Who Sailed there and How Do We Know?

Who do we need to make a community? When starting a new colony, I am sure this question came to mind.  Think about it - you can't start a new colony if you have no one who knows how to build a home. Luckily, many of the people who came across the ocean had a variety of skills.  When the men first arrived at Jamestown they thought they would dig for gold, load up their ships, and then return to England rich men.  They thought they would just trade with the natives for what they needed.  In other words - they came unprepared for what the wilderness of America offered them. There was a mixture of gentlemen and skilled laborers.  Jamestown started out as a military colony.  No women came on the first voyage.

actual excavation dig sight in Jamestowne

What they soon realized was two things - one: there was no gold in Virginia and two: they would need to learn to survive on their own or face their mortality.  Any student will tell you that in order to survive a person needs three things - food, shelter, and water.  If you don't have these things you can do one of three things - adapt, move, or die.  The colonists in Jamestown learned to adapt.  More women arrived over the years as well as skilled laborers who could help the colony grow and prosper.

As the rain began to fall, tarps were pulled over the sights

Artifacts unearthed by archaeologists support this and we now understand who lived here and what their role was in the new community. While the colony began with military men, governing gentlemen, and workers, it soon expanded to included much more.  Physicians, apothecaries, and surgeons all lived in the first Jamestown settlement.  The pictures are from the book The Archaearium - Rediscovering Jamestown 1607-1699 by Beverly A. Straube.  Cameras are not allowed in the Archaearium so it's only fair to give credit to Ms. Straube's book for her fantastic up-close shots of these rare artifacts.  If you want to learn more about this site please go to www.historicjamestowne.org/the_dig/ where you can actually see video to document the dig sight.

A cooper, John Lewes helped produce barrels to ship goods to England.
auger and croze iron

Three blacksmiths - James Read, Richard Dale, and Peter Keffer - they helped repair tools and weapons.  In some instances they melted down old tools, weapons, and armor to create new ones.

parts of a breastplate 

A leatherworker helped make clothes more suitable for the Virginia climate.

The coppersmith helped repair damaged copper as well as create pieces to trade with the Native Americans who placed a high value on the metal.

There were 7 tailors who made other manner of clothing for the colonists.  Remember there were no women to do the task, but soldiers and sailors were quite accustomed to doing this on their own.  It was not unusual for a man to repair his own clothing.

Much to our surprise, bricklayers came over on the ships instead of brickmakers.  They must have brought some bricks with them to make the fireplaces, but until they decided to make buildings from bricks there was no need for them.  The actual first brick building wasn't until 30 years later.

Glassmakers named Adam, Francis, and Samuel arrived.  No other record of last names is noted in the records or other artifacts to mention their last names.  These 3 German glassmakers tried to start a glass factory.  For many months they tried to make glass to send back to England.  Later a glasshouse was constructed outside the fort.

Metalurgists like William Callicut, a refiner, and William Johnson, a goldsmith were there to help with the gold and silver they felt sure to find in the new colony.  If they could find zinc, they could make brass which would help trade.

Carpenters like William Laxon were a necessary skill.  With so many forests surrounding them, someone who could make the fort and the buildings were sought after men. Once they finished building the fort, lumber was then shipped to England and became a valuable commodity.

Botanist named Johannes Fleischer arrived and cataloged the Virginia plants. Think about the delight the man must have experienced in finding plants he never saw before.  Unfortunately he did not live very long and died in 1608.

A jeweler made perfect sense when the excited colonists first arrived in hopes of finding gold.  Along with the  metalurgists, the jeweler would have been able to take the precious metals and stones they found and create beautiful pieces of jewelry to sell in England.

Masons took the stones they found and shaped them to create buildings.  Findings have shown many different stones that did even originate in Jamestown.  Apparently the masons found stones elsewhere or traded for stones from far away and used them in the settlement.

Evidence of all these workers was found in the archaeological digs in the Jamestown settlement.  When dreams of finding gold and jewels did not pan out, the settlers needed to decide if the area had any wealth which would make the colonists and England any money.  Was this piece of land worth the risk of traveling halfway across the world?  After the starving winter, many thought the effort was not worth it and packed up to leave.  As their ship was departing, they spied a ship arriving with new supplies and more men.  They turned around and returned to their battered settlement and decided to stay.

Once John Rolfe arrived and showed the colonists how to make tobacco, the colonists had found their new wealth.  A plant became a cash crop that made men extremely wealthy, but stripped the land of nutrients. Women began to arrive to wed the men who remained and soon families were flourishing in the new world.

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