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10 Things You May Not Know About the Jamestown Colony

August 6, 2019 in History

By Crystal Ponti

In May of 1607, a hearty group of Englishmen arrived on the muddy shores of modern-day Virginia under orders from King James I to establish an English colony. But despite their efforts, the Jamestown Colony was immediately plagued by disease, famine, and violent encounters with the native population. “There were never Englishmen left in a foreign country in such misery as we were in this new discovered Virginia,” one colonist recalled.

Although more than a third of the colonists perished in the harsh conditions, the group eventually overcame their disastrous start and founded the first permanent English settlement in the New World. Here are some of the lesser-known facts about the Jamestown Colony.

1. The original settlers were all men.

Settlers landing on the site of Jamestown, Virginia, the first permanent English settlement in America.

In December of 1606, the Virginia Company, under charter from King James I, sent an expedition to establish an English settlement in North America. When their ships, the Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery, arrived near the banks of the James River on May 14, 1607, 104 men and boys set foot on what would soon become Jamestown. The initial group contained well-to-do adventurers, a handful of artisans and craftsmen, and laborers eager to forge a new home. Notably absent were members of the opposite sex. It would be another nine long months before any women arrived at the fledgling colony.

2. Drinking water likely played a role in the early decimation of the settlement.

Did Jamestown Drink Itself to Death? (TV-PG; 2:44)

While the terrain might have appeared ideal from the deck of a ship—unoccupied and ripe with natural resources—the Virginia Company established its settlement on a swath of swampy land with no source of fresh water. Soon after, the men began to perish. Only 38 of the 104 original settlers were still alive by January 1608.

As documented in colonial records, many died from disease and famine. Others met their fate in skirmishes with the Powhatans and their tribal allies. Experts also believe that some may have succumbed to a invisible threat: toxic water. Modern-day samples taken from some of the wells used by Jamestown colonists have revealed high levels of salt and varying degrees of arsenic and fecal contamination—a foul, and potentially lethal, cocktail.

READ MORE: What Was Life Like in Jamestown?

3. Bodies were buried in unmarked graves to conceal …read more


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