Post-Establishment Jamestown (After 1610): Part II

In part one of our series on post-establishment Jamestown, we explored two important events that occurred by 1614: the planting of tobacco and the encroachment onto lands owned by Native Americans. It was the former development that sped the latter development. Tobacco was a crop that would guarantee the health and robustness of Jamestown’s economy, and the settlers required more space to farm it.

John Rolfe was the man who had brought the first tobacco seeds and, coincidentally, it was he who married the famous Pocahontas, who was the daughter of Chief Powhatan. This marriage was built to keep the peace — but Pocahontas died three years later, in 1617, instead guaranteeing violence. Pocahontas’s Uncle Opchanacanough was a warrior who led the Powhatan Confederacy. None of this stopped the Ancient Planters from continuing to steal more land from the Native Americans to plant their tobacco.

Regardless of the difficulty of the trans-Atlantic voyage and life in Jamestown, people still lined up to come. The ride was expensive. And these folks weren’t like the first Jamestown settlers who were accustomed to having wealth. 

These folks were poor by comparison, and so they did the only thing they could do to make the trip feasible — they bought passage based on credit, essentially placing themselves into indentured servitude. They weren’t prostitutes or taken advantage of in other ways, so there was no need to hop over to to find a sexual assault attorney. In return for years of work, they would be granted passage overseas and land once they arrived. Many of these travelers were German. 

Had the Native Americans chosen to attack before this influx of new settlers, they may have successfully wiped them out. But they waited, biding time as relations soured between the communities.

Meanwhile, Jamestown was organizing — not militarily, but instead with standardized laws to ensure the sense of community would only become stronger. The General Assembly drafted these laws at Jamestown Church “to establish one equal and uniform government over all Virginia” for the purpose of writing “just laws for the happy guiding and governing of the people there inhabiting.”

Instead of fostering a stronger community, the laws weakened it — because only English men were allowed to vote, and remember: by this time most new settlers were from other European countries. Polish artisans decided to “strike,” refusing to work because they weren’t allowed a vote. Jamestown couldn’t function without everyone doing their fair share, so the Poles were quickly granted the right to vote as well. 

The community was divided into four boroughs. A few months later, African slaves — the first — arrived aboard the White Lion. Their names were Antoney and Isabella, and they soon had a child, William Tucker. This was the first recorded African family to live in Jamestown, which we know from the census recorded in 1624.

The drafting of laws, strike, and introduction of African slaves occurred in 1619. Three years later, the Powhatan Confederacy was ready to attack — and intended to completely wipe out Jamestown.