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[Illustration]

New Discoveries at
JAMESTOWN

Site of the First Successful
English Settlement in America

By JOHN L. COTTER and J. PAUL HUDSON

WASHINGTON, D.C., 1957




[Illustration]

UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
Fred A. Seaton, Secretary

NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
Conrad L. Wirth, Director

[Illustration]


For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing
Office
Washington 25, D.C. - Price 50 cents




Preface


Jamestown, a name of first rank among historic names, saw the birth of
English America. Here on an island in the James River in the heart of
tidewater Virginia the English carved a settlement out of the
wilderness. It grew from a rude palisaded fort into a busy community and
then into a small town that enjoyed many of the comforts of daily
living. For 13 years (until 1620) Virginia was the only English colony
on the American mainland. Jamestown served this colony as its place of
origin and as its capital for 92 years - from 1607 to 1699.

After its first century of prominence and leadership, "James Towne"
entered a long decline, precipitated, in 1700, by the removal of the
seat of government to Williamsburg. Its residents drifted away, its
streets grew silent, its buildings decayed, and even its lots and former
public places became cultivated fields. Time passed and much was
forgotten or obscured. So it was when it became a historic area, in
part, in 1893, and when the whole island became devoted to historical
purposes in 1934.

Since these dates, the Association for the Preservation of Virginia
Antiquities and the National Park Service have worked toward the
preservation of all that still exists of old Jamestown, and are
dedicated to learning its story more completely. Thus the American
people can more fully understand and enjoy their historic heritage of
Jamestown. A great deal of study along many lines has been required and
much more is still needed to fill the many gaps. Libraries have been
searched for pictures, documents, and plans. Land records have been
carefully scrutinized and old existing landmarks studied.
Seventeenth-century buildings and objects still surviving in England,
America, and elsewhere have been viewed as well as museum collections. A
key part of the search has been the systematic excavation of the
townsite itself, in order to bring to light the information and objects
long buried there. This is the aspect of the broad Jamestown study that
is told in this publication, particularly as its relates to the material
things, large and small, of daily life in Jamestown in the 17th century.

These valuable objects are a priceless part of the Jamestown that exists
today. Collectively they form one of the finest groups of such early
material that has been assembled anywhere. Although most are broken and
few are intact, they would not be traded for better preserved and more
perfect examples that do exist elsewhere. These things were the property
and the possessions of the men and women who lived, worked, and died at
Jamestown. It was because of these people, who handled and used them in
their daily living, and because of what they accomplished, that
Jamestown is one of our best remembered historic places.

April 6, 1956
CHARLES E. HATCH, JR.
Colonial National Historical Park




Contents


PART ONE. Exploration: The Ground Yields Many Things

Churches
Mansions
Row Houses
Single Brick Houses
Frame Houses
Miscellaneous Structures
Workshop Structures
Brick Walks or Paved Areas
Brick Drains
Ice Storage Pit
Kilns
Ironworking Pits
Wells
Ditches
Refuse Pits
Roads


PART TWO. Daily Life at Jamestown 300 Years Ago As Revealed by Recovered
Objects

Houses
Building Hardware
Windows
Wall and Fireplace Tile
Roofing Materials
Lime
Plaster and Mortar
Ornamental Plasterwork
House Furnishings
Furniture
Lighting Devices
Fireplace Accessories
Cooking Utensils and Accessories
Table Accessories
Knives, Forks, and Spoons
Pottery and Porcelain
Lead-glazed Earthenware
English Sgraffito-ware (a slipware)
English Slip-decorated-ware
English Redware with Marbled Slip Decoration
Italian Maiolica
Delftware
Spanish Maiolica
Salt-glazed Stoneware
Metalware Eating and Drinking Vessels
Glass Drinking Vessels
Glass Wine and Gin Bottles
Food Storage Vessels and Facilities
Clothing and Footwear
Artisans and Craftsmen
The Carpenter
The Cooper
The Woodcutter and Sawyer
The Ironworker
The Blacksmith
The Boatbuilder
The Potter
The Glassblower
The Brickmaker and Tilemaker
The Limeburner
Other Craftsmen
Home Industries
Spinning and Weaving
Malting and Brewing
Dairying and Cheesemaking
Baking
Associated Industries
Military Equipment
Polearms
Caltrop
Swords, Rapiers, and Cutlasses
Cannon
Muskets
Pistols
Light Armor and Siege Helmet
Farming
Fishing
Health
Amusements and Pastimes
Smoking
Games
Archery and Hunting
Music and Dancing
Travel
Boats and Ships
Horses, Wagons, and Carriages
Bits and Bridle Ornaments
Spurs and Stirrups
Horseshoes and Currycombs
Branding Irons
Wagons and Carriage Parts
Trade
Indian Trade
Beads
Knives
Shears
Bells
Hatchets
Pots and Pans
Brass Casting Counters or Jettons
Miscellaneous Items
English and Foreign Trade
Lead Bale Clips
Piers and Wharfs
Worshipping


