I love History! I love hearing or reading about the history of a place and I love reading about people’s lives.
We visited Jamestown in Virginia, USA on Thursday, and I learned a truckload about the first permanently settled town in America and all the struggles, trials, tragedies and blessings involved in its formation. So many settlements were started and abandoned within the first year of the American experiment - but Jamestown survived.
Located along the James River, Jamestown was one of many sites where settlements were attempted. Jamestown came close to being abandoned several times as well, yet a remnant always survived - pouring their blood, sweat and tears into keeping the settlement alive. Life was tenuous, and reaching adulthood wasn’t guaranteed. The British settlers suffered through famine, disease, extreme weather and wars with the neighbouring Native American tribes.
Between 1609-1610 the settlers faced a severe famine because of their fights with the Powhatan tribe. Locked inside their fort, with reinforcements and provisions delayed and the tribes proving unwilling to trade, the men and women had to eat any meat that came their way in order to stave off starvation, including their horses and dogs and, in some cases, their fellowmen.
You would know some of the famous historical figures from the settlement of Jamestown, namely Pocahontas and Captain John Smith. Pocahontas was 8 or 9 years old when John Smith was a liaison between the Powhatan tribe and the settlers, so there was zero romance between them. Though Disney’s 1998 version is fictitious, at least the first song in the movie was true: “In 1607, we sailed the open sea. For glory, God and gold with the Virginia Company.” Pocahontas married John Rolfe, a planter, and briefly brought about the cessation of hostilities between the Powhatan tribe and the settlers. She had one son with John Rolfe, and she died while journeying from England to Virginia at only 21 or 22 years old. Unrest soon broke out again in the wake of her and her father’s deaths, and though the relationship between the Powhatan tribe and the Jamestown settlers continued to be tumultuous for many years, eventually they came to peaceful terms.
The remnant of the original town has become a heritage site open to anyone interested in learning a bit of American history. The compound holds the remnants of red brick buildings from the original structures. We saw archaeological projects that were underway, and they had a museum filled with different objects that had been excavated from the site over the years. Those charged with preserving the site had erected several other buildings in the style and form that the pioneers had created to add context to the journey they sought to take us on - a journey that told the story of a people who had struggled through near insurmountable odds to create a home for themselves and their offspring.
Walking along the paths through the compound I felt none of the desperation and unrest that came with establishing a town. The well-manicured lawns, tall trees with multi-coloured leaves, gentle flowing river and warm sun evoked nothing but peace - a peace that would have seemed impossible to those early settlers. Many had left their families behind to try and create a safe place for them to be raised. Toddlers were orphaned or struck down by disease or starvation and many settlers didn’t live to be parents, much less grandparents. On Thursday, I watched toddlers, teenagers, parents, grandparents milling about, reveling in the prosperity that those settlers had bought for them.
I thank God I was born in this day and age. Yes, many things are hard but I don’t think I would have survived settling a town in the 1600s. I gripe about hardships now, and they do exist, but I would choose life now versus then a hundred times over. I have toddlers, teenagers, parents and grandparents and great-grandparents in my family. I don’t live in an atmosphere of desperation, which isn’t the case for many people living through this pandemic.
So, I’m grateful that my day in Jamestown reminded me to be grateful about all that God has given me.
What good things happened to you this week?