the martial law imposed by Sir Thomas Dale in 1611. The elected representatives first met in July, 1619, and that group continues today as the General Assembly of Virginia.

The original meeting spot was the church in Jamestown, the largest facility in the colony. The brick Memorial Church on Jamestown Island constructed in 1907, and the reconstructed original version at Jamestown Settlement, show that the largest building was tiny, and cooled only by breezes.


the tower next to the reconstructed church at Jamestown is the oldest remaining structure at Virginia's first capital

In a society without easy access to soap and running water, where men squeezed tightly to fit into a small confined space with no fans or air conditioning in July, it's not hard to imagine why meetings were short and occasionally tempers would flare. Jamestown was a place where conflicts were resolved, but the process was not elegant.

During the General Assembly meetings, Jamestown smelled - literally. Horses contributed increased levels of manure, and humans splashed their equivalent into outhouses where the groundwater near the surface filled the holes.

The decisionmakers who gathered were men (no women could vote), and in the 1600's they were typically working men with callused hands from physical work on their farms. Their talents in making speeches or negotiating deals varied, but their hygiene was consistently different from modern times. The burgesses did not shower, apply ant-perspirant, and splash on some cologne each morning before gathering in a small space with no air conditioning. By the end of the day, that space would have been ripe with odors.


in less than 10 years Jamestown expanded from a fort into a town, with houses aligned along two major streets
Source: National Park Service, Jamestown - Sidney King Paintings, Jamestown About 1614 - Aerial View

Settlement around the fort did increase, slowly. The 1622 uprising led by Opechancanough destroyed plantations away from Jamestown, including the settlement at Henricus that might have replaced Jamestown as the capital. Jamestown remained the central developed site in the colony.

Brick houses were built along two new streets parallel to the shoreline east of the old fort site, surveyed by William Claiborne. Town development was spurred by a combination of government mandates and subsidies, and "James Cittie" evolved. Governor Harvie built a substantial home on a New Towne lot, and it served as the statehouse in the 1630's. 1


Gov. Harvie's home is #6 on the map of New Towne at Jamestown
Source: National Park Service, More Than a Fort: Historic Jamestowne's New Towne

During Bacon's Rebellion in 1676, the Statehouse and most of the buildings at Jamestown were destroyed. After looking at the ruins of the town: 2

the General Assembly voted to move the capital to Tyndall's Point, on the north bank of the York River opposite Yorktown - a place later known as Gloucester Point.


Tyndall's Point (Gloucester Point), considered as alternative to Jamestown after Bacon's Rebellion
Source: Library of Congress, Virginia / discovered and discribed by Captayn John Smith, 1606

The locally-approved move was vetoed by royal authorities in London, however, and the capital stayed at Jamestown. Through the 1690's, Jamestown was still a tiny village with inadequate meeting facilities for the House of Burgesses.

The statehouse in Jamestown burned again on October 20, 1698. The cause may have been arson, a fire caused by a prisoner in jail awaiting execution with nothing left to lose. Destroying the statehouse removed the meeting space for the General Court. 3

The General Court was a smaller group than the House of Burgesses, since it consisted of just the governor and his Council of State. The appointed councilors were the wealthy members of the colony, the "upper crust" of the gentry. Despite the greater sophistication and fancier clothing of the people appointed to the Council, the odors in their meeting room would still be considered appalling to modern legislators, lobbyists, and visitors to the General Assembly.

Before the 1698 fire, proposals to move the capital to Middle Plantation nearby had been rejected as requiring too much effort. After the statehouse was destroyed, a team of students at the new College of William and Mary presented a proposal to move the capitol to their site. More significantly, Francis Nicholson was appointed as the new royal governor of the colony.

He had served previously as lieutenant governor in 1690-1692, before being appointed the royal governor for Maryland. Nicholson remained engaged with Virginia as a trustee of the College of William and Mary, so he was familiar with the advantages of Middle Plantation over Jamestown.

As Maryland's first royal governor after the Calvert's lost control over their proprietary colony, Governor Nicholson moved the Maryland capital from St. Mary's City to Annapolis in 1695. He helped design the new capital, and: 4

played a leading role in laying out the new town in an imposing, meticulously planned metropolitan style. He did the same for the new capital at Williamsburg, serving as its chief planner and giving it a layout he considered appropriate for the seat of power in a prosperous and flourishing English colony.

The move occurred for multiple reasons. The colonists understood that the swamps at Jamestown were not healthy places. The road network on the Peninsula followed the faster-drying watershed divide, which passed through Middle Plantation.

As part of the decision to move, Middle Plantation was renamed Williamsburg. That honored the current king in London, just as the first settlement in 1607 was named after the king.

The General Assembly voted the necessary funds to construct a new capitol building in the new capital, the seat of government. In Jamestown, the meeting space of the General Assembly had been called the Statehouse. The new building in Williamsburg that served as the home of the General Assembly was the first building in North America to be called a "capitol." 5

The local county seat for James City County remained at Jamestown for nearly 20 more years, but the island first occupied by English colonists gradually reverted to farmland. The town had been authorized to elect one member to the House of Burgesses in 1784. It retained that right after the capital moved until the end of the House of Burgesses in 1776, but with the decline in population as few as 25 voters participated in the elections at Jamestown. 6

By the 1750's, the brick church built sometime in the 1600's was abandoned. The tower survived, but the rest of building collapsed along with all other structures from the colonial period. 7


Jamestown rapidly declined after the colonial capital moved to Williamsburg and Yorktown developed as the port serving the new capital
Source: Internet Archive, A School History of the United States, from the Discovery of America to the Year 1878 (p.45)


Jamestown Churches

Captain John Smith reported that the first church services were held outdoors “under an awning (which was an old saile)” fastened to three or four trees. As part of a rebuilding effort following a fire that burned much of the fort in January 1608, the settlers built the first church building. Smith said it was “a homely thing like a barn set on crachetts, covered with rafts, sedge and earth.” Made of wood, it needed constant repair. Pocahontas and John Rolfe were married in the first church.