Select Bibliography





[Illustration: JAMESTOWN ISLAND, VIRGINIA. ON THIS SMALL ISLAND - HALF
FOREST AND HALF MARSH - WAS PLANTED THE ENGLISH COLONY OF WHICH RALEIGH
AND GILBERT DREAMED.]




PART ONE

Exploration: The Ground Yields Many Things

By JOHN L. COTTER
Supervising Archeologist, Colonial National Historical Park

"As in the arts and sciences the first invention is of more consequence
than all the improvements afterward, so in kingdoms, the first
foundation, or plantation, is of more noble dignity and merit than all
that followeth."

- LORD BACON


In the Summer of 1934 a group of archeologists set to work to explore
the site of the first permanent English settlement at Jamestown Island,
Va. For the next 22 years the National Park Service strove - with time
out for wars and intervals between financial allotments - to wrest from
the soil of Jamestown the physical evidence of 17th-century life. The
job is not yet complete. Only 24 out of 60 acres estimated to comprise
"James Citty" have been explored; yet a significant amount of
information has been revealed by trowel and whiskbroom and careful
recording.

By 1956 a total of 140 structures - brick houses, frame houses with brick
footings, outbuildings, workshops, wells, kilns, and even an ice storage
pit - had been recorded. To help unravel the mystery of landholdings
(sometimes marked by ditches), 96 ditches of all kinds were located, and
hundreds of miscellaneous features from post holes to brick walls were
uncovered. Refuse pits were explored meticulously, since before the dawn
of history man has left his story in the objects he discarded.

When archeology at Jamestown is mentioned, the question is often asked,
why was it necessary to treat so famous a historic site as an
archeological problem at all? Isn't the story finished with the accounts
of John Smith's adventures, the romance of John Rolfe and Pocahontas,
the "starving time," the Indian massacre of 1622, Nathaniel Bacon's
rebellion against Governor Berkeley, and the establishment of the first
legislative assembly?

The archeologist's answer is that the real drama of daily life of the
settlers - the life they knew 24 hours a day - is locked in the unwritten
history beneath humus and tangled vegetation of the island. Here a brass
thimble from the ruins of a cottage still retains a pellet of paper to
keep it on a tiny finger that wore it 300 years ago. A bent halberd in
an abandoned well, a discarded sword, and a piece of armor tell again
the passing of terror of the unknown, after the Indians retreated
forever into the distant hills and forests. Rust-eaten axes, wedges,
mattocks, and saws recall the struggle to clear a wilderness. The simple
essentials of life in the first desperate years have largely vanished
with traces of the first fort and its frame buildings. But in later
houses the evidence of Venetian glass, Dutch and English delftware,
pewter, and silver eating utensils, and other comforts and little
luxuries tell of new-found security and the beginning of wealth. In all,
a half-million individual artifacts at the Jamestown museum represent
the largest collection from any 17th-century colonial site in North
America.

But archeologists have found more than objects at Jamestown. They sought
to unravel the mystery of that part of the first settlement which
disappeared beneath the eroding current of the James River during the
past 300 years. It has always been known that the island in the 17th
century was connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus extending to
Glasshouse Point, where a glassmaking venture took place in 1608. Over
this isthmus the "Greate Road" ran, and its traces have been discovered
on the island as far as the brick church tower. As the isthmus
disappeared at the close of the 17th century, the river continued to
erode the island headward and build it up at its downstream end, so that
the western and southern shores where the first settlement had been
built, were partly destroyed. Thus, the first fort site of 1607, of
which no trace has been found on land, is thought to have been eaten
away, together with the old powder magazine and much early 17th-century
property fronting on the river.

In a series of extensive tests for any possible trace of the 1607 fort
still remaining on land, several incidental discoveries of importance
were made. One was an Indian occupation site beneath a layer of early
17th-century humus, which, in turn, was covered by the earthen rampart
of a Confederate fort of 1861. This location is marked today by a
permanent "in-place" exhibit on the shore near the old church tower.
Here, in a cut-away earth section revealing soil zones from the present
to the undisturbed clay, evidence of 350 years of history fades away
into prehistory.

