Friday, July 27, 2018

RonnieAdventure #0318 - Jamestown-Scotland Ferry and south of the James River, Virginia

The Jamestown-Scottland Ferry is just a short distance from the James Fort site and when you look back from the ferry you have a good river view of James Fort. You also see a lot of Sea Gulls that take advantage of the stirred up river water and mud.

There are two ferries at the Jamestown-Scottland crossing; so we met the other ferry in the middle of the James River while we were on our way to the Scotland port, and the other ferry was on its way to the Jamestown Port.

Once on the south side of the river, we stopped at Bacon's Castle; but found that is was closed for renovations.

Next stop was the Chippokes Plantation State Park. In addition to the old plantation, there were many wild flowers and we even encountered a deer that was not camera-shy. The Chippokes Farm and Forestry Museum is also located in this area.

Photographer Unknown

As is typical around rural america, many of the once beautiful old houses have been abandoned and are being reclaimed by nature.

We were told that the 1751 Faulcon House (also known as the Warren House and Rolfe-Warren House) at Smith's Fort Plantation is so well laid-out that it was reproduced numerous times by different people at different locations.

The plantation was originally Captain John Smith's "New Fort" that was established in 1609 across the James River from James Fort; but was soon abandoned due to dry rot and rat infestation. The land was later giver to John Rolfe and Pocahontas as a dowry from Chief Powhatan.

In 1933 the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities acquired the property after it had been restored by John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

Fort Huger was known as the "Gateway to the Confederate Capital," and the site is just a short distance from the community of Smithfield. To my surprise, this was not a popular place to visit. As I walked around the self-guided tour path it appeared that no one had visited the site in several days - maybe weeks! There are no existing fort structures, but there are a number of cannons and earthen berms that are still in-place.

One of the walking trails around the fort site crosses a pitch and tar swamp in several places, but fortunately there there was an elevated wooden walkway.

The Isle of Wright County Museum in Smithfield contains the World's Oldest Ham and various interactive exhibits and displays interpreting colonial history in the area. I almost did not have the opportunity to see the World's Oldest Ham because the museum was just closing for the day when I arrived; but after explaining that I had traveled all the way from Las Vegas just to see the ham, they agreed to stay open long enough so that I could have a quick tour of the museum.

Apparently there are different stories about how the ham was overlook for a number of years, but the museum's version is that "In 1902, a cured ham was overlooked, and for 20 years, the ham hung from a rafter in a packing house. By 1924, the pet ham was kept in an iron safe which was opened daily for guests to view. Advertised as the world's oldest Smithfield ham, Gwaltney fashioned a brass collar for the ham and took it to shows and expos to exhibit the preservative powers of his smoking method. The ham was featured in Ripley's "Believe It Or Not" in 1929, 1932 and 2003."

Friday, July 20, 2018

RonnieAdventure #0317 - Jamestown, Virginia

Artist Unknown
James Fort was the first permanent English settlement in the Americas, established on May 14, 1607 by the Virginia Company of London. It "is where the British Empire began," and served as the capital of the Colony of Virginia for 83 years.  

In late 1606 the ships Susan Constant, Discovery, and Godspeed set sail for the Americas and after several stops along the way, they made landfall on the American continent April 26, 1607, at a place they called Cape Henry. However, Cape Henry was not considered to be a secure location; so they sailed up what is now known as the James River for 40 miles to a piece of land located on a large peninsula, landing on May 14, 1607. The peninsula was considered to be a prime location for a fortified settlement because the river channel was defensible due to a curve in the river. Also, and maybe the most important, the land was not inhabited by Indians because the Indians regarded the land as too swampy and remote for growing crops. Unfortunately, the colonists did not realize that the area was plagued by mosquitoes and the brackish tidal river water was unsuitable for drinking. 

Since the colonists arrived too late in the year to plant crops, and many of the colonists were gentlemen unaccustomed to manual labor, within a few months about 70% of the party were dead. (Only 60 of the original 214 settlers survived.) 

The 1608 supply ships that were sent to the colonists encountered many difficult trials and most of the original settlers died before the ships even arrived at James Fort. However, the ships contained German, Polish, and Slovak craftsmen and the new colonists established the first manufacturing in the colony, of which one of the most successful was glassware.

In 1609 Captain Samuel Argall arrived in the Mary and John with supplies and just in time to prevent the Spanish from attacking and taking over the colony. Also in 1609, the new flagship Sea Venture set sail from England, but ran into a hurricane and the Captain deliberately drove the ship onto the reef in Bermuda so that all of the passengers could make it safely to shore. While stranded on Bermuda for nine months, the survivors built two new ships from the Sea Venture wreckage -- the Deliverance and the Patience.

When the Deliverance and Patience arrived in Jamestown on May 23, 1610, they discovered that most of the colonists were close to death from starvation; so they loaded everyone onto the two ships and decided to return to England. However, as they were sailing down the James River they met relief ships full of supplies and additional settlers, so they turned around and returned to James Fort. The colonists called this "The Day of Providence."

John Rolfe was among the new settlers and he carried with him a new variety of tobacco seeds that adapted very well to the Jamestown area. By 1614, Rolfe was prosperous and wealthy and he married Pocahontas (the daughter of Chief Powhatan), which brought several years of peace between the colonists and the Indians. Rolfe and Pocahontas returned to England on a public relations tour and while there Pocahontas became ill and died on March 21, 1617, ending one of the most infamous periods in American history.  

Over the years, the exact location of James Fort was lost and it was assumed that the site had been eroded away and was completely under the James River. 

In 1907, the 300th anniversary of English settlement in the New World, a celebration was planned; but since there was no rail service to the peninsula, and most people did not have cars, it was decided to hold a tricentennial "World Fair" celebration about 30 miles downstream at Sewell's Point. The celebration lasted from April 26, 1907 to December 1, 1907 and was attended by President Theodore Roosevelt, Kaiser Wilhelm II (Germany), the Prince of Sweden, Mark Twain, and many other dignitaries and famous people. The Jamestown Tercentenary Monument is now located just outside of the James Fort location. 

For the 350th anniversary (1957), a celebration was held on the peninsula and three full-sized replicas of the sailing ships Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery were constructed and placed on display at a new dock that was constructed at the James Fort site. Other improvements consisted of a reconstructed Glasshouse, the Memorial Cross, a visitor's center, and a new loop road around the island. The celebration lasted from April 1 to November 30, 1957 and was attended by Vice President Richard Nixon, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, and many other dignitaries and special guests. Queen Elizabeth II also loaned the United States a copy of the Magna Carta for the exhibition. While the exhibit was open, over a million people visited the site. 

Then, in 1994, an archaeologist working at the site discovered remains of the original fort, which everyone had assumed was under the James River. Excavation of the site is still ongoing and over two million artifacts have been found, many of which are on display in an archaeological museum called the Archaerium. Apparently, only part of the fort location was eroded away.

The 400-year celebration of Fort James was held on May 4, 2007 and was once again attended by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip, plus numerous dignitaries and other guests. 

A statue of John Smith overlooks the James River and a partial reconstructed church and other exhibits are located on the site. There are many crosses on the site representing burial sites of the early colonists. 

Artist Unknown

The historic Memorial Church has been partially restored and is open to visitors.

At the reconstructed Glasshouse, artisans demonstrate how glass items were made by the colonists and their works are for sale in the gift shop. 

Photographer Unknown

It is possible to cross a wooden bridge and follow Island Drive (one-way loop road) to Black Point and around the island. The road passes a Pitch and Tar Swamp, Confederated troop camp sites, Tidewater plants, flowers, tall trees, meadows, and various eagle nesting places.