A few months ago 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution and I discussed doing some work together, and when I saw Mr. Townsend’s name on the shortlist of potential interviews, I knew that I wanted to connect with him.
Cainan is the Education Director at the R.R. Moton Museum in Farmville, VA, which was once a segregated school during the period before desegregation. Cainan had personal connections to the historic events that took place there in 1951 in that he is the great-grandson of John Townsend, one of the students who followed 16 year old Barbara Johns out of the school in protest.
Once Cainan began showing me around the Museum, I knew that this interview was going to be spectacular, and it certainly was. His clear and thorough understanding of the 1951 protest, as well as the events which unfolded throughout Virginia and influenced the country are captivating. I trust you, reader, will agree after listening to this interview.
All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The featured image is of the Robert Russa Moton Museum located in Farmville, VA. All other images are from the exhibits located within the museum.
Music used for this episode – Gnossienne No. 2 by Erik Satie performed by the Empire Brass Quintet, available on iTunes.
Edwin Sandys took over the Virginia Company 12 years after she began. During that period, Virginia struggled from one horror to another. Sandys’ election came at a time when Virginia seemed to finally be taking prosperous shape, but though Virginia was proving to be profitable, the Company was in serious debt.
Sandys oversaw the incredible plantation boom as well as all of the important 1619 Virginian firsts, but though things were improving in the colony, political situations in England threatened the colony’s parent company.
Sandys had many powerful enemies, none more powerful than King James, who turned against the Virginia Company leader after the European Thirty Years’ War erupted. Sandys, the Member of Parliament, crossed the King over budgetary issues surrounding James’ desire to play a part in Europe. King James was not amused. He jailed Sandys, and then began craftily moving to undo the Virginia Company.
In spite of the King’s attempts, the Company persevered, that is, it lasted until a horrific report arrived in July 1622. That report left the Company in tatters once and for all.
The Virginia Colony made great strides throughout 1619, and arguably the greatest was the formation of representative government, the first such government formed in the New World.
The Company didn’t want to loosen the reigns as freely as they did, but once the steps were taken, the representatives didn’t look back. John Pory guided the proceedings, which lasted 5 days from July 30 to August 4, and set the tone for future Virginian as well as American government into motion.
Because of this precedent, the House of Burgesses is a more than worthy topic of study, especially in that the original House is still with us today as the House of Delegates, the lower body of the Virginia General Assembly, and many great men sharpened their political acumen therein.
For those who have not heard about the first English Speaking Thanksgiving in the New World, it started when a group of closely related English investors came together to plan a new life in Virginia.
They saw an opportunity to escape economic and religious hardships plaguing 17th Century England, enlisted a veteran Virginia settler, and shipped 35 settlers to an 8,000 acre land-grant on the James River in 1619.
Upon their arrival, the settlers offered their thanks to Almighty God as their first action at their new home, Berkeley Hundred. All of this was accomplished before their more famous counterparts, the Pilgrims, set sail in 1620.
All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The Featured Image is of colonial re-enactors at the First Thanksgiving Festival, which takes place annually at Berkeley Plantation.
The most expansive plantation building phase along the James River exploded into life after the 1618 tobacco crop sold for an eye catching £5,000. At that moment the English knew that there was indeed something worthwhile to the Virginia venture.
Tobacco was certainly the increasingly powerful king in early Virginia, but the Virginia Company wanted to diversify. To that end, what would have been the first college in America, The East India School, was planned, the first ironworks at Falling Creek, was established, salt-farming on the Eastern Shore was set up, dozens of plantations dotted the James and Appomattox Rivers, settlers poured in to take advantage of new opportunities, and the first representative governmental assembly was formed.
There was a lot going on to be sure. But some settlers attempted to keep focused upon a more serious reason why they were undertaking such toilsome ventures, which is why another first took place amidst the continuing great migration. 35 settlers at newly formed Berkeley Hundred celebrated the First Thanksgiving on December 4, 1619.
This episode covers all of this and more. Have a listen!
All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The Featured Image is of colonial re-enactors at the annual First Thanksgiving Festival, which takes place at Berkeley Plantation.
Music used for this episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” available on iTunes, and “Haunted” by Charlie Simpson, also available on iTunes.
Shirley Plantation is the oldest James River Plantation, as well as North America’s longest continually running business. Having been founded in 1613, Shirley Plantation has been a part of Virginia’s history from Thomas Dale’s administration to the present, as the Hill-Carter Family treasure on the James River can attest. It is fitting, therefore, that one of the most famous Virginia ghost stories comes from her historic location.
Martha Hill, known better as Aunt Pratt, “Pratt” being a family pet name, was the daughter of Edward Hill III. She didn’t spend much time at Shirley, but she was part of the Hill family, which entitled her to have a portrait painted and added to the family collection.
Aunt Pratt moved to England after she finished her schooling, married one Hugh Griffin (Griffith and Gifford in some sources), before she passed away, never having returned to Shirley in her lifetime. But many believe that she returned after her death, as can be evidenced by the utterly bizarre happening centered upon that now famous family portrait.
