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Virginia Timeline 1553-1743



The London Company of Merchant Adventurers of England for the Discovery of Lands Unknown is organized. An "adventurer" is a business investor who "ventures" capital. The Company supports Sir Hugh Willoughby and his ship pilot, Richard Chancellor, in their attempt to find a northern sea route from England to Cathay (China) and the Spice Islands (Moluccas). The Company provides a model for future enterprises, such as the Virginia Company of London, chartered in 1606.


Two Spanish ships commanded by Pedro Menendez Aviles, on their way from Havana to Spain, land near the future Jamestown colony location to forage for supplies.


The northern provinces of the Low Countries (later the Netherlands) break away from the Spanish rule of King Philip II. The English aid the Dutch in their battle against Catholic Spain, and in 1578 make a treaty of alliance with the Dutch against the Spanish.


June. Five ships under the command of Sir Humphrey Gilbert sail from England for Newfoundland. Gilbert had fought in the Netherlands against the Spanish and been thwarted by them in an earlier attempt to establish a colony farther south. With 250 colonists, Gilbert stops first off Newfoundland Banks, and then off St. John's Harbor further south, where the colonists land. By 1602, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia are regularly visited by fishing and trading expeditions.


March 25. Walter Raleigh obtains the patent that Gilbert had originally received from Queen Elizabeth. The patent allows Raleigh to claim and settle any lands in the New World not yet occupied by other Christians.

April 24. Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe, commanding two ships for Walter Raleigh, leave Devon, England, for the New World. Barlowe writes an account of the voyage, which appears in Richard Hakluyt's three-volume work, The Principal Navigations Voyages Traffiques & Discoveries Made by Sea or Overland to the Remote & Farthest Distant Quarters of the Earth . . . ., first published in London between 1598 and 1600. Barlowe's voyage brings him to the outer banks of present-day North Carolina and to the later-named Roanoke Islands. Barlowe encounters Algonquian Indians and two of these, Manteo and Wanchese, return with him to England.


January 6. Queen Elizabeth knights Walter Raleigh and makes him governor of the new territory discovered by Amadas and Barlowe. Raleigh names it "Virginia" in her honor.

April 9. Another Raleigh-sponsored expedition, commanded by Sir Richard Grenville, departs for Virginia. It consists of the Tiger, Roebuck, Lion, Elizabeth, and Dorothy. After a variety of adventures, most of the ships arrive off Wococon and Croaton Islands off Pamlico Sound. The Indians Manteo and Wanchese accompany this expedition back to their home. After settling on Roanoke Island, the colonists begin to explore inland.

May. Philip II of Spain orders the seizure of all English ships in Spanish ports in retaliation for English support of the Dutch. This makes supplying the colony on Roanoke Island difficult.

June 1. Relations between the Roanoke settlers and Indians deteriorate, and under the leadership of Ralph Lane, the English attack the Indians at their village, Dasemunkepeuc.


June 11. Sir Francis Drake meets with Ralph Lane at Roanoke. Drake, famous for his recent circumnavigation of the globe, had left Plymouth, England, on September 14, 1584, on an expedition against the Spanish. He has attacked the Spanish at St. Augustine (in present-day Florida), looted Santo Domingo and Cartagena, and then sailed north to meet with the settlers at Roanoke who are desperate for supplies. Unfortunately, he has none, and after a severe hurricane the colonists decide to depart with Drake in August.

August. Shortly after Sir Francis Drake's departure from Roanoke with the colonists, Sir Richard Grenville and a supply ship sent by Raleigh arrive at Roanoke to find the place deserted except for three men mistakenly left behind by Drake. Grenville has brought more colonists, and his arrival reestablishes the colony.


April 26. Sir Walter Raleigh sends out three ships with women as well as men, with promises of land grants to whomever establishes a colony on the Chesapeake Bay. The expedition is headed by the flagship Lion and commanded by John White, an artist. The colonists make landfall at Roanoke instead of the shores of Chesapeake Bay, and on August 27, White sails back to England. Upon his arrival there on October 16, he learns that war has broken out between England and Spain.


England and Spain are at war and compete fiercely to dominate trade with the New World and to establish their respective churches, Spain's Roman Catholicism and English Protestantism, in New World settlements. Spain dominates trade routes across the Atlantic and establishes firm footholds on the Atlantic and South Sea (Pacific) coasts of South America. The English, Dutch, and French challenge this dominance.

July 31. A sea battle between the English fleet and the Spanish Armada takes place. The English win even though they are greatly outnumbered by Spanish ships. Spain attempts to send two more armadas against England in 1596 and 1597.


