Walter Raleigh was granted a charter in 1583 by Queen Elizabeth I of England to explore the territory north of Spanish Florida and establish a colony there. Raleigh sponsored two attempts to establish colonies in present day North Carolina without success. The name ‘Virginia’ was originally given to the region north of Florida right up to present day Canada in honour of Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen. In 1606, King James I granted a joint charter to two companies one to settle southern Virginia and the other to settle northern Virginia. The northern settlement failed, but the southern one successfully established the town of Jamestown. So the state of Virginia is where the British Colonies started with the first settlers arriving in 1607 and establishing the tobacco industry. Virgina is rich in both Colonial and early American history.
Statue of Captain John Smith by the James River, Jamestown
In 1607 just over 100 English settlers arrived under the leadership of Captain John Smith. They sailed into the James River, named in honour of King James I, and built a fortified settlement on an island. Further settlers raised the population of Jamestown to 500. Many were adventurers seeking gold and silver who were ill equipped for the climate. After a harsh 1609 -10 winter only 60 settlers survived and Jamestown was nearly abandoned. Cultivation of tobacco helped the settlement to survive and Jamestown become capital of colonial Virginia until Williamsburg took over in 1699. The island is now part of Colonial National Historical Park. Click Tab 2 to see the remains of the 3rd & 4th State Houses.
Virginia Beach sits just south of the mouth of Chesapeake Bay and it was here that the 1607 settlers made there first landfall. The site was too exposed to attack by other nations seeking to colonise the area, so the settlers moved on to Jamestown. The first settler in this area was Adam Thoroughgood, who arrived in the 1620s. Modern Virginia Beach is the largest city by population in the state. It is a resort city that boasts the longest pleasure beach in the world.
West facade of Monticello
Another founding father of the USA who lived in Virginia was Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and third president. Jefferson inherited the estate and its slaves from his father at the age of 14 and in 1769 he began building Monticello. By 1770 he was able to move in to what is now the South Pavilion. In 1784 he was posted to France for a time and there he picked up architectural ideas that he used to rebuild Monticello starting in 1796. Jefferson was a man of considerable intellect, who could count political philosopher, inventor, architect, archaeologist and musician among his many skills. The design of Monticello reflects his wide range of interests. The ticket office at Montecello gives change in rarely seen $2 bills as they carry the image of Jefferson.
'Piazza' (back porch) of Mount Vernon
In the country just 26 kilometres (16 miles) from Washington DC is the home of George Washington. Built in 1743, it was originally owned by his elder half-brother Lawrence. George inherited it and lived there from 1754 until his death in 1799. He and his wife Martha Washington are buried in the grounds. The Slave Quarters at Mount Vernon bring home the contradiction of the revolutionary struggle for freedom and slavery. Ownership of slaves was normal in this part of Virginia and Washington inherited his first slaves at the age of eleven. By the time he died he have over 300 at Mount Vernon. In later years Washington became troubled by slavery and he arranged for his slaves to be freed after Martha’s death. Click Tab 2 to see the tomb of George & Martha Washington.
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Yorktown Victory Monument
Although the Founding Fathers viewed the 1776 Declaration of Independence as the end of British rule, the British had other ideas. The powerful British Navy was able to keep control to the coast including many major cities. However, the British army presence was relatively small and hence it was more difficult to keep control inland. It was French support for the revolution that tipped the balance. At the Battle of the Chesapeake, the French inflicted heavy damage on the British Navy and took control of Chesapeake Bay. This left the British troops in Yorktown vulnerable to attack by French and American forces. The siege of Yorktown began on the September 28 1781, and ended with the surrender of the British forces commanded by Lord Cornwallis on October 19, 1781. Although it was not until the 1783 Treaty of Paris that Britain recognised the independence of the USA, the surrender at Yorktown was the turning point in the Revolutionary War. The monument shown in this picture commemorates the siege.
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