Historic Jamestowne

Colonial Williamsburg

The nice thing about having annual passes to both Jamestown/ Yorktown and Colonial Williamsburg is that we can spend time in multiple places in the same day.

We started the morning (3/27/17) at Colonial Williamsburg to check out A Difference of Opinion. This program features three perspectives (Gowan Pamphlet http://www.history.org/almanack/people/bios/biopam.cfm, Robert Carter http://www.history.org/almanack/people/bios/biorcarter.cfm, and George Washington http://www.history.org/Almanack/people/bios/biowash2.cfm on slavery.


Gowan Pamphlet

Gowan Pamphlet began the discussion with his journey from being a slave and pastoring to being set free and continuing to pastor up to 500 people.  Other than himself, 10,000 slaves were freed in Virginia (by 1791) after passing the law of manumission (ability to free slaves). That may sound like a lot, but in actuality, it represents only 5% of Virginia’s slaves. He also shared about religious freedom, his church–which continued until it had to take a hiatus due to the Nat Turner rebellion, which made many nervous about African Americans gathering in large groups.  After both tragedies and reorganization, the church continues in existence today.


Robert Carter

Robert Carter was next to speak.  I especially appreciated him because he shared about his transformation from having an intellectual faith in God to having a personal faith in Jesus Christ and how that transition changed his view of slavery.  Initially, he was a slave owner, having inherited hundreds of slaves.  But, when he converted to Christianity, he first tried to battle slavery legally, but he eventually had to do something personally.  Robert emancipated over 500 slaves–the largest single emancipation until the Civil War.  Because the manumission laws required slave owners to pay a fee and provide support for free slaves so they wouldn’t become burdens to society, this emancipation was gradual, at a rate of fifteen/year.  Freed slaves were also given the freedom to continue to live and work on the property under a variety of relationships from tenants to hired help.


George Washington

George Washington was the last to speak and shared about an incident that occurred during the end of his presidency.  Martha Washington’s maid ran away and an ad was placed in the paper to give information at the president’s house. Washington, who kept his opinions on slavery largely out of the private view, was apparently embarrassed by this.  He personally was in favor of gradual emancipation, allowing slaves to be equipped to survive as freedmen able to adequately support themselves.  Because of the cost involved in freeing slaves, most people, including Washington, set their slaves free upon their death.  Washington has often drawn criticism for not setting his wife’s slaves free, but as they were part of her entail, he could not legally do so.  He also stipulated that his slaves’ freedom would take effect after his wife died.  But, when some events gave Martha reason to suppose some slaves were trying to hasten that time, she set them free.  Her own slaves were part of inheritance property and therefore were passed down instead of freed.

Afterwards, these three men were available to take questions from the audience about the issue of slavery, etc..  With it readily apparent that we still need to make strides in race relations, I love any format where open dialogue takes place, so I especially appreciated the candor of each actor, who stepped out of character (usually unheard of at Williamsburg) to discuss a difficult issue.

We then went to the coffee house.  This is one of our favorite tours for the simple reason that they offer incredible hot chocolate!  (In fact, we’re planning to return tomorrow for the chocolate making demonstration!)   One of the interesting things I learned over chocolate is that Handel wrote The Messiah in order to combat Deism and return people to true faith in God.  Very cool!


Finding slate

When we finished our tour, we headed to Historic Jamestowne to see what has changed there.  Because Jamestowne has ongoing archaeology, there is always something new to see!  I got to see a volunteer discover a piece of slate from a 1700’s roof.

One fascinating piece  of luck was the Roads Scholars tour we happened upon.  The tour guide who has taken groups around Jamestowne for the past 18 years shared many interesting pieces of information.


Colonial Grafitti

One of the coolest things she pointed out was the graffiti carved in the original tower bricks. She also discussed the way to tell original mortar (looks like sand and shells because it is) from different eras of reconstruction.  The church was abandoned when the capital moved from Jamestowne to Williamsburg, leading to the deterioration of the building accelerated by the removal of bricks to new locations in Williamsburg (early repurposing!). The church addition to the tower in Jamestowne was added on in 1907 for the 300th anniversary. When building the addition, many time period bricks were bought from people getting rid of their big brick houses in favor of different modern styles.


Interior of the 1907 church

Additionally, the guide pointed out that the pattern of bricks used is uniquely English from the 1760’s. The pattern varies between headers (width of the brick) and stretchers (length of the brick). It also boasts a stylistic feature known as the Flemish bond (a pattern of header, stretcher, header, stretcher, etc.)