Late August. An expedition, made up of the Moonlight, Little John, Hopewell, and other ships, commanded by Christopher Newport and carrying former commander John White, arrives off Roanoke Island. The expedition finds the island completely deserted. White discovers the letters "CRO" carved on the trunk of a tree on the banks of the island. The full word "CROATAN" is carved on the fort's gate. White had agreed with the colonists that if they had to move inland, they would indicate where they were going by carving the information on a tree, with a cross above it if they were also in need of help at their intended destination. The expedition is unable to find the colonists and eventually returns home. In 1602, Raleigh sends an expedition to search for them. The colonists are never found and their fate remains unknown.


Queen Elizabeth I dies. James I succeeds her.


James I makes peace with Spain.


Christopher Newport makes an exploratory voyage along the North American coast. The English are especially anxious to find a northern route or passage to the South Sea (Pacific Ocean) and the Spice Islands beyond as an alternative to the Spanish-dominated southern route. The size of the North American continent is not yet known and explorers hope to find a water route through it.


King James of England charters the Virginia Company of London and appoints a royal council to oversee its ventures and the colony. Among the charter applicants is Richard Hakluyt, author of the three-volume Principal Navigations Voyages Traffiques . . . . (1598-1600). Other applicants are Sir Thomas Gates and Sir George Somers. Company adventurers (investors) include merchants from the west and former soldiers who had fought as mercenaries on the side of the Dutch against the Spanish. The Virginia Company hopes to find a water passage to the South Sea (Pacific Ocean) by exploring tributary rivers and plans to establish a colony in Virginia. Its "brother" company, the Plymouth Company, headed by Sir John Popham, sends an expedition northward to present-day Maine. Instructions Given....

December 20. The first expedition of the Virginia Company, consisting of the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and a small ship, Discovery, all commanded by Christopher Newport, sails from England. Newport, an experienced privateer, has been active in the West Indies since the 1590s. He carries sealed directions from the Company, not to be opened until after the expedition's arrival in Virginia. One-half of the 120 passengers are "gentlemen": a gentleman is not a member of the nobility, but he is generally distinguished from those who practice a trade or profession.

Among the passengers is John Smith (1580-1631), who spends part of the voyage imprisoned for challenging Newport's command.


May 14. Newport and his passengers arrive at Powhatan River, which they rename the James River. One hundred and five men form the first settlement on an island (today, a peninsula) in the James River, initially called "James Fort," then "James Towne" and "James Citie." The site offers a harbor that is deep enough for the colonists' ships and secluded from the view of any Spanish ships that might be offshore. However, it is also swampy, infested with mosquitoes, and lacks sufficient fresh water sources. After eight months there will be only thirty-eight people left alive.

Upon arrival, Newport opens the sealed instructions from the Virginia Company of London. They specify a thirteen-man council, among whose members are John Smith; Newport (who returns to England); John Ratcliffe; George Kendall, a cousin of Sir Edwin Sandys; Edward Maria Wingfield; Anthony Gosnold; Richard Hunt, a minister; John Marten and Sir Richard Marten, both related to Julius Caesar, England's Master of the Rolls. This Council elects a president, Edward Maria Wingfield. Among the passengers are carpenters, a blacksmith, a mason, a tailor, a barber, and two surgeons. The instructions and two incomplete lists of the expeditions' passengers survive in John Smith's Works. Virginia Records Selected Bibliography | Oaths of Supremacy and Allegiance Administered to the Colonists

A week after landing, Captain Christopher Newport leads a small contingent of men on an exploratory journey up the James River for the first time, in the course of which they meet Powhatan Indians and a tribal leader, Opechancanough. The Powhatans are a confederation of tribes occupying a region from present-day coastal North Carolina to present-day Richmond. Jamestown is in the midst of the territory of the Paspahegh, whose leader or "weroance" is Wowinchopunck. Other nearby tribes are the Kecoughtans at the mouth of the James River, and the Quiyoughcohanocks, Weanocs, Appomattocs, and Chiskiacks, further inland. All these tribes of Virginia's tidewater region are Algonquians.

May 26. Hostilities between the colonists and Indian tribes result in the death of approximately two hundred Indians and several colonists.

June 8. James Fort is attacked by the Paspaheghs, supported by recruits from other tribes. Despite hostilities such as these, Powhatan tribes supply the colonists with food at times of dire need during the next several decades of Jamestown's existence.

July 29. The Susan Constant and Godspeed, which departed Jamestown on June 22, arrive in London. The ships bring mineral samples, which turn out to be base metals rather than gold.

August 17. The Virginia Company meets in London to consider Christopher Newport's report and this first expedition to Virginia. At this time, the Spanish ambassador to England, Don Pedro de Zúñiga, writes Philip III of Spain about the new colony, Jamestown, and the danger of further English incursions in the New World.

August 28. At Jamestown, George Kendall is accused of sowing discord among the colonists, is imprisoned and eventually executed.