The Second Church

In 1617-1619 when Samuel Argall was governor, he had the inhabitants of Jamestown build a new church 󈬢 foot long and twenty foot broad.” This close-studded church was built on a one-foot-wide foundation of cobblestones capped by a wall one brick thick. Visitors can see these foundations under the glass on the floor of the present building. The First Assembly was held in this church in 1619.

The Third Church

In January 1639 Governor John Harvey reported that he, the Council, the ablest planters, and some sea captains “had contributed to the building of a brick church” at Jamestown. This church was slightly larger than the second church and was built around it. It was still unfinished in November 1647 when efforts were made to complete it. The third church burned during Bacon’s Rebellion on September 19, 1676.

The Fourth Church

Ten years after Bacon’s Rebellion, a fourth church was functioning, probably using the walls and foundations of the third church. Sometime after it was finished, a brick church tower was added. The tower is the only above-ground 17th-century structure still standing at Jamestown.

The tower is slightly over 18 feet square and the walls are three feet thick at the base. Originally the tower was about 46 feet high, 10 feet taller than it is today, and was crowned with a wooden roof and belfry. It had two upper floors as indicated by the large beam notches on the inside. Six small openings at the top permitted light to enter and the sound of a bell or bells to carry across river and town. This church was used until the 1750s when it was abandoned. Although the tower remained intact, the building fell into ruins by the 1790s when the bricks were salvaged and used to build the present graveyard wall. Throughout the 19th century the tower remained a silent symbol to Americans of their early heritage. It was strengthened and preserved shortly after the APVA acquired it in the 1890s.

The Memorial Church

The present-day Memorial Church building was constructed in 1906 by the National Society, Colonial Dames of America just outside the foundations of the earlier churches. It was dedicated on May 13, 1907.

Explore the artifacts


Bacon’s Rebellion: Traders and Scapegoats in Jamestown, 1676

Lydia, the wife of the rebel Edmund Cheeseman, faints as he is condemned for treason by the governor of Virgina, William Berkeley a toothless old lady is restrained from attacking her. / Coloured etching by A. Bobbet after F. Darley, Wellcome Collection, Creative Commons

Bacon’s Rebellion can be attributed to a myriad of causes, all of which led to dissent in the Virginia colony.

By Susan McCulley

Bacon’s Rebellion was probably one of the most confusing yet intriguing chapters in Jamestown’s history. For many years, historians considered the Virginia Rebellion of 1676 to be the first stirring of revolutionary sentiment in America, which culminated in the American Revolution almost exactly one hundred years later. However, in the past few decades, based on findings from a more distant viewpoint, historians have come to understand Bacon’s Rebellion as a power struggle between two stubborn, selfish leaders rather than a glorious fight against tyranny.

The central figures in Bacon’s Rebellion were opposites. Governor Sir William Berkeley, seventy when the crisis began, was a veteran of the English Civil Wars, a frontier Indian fighter, a King’s favorite in his first term as Governor in the 1640’s, and a playwright and scholar. His name and reputation as Governor of Virginia were well respected. Berkeley’s antagonist, young Nathaniel Bacon, Jr., was actually Berkeley’s cousin by marriage. Lady Berkeley, Frances Culpeper, was Bacon’s cousin. Bacon was a troublemaker and schemer whose father sent him to Virginia in the hope that he would mature. Although disdainful of labor, Bacon was intelligent and eloquent. Upon Bacon’s arrival, Berkeley treated his young cousin with respect and friendship, giving him both a substantial land grant and a seat on the council in 1675.

Pen and Ink drawing of Bacon’s troops about to burn Jamestown / Drawing by Rita Honeycutt / NPS, Public Domain

Bacon’s Rebellion can be attributed to a myriad of causes, all of which led to dissent in the Virginia colony. Economic problems, such as declining tobacco prices, growing commercial competition from Maryland and the Carolinas, an increasingly restricted English market, and the rising prices from English manufactured goods (mercantilism) caused problems for the Virginians. There were heavy English losses in the latest series of naval wars with the Dutch and, closer to home, there were many problems caused by weather. Hailstorms, floods, dry spells, and hurricanes rocked the colony all in the course of a year and had a damaging effect on the colonists. These difficulties encouraged the colonists to find a scapegoat against whom they could vent their frustrations and place the blame for their misfortunes.

The colonists found their scapegoat in the form of the local Indians. The trouble began in July 1675 with a raid by the Doeg Indians on the plantation of Thomas Mathews, located in the Northern Neck section of Virginia near the Potomac River. Several of the Doegs were killed in the raid, which began in a dispute over the nonpayment of some items Mathews had apparently obtained from the tribe. The situation became critical when, in a retaliatory strike by the colonists, they attacked the wrong Indians, the Susquehanaugs, which caused large scale Indian raids to begin.

St. Maries Citty Living History Interpreters demonstrating the firing of Match Lock Muskets / NPS, Public Domain

To stave off future attacks and to bring the situation under control, Governor Berkeley ordered an investigation into the matter. He set up what was to be a disastrous meeting between the parties, which resulted in the murders of several tribal chiefs. Throughout the crisis, Berkeley continually pleaded for restraint from the colonists. Some, including Bacon, refused to listen. Nathaniel Bacon disregarded the Governor’s direct orders by seizing some friendly Appomattox Indians for “allegedly” stealing corn. Berkeley reprimanded him, which caused the disgruntled Virginians to wonder which man had taken the right action. It was here the battle lines were about to be drawn.

