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Meet the History

Programming at Historic Jamestowne includes living history with experts from the Native American community and the history of 17th-century English culture. Visitors can often ask direct questions about the daily life of James Fort and the first colony in what would become the worldwide British Empire.
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Historic Jamestowne

Melanie Hagan is a veteran interpreter of the Algonquian Chesapeake. She is frequently at Historic Jamestowne to share her historical perspective of Virginia's earliest inhabitants. As she told a crowd about how Powhatan women used an animal’s brains to soften its hide to make clothes, she said, “It’s a strenuous process. You need a lot of upper body strength to do it. These aren’t little princesses, these are working women.”

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Jamestown Fort

Anas Todkill was in the first group of English settlers at Jamestown. Todkill often shows guests objects such as arms and armor, ceramics, tools and trade items that were important to a settler's survival. He also helped Captain John Smith explore the area and learn about the Virginia Indians who lived in it. Todkill is portrayed by Willie Balderson, Colonial Williamsburg's manager of public history development.

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In September, guests can meet Governor William Berkeley to hear an accounting of his time in Virginia and the unhappy circumstances that led to "Bacon's Rebellion" in 1676. When violence between settlers and Indians erupted on the Virginia frontier, he was slow to respond. Nathaniel Bacon organized an illegal troop of Indian fighters and disregarded the governor's warnings. Berkeley declared Bacon a rebel, dissolved the General Assembly, and open warfare led to the burning of Jamestown!

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Meet Don Diego de Molina, a Spanish commander who was captured in Virginia in June 1611, when his warship anchored near the English Fort Algernon at Point Comfort near the mouth of the James River. When Don Diego de Molina and two of his crew stepped ashore, they were surrounded by 50 Englishmen and marched off as prisoners. Some of the details we know today about life in the fort come from reports Molina smuggled out of the colony and back to Spain during his many years in captivity!

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Anne Burras arrived in Virginia in 1608 as the 14-year-old maid to Martha Forrest in a settlement full of gentlemen seeking a quick fortune and quick return to England. Forrest was so ill from the Atlantic Ocean crossing, she died within a month in Virginia. Burras herself married carpenter John Laydon within two months of her arrival and gave birth to a daughter named Virginia in December 1609. Anne and John eventually had four daughters and owned hundreds of acres in the Henrico…

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James Fort Memorial Church

Joan Pierce was a dauntless Englishwoman of early Jamestown. Women rarely show up in the historic records of early 1600s Virginia, but through a variety of research this historic interpreter is able to recount the challenges of being one of the earliest female settlers in colonial Virginia. (Thanks to Chuck Durfor for this evocative image during the program in July 2015)

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