Jamestown, also Jamestowne, was the first settlement of the Virginia Colony, founded in 1607, and served as the capital of Virginia until 1699, when the seat of government was moved to Williamsburg. This article covers the history of the fort and town at Jamestown proper, as well as colony-wide trends resulting from and affecting the town during the time period in which it was the colonial capital of Virginia.
The London Company sent an expedition to establish a settlement in the Virginia Colony in December 1606. The expedition consisted of three ships, Susan Constant (the largest ship, sometimes known as Sarah Constant, Christopher Newport captain and in command of the group), Godspeed (Bartholomew Gosnold captain), and Discovery (the smallest ship, John Ratcliffe captain). The ships left Blackwall, now part of London, with 105 men and boys and 39 crew-members.
By April 6, 1607, Godspeed, Susan Constant, and Discovery arrived at the Spanish colony of Puerto Rico, where they stopped for provisions before continuing their journey. In April 1607, the expedition reached the southern edge of the mouth of what is now known as Chesapeake Bay. After an unusually long journey of more than four months, the 104 men and boys (one passenger of the original 105 died during the journey) arrived at their chosen settlement spot in Virginia. There were no women on the first ships.
Arriving at the entrance to Chesapeake Bay in late April, they named the Virginia capes after the sons of their king, the southern Cape Henry, for Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, and the northern Cape Charles, for his younger brother, Charles, Duke of York. On April 26, 1607, upon landing at Cape Henry, they set up a cross near the site of the current Cape Henry Memorial and Chaplain Robert Hunt made the following declaration:
We do hereby dedicate this Land, and ourselves, to reach the People within these shores with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to raise up Godly generations after us, and with these generations take the Kingdom of God to all the earth. May this Covenant of Dedication remain to all generations, as long as this earth remains. May all who see this Cross, remember what we have done here, and may those who come here to inhabit join us in this Covenant and in this most noble work that the Holy Scriptures may be fulfilled.
This site came to be known as the “first landing.” A party of the men explored the area and had a minor conflict with some Virginia Indians.