A trip to Jamestown — America’s First Permanent English Colony

We traveled to Virginia this summer to visit family and take a trip to the past, for history is the connection between then, now, and the future. 

The Jamestown Settlement, (a replica depicting life in 1607, near the original landing site), pushed my imagination to such heights it left me at once breathless and captivated. 

56. James River, Jamestown, VA

Directly behind us is the site of the first landing

Having lived in Europe for twenty years, I was always immersed in history. Just to scratch the surface, the Roman incursion dates back to circa 200 AD, or The Dark Ages (we can go back to Prehistoric Europe, but that’s too far). The continent was once divided by a World War. The 1989 Revolution ended dictators’ reign in the Autumn of Nations era, the end of totalitarianism. And debating politics and history is a European pastime.  

It stands to reason that American history fascinates those from the old continent. For a fairly young country, America has a captivating past.  A visit to Jamestown and Williamsburg is much like going back in time, especially as archeologists are still digging up the site uncovering skeletons — and not necessarily the bony kind.  

Virginia –and more so Jamestown — offers a unique look at America’s birth and her first steps into the world. And bearing witness to the past is an experience no history book can replace.

There are the early growth pains — a small colony, doomed to perish yet extending westward as far as the Mississippi River. And there is, now, an abundance of data solving a paradox — what’s before us cannot be denied — a plethora of artifacts dating back to the beginning of this nation’s story.

53. Jamestown, VA (Settlement replica)

Replica of the first colony

A story that started with 214 men and boys, disembarking up James River, struggling to survive, failing and dying en masse. It’s incomprehensible that the few left (fifty of them, maybe) survived with the help of new arrivals, overcame (by terrible means) the natives, then pushed south, north, and later west.  

50. James River -- Jamestown Settlement, VA

James River

In Jamestown we also had a look at the Powhatan Indians of Virginia, an Algonquian-speaking people (a language spoken from Labrador to South Carolina and west to the Great Plains), at their villages, customs and traditions.

Powhatan Indians

A look at John Smith the British diplomat, and Pocahontas the daughter of Powhatan chief, forging an unlikely partnership.  

A look at the first slaves, one among them Angela of Ndongo, West Africa, brought to Virginia in 1619 on a Portuguese slave ship seized by British pirates.

A look at Bartholomew Gosnold, a dominant figure in the Virginia Company of London. Had he not died soon after arrival in Jamestown, Gosnold might have changed the course of history and become the original founding father of this nation. 

Sure, on the world stage American is a young country.  Yet a visit to Jamestown and Williamsburg turns five hundred years into the Himalayas of histories, each step up the path more overwhelming and breathtaking than the one before.  


Image credit: Powhatan Indians, from https://encrypted-tbn2.gstatic.com


12 responses to “A trip to Jamestown — America’s First Permanent English Colony

  1. Wonderful post, Sylvia. Jamestown is one of my favorites historic sites to visit, after Plimoth Plantation. I was one of the first tour guides there, having grown up in Plymouth, MA. Hope you get to visit there, too, sometime.

    • Thank you, Noelle. How cool, that you were a guide. I was amazed by the curators and guides in Jamestown and Williamsburg, the vast amount of knowledge they possess and are more than willing to share.

  2. I too adore history and historical sites. My son is in Europe for the first time and I adore the pictures he sends back. I’m glad you had a good time with your family. :)

  3. Wow, you took me down memory lane. This was one of our favorite vacations many years ago with our two children and sometimes we Americans forget how young our country really is?

  4. I’m sure my school took us on a field trip there at some point in my youth. (I grew up In New York, close enough to hit the major Revolutionary War stops in Boston, Massachusetts and further south.) It certainly wasn’t ever summed up so beautifully, though. I love your respect and appreciation of history as I share it!

  5. I never heard of Gosnold! Loved that vacation as a child.

  6. When my brother comes and visits me here in Virginia (he lives in Hawaii) he thinks it’s humorous that he can go to the store to buy beer and stop by a battlefield without going out of his way.

    Being a lover of both beer and civil war history he’s in heaven when he visits! Glad you enjoyed it here. Did you get a chance to go on the ferry? We travel to Williamsburg by way of the Jamestown ferry. It’s a beautiful river, the James.

    • Ha, love your brother’s perspective, Jen. No, we didn’t go on the ferry, too much to do in too short a time. But I was very moved, standing there and looking right at the site itself, the river. And Williamsburg is absolutely gorgeous. What a beautiful place you live in.

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