Most young girls choose their favorite Disney princess, can you guess who mine was?
“I look once more just around the river bend, beyond the shore, somewhere past the sea
Don’t know what for, why do all my dreams extend, just around the river bend!”
Her adventurous spirit, her love for nature, her really long hair…I’ve always identified with the Disney princess Pocahontas. If you have ever driven with me, it is likely you know about my obsession. It was one of my favorite movies to watch as a child, but the love didn’t simply stop there. From childhood throughout my adolescence I had the cassette in my old car. My high school friends would humor me join in, we’d sing along nodding our heads to ‘Savages.’ True to this day – the CD is currently in my newer vehicle and I can pretty much sing every word, but my favorite song is always at the end “If I Never Knew You.” We listened to the CD repeatedly on the way to Historic Jamestowne [1368 Colonial Parkway, Jamestown, VA 23081], and I am happy to say it does have some historical content….’In 1607 we sail the open seas for glory, god, and gold, and the Virginia Company.” I almost shed a tear knowing I would actually be walking upon the land that my real-life Disney heroine once stood, envisioning the heavily romanticized relationship between Chief Powhatan’s favorite daughter and the brilliant, dastardly, John Smith. So, less about me – and more about visiting the first permanent English settlement in America!
Not to be confused with the nearby living history museum the Jamestown Settlement, Historic Jamestowne is the original site of Fort James. In 1607, 104 settlers manned a small fort on the James River which would eventually evolve into the United States of America. They had to choose the spot wisely, and for many reasons Jamestown was the right choice.
Jamestown is an island that became an isthmus at low tide – making it quite defensible. Not exactly the 100 miles recommended, but the island is 36 miles from the mouth of the river which was a day’s sail giving sentinels a chance to warn about enemy ships. The land was uninhabited by natives. Deep water made for easy navigation. The marshland itself is filled with natural beauty.
Along with its excellent history, the birding is pretty great too.
Let’s not derail though. Back to the important stuff, like Pocahontas. She actually did marry Kocoum, but was captured and held hostage by the colonists. During her captivity she converted to Christianity and changed her name to Rebecca which means ‘mother of two peoples’. View the foundation of the church where Pocahontas married a tobacco grower named John Rolf in 1614, beginning a period of peace between English and Powhatan.
They had a son named Thomas and all traveled to England together. She would die there the next year. Many of their descendants are believed to live on today.
John Smith was certainly a courageous spirit.
He was a soldier in the Netherlands fighting against the Spanish and joined the Austrians to battle the Turks. He was captured and sold into slavery in Russia where he murdered his master and escaped. At 26 years of age he headed to Virginia, the new world. Some colonists viewed him as their savior, others as a rogue. His motto: “He that will not work shall not eat.” He learned the native language and became a principal trader. In another voyage he would charter Massachusetts and Maine, dubbing it New England. While Smith was a man of legendary status, he was known to exaggerate certain circumstances. For example, he mentioned on multiple accounts that noble women would save him from dire situations. While he was captured by Chief Powhatan’s men, it is unknown (and unlikely) whether Pocahontas truly saved his life.
The grounds are an activity archeology site,
and there is an Archaeology Museum housing many interesting finds. Here you can learn of more in depth information about the time period (as well as in the Visitor’s Center). I had heard of the ‘Starving Time’ in history class, but never knew how dreadful the situation truly was. In 1609-10 when John Smith returned to England to be treated for a wound, the colony became isolated. No more trade with the natives, and further, warriors attacked the colonists. Dysentery, typhoid, and even cannibalism were realities during this brutal time. There are actual recovered skeletons of settlers from the time period, and thoughts on how their lives may have ended.
We spent a solid three hours exploring the inside and outside exhibits before we got too tuckered out (heat wave + information overload). One quick tip: there is a discount if you have the America the Beautiful pass, as the National Park Service is in partnership with the settlement. All in all, the visit was more than I could have hoped for. It is a picturesque place that offered me honest insights to a 400 year old legend that has always captivated my mind.
If you are looking for a fantastic nearby meal, try out Food For Thought [1647 Richmond Rd, Williamsburg, VA 23185].
It is a very popular place, you can call to put yourself on the list – but we didn’t have to wait very long as 2 without a reservation. I absolutely loved the interesting quotes from various historic figures on the walls.
My mind was constantly occupied looking about. Service was great, and between delicious bites of complimentary warm rolls (and cornbread!) and sips of good wine, we happily played with the cards on the table. Hmm, I’d never heard of ‘Mind Trap’ before. We read some cards and got into real debates trying to think of answers for court cases, learning about new bugs, and trying to solve riddles.
Amazing! Then the food came out and I was truly satisfied. My meal was a baked cod and I chose spinach and sweet potato mashed – all were just to my liking! Jeff went for a surf and turf, steak, crab cake, plus fries and zucchini for his sides.
When it came to dessert, the bread pudding stole my heart. It was so oohy-gooey good, with dribbles of chocolate mixed in. What a perfect ending to my Jamestown visit!
PS – stay tuned tomorrow for the answer to Mind Trap!