Within the enclosure of this same Confederate fort was found a
miraculously preserved pocket of 17th-century debris marking the site of
the earliest known armorer's forge in British America.

Just beyond, upriver, lie ruins of the Ludwell House and the Third and
Fourth Statehouses. In 1900-01, Col. Samuel H. Yonge, a U.S. Army
Engineer and a keen student of Jamestown history, uncovered and capped
these foundations after building the original seawall. A strange
discovery was made here in 1955 while the foundations were being
examined by archeologists for measured drawings. Tests showed that no
less than 70 human burials lay beneath the statehouse walls, and an
estimated 200 more remain undisturbed beneath the remaining structures
or have been lost in the James River. Here may be the earliest cemetery
yet revealed at Jamestown - one so old that it was forgotten by the
1660's when the Third Statehouse was erected. It is, indeed, quite
possible that these burials, some hastily interred without coffins,
could date from the "starving time" of 1609-10, when the settlers strove
to dispose of their dead without disclosing their desperate condition to
the Indians.

[Illustration: JAMESTOWN EXPLORATION TRENCHES OF 1955 FROM THE AIR.
LANDMARKS ARE THE "OLD CYPRESS" IN THE RIVER, UPPER LEFT, THE
TERCENTENARY MONUMENT, AND THE STANDING RUIN OF THE 18TH-CENTURY AMBLER
HOUSE.]

The highlight of archeological discoveries at Jamestown is undoubtedly
the long-forgotten buildings themselves, ranging from mansions to simple
cottages. Since no accurate map of 17th-century "James Citty" is known
to survive, and as only a few land tracts, often difficult to adjust to
the ground, have come down to us, archeologists found that the best way
to discover evidence was to cast a network of exploratory trenches over
the area of habitation.

During its whole century of existence, the settlement was never an
integrated town. The first frame houses quickly rotted away or succumbed
to frequent fires. Brick buildings were soon erected, but probably not
twoscore ever stood at one time during the 17th century.

Bearing in mind that the massive church tower is the only 17th-century
structure remaining above ground today, and the only building whose
identity was therefore never lost, you will find only one other
identified with positive assurance - the Ludwell House - Third and Fourth
Statehouses row. The remaining 140 structures so far discovered by
excavating have no clear-cut identity with their owners. To complicate
matters more, bricks from many burned or dismantled houses were salvaged
for reuse, sometimes leaving only vague soil-shadows for the
archeologist to ponder. From artifacts associated with foundation
traces, relative datings and, usually, the use of the structure can be
deduced from physical evidence. Unless a contemporaneous map is someday
found, we shall know little more than this about the houses at Jamestown
except for the testimony of assorted hardware, ceramics, glassware,
metalware, and other imperishable reminders of 17-century arts and
crafts.


Churches

The first church service at Jamestown was held under a piece of
sailcloth in May 1607. The first frame church, constructed within the
palisades, burned with the entire first fort in January 1608, and was
eventually replaced by another frame structure after the fort was
rebuilt. The exact date of the first church to stand on a brick
foundation is uncertain, possibly 1639. Brick foundation traces,
uncovered in 1901 by John Tyler, Jr., a civil engineer who volunteered
his services for the Association for the Preservation of Virginia
Antiquities, lie behind the free-standing brick church tower which
remains the only standing ruin today. The modern brick structure and
roof enclose and protect the footing evidence of the walls of two
separate churches and a tile chancel flooring. Indication of fire among
these foundations was noted by Tyler.

[Illustration: A MANSION STRUCTURE OR PUBLIC BUILDING DATING FROM THE
SECOND QUARTER OF THE 17TH CENTURY. REBUILT ONCE AND BURNED ABOUT THE
TIME OF BACON'S REBELLION, 1676.]


Mansions

Despite official urgings that they build substantial town houses on
Jamestown Island, the first successful planters often preferred to build
on their holdings away from the capitol, once the Indian menace had
passed. Only 2 houses at Jamestown, designed for single occupancy, have
over 900 square feet of foundation area.

One was either a stately residence or a public building (area 1,350
square feet) located near Pitch and Tar Swamp, just east of the
Jamestown Visitor Center. Archeological evidence indicates that this
structure was first completed before the middle of the 17th century. It
was later reconstructed and enlarged about the beginning of the last
quarter, possibly during Bacon's Rebellion of 1676. Unmistakably, it
burned.

