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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Historic Jamestowne

We went to Historic Jamestowne today. And no, I didn't misspell Jamestown - that's the way it is spelled at this site. There are two areas in Jamestown to tour; one is the original site of the Jamestown colony that was settled in 1607 and the other is Jamestown Settlement, which is a living history museum that is a reproduction of the original colony, a Powhatan village, and the three ships that brought the British settlers here.

We had visited Jamestown Settlement a few years back on vacation with Kevin and a friend, so we opted to skip that today. If we get bored, we may go back and do that before we leave.

Historic Jamestowne is being excavated continuously,
having begun in the mid 1990s. Its 400th anniversary was celebrated just last week. It was interesting to overhear a conversation between a gift shop employee and a customer in which they were discussing how people brag about being descendants of the Mayflower settlers. The gist was that those people have nothing to really brag about - they were not the first Americans, those in Jamestown were. Funny how everything becomes a competition!

We walked throughout the site, seeing the James River from the vantage point of the fort and walking where those first 104 men and boys walked. At one time, Jamestown was the center of government in the area, but that was moved to Williamsburg in 1699, which ultimately started the town's decline.

There are many foundations throughout the site, but they are reproductions of the originals. Once the original foundations were excavated and documented, they were reburied in order to preserve them.
Because of their age, if they were left in the open, they would erode. There are a couple of foundations that were "rowhomes." And we thought townhouses were recent architectural designs! In the fort itself, there is active excavation and artifacts are being found daily.

Of course, there are statues commemorating Captain John Smith
and the Powhatan princess, Pocahontas. Did anyone else think that Pocahontas had married Captain John Smith? Well, I did. She married a colonist named John Rolfe. I don't know why I thought she'd married Captain Smith; he never married. Pocahontas had been married to a Powhatan Indian when she was 15, but was kidnapped at 18 and held hostage. While a hostage, she converted to Christianity, took the name Rebecca and married Mr. Rolfe. This marriage was seen by both the colonists and the Powhatans as a sign of peace. The Rolfe family, which included son Thomas now, left Jamestown for England in 1618; Pocahontas died there a year later.

After walking the Jamestowne site, we went to the Glasshouse. Because raw materials used in making glass (sand, timber & oyster shells) were in abundance in this area, Captain John Smith established the industry of glassblowing in 1608. Glass was in high demand
in England at this time so Captain Smith thought this would be a good way to provide profits to those who had financed the settling of Jamestown. Unfortunately, due to lack of skill, an Indian uprising, and a furnace explosion among other things, this new industry never became the money maker hoped for. By 1624 all attempts at glassblowing as an industry had ceased. What did come of it was the influx of English, German, Polish, and Italians who joined America's melting pot. The actual ruins of the original glasshouse are preserved on the site. A new glasshouse is in use today for demonstration purposes and sales.

Tomorrow we're off to Colonial Williamsburg. Even though we've been a few times before, it's always fun to walk through this town. More pictures to come! :)

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