A further problem was Berkeley’s attempt to find a compromise. Berkeley’s policy was to preserve the friendship and loyalty of the subject Indians while assuring the settlers that they were not hostile. To meet his first objective, the Governor relieved the local Indians of their powder and ammunition. To deal with the second objective, Berkeley called the “Long Assembly” in March 1676. Despite being judged corrupt, the assembly declared war on all “bad” Indians and set up a strong defensive zone around Virginia with a definite chain of command. The Indian wars which resulted from this directive led to the high taxes to pay the army and to the general discontent in the colony for having to shoulder that burden.

The Long Assembly was accused of corruption because of its ruling regarding trade with the Indians. Not coincidentally, most of the favored traders were friends of Berkeley. Regular traders, some of whom had been trading independently with the local Indians for generations, were no longer allowed to trade individually. A government commission was established to monitor trading among those specially chosen and to make sure the Indians were not receiving any arms and ammunition. Bacon, one of the traders adversely affected by the Governor’s order, accused Berkeley publicly of playing favorites. Bacon was also resentful because Berkeley had denied him a commission as a leader in the local militia. Bacon became the elected “General” of a group of local volunteer Indian fighters, because he promised to bear the cost of the campaigns.

After Bacon drove the Pamunkeys from their nearby lands in his first action, Berkeley exercised one of the few instances of control over the situation that he was to have, by riding to Bacon’s headquarters at Henrico with 300 “well armed” gentlemen. Upon Berkeley’s arrival, Bacon fled into the forest with 200 men in search of a place more to his liking for a meeting. Berkeley then issued two petitions declaring Bacon a rebel and pardoning Bacon’s men if they went home peacefully. Bacon would then be relieved of the council seat that he had won for his actions that year, but he was to be given a fair trial for his disobedience.

Bacon did not, at this time, comply with the Governor’s orders. Instead he next attacked the camp of the friendly Occaneecheee Indians on the Roanoke River (the border between Virginia and North Carolina), and took their store of beaver pelts.

Governor Berkeley standing before Bacon and his men challenging them to shoot him / Sidney King Painting, NPS, Public Domain

In the face of a brewing catastrophe, Berkeley, to keep the peace, was willing to forget that Bacon was not authorized to take the law into his own hands. Berkeley agreed to pardon Bacon if he turned himself in, so he could be sent to England and tried before King Charles II. It was the House of Burgesses, however, who refused this alternative, insisting that Bacon must acknowledge his errors and beg the Governor’s forgiveness. Ironically, at the same time, Bacon was then elected to the Burgesses by supportive local land owners sympathetic to his Indian campaigns. Bacon, by virtue of this election, attended the landmark Assembly of June 1676. It was during this session that he was mistakenly credited with the political reforms that came from this meeting. The reforms were prompted by the population, cutting through all class lines. Most of the reform laws dealt with reconstructing the colony’s voting regulations, enabling freemen to vote, and limiting the number of years a person could hold certain offices in the colony. Most of these laws were already on the books for consideration well before Bacon was elected to the Burgesses. Bacon’s only cause was his campaign against the Indians.

Upon his arrival for the June Assembly, Bacon was captured, taken before Berkeley and council and was made to apologize for his previous actions. Berkeley immediately pardoned Bacon and allowed him to take his seat in the assembly. At this time, the council still had no idea how much support was growing in defense of Bacon. The full awareness of that support hit home when Bacon suddenly left the Burgesses in the midst of heated debate over Indian problems. He returned with his forces to surround the statehouse. Once again Bacon demanded his commission, but Berkeley called his bluff and demanded that Bacon shoot him.

“Here shoot me before God, fair mark shoot.”

Bacon refused. Berkeley granted Bacon’s previous volunteer commission but Bacon refused it and demanded that he be made General of all forces against the Indians, which Berkeley emphatically refused and walked away. Tensions ran high as the screaming Bacon and his men surrounded the statehouse, threatening to shoot several onlooking Burgesses if Bacon was not given his commission. Finally after several agonizing moments, Berkeley gave in to Bacon’s demands for campaigns against the Indians without government interference. With Berkeley’s authority in shambles, Bacon’s brief tenure as leader of the rebellion began.

Bacon’s Rebellion reenactment / NPS, Public Domain

Even in the midst of these unprecedented triumphs, however, Bacon was not without his mistakes. He allowed Berkeley to leave Jamestown in the aftermath of a surprise Indian attack on a nearby settlement. He also confiscated supplies from Gloucester and left them vulnerable to possible Indian attacks. Shortly after the immediate crisis subsided, Berkeley briefly retired to his home at Green Springs and washed his hands of the entire mess. Nathaniel Bacon dominated Jamestown from July through September 1676. During this time, Berkeley did come out of his lethargy and attempt a coup, but support for Bacon was still too strong and Berkeley was forced to flee to Accomack County on the Eastern Shore.

Feeling that it would make his triumph complete, Bacon issued his “Declaration of the People” on July 30, 1676 which stated that Berkeley was corrupt, played favorites and protected the Indians for his own selfish purposes. Bacon also issued his oath which required the swearer to promise his loyalty to Bacon in any manner necessary (i.e., armed service, supplies, verbal support). Even this tight rein could not keep the tide from changing again. Bacon’s fleet was first and finally secretly infiltrated by Berkeley’s men and finally captured. This was to be the turning point in the conflict, because Berkeley was once again strong enough to retake Jamestown. Bacon then followed his sinking fortunes to Jamestown and saw it heavily fortified. He made several attempts at a siege, during which he kidnapped the wives of several of Berkeley’s biggest supporters, including Mrs. Nathaniel Bacon Sr., and placed them upon the ramparts of his siege fortifications while he dug his position. Infuriated, Bacon burned Jamestown to the ground on September 19, 1676. (He did save many valuable records in the statehouse.) By now his luck had clearly run out with this extreme measure and he began to have trouble controlling his men’s conduct as well as keeping his popular support. Few people responded to Bacon’s appeal to capture Berkeley who had since returned to the Eastern Shore for safety reasons.