September. Wingfield is deposed as president of the governing Council of Jamestown and replaced by John Ratcliff. Food supplies dwindle.

October 8. Christopher Newport sails from England to Jamestown with two supply ships and approximately one hundred additional colonists.

Early December. John Smith leads a party in search of Indians willing to trade or supply the colony with food, especially corn. Indian warriors capture Smith and his men on the Chickahominy River and take him to Werowocomoco on the York River, where the confederation's leader, Powhatan, receives him. According to Smith, he and his party are eventually released because Powhatan's daughter Pocohontas (Matoaka) intercedes with her father to save Smith's life. She would have been ten or twelve at the time.


January 2. John Smith arrives back at Jamestown to find most of the colony boarding the ship Discovery and abandoning the colony to return to England. Fortunately, before they can leave one of Newport's supply ships, the John and Francis, arrives. Newport brings one hundred new settlers.

January 7. A fire destroys many buildings within the Jamestown fort, among them the colony's first church. Most of the colony's provisions are destroyed, including those recently brought in the John and Francis. The other supply ship, Phoenix, is lost. Powhatan provides food for the colony. The Phoenix eventually arrives on April 20. Both supply ships also bring more colonists.

February. John Smith, Christopher Newport, Thomas Savage, and others sail up the York River to meet with Powhatan. They exchange hostages. Thomas Savage remains behind to live with the Powhatans, while an Indian, Namontack, returns with the English to live at Jamestown.

April 10. Newport sails for England on the John and Francis.

April 20. The lost supply ship, the Phoenix, commanded by Francis Nelson, arrives at Jamestown with forty more settlers and supplies.

June 2. The Phoenix sails back to England with a load of cedarwood.

August. The third expedition to Jamestown sails from England. Commanded again by Christopher Newport, the expedition brings an additional seventy colonists to Virginia.

September. The Council elects John Smith as president. He writes a letter to the Company treasurer in London providing an account of the colony's progress. Smith defends the colony against the Company's criticism that the Jamestown Council has not kept London informed--"we feed You but with ifs & ands, hopes, & some few proofes; as if we would keepe the mystery of the Businesse to our selues"--and that he, Smith, has encouraged rather than eliminated disputes and divisions among the colonists. Regarding the latter, Smith argues, "vnless you would haue me run away and leaue the Country, I cannot prevent them," and says that his greater concern is to "make many stay what would els fly any whether." The letter reaches London early in 1609.

October. Newport arrives in Jamestown with the Company's second expedition of supplies and more colonists. Among the colonists are two women, one the wife of Thomas Forest, and the other, her maid, Anne Buras. Dutch and Polish artisans who will establish a glassworks, and artisans experienced in the production of pitch, tar, and other naval stores have also arrived.


Winter to mid-May. The Colony experiences its first extreme food crisis, called "the starving time." Reports circulating in London include incidents of cannibalism. The Virginia Company publicly denies the story.

July. The Mary and John, a ship unconnected to the Virginia Company, arrives at Jamestown. It is the first ship to use Jamestown as a port.

July. The Sea Venture, and accompanying ships, another supply expedition, are destroyed in a hurricane in the West Indies. Survivors find refuge on Bermuda island. The Sea Venture carries new leaders for Jamestown, among whom are Sir Thomas Gates, who had served with the Dutch against Spain, Sir George Somers, and William Strachey. Strachey's account of the storm and the survivors' experiences on Bermuda has long been thought to have inspired Shakespeare's play The Tempest, although some scholars disagree.

May 23. The King recharters the Virginia Company of London, transferring governance and control of the colony from the Crown to the Company itself. The Company replaces the original colonial executive body, the Council, with the office of governor. Later the Council will re-emerge as an upper house of the legislature. The Company has approximately 650 members; twenty are from the nobility and one hundred are knights.

September. John Ratcliffe is killed by the Powhatan Indians after attempting to bargain with them for food supplies at the Pamunkey River.

November. Anne Buras, one of the first two women to arrive in Jamestown, marries John Layden in the first wedding at Jamestown.


Sir Thomas Gates is deputy governor until the arrival of Thomas West, Lord De La Warr, the newly appointed governor of Jamestown.

The Virginia Company sends the Reverend Richard Buck to Jamestown to be the colony's first chaplain.

Dutch colonists begin operating a glassworks at Jamestown.

May 23 or 24. The Deliverance and the Patience arrive in Jamestown, carrying John Rolfe, Ralph Hamor, Sir George Somers, and others from the Sea Venture wreck. The survivors have built the two ships on Bermuda island from wreckage of the original ships destroyed in a hurricane. They find approximately sixty malnourished colonists at Jamestown.

May 24. Sir Thomas Gates, the new governor of Jamestown establishes martial law under Laws Divine, Morall and Martiall. These laws are published in London in 1612.

