Jamestown: What Caused the Failure of the Jamestown Colony in 1610?
Introduction to Case:
In 1606, King James gave permission to a group of wealthy men to start a colony in North America. The group sent settlers to Virginia hoping to make money for the colony.
In April 1607, 105 settlers arrived in Virginia. Most of them hoped to become wealthy by finding natural riches like gold. They picked a spot near a wide river and built a settlement. In honor of King James, they called it Jamestown.
Unfortunately, the settlers built Jamestown on a marsh. A marsh is a low lying area of wet land that is sometimes unhealthful for people. The water around Jamestown was dirty and salty. The land was not good for farming. And mosquitoes carried a deadly disease called malaria.
Within 8 months, disease killed most of the settlers. By January 1608, only 38 of them were still alive.
In late 1607, one of the settlers, Captain John Smith, was captured by some Native Americans. They took Smith to their chief, a man named Powhatan. Powhatan ordered Smith to kneel and lay his head between two stones. Several men raised their clubs in the air. Smith believed that he was about to be killed.
At that moment, Powhatan's young daughter, Pocahontas, laid her head on Smith's. Smith believed that she saved his life. Historians, though think Smith may have misunderstood the Native American ritual.
Later, Pocahontas visited Jamestown several times, bringing food to the settlers. Powhatan's people also taught the settlers to hunt, plant crops and fish. Meanwhile, more settlers kept arriving from England.
In 1608, John Smith was elected President of the colony. Many of the settlers were "gentlemen" who were used to having servants do all the work. Smith knew that the settlement needed everyone's help in order to survive. He said firmly that any man who would not work would not eat. Smith's leadership helped to save the colony. That winter, only 18 colonists died.
The next year, Smith returned to England after being badly burnt by an explosion of gunpowder. The colonists had lost a strong leader, and Powhatan was no longer helping them. The winter of 1609-1610 was known as the "Starving Time". Many settlers had to eat horses and dogs. Hundreds of them died. Only about 60 settlers survived.
The Jamestown settlers never found any gold. They needed a way to support their colony in order to stay in America. Then, a man named John Rolfe found a way to grow a sweet tasting kind of tobacco. People in England loved the new Virginia tobacco. Now the settlers had something that they could trade for money and supplies. Tobacco became Virginia's "gold”.
History Alive Text, Jamestown Colony 6.3, p.61-62