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Colonial Settlement, 1600s-1763
The English Establish a Foothold at Jamestown
The Colonists [Nearly] Abandon Jamestown, 1610

While the colonists in Virginia were experiencing the "starving time," the adventurers in England were making significant changes to the Virginia project. Two years of experimentation had proved disappointing to investors. The colony had, however, accomplished enough to create renewed interest. The most important feature of the renewed effort was the scale of the effort proposed. The plan was to send 500 men and 100 women and children in June, to be followed in August by 1,000 more colonists. However, many of Gates's and Somers's first fleet became shipwrecked on Bermuda. Meanwhile De La Warr's sailing was delayed. In these circumstances, how does Reverend William Simmons describe the situation in Jamestown in the following excerpt from John Smith's Generall Historie of Virginia?

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Out of the Observations of William Simmons, Doctor of Divinity

. . . Now wee were all constrained to live onely on that Smith had onely for his owne Companie, for the rest had consumed their proportions, and now they had twentie Presidents with all their appurtenances: Master Piercie our new President, was so sicke hee could neither goe nor stand. But ere all was consumed. . . . of five hundred within six moneths after Captaine Smiths departure, there remained not past sixtie men, women and children, most miserable and poore creatures; and those were preserved for the most part, by roots, herbes, acornes, walnuts, berries, now and then a little fish: they that had startch in these extremities, made no small use of it; yea, even the very skinnes of our horses. Nay, so great was our famine, that a Salvage we slew, and buried, the poorer sort tooke him up againe and eat him, and so did divers one another boyled and stewed with roots and herbs: And one amongst the rest did kill his wife, powdered her, and had eaten part of her before it was knowne, for which hee was executed, as hee well deserved; now whether shee was better roasted, boyled or carbonado'd, I know not, but of such a dish as powdered wife I never heard of. This was that time, which still to this day we called the starving time; it were too vile to say, and scarce to be beleeved, what we endured: but the occasion was our owne, for want of providence, industrie and government, and not the barrennesse and defect of the Countrie, as is generally supposed; for till then in three yeeres, for the numbers were landed us, we had never from England provision sufficient for six moneths, though it seemed by the bils of loading sufficient was sent us, such a glutton is the Sea, and such good fellowes the Mariners; we as little tasted of the great proportion sent us, as they of our want and miseries, yet notwithstanding they ever over-swayed and ruled the businesse, though we endured all that is said, and chiefly lived on what this good Countrie naturally afforded; yet had wee beene even in Paradice it selfe with these Governours, it would not have beene much better with us; yet there was amongst us, who had they had the government as Captaine Smith appointed, but that they could not maintaine it, would surely have kept us from those extremities of miseries. This in ten daies more, would have supplanted us all with death.

But God that would not this Countrie should be unplanted, sent and Sir Thomas Gates, and Sir George Sommers with one hundred and fiftie people most happily preserved by the Bermudas to preserve us: strange it is to say how miraculously they were preserved in a leaking ship, as at large you may reade in the insuing Historie of those Ilands.

WHen these two Noble Knights did see our miseries, being but strangers in that Countrie, and could understand no more of the cause, but by conjecture of our clamours and complaints, of accusing and excusing one another: They embarked us with themselves, with the best meanes they could, and abandoning James towne, set saile for England, whereby you may see the event of the government of the former Commanders left to themselves; although they had lived there many yeeres as formerly hath beene spoken (who hindred now their proceedings, Captaine Smith being gone.)

At noone they fell to the Ile of Hogs, and the next morning to Mulbery point, at what time they descried the Long-boat of the Lord la Ware, for God would not have it so abandoned. For this honourable Lord, then Governour of the Countrie, met them with three ships exceedingly well furnished with all necessaries fitting, who againe returned them to the abandoned James towne.


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