June 7. Conditions continue to deteriorate at Jamestown and Sir Thomas Gates and the colonists sail away, abandoning the colony. But they encounter Lord De la Warr and his supply ships at Mulberry Island on June 8 and return to Jamestown three days later.

August 9. Jamestown colonists attack the Paspagegh Indians. They defeat the Pasageghs decisively, at least for the moment. Friction continues between the Paspageghs and the English who have settled on their land.


Lord De La Warr serves as governor from June 10, 1610 through late March 1611 and then departs for England. George Percy serves as deputy governor through the end of May, when Thomas Dale arrives and replaces him.

September. Thomas Dale leads a group of colonists to establish Henricus (later Henrico), one of the first outlying settlements in Virginia.


The third charter of the Virginia Company of London reaffirms its independence from the Crown in matters of trade and governance. A new council, drawn from all Company members, makes policy and writes instructions for Jamestown. Meetings of the weekly "court" or assembly made up of officers and some members will be more frequent, and there will be a great quarterly court, made up of council members, interested officials, and members. The governor and his council in Jamestown are responsible to the Company.

The Crown licenses lotteries and one is established to raise funds for the Virginia Company.

The British establish a colony on the island of Bermuda.


April 13. At Jamestown, Captain Samuel Argall and others who have captured Powhatan's daughter Pocohontas, bring her to Jamestown. Governor Sir Thomas Dale determines to keep her hostage until Powhatan releases captured Englishmen.


Settlements branch into the interior. There are now four: Jamestown, Kecoughtan (Elizabeth City after 1621), Henrico, and Charles City. The term of the first indentured servants in Jamestown expires and they are now free laborers. Some return to England, while others remain to become tenant farmers.

John Rolfe is the first in Jamestown to grow marketable tobacco after obtaining superior seed from the West Indies, where the Spanish have outlawed the sale of tobacco seed to other nations on penalty of death.

March. John Rolfe and Robert Sparkes travel up the Pamunkey River with Pocohontas, who has been held captive at Jamestown for almost a year. Powhatan negotiates a truce.

April 5. John Rolfe and Pocohontas are married. Before she is married, Pocohontas converts to Christianity and assumes the Christian name "Rebecca."

This year, Captain Samuel Argall negotiates a written treaty with the Chickahominy Indians, who are semi-independent of the Powhatan confederation. Jamestown is still largely dependent on Indian tribes for food supplies.

June 28. John Rolfe sends the first shipment of Virginia tobacco to England. Samuel Argall and Ralph Hamor depart for England.


The Bermuda Company is chartered. In 1609, the Virginia Company claimed Bermuda as part of its original charter but did nothing to establish a colony there. In 1612, some Virginia Company members purchased rights from their own Company and formed the Somers Island Company, which is chartered as the Bermuda Company in 1615. London meetings of the Virginia and Bermuda Companies often involve the same people. An Extraordinary Court Held for Virginia and the Sumer Islandes


May. Governor Sir Thomas Dale, John Rolfe, Pocohontas, and ten other Powhatan Indians sail for England on board the Treasurer, arriving in June. George Yeardley is deputy governor while Dale is in England. Dale has been recalled under criticism and in an effort to redeem his leadership writes A True Relation of the State of Virginia, Left by Sir Thomas Dale, Knight, in May last, 1616. A Proclamation Giving License to Any Who Are in Virginia, to Return Home, 1616/17

Late summer. Under Deputy Governor George Yeardley's leadership, friendly relations with the Chickahominy Indians deteriorate. Jamestown is unable to supply itself, instead devoting land and labor to the cultivation of tobacco. The Chickahominy Indians are sometimes unable to supply the colony with food, or they grow impatient of repeated requests and refuse supplies. Governor Yeardley and a group of men kill twenty to forty Chickahominy Indians, and as a result the tribe draws closer to the Powhatan confederation.

The Company fails to win a monopoly in tobacco trade from the Crown. This would have made the Company and colony the sole importers of tobacco. James I , who has a strong distaste for the habit of smoking, opposes excessive cultivation of the crop. Tobacco exports grow from a total of twenty-five hundred pounds in 1616 to a total of fifty thousand pounds in 1628.

In London the Company creates a subsidiary joint-stock company called the "Magazine" or "Society of Particular Adventurers for Traffic with the People of Virginia in Joint Stock." This almost-completely-independent company receives a monopoly in supplying Jamestown and outlying settlements. Its director and courts meet separately from the Virginia Company's, and profits are returned to its investors alone.

November. Ending the first seven-year period, the Virginia Company attempts to issue dividends to its investors, but profits are so small that it distributes land in Virginia instead. The Company allows the establishment of private plantations, called "hundreds." Land grants are made to several of the Company's major adventurers. Thereafter, some people buy stock in the Virginia Company for the specific purpose of getting private land grants. After 1618, English settlement significantly encroaches on Indian lands, especially along the Chickahominy and James Rivers. Most of these encroachments are due to private land grants by the Company.


