This Friday it was my 11 year old son's turn and his topic was Jamestown. He is the youngest in the class, and I have not had him do a lot of formal writing yet, so he needed my help to prepare his speech. While I was gathering information for him on the internet, I came across some great websites.
The most informative was The Jamestown Settlement & Yorktown Victory Center Visitor's Site. My son and I enjoyed watching The Jamestown Chronicals, a series of short video biographies about some of the people related to the settlement of Jamestown. They also have some nice educational downloads. The National Parks Service site for Historic Jamestowne also looked interesting, although I didn't take the time to explore it.
We were also looking for some ideas to make his presentation more interesting. Since he was planning to show off the model of Jamestown that he had built using our Revolutionary War Time Traveler's CD, we thought it would be fun to have the older students make their own Jamestown forts using graham crackers. We ended up splitting the class into two groups and having each group build a fort.
But the idea of passing out cookies, pretzels, and frosting to twenty-one children between the ages of 5 and 10 was a bit frightening. So I came up with a craft for the little ones based on the diet of the Jamestown settlers during the winter of 1609-1610, also known as the "Starving Time."
The colony had suffered many setbacks, but finally began to prosper under the strict leadership of Captain John Smith. Most of the original colonists had come to America in search of wealth and refused to help grow food or build shelters. Smith insisted that if a man didn't work, he shouldn't eat. But after Smith was injured in a gunpowder accident and returned to England, the colonists lost all concern for growing food. There wasn't much set aside for winter, and relations with the native tribes had gotten hostile that they were afraid to leave the fort to look for food. They were forced to eat whatever they could find including dogs, cats, horses, snakes, and old shoes. Some of them even dug up bodies to eat, and one man was discovered to have murdered his wife and was eating her!
|Jamestown During The Starving Time craft|
by RTT (11 years old)
In December of 1607, the Virginia Company of London sponsored a settlement in North America so they could make money. This colony was chartered by King James I, who hoped to increase English holdings in the New World and convert the natives to Christianity. It was settled by 104 men and boys, who sailed to Virginia on the Susan Constant, the Godspeed, and the Discovery. The site for Jamestown was chosen because it was surrounded by water on three sides and easy to defend, the water there was deep enough to anchor their ships, and there were native nearby who they could trade with. By June 15, they had built a fort on the site. The fort was triangular with a bulwark at each corner.
It wasn't long until the colony began to have problems. The colony had been built on traditional Powhatan hunting grounds and relationships between the settlers and the natives were not always very good. Although the location of the settlement gave them protection from attacks, the swampy climate caused many diseases. Also, since many of the colonists were upper-class Englishmen who were only there to get richer, they refused to help with the work. By the winter of 1607, only 38 of the original 104 settlers were still alive.
As food shortages got worse, it looked like the colony was going to collapse. Then Captain John Smith came up with an idea to get food from the natives by trade. Chief Powhatan sent gifts, which allowed the colony to survive. For the next year, Smith ruled the colony with a strict hand. He insisted that his people work, or they would not eat. He burned villages and stole food if the natives refused to trade. He was feared and hated by both the English and the natives, but Jamestown flourished under his rule. However, in the fall of 1609, he was injured in a gunpowder accident and returned to England.
With John Smith gone, the settlers once again stopped working. Powhatan also saw his opportunity to get rid of the English once and for all, and ordered his warriors to stop trading with them. Trading parties that went out from the fort, never returned and were presumed dead. The settlers were afraid to leave to look for food, and the winter of 1609-1610 became known as the starving time. The colonists ate whatever they could find to stay alive, including rats and boot leather. They even dug up dead bodies to eat, and one man even killed his wife and ate part of her before he was caught. The colony almost ceased to exist.
Then, in the Spring of 1610, more settlers and supplies arrived from England. This new group of settlers came under a new charter issued by King James, which provided for stronger leadership under a governor and a period of military law with strict punishment for those who did not obey. Those who broke the laws were shot, burned at the stake, or hung. Offenses such as cursing were punished with physical torture or public humiliation. The settlers were still dependant on the Powhatans for food, and became more violent in their attempts to get it. The natives responded with equal violence and relations between the two cultures got worse.
During the winter of 1612-1613, Samuel Argall came up with a plan to kidnap Powhatan's favorite daughter, Pocahontas, and hold her for ransom. However, Powhatan refused to give in to the demands. So, Pocahontas remained with the English for more than a year and became used to their ways. She was baptized and fell in love with a planter named John Rolfe, who had introduced tobacco as a cash crop to the colony. She and John were married in 1618, which brought a truce between the English and the natives. Although Powhatan was not happy with the marriage or the truce, he was tired of fighting and felt powerless to stop it. But even with this truce, Jamestown still suffered from food shortages and disease. Colonists who wished to make money began growing tobacco, and not enough corn was planted.
Tobacco cultivation required large amounts of land and labor. Settlers moved onto lands occupied by Powhatan natives, and an increased number of indentured servants were sent to the colony. The first documented Africans arrived in 1619, and the number of African slaves increased significantly in the second half of the 17th century.
In 1622, Powhatan's successor, Opechancanough, attacked the white settlements in order to prevent them from taking more land for tobacco. 347 settlers were killed, including John Rolfe. The attacks came as a surprise because their had been peace for many years. Although the natives were driven back and completely defeated, King James revoked the colony's charter in 1624, as a result of the high death rates and the colony's poor financial state, and Virginia became a royal colony.