On October 26th, 1676, Bacon abruptly died of the “Bloodie Flux” and “Lousey Disease” (body lice). It is possible his soldiers burned his contaminated body because it was never found. (His death inspired this little ditty Bacon is Dead I am sorry at my hart That lice and flux should take the hangman’s part”.)

Shortly after Bacon’s death, Berkeley regained complete control and hanged the major leaders of the rebellion. He also seized rebel property without the benefit of a trial. All in all, twenty-three persons were hanged for their part in the rebellion. Later after an investigating committee from England issued its report to King Charles II, Berkeley was relieved of the Governorship and returned to England where he died in July 1677.

Thus ended one of the most unusual and complicated chapters in Jamestown’s history. Could it have been prevented or was it time for inevitable changes to take place in the colonial governmental structure? Obviously, the laws were no longer effective as far as establishing clear policies to deal with problems or to instill new lifeblood into the colony’s economy. The numerous problems that hit the colony before the Rebellion gave rise to the character of Nathaniel Bacon. Due to the nature of the uprising, Bacon’s Rebellion does seem at first glance to be the beginnings of America’s quest for Independence. But closer examination of the facts reveals what it really was: a power struggle between two very strong personalities. Between them they almost destroyed Jamestown.

Bibliography

  • Neville, John Davenport. Bacon’s Rebellion. Abstracts of Materials in the Colonial Records Project. Jamestown: Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation.
  • Washburn, Wilcomb E. The Governor and the Rebel. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1957.
  • Webb, Stephen Saunders. 1676: The End of American Independence. New York: Alfred A. Knope, 1984.

Originally published by the National Park Service, 06.1987, to the public domain.


Drummond, William (d. 1677)

William Drummond was the governor of Albemarle County in the Province of Carolina (1664–1667) and a participant in Bacon’s Rebellion (1676–1677). Sheriff of James City County, bailiff of the Quarter Court, and the sergeant-at-arms of the General Assembly, Drummond also was a large landholder, leasing acres from Virginia governor Sir William Berkeley , with whom he had a contentious relationship. As governor of Albemarle County, he unsuccessfully negotiated with Virginia and Maryland to reduce the production of tobacco , and during the Third Anglo-Dutch War (1672–1674) was arrested at least twice for doing poor work on a contract to build a fort at Jamestown . In the summer of 1676, he supported Nathaniel Bacon in his rebellion against Governor Berkeley and refused to give up even after Bacon’s sudden death. He and a fellow rebel were captured in the Chickahominy Swamp and, on January 20, 1677, tried, convicted, and hanged.

Drummond was born in Scotland. Although the names of his parents are not known, he probably came from a mercantile family. He received an education that allowed him to engage in the tobacco trade with Virginia. Drummond arrived in the colony probably late in the 1630s and perhaps in the employment of Theodore Moyses, a James City County tobacco planter, or Stephen Webb. It is possible that more than one person named William Drummond or Drummer was in Virginia at that time, and it is not at all certain that he was the William Drummer who in October 1640 was sentenced to be whipped and to serve his employer or master an extra year for taking part in a conspiracy. Some of Drummond’s contemporaries in Virginia described him as being a sober man of good reputation. Early in the 1650s he married a woman named Sarah whose maiden name is not known. They had two sons, two daughters, and at least one other child.

Drummond leased twenty-five acres of land in James City County, called the governor’s land, from Sir William Berkeley in the autumn of 1648. He sued the governor in June 1666 in a dispute about the terms, but five years later the General Court granted his petition for ninety-nine-year leases on the land, and he leased an additional 200 acres there soon after that. Drummond also acquired more than 1,200 acres of land elsewhere in the county, a plantation and mills in Charles City County, and 4,750 acres in Westmoreland County, which he later abandoned. He had business dealings as far away as Boston. Drummond was probably a member of the James City County Court by 1658 when he was county sheriff, a position that also made him the bailiff of the Quarter Court and the sergeant-at-arms of the General Assembly. The 1677 inventory of his estate indicated that he then owned three slaves.

Late in 1664 Berkeley appointed Drummond the first governor of the colony on Albemarle Sound (later North Carolina). Drummond worked with the assembly to establish the new government and to settle the boundary between the county and Virginia. He acquired land there for himself, but he spent much of his time in Virginia. In July 1666 he was in Jamestown to negotiate with the governments of Virginia and Maryland for a suspension in tobacco cultivation. The plan to reduce production and thereby raise the prices planters received failed after Maryland refused to cooperate. Drummond’s biggest problem as governor was the proprietors’ policy of requiring people who patented land to live on it in order to retain ownership, and he complained that Berkeley and the other proprietors obstructed his work. In October 1667 Drummond yielded the office to Samuel Stephens, probably after completing a three-year appointment. (Stephens was then married to Frances Culpeper , the future wife of Governor Berkeley.)

