Jamestown was the first constant English settlement in North America. It was a risky commerce venture. In June, 1606 King James I granted a charter to a group of entrepreneurs from London. In December, 105 adventurers set off from England to establish a settlement, find gold, and discover a water route to the Orient. On May 14, 1607, the explorers landed on Jamestown Island. Before becoming prosperous, the colony had to overcome diseases, famine and attacks of natives. A lot was done to make the settlement a convenient place to live and a profitable town to work and trade. Now it is possible to consider the mistakes done by the leaders of the first settlers and make a better plan of establishing the colony.
First of all, for settling new territories one needs people of labor occupations – carpenters, bricklayers, blacksmiths, hunters, and farmers. It was not a wise decision to take a lot of gentlemen as they were interested in finding gold and were not willing to work. The establishment of the settlement presumed that people needed houses to live, storehouses, lands to cultivate, and a defense fortification – that all had to be done quickly and qualitatively, with united work of everyone in the discovery group. Moreover, it was vital to take a doctor as nobody could predict what diseases the discoverers would face.
The next issue was the place to settle. Captain Christopher Newport landed at the Cape Henry and chose a place along the James River 60 miles up from the Chesapeake Bay. Strategically the place was good as it gave an opportunity to defend against Spanish rivals. Though, as the territory was low and marshy, it brought diseases and starvation – insects carried illnesses, water was salty and the soil was poor. A proper place for building a fort had to be at the bank of a navigable river with a safe port, on a dry, fertile territory near fresh water, and close enough to forests to provide timber, food, and fur.
Building a secure fort for the dwellers was a significant task. Triangle shape was usual for that times and allowed to hold the defense with minimum soldiers. Palisade fence and a trench around it provided additional obstacles. As there was enough timber, the fort and other buildings were wooden. That caused devastating fires in winter and summer 1608, and in fall 1609. Therefore, all building of the colony had to be strengthened with stone bricks. That would make them warmer, drier, fire-resistant, and durable.
One of the most destructive factors in the colonization was constant conflict with the Algonquian natives. From the very beginning, it was necessary to establish friendly relations with the native people. First of all, it would have removed the problem of frequent attacks. Secondly, natives could have helped the colonists to survive in unknown circumstances. No doubt that Algonquians knew how to prevent and treat diseases, survive cold times, get enough food, and what plants to cultivate – corn grew well there, for instance. That knowledge would have helped to avoid people dying and the “Starving Time” in winter 1609-1610. Besides, natives knew their land riches, and gold was not among its treasures. If the colonists have followed their advice, they would not have wasted time looking for precious metals, but concentrated their energy on building dwellings and storage of food. Although there was no gold, tobacco cultivation and trade became a real goldmine that helped the colony to survive and attract more inhabitants. A John Rolfe’s marriage with Pocahontas, the princess of Algonquians, was a prudent way to conclude peace with the natives.
Establishing Jamestown was a great challenge. It was only the colonists’ courage, hardiness, fortitude and mind that promoted the development and wealth of the town. Now it is possible to see and analyze the discoverers’ mistakes. Although many blunders were done, the colonists fulfilled the mission of founding the first permanent English settlement in New World.