March 21. Pocohontas dies of illness at Gravesend, England. While in England, her husband, John Rolfe, has written A True Relation of the State of Virginia, which puts a good face upon conditions in Virginia. A Letter from John Rolfe to Edwin Sandys upon His Return to Virginia


April. Powhatan dies. About a year earlier he had ceded power to Opitchapan (or, Itopan), who was then succeeded by Opechancanough.

October 29. Sir Walter Raleigh is executed for treason in London, in part to satisfy the Spanish. In 1616, Raleigh had been paroled from the Tower of London, where he had been imprisoned since 1606. After his release, Raleigh had attacked a Spanish settlement in Orinoco, where he had been searching for "El Dorado," the fabled Indian leader of a city of gold. The expedition a failure, Raleigh then sailed north along the Carolina coast and Chesapeake Bay and on up to Cape Cod and the mouth of the Kennebec River before sailing home to face trial and execution.

December. The Company's instructions to the Colony's new governor, George Yeardley, recognize tobacco as a medium of exchange.

This year, Virginia Company officials in London discover that rather than yielding a profit, the original investment of seventy-five thousand pounds has been almost entirely lost.

This year begins what is called the "Great Migration," which by 1623 brings the population of the Virginia colony to forty-five hundred.


April 23. Sir Edwin Sandys, a west English merchant with leanings toward Puritanism, is elected treasurer of the Virginia Company at a quarterly court. John Ferrar is deputy treasurer. Sandys calls for a decrease in tobacco cultivation, the creation of industries, such as the reestablishment of the glassworks and saltworks, which had fallen away, the production of naval stores, an ironworks, sawmill, silkworming, and vineyards. He calls for the cultivation of subsistence crops and of the neglected Company or "public" lands in Virginia. Women are recruited in London to come to the colony and marry. Sandys's predecessor and political enemy, Sir Thomas Smith, becomes head of the Bermuda Company. When Sandys's laudable projects fail, he becomes vulnerable to attacks.

April. Governor Sir George Yeardley is empowered to charge and try Governor Samuel Argall for neglect of duty and malfeasance. Yeardley had been governor from April 1616 to May 1617 and was then succeeded by Samuel Argall, who had returned from England. Argall had established harsh martial law during his tenure, which had caused adverse publicity for the Company in London. Yeardley assures colonists that in Virginia they shall enjoy the same rule of common law as in England. The Company has instructed him to establish a legislature, settle disputes about private land patents, regularize the relationship between private plantations, or hundreds, and the Company, and to re-cultivate the Company or public lands. Instructions to Governor Yeardley.

July 30-August 4. The first legislative assembly meets in Jamestown, in the choir of the church. None of the Assembly's laws are official unless ratified by one-fourth of the Company's Court. Guided by the Company's instructions, the Assembly passes measures to encourage the production of wine, hemp, flax, and, above all, an adequate food supply. The cultivation of tobacco is restricted. Colonists have complained about the high prices charged by the Magazine, and the Assembly limits its profits to twenty-five percent. Other measures address social behavior, such as idleness, drunkenness, gambling, and the wearing of apparel beyond one's social station. Seven private plantations, or hundreds, are represented in this first Assembly. John Pory, A Reporte of...the General Assembly Convented at James City, July 30-August 4, 1619

John Rolfe, who has returned from England, becomes a member of the Council. He marries Jane, the daughter of Captain William Pierce.

Summer. Unceasing torrid heat adds to the crop, food supply, and health problems of the Virginia settlements. There are about a thousand people living in the Virginia colony.

August. The first African slaves are brought to Virginia by Captain Jope in a Dutch ship. Governor Yeardley and a merchant, Abraham Piersey, exchange twenty of them for supplies. These Africans become indentured servants like the white indentured servants who traded passage for servitude. John Rolfe to Edwin Sandys, Jan 1619/20, "About the latter end of August..."

The duty-free status of the Company and the colony ends. The Crown now expects to derive revenue from the Colony in the form of custom duties.

Opechancanough replaces Itopatin as leader of the Powhatan confederation.


January 20. The Virginia Company dissolves the Magazine, a subsidiary company formed to supply the colony, which has fallen into desperate financial straits. Thereafter, free trade prevails in the supply of the colony.

