My daughter had decided that she wanted a photo of her mimicking statues at each site we visited. When we arrived at Historic Jamestown Settlement, there to greet us was Pocahontas with outstretched arms.
My daughter stood at the statue’s feet and tried to get her posture and hands right. Exiting was an Asian family. The tiny grandmother whisked over to my daughter and directed her. But the feisty grandma’s words were not English. The spoken language barrier was no barrier at all. Not when body language was universal. The little old lady posed to show my daughter how she should look. Then, the little old lady took her hands and physically started positioning my daughter’s feet, hands and hips. When she was pleased, she flashed a big smile, nodded her head and said something upbeat before scurrying off to rejoin her family.
Spontaneity and kindness always translates into a memorable moment anywhere you go. We laughed about it among our family as the little old lady did with hers as we walked our separate ways.
The site of the first permanent English settlement in America was alive. Something made it talk to me as I watched archeologists busy excavating in a roped off section of tiered dirt plateaus that plunged below normal ground level. It made the history seem that much more real. Kitty corner from that spot was a brick shell of a recreated 1608 church. Earlier excavation uncovered the original remains of what is known to be the earliest Protestant church in North America.
It was surreal to stand at the marker of a nondescript water’s edge and know that this was the landing spot of a people who would change a continent dramatically in a short while. With the beating heat, it was nice to retreat into the museum where fascination over the artifacts taken from the land right outside were displayed and explained.
Jamestown was founded in 1607 and was the capital of Virginia until 1699 when it moved to Williamsburg. The three ships that transported the first settlers were named Susan Contsant, Godspeed, and Discovery. The colony was started by 104 men and boys who survived the trip across the Atlantic in addition to 39 crew members. One person died on the journey.
Captain John Smith was going to be put to death upon arrival for mutiny but when they landed, sealed orders were opened naming Smith a member of the governing Council.
Pocahontas, daughter of Chief Powhatan, was credited for saving Smith’s life from the Opechancanough. She was later abducted by Englishmen, converted to Christianity and took the name, Rebecca. After marrying John Rolfe, they traveled with their young son to England where she became ill and died.
The “Starving Time” spanned 1609 – 1610 when the combination of drought, supply ship delays and severely curtailed Indian trade caused a brief abandonment of the colony. Only 60 of the 500 colonists at that time survived the hardship.
The first Africans appeared in 1619 as indentured servants. Indentured servants, white and black, served for a time, earning their own way. William Tucker was the first black man born in the colonies and was considered a free man at birth. Around 1640, court records indicate the first known slave. His name was John Punch. He was an indentured servant who ran away and was captured. He was then sentenced to lifelong servitude.
As we walked along we were puzzled by the fake coyotes stuck in the ground that swayed slightly with the breeze. We learned that this was an effective way of controlling the amount of goose poop deposited in unwanted areas.
I checked the bottom of my shoes. Dammit!
Separate from Historic Jamestown, the actual historic site, was the nearby Jamestown Settlement which depicted a living history of the community with reenactors. I got a kick out of the number of Caucasian Native Americans (Powhatan Indians) demonstrating the skinning of animal hides and other practices for survival.
The kids loved the many hands-on experiences taught by knowledgeable and personality rich, costumed historical interpreters. But it was alone with my family in the harbor that I enjoyed a particular hands-on experience my two kids tried desperately to do. It was a fail. Over and over, it was a fail. And over and over, I chuckled at their determination in trying to hoist a full bucket of water using ropes from the dock. It was heavy. It would get stuck on the cross ropes forming a fence of sorts. They would shout at each other while trying to work together. A few times I started to consider what to do to treat severe rope burns but fortunately I never had to hash it out.
Ah, the little things, right?
The three replica ships that sailed the original settlers, docked in the harbor, were great photo ops. We boarded and enjoyed exploring the vessels. When the captain emerged from his quarters, he looked every bit the part. He sounded it too. And he was more than happy to pose for family photos as he anchored himself between the kids.
That’s when Mother Nature had a word with us followed by park employees.
“Head for shelter! A big storm is rolling in!”
But we had more of the settlement to see outside so we lingered. How bad could it be? How long would it last? It didn’t matter because all of the employees buttoned up the colonist’s fort and headed indoors. Reluctantly, we had no choice but to follow.
By Rocco Satullo, your tour guide to fun!