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People & Events
Jamestown Settlement

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Jamestown Settlement

The announcements plastered throughout the streets of London were quite enticing. They promised passage to the New World, as well as a house, food, clothing, land, even a share of profits earned by the sponsoring company. The Virginia Company of London was desperate to populate its struggling colony in America.

Twelve years earlier, in 1607, three ships carrying about 100 English colonists -- most of them men -- had sailed into Chesapeake Bay and anchored at the mouth of the James River. There the colonists established their new settlement. Almost eight hundred more settlers arrived over the next three years.

To say that life wasn't easy at the settlement would be a gross understatement. With food supplies quickly diminishing, the settlers turned their hungry eyes toward the chickens, pigs, and cattle. Next they went after the horses. According to Captain John Smith, some finally resorted to cannabilism. One man even killed his wife in order to fill his stomach.

By the spring of 1610, only sixty colonists of the original nine hundred were still alive.

Two years later, the colonists began to experiment with various types of tobacco. The plant grew successfully in the Carribean. Now they found a variety that was well-suited to Virginia. The plant had the potential to transform Virginia into a profitable venture, if only more laborers could be brought to the colony to clear land and cultivate the crops.

The Virginia Company recruited more men and women, and in 1617, the first shipment of tobacco was sent to England.

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Related Entries:
The Hope of Jamestown
The Virginia Company of London
English saved by Native Americans
Peter Wood on the first settlers who come to America
Thomas Davis on the reality in Jamestown
Peter Wood on the need for labor in Jamestown
Betty Wood on the implications of tobacco on labor needs in Virginia

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