May 17. In London, Sir Edwin Sandys describes the low state of Jamestown and its outer settlements for officers and members of the Virginia Company. He notes the growth of private plantations at the expense of the Company's lands. He is also dismayed by the persistent attention to tobacco cultivation, noting that, "within the Compass of 14 monneths [months] eleven seuerall [several] Comodities . . .were by this time all reduced to two namely Tobaccoo and Sassafras, . . . ." Records of Virginia Company, Volume I, "The Collony beinge thus weake..." | The Court Book, Part A

May 31. Meeting in court, the Virginia Company discusses the use of Virginia and Bermuda (Somer's Island) as bases for piracy against the Spanish, for which Sir Edwin Sandys, the Company Treasurer, has recently been rebuked before the court of James I. Sandys recognizes that the colonists welcome pirates for the "Comodities they bringe unto them, . . . ." Records of the Virginia Company, Volume I

June 20. Edwin Sandys is replaced by his ally the Earl of Southampton as treasurer of the Virginia Company. Sandys continues to exercise considerable influence on Company policy.

July 22. The Virginia Company issues a pamphlet "A Declaration of the State of the Colony and Affairs in Virginia," summarizing accomplishments in the past year. Of 1,261 people who have gone to Virginia, 650 settled on some form of Company lands. Of these, eighty became tenants of the governor, one hundred tenants on the new college's land at Middle Plantation, and 150 became apprentices or servants. Ninety women settled in Virginia. Future expeditions to Virginia will include orphans sent by the Lord Mayor of London, the poor, and some criminals.

November 11. The Mayflower arrives off Cape Cod.


June 11. Sandys reports to the members of the Virginia Company the colony's exasperating dependence on the cultivation of "that smokie weed of Tobacco." He notes that it is "extreamly the Kinge and scandalous unto the Plantacon and unto the whole Company." Sandys argues that the high price of tobacco is behind the neglect of all other crops. Records of the Virginia Company, Volume I, "Touchinge Tobacco...."

Fall. Sir Francis Wyatt arrives in Jamestown to replace George Yeardley as governor.

Fall. Nemattanow, called "Jack of the Feathers" by the English, kills several Jamestown settlers. Records of the Virginia Company, Volume I, "After these businesses..."

This year, the Crown disallows lotteries for the Virginia Company of London. This has been a modest but regular source of revenue for the Company, which now faces severe financial constraints.

By the end of this year, all of the small group of colonists sent to Virginia in 1620 to establish an ironworks are dead.


Early March. Nemattanow, "Jack of the Feathers," is killed by the English in revenge.

March 22. Powhatan Indians attack settlements immediately outside Jamestown, killing 347 men, women, and children. A Pamunkey Indian, Chanco, indirectly warns Governor Wyatt and Jamestown mounts a successful defense. Charles City, the Ironworks, College Land, and Martin's Hundred are all abandoned after the massacre because many are concerned about the vulnerability of isolated settlements. The "Massacre of 1622" is followed in December by an epidemic brought by the ship Abigail. It kills twice as many people as died in the Massacre and the colony's population is reduced to about five hundred. A Declaration of the State of the Colony and Affaires in Virginia. With a Relation of the Barbarous the Native Indians upon the English.

April. Captain John Martin, the only member of the colony's first council still in Virginia, agrees to give up his original patent for land, "Martin's Hundred," for a new one. His original patent gave him independence from both the Company and the General Assembly, including some of its laws. The Company seeks to bring all private plantations or hundreds into the government's jurisdiction.

June 21. Governor Sir Francis Wyatt issues proclamations against drunkenness, swearing, and "taking Boats without Leave and Stealing Oars." Punishments are graded according to one's status. For drunkenness, "gentlemen or other above the degree of Serieant [Servant]" receive fines; a "free man" will be "sette in the stocks twelv howres"; while hired servants and apprentices, who are of lowest status and not likely to have the means to pay fines, pay with their bodies: servants are to be "put necke & heeles two howres," and apprentices are to be "whipt." Proclamations

August. The English attack the Powhatan Indians and put a price on the head of their chief, Opechancanough. Conflicts continue for the next ten years except for one short period of peace. In 1644, an English soldier shoots Opechancanough in the back and kills him.

Fall. The colony has a smaller-than-usual harvest and takes food from Indians by trade or force. The colony experiences another "starving time" during the winter of 1622-23.

This year, a small wine sample from Virginia is sent to London, but it spoils on the way.


April 12. The Virginia Company presents an account of the colony and an explanation of its management and policies to King James I. A Declaration of the present State of Virginia....

April 23. Captain Nathaniel Butler presents a report entitled "Unmasked Face of Our Colony in Virginia as it was in the winter of the Year 1622" to the Privy Council in London. Butler is the governor of Bermuda and recently visited Jamestown on his way back to England.

April. Jamestown colonists embark on a trading expedition to obtain food from the Powhatan confederation Indians. Negotiations break down and about twenty colonists are killed and others taken captive.

May 9. The Crown appoints a commission to investigate the Virginia Company's financial affairs and sequesters its papers. Company deputy Nicholas Ferrar arranges to have copies of the Court Book made before turning it over to the Privy Council.