The second structure was a smaller (1,200 square feet), but imposing,
house located near the present shoreline, considerably downriver. One of
the features of this second mansion was a basement in the center of
which was sunk a square, brick-lined recess, 3.3 feet on a side and 2.7
feet deep. Among the many wine bottle fragments in this recess were 3
bottle seals - 1 with "WW" and 2 with "FN" stamped on them. Whether or
not this mansion can be associated with Sir Francis Nicholson, the last
governor resident at Jamestown (who moved the capital to Williamsburg),
we do not know. Artifacts found in the refuse indicate this house was
dismantled, not burned, shortly before or after the turn of the 17th
century. The mystery of the little brick-lined recess is not entirely
solved, but it is probable that here was a primitive cooler, deep below
the house, in which perishable foods or wines were stored.

[Illustration: JAMESTOWN HOUSE TYPES: SIMPLE FRAME, HALF-TIMBER, BRICK,
AND ROW. (Conjectural sketches by Sidney E. King.)]

[Illustration: EXCAVATED FOUNDATION OF A LATE 17TH-CENTURY PROTOTYPE OF
THE BALTIMORE AND PHILADELPHIA ROW HOUSES. SIX FAMILIES COULD HAVE LIVED
HERE.]


Row Houses

Although row houses - a continuous row of joined family residences on
unit foundations - were a common city feature in 17th-century England,
apparently they did not become popular at Jamestown. But the brick
foundation of one true multiple-family unit has been uncovered, and two
others approach this category, thus providing the true precedent for the
row houses which came to characterize miles of Baltimore and
Philadelphia streets, and are a familiar pattern of some modern duplex
apartment units.

This Jamestown row house is probably the most impressive foundation on
the island. It is 16 feet long and 20 feet wide (inside measurement),
situated east of the Tercentenary Monument, facing south, well back from
the river and "the back streete." A cellar and a great fireplace
terminate the east end, and 9 other fireplaces are evident in 4 main
divisions, which may have housed one family or more in each division.
Since artifact evidence relates it to the last quarter of the 17th
century, and possibly the beginning of the 18th, there would seem little
possibility of the row house having served as a public building or a
tavern. There is some evidence that at least part of the structure
burned.

Two other foundations might be classed as row houses, but are less
clearly delineated. One is the Last Statehouse Group of five units in
the APVA grounds.[1] The other multiple house is a 3-unit building
midway between the brick church and Orchard Run. This structure
generally fits the description of the First Statehouse in its 3-unit
construction and dimensions, and has long been thought to be the
original Statehouse building. The structure, however, is as close to the
present shoreline as the First Statehouse is recorded to have been in
1642 - a puzzling coincidence, if the factor of erosion is taken into
consideration.

[Footnote 1: After the Third Statehouse burned, it was replaced on the
same foundations by the Fourth (and last) Statehouse built on Jamestown
Island, which burned in 1698. The Fifth Statehouse, now reconstructed at
Williamsburg, also burned, continuing an unhappy tradition that includes
the destruction of the National Capitol at Washington in 1814 and the
Virginia Statehouse at Richmond in 1865.]


Single Brick Houses

These were once supposed to have been very common at Jamestown, but are
represented by only 12 foundations, not all of which have been
completely excavated. Like the other excavated structures, if these
houses can be related to the ownership of the land tracts on which they
once stood, we may someday know more of their possible identity.


Frame Houses

Partial or even whole brick footings do not always indicate brick houses
at Jamestown. Some 30 structures have been recorded which had brick
footings or isolated brick fireplace foundations, the appearance of
which suggests frame houses. These may be briefly classified as follows:

Brick, or brick-and-cobble, wall-footings with central chimney bases
of brick - 2.
Brick footing and outside chimney - 3.
Brick footing only - 10.
Brick chimney base alone remaining - 12.
Stone footing only - 1.
Cellar only, presumed to belong to frame or unfinished house, or to
have had all bricks salvaged - 1.
Burned earth floor area only remaining, presumed to mark a frame
house - 1.

Some of the structures encountered in the first explorations remain to
be more fully excavated and recorded. Structures in this category total
23.


Miscellaneous Structures

Because of the inadequacy of Jamestown remains and records, it is
difficult to determine the purposes for which the various outbuildings
were used. Doubtless, many outbuildings did exist for various purposes,
and probably most of them were not substantial enough to leave a trace.
Two clearly isolated, small structures properly called outbuildings
(discovered in 1955) are all that will be cited here. The first is the
large double-chimney foundation just beyond the southwest corner of the
mansion east of the museum. Undoubtedly this belonged to a detached
kitchen. The second is a small, but thick-walled, rectangular structure
of brick which may have been a food storehouse or even a powder
magazine.

