110 men originally settled in Early Jamestown, but by the end of the first winter only 40 survived. The English came to America in 1607 to be the first permanent English settlement in the New World. They settled in a place that they soon called Jamestown, Virginia and the joint stock company called The Virginia Company, helped pay for the settlement. All of the first settlers were men and by then end of the first six months, 80 percent of them died. Early Jamestown was a colony of English settlers in America that lasted from the years 1607-1611. Something that puzzles historians is how many colonists died in Early Jamestown. Many colonists in Early Jamestown died because of environmental issues, their relationships with Native Americans and their lack of settler skills.
The first reason why so many settlers in Early Jamestown died was because of the environmental issues. Brackish water was the only water made available to the settlers in Jamestown. Brackish water contains salt and is not sanitary to drink. You could drink and drink this water but never get hydrated from it. Diseases and bad health resulted from brackish water (Document A). There was a drought at the start of the English settlement in 1607 that lasted until 1612. No rain during the drought equals no growing crops which causes low food supply for the men. This low food supply lead to starvation (Document B). The brackish water and the severe drought are environmental issues that caused many deaths in Jamestown.
Another reason why so many settlers died in Early Jamestown was because of their lack of settler skills. Out of the 110 original settlers, only 82 had known occupations. And out of the 120 men after the first resupply in January 1608 only 69 had known occupations. Some of the jobs men had weren’t not necessary for life, like a wig maker, but there were no jobs such as apothecaries, surgeons or gunsmith, which were useful occupations. If someone got sick or hurt, no one would be able to help them. Or if someones weapon broke, no one could fix it for when they got into fights. But by 1608 they finally got one gunsmith, one surgeon and two apothecaries (Document C). The lack of occupations men had in Jamestown resulted in no one caring for the sick and injured, or fixing weapons, which are the necessary jobs for life so this resulted in many deaths.
The last reason why so many people in Early Jamestown died was because of their poor relationship with the Native Americans. In 1609 around 37 men sailed up the Chesapeake Bay to trade for corn with the Patawomeke Indians. The men were going to trade grain for some corn but when the Indians refused, the English forced them by cutting off the heads of two Indians (Document D). Between the years 1607 and 1610, the maximum population was 381 but by the 1610 the end population was only 90. The deaths and new arrivals of men are due to many things like diseases and environmental issues but the Indians killed hundreds of the men. This bad relationship between the English settlement and the Indians never got better but actually got progressively worse (Document E). Due to the bad relationship between the Native Americans and the English resulted in many deaths over the years and that’s why so many colonists in Early Jamestown died.
Due to environmental issues, poor relationships with Native Americans and lack of occupations that are essential for a community, many colonists in Early Jamestown died. When the drought occurred, crops couldn't thrive as much which lead to less food, starvation and death. Since there were no doctor type jobs for almost a year, there was noone to help the sick or injured, which also lead to death. Lastly, with all the fights the English got into with the Native Americans because of the bad relationships, deaths were very common. It’s important to study about Early Jamestown and analyze facts about it so new communities can learn how to build a good foundation with food, jobs and a community relationship.
Document A- Dennis B. Blanton, “Jamestown’s Environment,” Center for Archaeological Research, College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, 2000.
Document B- N/A, “The lost Colony and Jamestown Droughts,” Science, April 24, 1998
Document C- John Smith, “The Generall Historie of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles, Book III 1624
Document D- Ivor Noel Hume, “The Virginia Adventure, Alfred A. Knopf, 1994Document E- J. Frederick Fausz, “An Abundance of Blood Shed on Both Sides: England’s First Indian War, 1609-1614,” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, January 1990