May. The Virginia Company of London loses its charter. Since 1606, approximately seventy-three hundred emigrants have sailed for the colony, and 6,040 have died either en route or after arrival. However, the Privy Council argues that that the colony has had a net increase of only 275 people since its founding. The colony suffers from chronic food shortages and seems unable to get a subsistence from its own efforts. The greatest death rate has occurred between 1621 and 1623, during the period of the Great Migration. The causes of the colony's low condition are numerous: over-cultivation of tobacco; conflicts with the Powhatans, caused or aggravated by the colonists' dependence on them for food; poorly coordinated arrivals of colonists and supplies; and an unhealthy location and bad water supply that causes chronic ill health and high death rates. The Company is bankrupt and divided between factions led by Sir Edwin Sandys and Sir Thomas Smith. In sum, the problems are complex and various, and the Company, riven by factional fighting, is unable to resolve them. Despite the loss of its charter, the Company lingers on until 1630.


A census for this year records that there are ten Africans living on Jamestown island.

March 5. King James I dies and is succeeded by Charles I.

May 13. King Charles declares Virginia, the Bermuda Islands, and New England to be royal colonies directly dependent upon the crown.

The Jamestown Assembly petitions Charles I for permission to retain their legislature and is refused.


The Massachusetts Bay Company is chartered.

Commerce and land accumulation begin to create greater social and economic disparities in Virginia colony. Merchants increase their connections with London and trade in indentured servants, slaves, and tobacco. Headrights award fifty acres of land per person to the individual responsible for bringing freemen, indentured servants, or slaves into the colony. Estate owners accumulate additional land through the purchase of headrights, and a thriving commerce in them arises.

The Virginia government at Jamestown passes statutes and codes that differentiate between white indentured servants and blacks in permanent servitude. By the 1680s, permanent servitude has become even more identified with race.

Governor Sir Francis Wyatt issues a proclamation limiting tobacco cultivation to not more than one thousand plants. He insists that planters cultivate more corn.


Civil War begins in Great Britain after a long period of conflict between Charles I and Parliament over issues of religion, taxes, and land reform. Eventually Oliver Cromwell emerges to leadership of the Parliamentary party after leading military forces to victory over royalist armies.

February. Sir William Berkeley becomes governor of the colony of Virginia. He serves until 1652, and then again from 1660 to 1677. Berkeley is a strong Anglican and attempts to establish the Anglican Church more firmly in Virginia.


October. English colonists murder Opechancanough, the great chief of the Powhatan confederation, after his most recent attack on colonists in April.


Governor Sir William Berkeley forces a treaty on the new chief of the Powhatan, Necotowance, in which the Powhatans must cede to the English all peninsular lands between the James and York Rivers as far inland as Richmond Falls.


January 20-27. King Charles I is tried for treason by Parliament. Although he refuses to recognize the legitimacy of trying a king on such a charge, he is found guilty and beheaded on January 30. The monarchy and the House of Lords are abolished and "parliamentarians" rule. War continues between Cromwell's forces and those of the Scots who support the restoration of the monarchy.

The Powhatan Indians suffer a major defeat at the hands of the English.

This year the death rate in the Virginia colony begins to decline.


Parliament passes the first Navigation Act affecting the colonies. Whatever their geographic origin, imports to England must be carried only in English ships.


July 8. England and the Netherlands go to war over England's 1651 Navigation Act.

March 12. Representatives of the new Parliamentary government in England arrive in Jamestown to establish their authority over the colony. Governor Berkeley offers the colony's submission. For the next eight years, the Virginia General Assembly dominates colonial government.


Parliament passes the second Navigation Act decreeing that the colonies can ship their products only to England. The initial list of products includes tobacco, sugar, wool, indigo, and other mainstays of the colonies. Molasses is later added to the list. Under the scrutiny of the Privy Council, the Lords of Trade oversee the American colonies and enforce the Navigation Acts.


May. The monarchy is restored and Charles II becomes king.

March. The Virginia General Assembly is elected but is often prorogued by Governor Berkeley and subsequent governors until 1676.


Jamestown loses its status as the sole port of entry for Virginia shipping.


August 27. The English take New Amsterdam from the Dutch. Charles II awards the colony to his brother James, Duke of York.


November 16. A Mr. Garroway, member of the House of Commons in England, argues in Parliament that the death rate in Virginia is still such that a constant influx of colonists is required to maintain a viable settlement.


Officers of the Anglican Church, called "commissaries," are established in the Virginia colony as a substitute for a full-fledged bishopric. The first commissary is James Blair, who in 1690 tries to set up ecclesiastical courts, but the General Assembly successfully opposes his efforts.