In 1672 Drummond contracted to erect a fort at Jamestown during the Third Anglo-Dutch War, but he clashed with Berkeley over the work and was arrested at least twice for not completing the fort on schedule and for using inferior building materials. Drummond’s poor performance and the danger in which it placed the colony sealed Berkeley’s dislike for him. It is not recorded whether personal animosity or differences about public policy led Drummond to support Nathaniel Bacon in opposition to Berkeley during the rebellion of 1676. At the meeting of the General Assembly in June of that year, Berkeley warned the members against the influence of Drummond and of Richard Lawrence, and in August at Middle Plantation, Drummond urged Bacon’s followers to depose the governor and replace him with Lieutenant Governor Sir Henry Chicheley . When Bacon’s men burned Jamestown in the autumn, Drummond demonstrated his commitment by setting fire to his own house. His whereabouts during much of the rest of the rebellion are unrecorded, but men in Westmoreland County later stated that he had preserved the county’s records, which were in danger of being destroyed. Deeply engaged in the rebellion, Drummond continued to resist the governor’s forces for two and a half months after Bacon’s death in October. Berkeley may have hated Drummond more than any other rebel and said as much as least once.

Officers and men from the warship Young Prince captured Drummond and Lawrence, hungry and cold, in the Chickahomony Swamp on January 14, 1677. Five days later when Drummond was presented to Berkeley, the angry governor reportedly greeted him with a bow and the sarcastic words, “Mr. Drumond! you are very welcome, I am more Glad to See you, than any man in Virginia, Mr. Drumond you shall be hang’d in half an hour.” The next day Drummond refused a horse and walked in irons from King’s Creek on the York River to Middle Plantation. There, on January 20, 1677, the governor and Council tried and convicted him of treason. William Drummond was hanged a few hours later. The place of his burial, if any, was not recorded.

Berkeley confiscated Drummond’s estate, but Sarah Drummond later entered into protracted litigation and eventually recovered the property. Lake Drummond in the Dismal Swamp was probably named for William Drummond, although references to the lake by that name do not predate the middle of the eighteenth century.


My Genealogy Hound

An historic photo view of the ruins of the Old Church Tower, at Jamestown, Virginia. Built in 1639, the ruins of this historic church are the oldest and only remaining original structure remaining from the 1600's of the original Jamestown Settlement. This photo is by photographer William Henry Jackson, Detroit Publishing Co., 1902. Additional views of the old Jamestown Church and its history are below.

Another photo view of the Old Church Tower, at Jamestown, Virginia. The signs on the tree at left read: "Warning - The Constable in charge of these grounds has authority to arrest all depredators upon the property of the A. P. V. A." "Notice - Persons are prohibited under penalty of the law from disturbing, injuring or carring off anything on this property. Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities." Note the cross at the far right in the adjoining cemetery.

A vintage postcard view of the Church Tower ruins, Jamestown, Virginia picturing the Visiting Congressional Committee Appointed to Arrange for the Tricentenary Celebration of the Settlement of Virginia which would be held in 1907.

A vintage postcard view of Visitors at old Church ruins, Jamestown, Virginia This large group of mostly women is likely representatives of the National Society of Colonial Dames of America which built the last and current church at this location in 1906, dedicated in 1907 on the 300th Anniversary of the founding of Jamestown.

A vintage postcard view of the old Jamestown Church Tower ruins with the newly built (1907) Church adjoining at the rear. This view is from about 1915-1920.

A 1930 view of the old Church Tower (1639) and new Church building (1906). This view is somewhat similar to the postcard shown above. This photo is by Frances Benjamin Johnston.

A side view of the new Jamestown church building built in 1906. The old church tower can be seen at the upper left. This photo is by Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1930.

A back view of the new church building built in 1906. Note the tombstones on the ground next to the church building. This photo is by Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1930.

A total of six Jamestown church buildings have occupied this location. They are as follows:

First church: Built upon the founding of Jamestown in 1607, this building burned in January, 1608.

Second church: Built soon after the first church burned. In this church, Pocahontas and John Rolfe were married.

Third Church: Built in 1617-1619. The original foundations of this church can be viewed under glass panels in the floor of the current (sixth) church building.

Fourth church: Built in 1639, the tower ruins were a part of this church building and the only part of the building still in existence. This church building was burned during Bacon's Rebellion, September 19, 1676. Bricks from the church building were used to build the cemetery wall.

Fifth church: Built about 1678, this church building was used until the 1750's when it was abandoned for a church building at a nearby location.

Sixth church: This building was built in 1906 by the National Society of Colonial Dames of America and was dedicated in 1907 in celebration of the 300th Anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, Virginia. This building sits next to the remains of the 1639 church tower ruins. This church is now open to the public.

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Bacon Rebellion In 1676 Facts And Summary

Bacon’s Rebellion was probably about the most puzzling but intriguing chapters in Jamestown’s history. For many years, historians considered the Virginia Rebellion of 1676 to be the first stirring of revolutionary sentiment in America, which culminated within the American Revolution just about specifically 100 years later. However, in the past couple of decades, based on findings from a a lot more distant viewpoint, historians have come to figure out Bacon’s Rebellion as a power struggle between two stubborn, selfish leaders instead of a glorious fight against tyranny.

The central figures in Bacon’s Rebellion had been opposites. Governor Sir William Berkeley, seventy when the crisis began, was a veteran of the English Civil Wars, a frontier Indian fighter, a King’s preferred in his initial term as Governor within the 1640’s, plus a playwright and scholar. His name and reputation as Governor of Virginia were nicely trustworthy. Berkeley’s antagonist, young Nathaniel Bacon, Jr., was essentially Berkeley’s cousin by marriage. Lady Berkeley, Frances Culpeper, was Bacon’s cousin. Bacon was a troublemaker and schemer whose father sent him to Virginia in the hope that he would mature. Though disdainful of labor, Bacon was intelligent and eloquent. Upon Bacon’s arrival, Berkeley treated his young cousin with respect and friendship, giving him both a substantial land grant and a seat on the council in 1675.

