Colonial Virginia · family ties · genealogy · Jamestown Colony · Slavery

Jamestown Colony: Along with the Leaf Came Slavery


Remnants of ‘Old Church’ at Jamestown Colony, Virginia; photo 1890s.

CREDIT: Jackson, William Henry, photographer. “Old Church, Jamestown, Virginia,” 1902. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction Number LC-D4-14191.

You know the tale: settlers from England landed on Jamestown Island (as it began to be called) on May 14, 1607 to establish the first English colony in the New World, as inspired, funded, and directed by the Virginia Company of Utopian visionaries (such as Gosnold and Bacon) and fortune hunters who expected tons of gold to be shipped back to the ‘Old Country’ but eventually got sheaves of tobacco instead.

In the last few years my genealogy research has turned up more Colonial Virginia and Maryland ancestors than previously expected–even some Littleton, Massachusetts folk like Walter and Tryal Power. Their entangled family lineages via marriage have made a fascinating endeavor more complex, even more vivid, than I ever imagined it would be.

So anyone who reads this blog will, I hope, be patient with a novice armchair genealogist (if that’s what I am) for learning as I go and posting information I find that is not always documented, is the only way to manage such a broad ranging project and to share it online, in case others might somehow benefit from my postings.

In the mid-1990s, when I first attempted genealogy research I learned that many of my 18th and 19th century Georgia ancestors had relocated here from Virginia because the soil there had been exhausted by years of tobacco crops so they moved south to more fertile land. Some received bounty land grants for their Revolutionary service but a few had moved here to the 13th Colony before the Revolution and settled in or near the Broad River and in the Goosepond District. Others set up homesteads in the Carolinas and there they stayed, or migrated elsewhere at some point. And it is only through more recent research that I’ve realized just how prominent tobacco plantations are or were in my heritage–and along with the leaf came slavery.

And I thought it was only cotton.

As you can imagine, it seems like another world now but I remember in the mid-to-late 1950s that there were still vast cotton fields not very many miles outside my hometown of Athens, Georgia, where the University of Georgia was founded in 1785. One day I’ll tell you about the time that little 5-year-old me was given a chance to pick cotton on my uncle’s farm. The experience didn’t last long, I assure you, but the remembrance and the wider social implications that dawned on me later are lessons that have stuck.

To close, here is a 5-min-47-sec video with some basic facts about the Jamestown Colony:


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