February 9. The English and the Dutch make peace, ending nearly ten years of hostilities.


April. Virginia frontier settlers choose Nathaniel Bacon to lead an expedition against nearby Indians. Bacon, a gentleman, has recently arrived in the colony. He decides not to wait for a formal commission from Governor Berkeley and kills Occaneechee Indians friendly to the colony, threatening the peace that Governor Berkeley has labored to maintain.

May 10. Governor Berkeley declares Nathaniel Bacon a rebel and offers a pardon to all other members of the expedition if they will lay down their arms. He calls for elections to the General Assembly, which have not occurred for many years.

June 5. Nathaniel Bacon comes to Jamestown to take his seat in the upper legislative house, the Council, but instead goes into hiding with the assistance of William Drummond of Albemarle. The conflict broadens as backcountry settlers become increasingly discontented with Berkeley's administration, especially its Indian policy. Thomas Mathew, a Burgess from Stafford and witness to the ensuing events, writes an account of the rebellion for Lord Oxford in England in 1705. Thomas Mathew, The Beginning, Progress, and Conclusion of Bacon's Rebellion in 1675 and 1676 (1705).

June 7. Governor Berkeley's men capture Bacon. The Governor pardons him and on June 10 allows him to return to his seat in the Council.

June 23. Bacon demands a commission to lead an expedition against Indians on the frontier and receives it on July 29, but after a subsequent events, Governor Berkeley regrets his decision and again declares Bacon a rebel.

August. Bacon and his supporters meet at Middle Plantation where they make plans to increase and consolidate their forces on the frontier. Governor Berkeley eventually flees Jamestown as the rebellion grows larger.

September 19. Nathaniel Bacon and his supporters enter Jamestown and burn it.

October 26. Nathaniel Bacon dies of illness. The rebellion dissolves and two of his supporters, William Drummond and Giles Bland, are executed. Berkeley steps down as governor in 1676.


October 10. King Charles II grants the Virginia colony a new charter in which the General Assembly has no autonomous rights or privileges but continues in existence only at the pleasure of the crown. Disappointment and anger is severe among Jamestown Assembly members. Proclamation on Virginia Colony, October 10, 1678 (Thomas Jefferson's copy)

Throughout 1678, royal power increases in the colony.


Thomas Jefferson (d. 1697), the great grandfather of the third president of the United States, is living in Henrico county.


Thomas Jefferson purchases land from William Byrd. Jefferson is married to Mary Branch, with whom he has a son, Thomas, and a daughter, Martha.


April 25. The General Assembly meets in Jamestown, barely rebuilt since Bacon and his supporters burned it. Governor Thomas Culpeper makes plans for the restoration of the colony's seat of government.


February. Lord Howard becomes governor of Virginia Colony. A struggle of several years follows between the governor and the Assembly.


February 6. Charles II dies and is succeeded by his brother, James II, who attempts to restore the country to Catholicism.


December 11. James II flees England. English leaders invite William of Orange to be king of England. The following year, William and his wife, Mary, daughter of James II, assume the throne and the "Glorious Revolution" is complete.

With the "Glorious Revolution," the Virginia General Assembly's legitimacy as a permanent branch of government is secured.


April 27. Jamestown celebrates the ascension of William and Mary to the throne of England.


April 23. Jamestown holds Olympic Games on St. George's Day, the feast day of England's patron saint.


The General Assembly charters the College of William and Mary at Middle Plantation (later Williamsburg) as a seminary for Anglican ministers.


Parliament opens the slave trade to British merchants, and the number of Africans brought to the colony begins to increase dramatically. Sugar and molasses are shipped from the West Indies to New England where they are distilled into rum. In West Africa, rum is traded for slaves, who are taken usually to the West Indies. This triangular trade becomes a mainstay of the American colonies.

October 31. A fire destroys Jamestown. Thereafter, only a few people continue to live there and the town declines and eventually ceases to exist. In 1699, the seat of government is moved to Williamsburg, formerly called "Middle Plantation."

1707 - 1708
Thomas Jefferson II has a son, Peter, who will be the father of Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States. Peter has two older brothers, one of whom, Thomas III, born in 1700, dies at the age of twenty-three.

October. Peter Jefferson marries Jane, the daughter of Isham Randolph. Peter also has ties to the Randolph and Byrd families through his close friendship with Colonels William Randolph and William Byrd, who, like Peter Jefferson, represent the third generation of their families in Virginia.


April 2/13*. Thomas Jefferson is born at Shadwell plantation in Goochland county. (Thomas Jefferson Timeline)

*April 2 by the Old (Julian) Calendar, April 13 by the New (Gregorian) Calendar. The New Calendar was adopted by Great Britain and its colonies in 1752. To bring the calendar in line with the solar year, it added eleven days; the new year began in January rather than March.