Bacon’s Rebellion may be attributed to a vast amount of causes, all of which led to dissent in the Virginia colony. Economic troubles, like declining tobacco costs, growing commercial competition from Maryland along with the Carolinas, an increasingly restricted English marketplace, as well as the rising costs from English manufactured goods (mercantilism) triggered problems for the Virginians. There were heavy English losses in the most recent series of naval wars using the Dutch and, nearer to residence, there had been that many problems a consequence of weather. Hailstorms, floods, dry spells, and hurricanes rocked the colony all in the middle of a year and had a damaging effect on the colonists. These difficulties encouraged the colonists to find a scapegoat against whom they could vent their frustrations and position the blame for their misfortunes.

The colonists found their scapegoat in the form of the local Indians. The trouble began in July 1675 having a raid by the Doeg Indians on the plantation of Thomas Mathews, located in the Northern Neck section of Virginia near the Potomac River. A number of of the Doegs were killed in the raid, which began in a dispute over the nonpayment of some items Mathews had apparently obtained from the tribe. The position became vital when, in a retaliatory strike by the colonists, they attacked the wrong Indians, the Susquehanaugs, which triggered massive scale Indian raids to begin.

To stave off future attacks and to bring the circumstance under control, Governor Berkeley ordered an investigation into the matter. He set up what was to be a disastrous meeting in between the parties, which lead to the murders of numerous tribal chiefs. Throughout the crisis, Berkeley continually pleaded for restraint from the colonists. Some, including Bacon, refused to listen. Nathaniel Bacon disregarded the Governor’s direct orders by seizing some friendly Appomattox Indians for "allegedly" stealing corn. Berkeley reprimanded him, which caused the disgruntled Virginians to wonder which man had taken the right action. It was here the battle lines had been about to be drawn.

A distant problem was Berkeley’s attempt to find a compromise. Berkeley’s policy was to preserve the friendship and loyalty of the subject Indians while assuring the settlers that they weren’t hostile. To meet his initially objective, the Governor relieved the nearby Indians of their powder and ammunition. To deal with the second objective, Berkeley called the "Long Assembly" in March 1676. Despite being judged corrupt, the assembly declared war on all "bad" Indians and set up a strong defensive zone around Virginia with a precise hierarchy. The Indian wars which resulted from this directive led to the high taxes to pay the army and to the general discontent within the colony for needing to shoulder that burden.

After Bacon drove the Pamunkeys from their nearby lands in his initially action, Berkeley exercised one of the few situations of manage more than the situation that he was to have, by riding to Bacon’s headquarters at Henrico with 300 "nicely armed" gentlemen. Upon Berkeley’s arrival, Bacon fled into the forest with 200 men on the lookout for a location extra to his liking for a meeting. Berkeley then issued two petitions declaring Bacon a rebel and pardoning Bacon’s men if they went property peacefully. Bacon would then be relieved of the council seat that he had won for his actions that year, but he was to be given a fair trial for his disobedience.

Bacon refused. Berkeley granted Bacon’s previous volunteer commission but Bacon refused it and demanded that he be made General of all forces against the Indians, which Berkeley emphatically refused and walked away. Tensions ran high as the screaming Bacon and his men surrounded the statehouse, threatening to shoot various onlooking Burgesses if Bacon was not given his commission. Finally after many agonizing moments, Berkeley gave in to Bacon’s demands for campaigns against the Indians without government interference. With Berkeley’s authority in shambles, Bacon’s brief tenure as leader of the rebellion began.

Therefore ended one of the most distinct and complicated chapters in Jamestown’s history. Could it have been stopped or was it time for inescapable changes to come about within the colonial governmental structure? Plainly, the laws were no longer effective as far as establishing clear policies to handle challenges or to impregnate new lifeblood into the colony’s economy. The numerous problems that hit the colony prior to the Rebellion gave realization to the character of Nathaniel Bacon. Thanks to the nature of the uprising, Bacon’s Rebellion does seem at the beginning glance to be the beginnings of America’s search for Independence. But closer examination of the facts reveals what it genuinely was: a power struggle between two very secure personalities. Among them they virtually destroyed Jamestown.


Bacon's Rebellion

In the midst of the trouble caused in Virginia by the change of owners, and the increased taxes they imposed, the Indians, who had been quiet for about thirty years, suddenly came back. They said that while they had sold the land to the English, they still had the right to fish and hunt wherever they pleased. A dispute about this question again resulted in a murder, which for history often repeats itself—occasioned another war.

Since Berkeley took no steps to defend them from the savages, who boldly attacked outlying plantations, the Virginians determined to act themselves, and chose Nathaniel Bacon as their leader. But Berkeley declared they were rebels, and hearing that they had started, he would have pursued them, could he have raised troops.

When the Virginian army came home in triumph from the first brush with the Indians, Bacon was called before the governor and tried as a rebel. But the jury promptly acquitted him, to Berkeley's great disgust. The governor waited until war broke out again, and when Bacon was too busy fighting to offer any resistance, he declared him an outlaw. This accusation, added to grievances about the taxes, caused a short civil war in Virginia, during which Jamestown was seized by the rebels, and Berkeley fled.

But the governor returned as soon as Bacon was called away, and prepared to defend himself in Jamestown. Hearing of this, Bacon came back, ready to lay siege to the city. The angry governor ordered out the cannon to shoot the rebels but we are told that Bacon, having captured the wives of Berkeley's men, now put these women in front of his little force, knowing their presence there would prevent any bloodshed.

Thus routed by a "white-apron brigade," Berkeley fled a second time and Bacon, fearing he might return and fortify the city, burned Jamestown to the ground (1676). The first English city built in the United States thus became a heap of ruins, and no trace of it now remains, except a small part of the old church tower and a few gravestones.

