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The individual who is most popularly associated with Jamestown’s earliest years is Captain John Smith. He was among the 104 who first landed at Jamestown and brought with him an accomplished military career.
The combination of his assertive nature and lesser-class status created conflicts with hereditary aristocrats who composed the rest of the colony’s leadership; they almost hung him on at least two occasions. Nevertheless, the combination of his leadership skills and their deaths and departures cast him into the colony’s presidency about a year after the landing. His attributes generated respect that enabled him to deal more or less successfully with the indigenous Powhatan tribes and their chiefs. This gave rise to very unlikely but popular legends about the young (10 or 12 year-old) Pocahontas.
He also brought discipline to the settlement at one of its most precarious times, successfully explored the entire Tidewater region and produced a map of it that was still being used well into the nineteenth century. After a devastating injury, he returned to England in October 1609. Without his leadership, Jamestown suffered the calamitous “starving times” in the winter of 1609-10 and was almost abandoned.
He voyaged again to explore and map the coasts of Massachusetts and Maine in 1616, and coined the regional name of New England. He wrote accounts of Jamestown that have been important sources of what we know and understand today. He died a childless bachelor in 1631 after a successful writing career. (Note: Three biographies on our Reading List offer more details and insights into his life.)
Ask About Our Speakers and Educational Programs
First California Company offers experienced speakers who can lecture and organize educational programs about Jamestown and its history, profiles of members’ ancestors, the life and customs of the period, summaries of current research at the Jamestown Rediscovery archaeological site at Historic Jamestown and the development at Jamestown of tenets that became some of America’s most precious personal, economic and legal rights.
These lectures and programs are designed to foster understanding of Jamestown’s place in early American history, and as help and aid to instruction for organizations, schools and groups learning about its founding and history and its settlers: the stories of our ancestors. First California Company speakers are available to present these programs to any school, organization and group. For more information, please contact our Governor.