Saturday, July 16, 2016

Summer at Jamestown --and elsewhere


James River
Summertime at Jamestown, 1606


Summertime in Houston, 2016

Look for more blogs in August!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Summer at Jamestown, July 1607: Some good news, some bad.





The first summer at Jamestown, July 1607

In the journal kept by the colony’s first president, Edward Wingfield, on July 3, 1607 there was some good news, and some not so good:

Seven or eight Indians presented President Wingfield with a Dear (sic).”

About this tyme divers (sic) of our men fell sick.”


And some of them died.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Summertime, Jamestown 1607: No vacation!

 Having a hot summer?
Think of the English at Jamestown, summer 1607:  

       There was back-breaking, hand-blistering labor to do as soon as they had picked a place—marshy and unhealthy, as it turned out--to settle. Sailing more than thirty miles up the wide river that they named the James after King James I, they chose a small, wooded peninsula about two miles long and a mile to a mile and a half wide. It was actually an island, separated from the mainland by a shallow creek, but the James River was six fathoms [36 feet], deep enough to moor their ships a stone’s throw from the shore.
        By June 15, seven weeks after they arrived, 104 men and boys (one man had died on the voyage) had finished an enormous task: They had built a fort at the site they called Jamestown. Working and sweating in the hot Virginia sun, they dug over 1,600 feet of trenches nearly three feet deep to form a huge triangle by the river’s edge. They chopped down hundreds of pine and oak and elm trees. They dragged heavy logs of up to one foot in diameter, one by one, to set vertically in the trenches to make a palisade with walls eleven to fifteen feet high. When it was finished, the fort by the river covered about an acre and a half, or roughly the area of two football fields. It was 140 yards long on the side facing the river, and 100 yards on each of the other two sides. With guns mounted at each angle and only one entrance, a massive log gate on the side facing the river, this palisaded fort would be a comforting defense against invaders—either Indian or Spanish.


     Invaders would be the least of their worries. 





Saturday, June 4, 2016

A Blog Break

"June is bustin' out all over. . . ." 
Time to take a blog break! 

More later. 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Pocahontas: What’s in a Name?

         Donald Trump recently called Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas, a name that is offensive in some usages to Native Americans, especially women. Every school child in America knows who Pocahontas was, bur not many know her other names.

         When John Smith met her in 1608, she was a little girl of ten or so. Pocahontas was her nickname. It meant Little Mischief. Her real name was Matoaka, an Algonquin Indian name of unknown meaning. It has been said to mean Bright Stream between the Hills, or One Who Kindles, but who knows? The first record of it is in a letter by a Virginia colonist in 1614, when she married another colonist, John Rolfe. If, as some have suggested, Matoaka was Pocahontass secret name, kept secret by a superstitious fear of hurt by the English, (Samuel Purchas, 1625), we have no proof that this was so. If Pocahontass secret name might cause the English to harm her, why did she let it appear in A True Discourse of the Present State of Virginia, a public relations tract put out by the Virginia Company in 1615?
         Her other name was Rebecca, given her when she was baptized as a Christian in 1614.


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Jamestown: "Savages" and "Foreigners" meet.

        Four hundred and nine years ago this month, in May 1607, a small group of Englishmen exploring Virginia met an Indian werowance (or chief). This werowance had invited them to visit him, and he came out to meet them. One of the Englishmen, George Percy, wrote that this chief wore  “a crown of deer’s hair colored red in fashion of a rose fastened about his knot of hair, and a great plate of copper on the other side of his head, with two long feathers in fashion of a pair of horns placed in the middle of his crown, his body was painted all with crimson, with a chain of beads about his neck, his face painted blue, besprinkled with silver ore as we thought, his ears all behung with bracelets of pearl, and in either ear a bird’s claw through it beset with fine copper or gold. . . .”  
         --George Percy, “Observations . . . in Virginia . . .  1606.
         
        Besides that, this werowance was walking to meet them and playing a flute made of a reed.
        
         Seventeenth-century Englishmen weren’t the only ones who liked ceremonies and dressed elaborately. Yet the English colonists called the Indians “savages.”
         The Indians, more politely, called the English “foreigners.” 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Jamestowne Talk

Giving a talk for the Jamestowne Society today about JAMESTOWN: THE NOVEL.
"From History to Fiction--and Back."

More about John Smith to come.