Pattern of headers and stretchers

Leaving out of Jamestowne, we decided to take the nature loop to see if Jenny (the eagle) was moving around.  While the nest is still there, we didn’t see any activity.  All in all, it was a fun day catching up with some favorites.


John Smith and “John Smith”

After church yesterday (7/10/16) we decided to check out the sites at Historic Jamestowne. It’s always fun to see the progress they’ve made on the digs and continue to examine the artifacts they find.  It is, however, different traveling with a six year old instead of older kids.  For him, the joy was seeing turtles and tadpoles in the shrinking water under the bridge or just being able to wear his John Smith costume and see him and Pocahontas (a movie that he loves, despite its glaring historic inaccuracies–at least they made the Susan Constant look right.  If you’re wondering, “What glaring inaccuracies?” John Smith was actually about 40 and Pocahontas roughly 11–they weren’t romantically involved.)  Corban also enjoyed a scavenger hunt in the museum, but we didn’t stay a long time.

img_5005Today (7/11/16), we headed into Virginia Beach to give Corban a look at the Atlantic Ocean.  We drove to the end of Atlantic street where there’s easy, free parking right on the beach front.  Definitely one I’d recommend.  You take 264 to where it turns into 21st street, then go right on Atlantic.  It’s a tricky parking lot to get to, but if you stay to the right around 4th street (Keep on Atlantic), you’ll loop around to 2nd street where you can park.  It’s the Grommet Island park–right on the beach with a huge kids play place.  We literally unloaded our stuff in a sled on the bank (much better for pulling than anything with wheels), and walked about 50 yards to the water.

While there were surfers on the edges, it wasn’t too crowded, and the life guards kept everything in order (complete with Baywatch red suits and red rescue flotation devices.)  Other than losing one of my shoes to the ocean, it was a lovely day.


John Smith at Historic Jamestowne.  The yellow structure is the outline of the church in which Pocahontas and John Rolfe married.

We had a “45 minute presentation” for the condo this morning (7/14/15). Three hours later, we were able to head back for lunch before starting our day.
We opted to return to historic Jamestowne to see what had changed since our last visit. On our way in, we met Stephanie and her sweet family from California on their first trip. Mom and I were able to share the things we love about Jamestowne with them–a dear joy to each of us.

When they left, we headed into the museum to see what had changed there. There is a new display of Native American artifacts which were fascinating to see. My favorite was all the different materials used to make arrow heads.
It was also neat to see the museum’s version of Pocahontas’s wedding dress. We don’t know what she actually wore, but for the anniversary of her marriage to John Rolfe (Note: NOT John Smith), the museum used the pattern of a 17th century Falkland jacket, and 100 women spent over 1,400 hours embroidering the material with plants and animals from around Virginia. The wedding was held just after our last visit, so we missed seeing this in person, but definitely cool to see the costume up close!

Pocahontas's Wedding attire--Museum edition

Pocahontas’s Wedding attire–Museum edition

It was also neat to see the progress made on the church where Pocahontas and John Rolfe got married.

One of the reasons we keep coming back to Historic Jamestowne is because there is always something new going on. Archaeology is always revealing new information, and Jamestowne is continually working to make the area more like it was in 1607. It is fascinating to watch!  You can find out the newest finds at Jamestown here.

Since we only ended up with about 2 hours to spend at Jamestowne before it closed, we decided to explore a bit and see if we could find some eagles. We retraced our steps to see if Ginny was at her nest. No sooner had we relocated the nest then an eagle came swooping past, while I turned on my camera and said, “Load, load, load!” Alas, it took too long, so that’s a site we can just hold in our minds.

We had heard there were some eagles down by the glass blowers, so we headed down there to see if we could spot anything. As we drove up, we saw them soaring overhead, majestic and beautiful–and vultures, not eagles. Alas! But, as we walked down the path, we saw several land on a nearby tree.

Vultures in the tree tops

Vultures in the tree tops

I couldn’t help but recall the Jungle Book scene with the four vultures (who I learned in trying to find their dialogue were initially supposed to be the Beatles–there’s an audition recording of them!) So, mom and I quoted, “What do you want to do?” “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” as we walked down to the glass blowers.



There were, however, no eagles to speak of–just more vultures picking apart the carcass of a huge carp. Captivating, but not what we wanted. Yet, as we headed back to the condo, we saw the nice surprise of a number of deer grazing along the road. I love deer, so that (and the Häagen-Dazs we got on the way home) was a lovely end to a great day of exploration.