Traveling by Ship to Make a New Life

Can you imagine putting your old life behind you to start a new life? Leaving behind family and friends for a chance to have a better life? This is what many people did when they came to Jamestown, Plymouth Rock and hundreds of other settlements in America.  At the same time, many came because they had no choice - either because they were slaves or because they were indentured. No matter their reasons, they all had to travel on crowded ships for weeks with little food and very little space to move around.  For many, the discomfort was worth what they would get - freedom and a chance to make a living like they could not in their former country.  This is the start of the American dream - a dream which still drives people to come to the United States even today.

The Susan Constant was 116 feet long, but the deck was only 82 feet long.  The Godspeed was only 88 feet long, with a deck length of 65 1/2 feet.  Finally, the Discovery which was the smallest ship was only 66 feet long with a deck length of almost 51 feet.  A total of 144 people traveled on the three ships.  This included 39 crew members between the ships for a 4 month long voyage.  The hardtack you see above was some of the food the passengers and crew had to eat.  Sometimes as hard as a brick, hardtack needed to be moistened in order to be eaten or it could break a person's teeth.

replica ship - The Godspeed

replica ship - the Susan B. Constant

The Virginia Company of London sponsored the trip in hopes of finding gold in the new land. Only men traveled on this voyage, all in hopes of finding a treasure to bring back to England.

replica ship - the Discovery

gunport of Susan B. Constant
 Equipped with guns and cannons, the ships carried soldiers as well as men seeking to make their fortunes.  A sealed order from the Virginia Company listed the 7 men who would be in charge of the new settlement.  Captain John Smith was named a member of the governing council along with Captain Newport, John Radcliff, George Kendall, Edward Wingfield, Anthony Gosnold, and John Marten,  Some return to England later.
inside Susan B. Constant

ladder going up to main deck

Susan B. Constant

crow's nest - Susan B. Constant

gunport - Susan B. Constant

Officer's cabin - armor and bunk
Jamestown is named after King James.  The men build a tent camp on May 14, 1607 and rename the river - the James River.  They choose this spot so they can keep an eye out for Spanish ships that might come up the river.  Unfortunately the area has very little fresh water because of its closeness to the ocean and is  a swampy area with mosquitoes. By the end of 8 months - only 38 people survive.

imagine wearing this heavy armor in Virginia heat

captain's quarters - chest

view from captain's quarters

walkway around captain's quarters

form of entertainment - cards

other games the travelers played


crewmember atop deck

think about the people who stayed here with supplies piled 4 feet high
As you take a look at the hold, think about the supplies to this man's shoulders.  The passengers slept on top of the supplies.  If they played games, they did so lying on their sides.  As the crew used the supplies there would be more room, but most of the time, the men had to try to be comfortable in this cramped space for 4 long months.  Going atop deck was not possible.  The area atop deck was small enough, so imagine if the other people came up to walk around - they would bump into the sailors.  The captain could not risk this so the travelers had to remain below.

imagine the only light is through this grate

supplies below deck

hammocks sailors slept on in shifts

officers' quarters - try sleeping in this bunk

that's not just a window - the bunk is there

quartermaster and his supplies - do you recognize anything?

this bunk does not look long enough, does it?

the rudder

see how little space there is?

this might be your only view to the world during your long voyage
Several more ships arrive to bring more people to the Jamestown colony.  At one point there are 450 more colonists who arrive, but after the Starving Time in 1610, only 60 people survive.  What happened to the others?  No one knows for sure but many are buried within the fort to keep the Natives from learning of the illness sweeping through the colony and the lack of food.  They are afraid if the Native Americans learn of their weakness, they will be killed.  Gates, the newly appointed governor decides to abandon the colony but Lord de La Warr's ship arrives and orders them to return to the colony.

Once John Rolfe arrives and shows the colonists how to plant tobacco, prosperity occurs.  In 1614 the first sale of tobacco happens in England and before long more and more people arrive hoping to make their fortunes.  As more people get rich off tobacco, the small colony grows from 400 to 4.500.

If not for those men seeking to make their fortunes in America, who knows which country might have settled America.  Today we call it the American dream, but back then, men driven by a need to find gold made the ultimate sacrifice when they settled in the wilderness of Virginia.

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