Tag Archives: Colonial Parkway

History: Jamestown


The Jamestown settlement was about to fail, but then it found a crop it could sell to the folks back home for supplies and food. The crop that saved Jamestown? Tobacco. Uploaded by hill.troy.k12.mi.us.

What Sir Walter Raleigh and his Roanoke Island colonists failed to accomplish, the Jamestown settlers achieved: the first permanent English settlement in the New World. The first settlers arrived on Jamestown island on May 14, 1607, and though they endured hunger and disease and other hardships, they persevered.

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“Permanent” is somewhat misleading in this context, however. The settlement finally thrived once it based its economy on a profitable crop, tobacco. And Jamestown was the capital of the colony of Virginia until 1699, when it was moved to Williamsburg. Following that, Jamestown actually consisted mostly of farms, and housed no actual village.

Today, visitors to Jamestown can visit two historic exhibits, one operated by Virginia and one by the National Park Service. Jamestown Settlement grew out of Jamestown Festival Park, an exhibit created in 1957 to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the settlement. Nearby is Historic Jamestowne, which has focused on unearthing archaeological relics that help tell what life in 17th century Virginia was like.

Most visitors to Jamestown stay in Williamsburg, which is connected to Jamestown by the historic Colonial Parkway – an enjoyable drive in itself.

Travel: Yorktown, Virginia

The Moore House in Yorktown, site of Cornwallis's surrender to George Washington. My father gave tours of the building as an employee of the Park Service. Uploaded by history.org.

Yorktown existed as a town beginning in 1691, or 80 years before it became famous. It was named “York” after the city in England (a trend in the area; witness “Portsmouth,” “Norfolk,” and “Hampton”), but it could just as well be called “Cornwallis’s Mistake.”

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This post isn’t about the particulars of the battle that served as the de facto end of the Revolutionary War. You can find out all those details at the National Park Service sites that dot the town. You can visit the redoubts, the Moore House (where the surrender was signed – Cornwallis didn’t attend because he was “sick”), and two attractive museums, the Yorktown Victory Center and the Yorktown Battlefield and Visitor Center.

The town of Yorktown is a quiet little community set alongside the York River. A trip could entail visiting 18th century homes, exploring the town’s quaint shops, strolling the new Riverwalk, even sitting on the little beach beside the river. Yorktown is one town in the Colonial Triangle, connected to Williamsburg (Great American Things, July 23, 2009) and Jamestown via the 23-mile-long Colonial Parkway.

Yorktown has a special sentimental value to me because it’s where my father grew up. My grandfather was a laborer on the Colonial Parkway, gratefully getting work from the WPA during the Depression. My father worked for the National Park Service, giving tours of the Moore House to visitors. Though the family moved to nearby Newport News after World War II, my father always had a special place in his heart for Yorktown. As do I…