Shortly after the burning of Jamestown, Bacon fell ill and died, his followers sadly crying: "Who is there now to plead our cause?" Their helpless grief was so great that Berkeley took advantage of it to return. He then began to punish all those who had taken any part in what is known in history as "Bacon's Rebellion," or the "Great Rebellion "in Virginia.

In fact, Berkeley showed himself so cruel that many of those who had borne arms were condemned to die. Once, when a prisoner whom he particularly hated was brought before him, he angrily cried: "You are very welcome I am more glad to see you than any man in Virginia you shall be hanged in half an hour." This prisoner was executed, and so many others shared his fate that King Charles, hearing how Berkeley abused his power, indignantly cried: "The old fool has taken away more lives in that naked country than I for the murder of my father."


Jamestown Colony

Many European countries were racing to stake a claim in America in the early 17th century. Spain, Portugal, and France had already set plans in motion. England was not far behind, but after their first plan failed, the Jamestown Colony was the first successful English colony in America.

For England’s second attempt, 104 people set sail from England on Dec 6, 1606. Each colony was established for different reasons. The Jamestown colony was funded by the Virginia company, who hoped the new world was a sound investment that would pay off once trade with the natives and farming had been established.

The fleet consisted of three ships: the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery. It was a long journey, and they first landed at Cape Henry.

This is an oak tree planted at Runnymede during the U.S. Bicentennial celebration to commemorate Jamestown, VA, the first U.S. settlement. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons, picture by wyrdlight.com used with permission. We have cropped it so you can read the plaque.

The colonists landed and the first order of business was to open the sealed box sent by the Virginia company. The box contained sealed instructions for leadership in the colony and where they should set up camp. They set sail again to find a better place to set up the colony.

Anointed president by the Virginia company was Edward Maria Winfield. They also included names for a council of leadership: footholomew Gosnold, captain of the ship Christopher Newport, John Martin, John Ratcliffe, George Kendall, and John Smith.

Jamestown was strategically located. It was surrounded by water on three sides, but the water was deep enough to park their ships right off the coast. They could easily see possible attacks from the Spanish, and there were no visible signs of indian populations. The colonists didn’t know (or didn’t care) that they chose to settle down on Powhatan hunting ground.

Captain Winfield selected the land known as Jamestown on May 14. They arrived too late in the year to plant crops, and even if they hadn’t, Jamestown was surrounded by marshy swamps, thick with mosquitos.

Ruins of Jamestown, VA from Robert Sears, A Pictorial Description of the United States. 1854. Public Domain. (burned down in the Civil War)

Among the daily struggles of the colonists was the threat of attack from the Spanish, the enemies of England. A Spanish reconnaissance ship stumbled across the colony at the same time a German ship arrived with supplies. The Germans defected to the Powhatans, even agreeing to join the Spanish in an attack on the colony, and convincing their newfound Powhatan allies to join them.

However, a large English supply ship arrived, much larger than the Spanish expected, and they were frightened off.

The men chosen for this expedition were not explorers. They were gentlemen who could afford the journey. Most knew little of farming, were unskilled, and had no experience with hard work. They had been ordered to trade with the natives for food and spend their time searching for precious metals. In spite of this, the triangle-shaped fort was completed June 15, 1607. It had tall defensive walls. Days after it was complete, council member and captain Christopher Newport sailed back to England for more supplies. Because they couldn’t farm, food would be needed soon.

We know now that mosquitos cause malaria, but the colonists didn’t. They soon were struck with a variety of illnesses they couldn’t account for: swelling, flux, and fever. Furthermore, they had mixed relations with the indians, who tried to relocate them off of their hunting ground. But Chief Powhatan sent gifts of food, which helped get them through until supply ships arrived.

The supply ships also brought craftsmen, and soon manufactured goods were being created to send back to the Virginia Company, which was increasingly frustrated at the lack of product. They demanded the colonists repay the cost of the voyage. John Smith wrote back insisting that if they wanted results, they needed to send craftsmen and laborers.

Pocahontas

Pocahontas’ (Lady Rebecca Rolfe) official portrait

We’ve reached the point in the narrative we need to address the myths of John Smith and Pocahontas.

Disney’s tale, while based on fact, is a work of fiction. The Disney version of Pocahontas was a marriage of frontier film and Romeo and Juliet.

In truth, Pocahontas was the nickname of Matoaka, the daughter of Powhatan chief Wahunsenaca. Born about 1596, her nickname indicates she was playful and curious. Custom indicates she would have lived with her mother in different village than her father. She had many half-siblings. History doesn’t know anything about Pocahontas’ mother, but some historians have suspected she died when Pocahontas was very young, and she lived with her father instead.

Most women learned the skills necessary to survive and keep a family and contribute to the tribe (farming, building, cooking, etc.) by around 13. She was around 11 when the colonists landed.

Her first encounter with the colonists was when her uncle Opechancanough captured John Smith while he was exploring. Smith was brought before Chief Powhatan.

John Smith is not the most reliable of narrators. His tall tales were questioned even in his own lifetime. However, his is the only eyewitness account of his capture. According to Smith, two large stones were placed on the ground, his head was held on them, and a warrior hefted a massive club to smash his head in when Pocahontas laid her own head on top of his, saving his life.

Most likely, as a child, Pocahontas would never have been present at an adult religious ceremony.

Afterwards, Chief Powhatan told Smith he was part of the tribe. The exact details are unclear, but whatever occurred, Chief Powhatan began sending gifts of food to the colonists and these were usually accompanied by his favorite daughter Matoaka (Pocahontas). She became easily recognized in the colony.

These gifts were soon taken for granted and the colonists began demanding food than the Powhatan had to spare. Relations were strained.

