Where was the first permanent settlement in the United States? It was Saint Augustine, Florida, founded by the Spanish. When was it settled? In 1565. Where was the first permanent English settlement? At Jamestown, Virginia, founded in 1609, 44 years after the settlement at St. Augustine.
The London Company in England sold shares in the expedition to Virginia and expected to make a profit from the colony they sent out to the new world. Three ships with 143 emigrants on board reached a spot on the James River in Virginia. They landed and built a fort and some rude dwellings and named the place Jamestown in honor of their king.
After a hopeful beginning, the colony faced many hardships over the next four years. Several times they almost reached the point of failure, but they hung on to make their pioneer colony a success, and the first permanent English settlement in the new world was born.
There were several reasons for the early difficulties. They were
(1) the hostility of the Powhatan Indians who repeatedly attacked the colony.
(2) the inexperience of the settlers in what to plant and how to cultivate the corn or maize and other crops that grew in Virginia.
(3) the poor selection of a town site near marshes which bred mosquitoes and spread malaria. The first summer almost half of the colonists died of malaria and other ailments.
(4) their biggest handicap was the community organization. All the land belonged to the London Company in England and was not divided among the settlers. Instead, the land was worked by a community system or commune. The products of the land went into a common storehouse, and the colonists all drew their equal share to feed themselves, sending the balance to the English stockholders.
This system of “ communism” did not work, and many of the colonists would not work. However, the system lasted four years until a new governor was appointed. This man, Captain John Smith, was a soldier of fortune and one of the original settlers. When he became governor, he changed the system, which had failed so badly. The land was divided among the colonists, and each was compelled to farm his own land or starve. The loafers and shirkers were driven out of the colony, and soon Jamestown began to prosper and grow tobacco as a successful money crop.
One of the principle reasons the Jamestown Colony survived at all was the valuable service performed by that great hero of all young history scholars, Captain John Smith. He had a way with the Indians and was very successful in trading with them, giving them trinkets and tools, knives and other articles in return for food. One time he was captured by unfriendly Indians and condemned to death, but chief Powhatan’s daughter Pocahontas interceded for him and saved his life. Later, Pocahontas married John Rolfe, one of the colonists, and later moved to England with him.
Captain John Smith served as governor of the colony for several years, and while he lived in Jamestown he explored the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. He later published a map of Virginia that covered these areas. A few years later, he went on an expedition along the New England Coast. His report, which is called A Description of New England, was responsible for the name “New England” by which we know this area today. His map of this area was accurate and complete.
Jamestown remained a colony and the first capital of Virginia for about ninety years. Then the whole town moved to Williamsburg, which was the capital of Virginia for almost 100 years before the capital was move to Richmond. Williamsburg has been restored and is now a most interesting city, but that is another story that will be told later in another history lesson.

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