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Growth of the Colony
Though De La Warr soon took ill and went home, his successor Sir Thomas Gates and Gates' second-in command, Sir Thomas Dale, took firm charge of the colony and issued a system of new laws that, among other things, strictly controlled the interactions between settlers and Algonquians. They took a hard line with Powhatan and launched raids against Algonquian villages, killing residents and burning houses and crops. The English began to build other forts and settlements up and down the James River, and by the fall of 1611 had managed to harvest a decent crop of corn themselves. They had also learned other valuable techniques from the Algonquians, including how to insulate their dwellings against the weather using tree bark, and expanded Jamestown into a New Town to the east of the original fort.
A period of relative peace followed the marriage in April 1614 of the colonist and tobacco planter John Rolfe to Pocahontas, a daughter of Chief Powhatan who had been captured by the settlers and converted to Christianity. (According to John Smith, Pocahontas had rescued him from death in 1607, when she was just a young girl and he was her father's captive.) Thanks largely to Rolfe's introduction of a new type of tobacco grown from seeds from the West Indies, Jamestown's economy began to thrive. In 1619, the colony established a General Assembly with members elected by Virginia's male landowners; it would become a model for representative governments in later colonies. That same year, the first Africans (around 50 men, women and children) arrived in the English settlement; they had been on a Portuguese slave ship captured in the West Indies and brought to the Jamestown region. They worked as indentured servants at first (the race-based slavery system developed in North America in the 1680s) and were most likely put to work picking tobacco.
Pocahontas' death during a trip to England in 1617 and the death of Powhatan in 1618 strained the already fragile peace between the English settlers and the Native Americans. Under Powhatan's successor, Opechankeno, the Algonquians became more and more angry about the colonists' insatiable need for land and the pace of English settlement; meanwhile, diseases brought from the Old World decimated the Native American population. In March 1622, the Powhatan made a major assault on English settlements in Virginia, killing some 350 to 400 residents (a full one-quarter of the population). The attack hit the outposts of Jamestown the hardest, while the town itself received advance warning and was able to mount a defense.
In an effort to take greater control of the situation, King James I dissolved the Virginia Company and made Virginia into an official crown colony, with Jamestown as its capital, in 1624. The New Town area of Jamestown continued to grow, and the original fort seems to have disappeared after the 1620s. Though the Powhatan people continued to mount a resistance (Opechankeno, by then in his 80s, led another great rebellion in 1644), the colony continued to grow stronger, and his successor Necotowance was forced to sign a peace treaty that ceded most of the Powhatans' land and forced them to pay an annual tribute to the colonial governor. In 1698, the central statehouse in Jamestown burned down, and Williamsburg replaced it as the colonial capital the following year.
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Classroom Study Guides
Jamestown Teachers Guide (PDF)
Curriculum companion to the program about the first permanent British settlement in North America.