Post-Establishment Jamestown (After 1610): Part IV

In part three of our series on post-establishment Jamestown, we discussed the Indian Massacre of 1622 and how it was used by Jamestown settlers to continue encroaching on Native American lands. The settlers needed it to let the newly arrived indentured servants (most of whom were not English) and the first African family of slaves grow crops such as tobacco. Today, we’ll discuss the long-term aftermath of this conflict.

When a family of settlers, indentured servants, or slaves wanted to change jobs or complain about an “employer,” they couldn’t exactly sit down for a chat with Lipsky Lowe LLP, because there were no employment law firms in existence in the 17th century. Bummer. But in 1624, Jamestown and Virginia as a whole were transferred from the ownership of the London Company directly into the ownership of the Royal Crown. This meant that at the very least, settlers could take grievances directly to the king.

But there were other consequences of this transfer of power and authority as well. The Crown had vested interests in Jamestown, but didn’t care about conflict with the Native Americans at all. Because their interests were uniformly ignored, the Native Americans grew increasingly agitated.

Although there were scattered conflicts and skirmishes with the Native Americans in the subsequent years, it wasn’t until the Third Anglo-Powhatan War in 1644 that the beginning of the end was marked. During this war, about 500 colonists were killed. During the two decades preceding, the population had boomed, making this loss less noticeable than the previous massacre in 1622. 

That doesn’t mean they would ignore the attack on their colony; quite the opposite, in fact. This time, the settlers were more enabled to retaliate. Opechancanough was captured in transport, and later killed by a guard when in custody in Jamestown in 1645. 

His death served to put the Native Americans on notice. They realized that right or wrong, they had to choose where to go and what to do next. And there were really only a few choices: they could leave Virginia, integrate with the colonists, or flee to a reservation set by the Crown. Although most of these reservations have since been assimilated by the Crown and, later, by the newly formed United States government, several still exist today.

Shortly before Opechancanough’s death, the colony’s governors requisitioned three forts to serve as a vanguard shield against further incursions into Jamestown territory. Fort Charles was erected at James Falls, Fort James at Chickahominy, and Fort Royal at York Falls. One year later a fourth fort was requisitioned and erected at Appomattox Falls in the vicinity of modern-day Petersburg: Fort Henry. 

The Third Anglo-Powhatan War officially ended by treaty in the latter half of 1646. This treaty provided clearly marked boundaries that the Native Americans and colonists were not supposed to cross without written permission from authorities garrisoned at one of the four aforementioned forts. But the Native Americans were also essentially forced to become tributaries for the Crown — and that basically meant taxation without representation, a common historical problem that you’re probably already familiar with.