[Illustration: ALTHOUGH MOST JAMESTOWN WORKSHOPS WERE PROBABLY MADE OF
FRAMEWORK AND WERE MERELY SHEDS, ONE BRICK FOUNDATION HAS THREE BRICK
FIREBOXES AND A LARGE BRICK CHIMNEY. THIS STRUCTURE WAS PROBABLY A BREW
HOUSE, BAKERY, OR DISTILLERY.]


Workshop Structures

Most of the early industries at Jamestown were undoubtedly housed in
perishable wooden structures that have left the least evident traces,
such as frame sheds for forges and wine presses, carpenters' shops, and
buildings used by various artisans and craftsmen. So far, only two
industrial structures are clearly recognizable (aside from kilns),
although their precise use is not certain.

One of these, on the edge of Pitch and Tar Swamp, was a nearly square,
tile-floored workshop with a rough but substantial brick foundation
supporting the framework of the walls. On the floor were 3 fireboxes, 2
of which were associated with a large chimney area. What was fabricated
here has not yet been determined, although ceramic firing, brewing,
distilling, and even ironworking, have been suggested. Proximity of
pottery and lime-burning kilns, and a small pit where iron may have been
smelted, may be significant.

A second, very fragmentary brick foundation close to the present
riverbank suggests a shop rather than a house, but lacks firebox
evidence or other identifying features. It may be 18th- rather than
17th-century.

[Illustration: NEAR THE FOUNDATION OF THE PROBABLE BAKE SHOP, A PAIR OF
KILNS ONCE SERVED FOR SLAKING LIME, AND PERHAPS FOR FIRING POTTERY.
BETWEEN THE KILNS WAS A FLAME-SCARRED PIT CONTAINING EVIDENCE OF
IRONWORKING AND THE ROASTING OF BOG ORE FOR IRON.]


Brick Walks or Paved Areas

It is difficult to assign a use for certain areas which have been paved
apparently with brick rubble, or, in more evident cases, by flatlaid
bricks. Four such paved areas have been discovered.


Brick Drains

Three brick drains, buried beneath the humus line, are identified with
17th-century houses.


Ice Storage Pit

So far unique on Jamestown Island is a circular unlined pit, 14 feet in
top diameter, excavated 7 feet into a sandy substratum, and
corresponding in general character to known 17th-and 18th-century ice
pits in England. This pit which lies 250 feet east of the Visitor Center
may have served a spacious house which once stood nearby. It may be
assumed that the missing surface structure was circular, probably of
brick, had a small door, and was roofed over with thatch or sod for
insulation.


Kilns

Both brick and lime kilns are present in the "James Citty" area, each
type being represented by four examples. The oldest of four brick kilns
so far discovered on the island is a small rectangular pit near Orchard
Run, excavated to a floor depth of 4 feet, which has been dated between
1607 and 1625 by associated cultural objects. This small pit, without
structural brick, was a brick-making "clamp," consisting of unfired
brick built up over two firing chambers. There is good evidence that a
pottery kiln was situated 30 feet west of the "industrial area."


Ironworking Pits

Also in the "industrial area" near Pitch and Tar Swamp, there is a
circular pit in which lime, bog iron, and charcoal suggest the
manufacture of iron. The previously mentioned pit within the area of the
Confederate Fort yielded sword parts, gun parts, bar iron, and small
tools, indicating a forge site, perhaps an armorer's forge.

[Illustration: MAKING POTTERY AT JAMESTOWN. (Conjectural sketch by
Sidney E. King.)]

[Illustration: HOW AN IRONWORKING PIT WAS USED. (From contemporary
sources.)]

[Illustration: CROSS SECTION OF A BRICK-CASED WELL AT JAMESTOWN.
(Conjectural sketch by Sidney E. King.)]

[Illustration: ONE OF THE INTRIGUING MYSTERIES OF JAMESTOWN IS HOW THE
LEFT LEG AND LEFT HALF OF A HUMAN PELVIS CAME TO BE THROWN WITH OTHER
REFUSE INTO A WELL BEHIND THE ROW HOUSE. THE LOGICAL INFERENCE IS THAT A


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Online LibraryJohn L. CotterNew Discoveries at Jamestown Site of the First Successful English Settlement in America → online text (page 1 of 5)