Why Was Jamestown Even Founded?

Many people realize and acknowledge that the Jamestown Settlement, originally founded in 1607 after a late December departure in 1606, was an English settlement. But most of those same people probably have no idea that the settlement was originally owned by the London Company — and not the Royal Crown — and was intended to be a for-profit business venture.

This venture led to a series of supply missions once the settlement was established. They lasted from 1607 until 1611. A secondary priority for the London Company was maintaining a garrison of James Fort, which was eventually constructed on Jamestown Island. 

These supply missions brought direly needed resources and additional settlers. Remember, scores of the original planters died during overly harsh winters, injury, disease, and dysentery. They had come to a dangerous place — and they were unprepared for the obstacles ahead. 

Because Jamestown was founded by a company whose members were rich, and had been intended to keep a military presence in Virginia, the location of the settlement was chosen primarily for its highly defensible position. This decision resulted in both positive and negative consequences. 

Over the following decades, the ability to hold the position turned into a boon due to innumerable Native American attacks. It should be noted, however, that the settlers brought the vast majority of these attacks on themselves.

The negative consequences, then, likely outweighed the positive a great deal. The water at the location was stagnant and bad. The land was not ideal for agriculture, and farming was a skill that would need to be employed eventually if the people were to survive. Most of the original settlers were wealthy. Because they lacked these skills or resisted manual labor, many died during the first full winter they experienced. Rumors of cannibalisms persist to this day.

Mostly, the settlement couldn’t fully support itself until those living in the vicinity began to encroach on Native American lands. When the English Crown took over much later, the potential for the settlement increased substantially.