Negotiations between John Smith and Chief Powhatan went poorly, and Chief Powhatan decreed they would no longer trade with the English. He would have killed the negotiating party, according to Smith, if Pocahontas had not warned him.

Smith was injured in a gunpowder explosion, and he returned to England for treatment. Pocahontas and her father were told he had died.

In 1610, Pocahontas married Kocoum. He was not a chief, which probably means that they married for love.

Three years later, an English captain Samuel Argall hatched a plot to kidnap Pocahontas and hold her for ransom for the return of stolen weapons and English prisoners. She was taken to an English settlement Henrico where she learned the English language and customs. Her father agreed to most of the demands to get negotiations off the ground.

Kidnapping was not unheard of. It happened between tribes. According to sacred oral history of the Mattaponi tribe, Pocahontas was submissive, but she and her father both fell into a deep depression on being separated. She suffered a nervous breakdown and her sister was sent for to care for her. Mattoponi history says she was attacked and her sister helped take care of her during her resulting pregnancy.

During her captivity, Pocahontas met John Rolfe. Here, the recorded account and the oral history diverge. Either the two fell in love, or she was a captive who was trying to create peace between her people, and she already had given birth to a half-white child. In some accounts, Pocahontas divorced Kocoum (The Indians apparently were so used to tribes kidnapping one another, they had a “divorce by capture” law. If the husband did not recapture a stolen wife, she was considered unmarried.) In another, he was killed when she was kidnapped. Her father consented to the marriage, probably because he was afraid of what would happen to her if he said no. She was baptized “Rebecca” in 1614 and married John Rolfe, which led to peace between their two cultures.

John, “Rebecca”, and their son Thomas along with a convoy of Powhatan traveled to England under the invitation of the Virginia company, who hoped this proved the venture was worthwhile and would invite investors. She saw the King and Queen and was reacquainted with John Smith.

While in England in 1617, Pocahontas died of a mysterious illness shortly after dining with Captain Argall, her original captor. She was about 21. Her son remained in England, but John Rolfe returned to Virginia to tell her father. The Powhatan who had traveled with Pocahontas told her father she had been in good health up until she died, and they suspected poison. Her father sank into depression again, and died within the year. The peace that Pocahontas had bought ended.

When John Smith returned to England following an injury, relations with the Powhantan were strained. Furthermore, even more settlers who came to help were shipwrecked and stranded, leaving more mouths to feed.

The Starving Time

The winter of 09-10 – Is known as the Starving Time. Because of the bad relationship with the Powhatan, people were afraid to leave the fort. They had been low on supplies ever since the trade with the Powhatan ceased. They first ate their supplies, then their stock animals. Eventually they were forced to eat their pets, and before the winter was out, they were eating rats, and even shoe leather. It has recently been discovered that conditions were so bad, that the people ate their fallen companions who succumbed to the cold and starvation.

Only 60 people survived the winter. That spring, stranded shipwreck survivors in Bermuda arrived. Sir Thomas Gates the replacement governor, found Jamestown dangerously low on any supplies and made the decision to abandon Jamestown. However, once they were gone, they encountered a messenger with news of an incoming fleet and a new governor, so they reluctantly returned.

The shipwreck carried one John Rolfe, who had seeds for a new strain of tobacco from Spain. Unlike the common tobacco, this one tasted sweet when it was smoked. He soon organized the plants into a profitable crop, which was exactly what the Virginia company was looking for in the colony.

Tobacco was a profitable crop, but it was also the beginning of a moral decay in America that wouldn’t end until the 1800’s. The new farming venture required workers, and so tobacco crops mark the first documented slavery in the United States in 1619. Intending to make Jamestown a flourishing city, the Virginia Company sent a shipload of women over to become wives and mothers.

Peace with the Powhatan Ends

The tenuous peace with the Powhatan tribe broke when Pocahontas’ father died. His successor, his brother Opechancanough, may have blamed his and Pocahontas’ death on the English. He organized an attack on the settlement. However, they received warning, and many survived, but it was a significant blow.

In the midst of the constant fight for their lives, the Virginia company’s charter was revoked, passing the colony into the hands of the monarchy. The Jamestown Colony would remain a Royal colony until the Revolutionary War, more than 100 years later.

Two years after the first indian attack, there was another with devastating consequences. Another 400 settlers died, and Opechancanough was captured and shot (against orders), ending the fighting. His successor signed a treaty with the colonists, making his tribe of Powhatans indians subjects of the English.

Bacon’s Rebellion

This peace with the native Americans lasted about 30 years. The tobacco cash crop was pretty successful, and the colonists began to resent the fact that it could only be sold to the English. The restrictive trade meant the English had full control of the price being paid for it under the Navigation Acts. Furthermore, several indian tribes who had not sworn loyalty to the king were continually attacking outlying farms.

As tends to be the case in history, people were upset and didn’t differentiate between friendly tribes and non-friendly tribes and instead began to spread angry rhetoric against “the Indian problem.”

One particularly charismatic farmer Nathaniel Bacon gathered together 1000 men to help him take care of “the problem.” He convinced the colony’s leader Governor Berkeley to grant him permission to attack the indians who were burning their outer farms, but once he had his permission, he attacked without discrimination.

Governor Berkeley denounced Bacon as a rebel, and high tensions split the colony into civil war. Bacon and his men set fire to the colony, destroying 20 buildings before Nathaniel Bacon died of the bloody flux. Without their leader, his movement disintegrated and many were captured and hanged.

A second treaty was signed, by even more tribes than the first, requiring annual tributes from the indians to the English.

Moving to Williamsburg

Jamestown ceased to be the capitol of the colony when another fire swept the city. In 1699, the government buildings were transferred to Williamsburg. Williamsburg and Jamestown are both historic sites and visitors today can see what life was like for the colonists.


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