All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The featured image is of Aunt Pratt’s famous portrait. All subsequent images are from my visits to Shirley Plantation.
Though Thomas Dale did not return to Virginia after his 1616 departure, he, along with John Rolfe, worked hard to encourage growth along the newly establishing James River Plantations.
Their work was greatly aided by Edwin Sandys, a rival to Thomas Smythe, the Virginia Company treasurer. Sandys’ ideas were not accepted by Smythe and his inner circle, but after years of rapidly accumulating debt, many in the Company thought a change was necessary.
Those changes began when the initial seven-year dividend promise from 1609 came due. The Company could not repay anyone’s investment, and in fact wanted to request more money. That’s when men like Edwin Sandys seized an opportunity.
Sandys and his followers wanted to offer property, private property, and that offering got the attention of hundreds throughout England.
Soon, investors, as well as adventurers seeking for a new life, began lining up to sail across the Atlantic.
Between 1616 and 1622 more than 8,000 settlers would risk their lives for a shot at prosperity deemed unimaginable in the Old World.
Dale received his often requested settlers at last, but Dale would not be there to see new plantations founded along the James River. Instead, other company men – Samuel Argall and George Yeardley, governors between 1616 and 1621, as well as many new investors, oversaw the massive transformation that forever changed Virginia and her history.
All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The Featured Image is the commemorative Flowerdew Hundred Windmill, which has since been dismantled and sent to Lubbock, Texas.
Thomas Dale and his fellow Virginia Company leaders spent much time in Ireland before they trekked to Virginia. While they were subjugating the Irish, Dale and others learned a few things about how to set up a system of plantations.
It was reasoned that the best way to dominate a region was to first subdue it, and then build self-sustaining units on the newly conquered lands. Dale certainly subscribed to this school of thought, and began establishing a plantation system along the James River.
This system would not, however, be centered upon Jamestown. It was too unhealthy. Instead, Dale had Henricus built, but he planned an even larger power center on the bluffs overlooking the James and Appomattox Rivers that he called Bermuda Cittie.
Bermuda Cittie would then be the governing location overseeing a series of 5 separate plantations that were all established in 1613 –
Nether Hundred (Later called Bermuda Hundred)
West and Shirley
Diggs His Hundred
These 5 plantations, however, were not the only plots of land that had activity on them. Many claim that in 1614 Captain John Martin began working the lands of what is today Upper and Lower Brandon Plantation.
It’s hard to validate the claim, as it is hard to say much about any work done on these plantations, but the 351 settlers still alive by 1616 were busily, if not miserably, working lands along the James River. It was their work on increasingly independent lands that began making Virginia a desirable destination. A destination that attracted a greater migration after 1616.
Thomas Dale’s Virginia still suffered under his heavy-handed rule in the early 1610s, but the Rolfe/Pocahontas marriage as well as semi-relaxed private property laws began to have a noticeable affect upon the colony.
Rolfe took advantage of those newly relaxed laws by introducing a new tobacco strain, the Spanish, sweet-scented Orinoco along the James River. Soon after Rolfe’s successfully growing the weed, and sending a 1,200 lb crop to England, other Virginia colonists began growing the crop on the many plantations that sprung into life after 1613.
The Virginia Company began granting land to new settlers both old and new after Samuel Argall ascended to the Lieutenant Governorship. More than 30 plantations were founded upon which Tobacco became the chiefly grown crop. Virginia was now showing signs of profitability, and many believed it to be due in part to the Rolfe/Pocahontas marriage as well as Rolfe’s experimental work. They were now Virginia’s most famous people, and England wanted to see this early modern power couple.
The Rolfe’s journeyed to England in 1616, were a hit, helped bolster the Virginia Company’s books. But the successful junket came at a price. The Powhatan natives were affected by the dirty English civilization. Pocahontas fell ill and died at the outset of their return journey to Virginia. Further, one of Pocahontas’ attendants, Tomocomo, spread his negative reviews to powerful Powhatan leaders upon his return.
Those words had an affect, as Opechancanough, Powhatan’s successor, let the words fester, and began plotting an attack against the English.
All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The featured image is the only known picture of Pocahontasfrom her lifetime. It was done by Simon Van de Passe upon Pocahontas visit to England. The next image is The Death of Pocahontasby Junius Brutus Stearns.
The Virginia Company rapidly changed between Lord Delaware’s 1611 departure and Thomas Gates’ 1612 return. It almost ceased to exist, but somehow endured.
Virginia also endured, but that was in spite of Thomas Dale’s arrival and institution of a stricter disciplinary system. His actions, however, meshed with the events taking place in England. He pushed further inland, founded a new city, Henricus, and asked for more settlers to inhabit newly conquered land near Virginia’s second city.
Yet the Virginia Company was in no position to supply those settlers. That is, they weren’t able to supply those settlers until a number of schemes rode new waves of excitement, Bermuda’s colonization was leveraged, and a lottery was staged.
Even at that, Prince Henry’s stunning death threatened to destroy Virginia altogether. But the times were changing, and Virginia was about to feel the effects of new policies.