The Settlement of Virginia. In December, 1606, the London Company sent out from London three small vessels, the Goodspeed (or Godspeed), the Discovery (or Discoverer), and the Sarah Constant (or Susan Constant). These ships were commanded by Christopher Newport, who was an experienced seaman. The three vessels left England for Virginia with 120 prospective settlers, of whom sixteen died on the voyage. The ships were small, the voyage was long, and there was neither sufficient and proper food nor enough good drinking water. After a long and tedious voyage across the Atlantic they sailed up a river which they called the James, in honor of their king, and in the month of May landed on a peninsula and made a settlement which they called Jamestown. The settlers, consisting of boys and men, at once began to build a fort for protection. Then they built a storehouse, a church, and a number of log huts for homes. In this modest way the settlement of Virginia began.
The Early Settlers Suffer Great Hardships. When the settlers landed; they were in high spirits, for they had come to a beautiful land, in the month of May. However, before long, many difficulties beset them. Their food supplies ran low and their native food crop had not been successful. Their surroundings turned out to be unhealthful. Fever and dysentery broke out, and many of the settlers died. With the approach of cooler weather, the others were able to survive, and during the winter they obtained food by trading with the Indians.
In the second summer sickness and hardship came again. Thus in the early years the first English settlers suffered great privations. Many of the planters were known as “gentlemen,” who were unaccustomed to manual labor. They also suffered attacks from hostile Indians. For some time the first English settlement hung on a very slender thread, but courage and determination finally prevailed. The leadership of Captain John Smith was of great importance. As president of the Council he secured harmony in the Council, obtained corn from the Indians, and demanded labor from the settlers. Thus the colony was saved from starvation. Great hardship was endured because of hope for better days, but in order to continue as a permanent settlement, economic prosperity was necessary.
It was desirable that the colony should be not only self-supporting, but that it should produce supplies of value to England in order that the company could pay dividends. In 1612 it was discovered that tobacco could be successfully grown, and John Rolfe learned the art of curing tobacco. This commodity soon became so valuable a product that it placed the struggling settlement on a better economic basis. The hostile attitude of the Indians also changed, at least for a time. John Rolfe fell in love with Pocahontas, the favorite daughter of the great Indian chief Powhatan, and married her in the English church at Jamestown 1614).