Virginia has certainly had her fair share of outstanding historical figures, both men and women. In this interview, the Library of Virginia’s Dr. Sandra Gioia Treadway and I discuss just 5 of the many important women to have graced our storied past.
Women highlighted in this episode are –
Anna Maria Lane
Elizabeth Van Lew
These women were daring, powerful, and brilliant. Tune in to hear what made them great!
Anna Maria Lane Marker in Richmond, Virginia
Elizabeth Van Lew’s Grave at Shockoe Hill Cemetery, Richmond, VA
Mary Jackson’s Grave at Bethel AME Church, Hampton, VA
The Pamunkey Frontlet, presented to Cockacoeske as a gift from King Charles II
No one saw this coming. Not in England or in Virginia. The English and Powhatan Tribes had been living quite peacefully together for almost a decade by 1622, but after both Pocahontas and Powhatan’s deaths a few years prior, Opechancanough had nothing standing in his way to stop him from enacting his murderous plan.
Opechancanough was not yet completely in control of the Powhatan tribes, but his authority was second to none. Opitchapam might have been the supreme Werowance, but everyone, English and Indian alike, knew who was in charge.
Diplomatic ties all went through Opechancanough, and those actions seemed to ensure that all was well in Virginia, but all wasn’t well, and when one of the Powhatan’s most iconic warriors, Nemattanew, or Jack of the Feather, was killed in March 1622 the mood changed. But the English completely missed the warning, and for that, they would suffer.
All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author. The Featured Image is of the Matthias Merian 1628 woodcut which depicts the 1622 Raid. The Opechancanough/John Smith encounter is from Smith’s own 1624 General History of Virginia. The final picture illustrates the destruction at Wolstenholme Towne.
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.
One of the most indifferent Virginia Company investors became one of her most influential, but not on purpose. Sir Robert Rich and his son, also Robert, only bought one share in the Company’s third offering, but they gifted a man-of-war named the Treasurer.
The Treasurer sailed to attack Spanish shipping lanes and outposts, but Argall had work to do in Virginia first. He had to help establish a trade route with the Potomac tribe in the north. The first trip was profitable, but a second was needed just 3 months later. On this second journey Argall received a tip. Pocahontas was visiting the Potomac Tribe.
The Treasurer, the would be Spanish raider, now became one of the most famous, or infamous depending on your viewpoint, traps in all of Virginia’s history. Pocahontas was lured on board, and the course of history would certainly change for both the Powhatan’s and the English.
All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The featured image is The Abduction of Pocahontas by artist Jean Leon Gerome Ferris. Painting located at the Virginia Historical Society.
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.
The Jamestown colonists had endured much before winter 1609, but nothing could have prepared them for what they were about to endure.
John Smith’s departure, Powhatan’s declaration of war, George Percy’s incompetence, as well as the foolish communistic structure that the Virginia Company employed doomed those who made the journey across the Atlantic.
It was just a matter of time before catastrophe struck, and when it finally did come, it came all at once.
Approximately 300 colonists began enduring the most severe hardships imaginable, then they began doing the unthinkable. Then they died.
In the end more than 240 did not make it to the end, which came in May 1610, when the Sea Venture survivors finally started sailing up the James River.
All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The featured image is the the famous discovery of Jane, the teenage girl who succumbed to cannibalism during the Starving time. The second picture is of the many graves found within James Fort that date back to 1607.
Christopher Newport returned just in time to save John Smith from being hanged on January 2, 1608. The first resupply mission came at a perfect time, but the colony continued to suffer.
Newport and Smith eventually accepted an invitation from Powhatan, which was the first of a series of exploratory trips that Smith would take during the next few months.
As John Smith gallivanted throughout the Tidewater region, Jamestown was crumbling. John Ratcliffe’s administration as well as increasingly hot weather and gold fever killed half of the colonists, and those still alive thought about mutiny.
Once Smith returned from his first journey, the time seemed perfect for a coup, but Smith still wanted to explore. Governing was not on his mind. Not yet at least. But once he completed the second venture, Smith decided to acquiesce, and became the Virginia Colony’s next President.
Music used for this episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” and Klaus Badelt, “The Black Pearl” from Pirates of the Carribean: The Curse of the Black Pearl both songs are available on iTunes.
John Smith was a bold guy. He told us so, and that’s most of what we have to go by concerning his life events. Whether or not history happened the way he remembered it, something happened during his Jamestown tenure. If it weren’t his bold actions, then Jamestown’s complete collapse would most likely have happened.
This episode summarizes what John Smith told us about his early life before sailing to Jamestown. From there, the narrative picks back up amid the chaotic political posturing that was discussed in the last episode. Smith couldn’t sit still and do nothing. He risked his life, and in so doing saved it, as well as those of the remaining colonists.
Because of Smith’s actions, and perhaps some of his story telling, he and a certain young Native American Indian girl are still remembered today, not only as historical figures, but also as life inspiring characters who overcame boundaries, tensions, and cultures. They persevered, and there perseverance helped lay the foundation upon which a great state was born.
While the early Virginia settlers struggled to establish a permanent settlement centered upon James Fort, there was potentially serious intrigue taking place back home in London.
A spy fed the Spanish Ambassador, Don Pedro Zuñiga, information that alarmed Spain concerning possible English piracy in the New World. Zuñiga’s work, accompanied with Newport’s less than glorious return, almost ended the Jamestown venture before more serious, fatal events began plaguing the colonists.
While politics was playing out in London, disease and starvation began destroying the fledgling Jamestown settlement. Political posturing also played a serious role, but while chaos reigned supreme, an overly confident John Smith gained control just as it all seemed lost.
Jamestown’s first month was hectic to say the least. After the governing council was established, the settlers began building their base. Concurrent with this undertaking, Christopher Newport led an expedition up the James River and met with many of the tribes along the way, before being convinced to turn around at the falls near present day Richmond, VA.
When Newport and his men arrived to Jamestown, they discovered that an Indian attack had taken place the day prior to their return. This prompted James Fort’s building, an audacious 3 week project amidst fatal conditions. A week after the fort was finished, Christopher Newport loaded two of his ships, and sailed back to England, just as the colony was about to begin a period of suffering.