The Virginia Company sent settlers to grow tobacco on the available land. The company then shipped tobacco back to England to be sold. While the English viewed the land as available the Indians, especially the Powhatan Confederacy, disagreed. Tensions existed from the beginning of settlement, worsened after the death of Pocahontas, and in 1622, the situation exploded when the Indians attacked settlements throughout Virginia, killing 300 settlers, about one-third of the population. With the low survival rate, high costs of the colony, and the Indian attack, King James revoked the charter in 1624 and made Virginia a royal colony.
Most of the settlers were single young men, but the company believed they would be more productive and happier if they had families. Beginning in 1619 the company began recruiting women to Virginia. The men had to pay for their new wives. Many if not most died from disease and in 1622 attack.
In 1619, Virginia colonists needing a local government to deal with colonial issues created the House of Burgesses. Communicating across the Atlantic Ocean took months, but the local government could handle issues much quicker. The House of Burgesses was a house of representatives, with burgesses representing specific towns and districts. The House was the first form of self-government in what would become the United States. In many ways we can trace American liberty to 1619 Jamestown.
In the same year, the first shipment of African indentured servant laborers arrived in Jamestown. They were not slaves in the way we think, for that would not occur for another fifty years, but it certainly was the precursor to African slavery becoming a major labor force in the United States. Liberty and slavery are the two leading legacies of the first part of U.S. history, and they both began in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619.
Editors Note: Travis Childs is a history instructor at Cameron University in Lawton, Okla. He is a graduate of Midway High School and lives in Bluegrove. He is currently president of the Clay County Historical Society.