The History Of Commemorating Jamestown

Jamestown was first settled in 1607 — and it’s come a long way since then. Whereas only 108 men first arrived to colonize the land around the James River, today there are over 15,000 people who live there. It is a wonderfully preserved part of American history, now over four centuries old. And because it’s that old, there have already been a number of commemorations.

The 200th anniversary occurred in 1807, when there was a festival with 3,000 attendees called the Grand National Jubilee. It opened on May 13. There was a procession leading the way to the old church and its graveyard, where there was a prayer service. Many of the attendees would then dance and dine at the Travis Mansion. The College of William and Mary was up and running at this point, and many students delivered speeches to mark the occasion.

The 300th anniversary in 1907 was marked by the erection of the 103-foot tall Jamestown Tercentenary Monument on Jamestown Island. There was a general feeling of concern related to the oncoming festivities because the American population was now much larger and the Jamestown area was actually smaller — some areas having been eroded and swallowed by the James River. Therefore, the Jamestown Exposition was held in 1907 but in Norfolk County. President Theodore Roosevelt attended.

Mistakes were not repeated as 2007 (the 400th anniversary) was noted to be just around the corner. New accommodations and facilities were planned and constructed in anticipation of the festivities in order to have them on location at Jamestown. The Jamestown 2007 Commission planned and executed a whopping 18 months of state, national, and even international events, beginning in 2006. 

Queen Elizabeth II visited, as did Prince Philip, in early May when the anniversary was finally commemorated. The royal family had also paid the honor of a visit in 1957 during the 350th anniversary celebration.