May 24, 2008
|This time we went to Jamestown Settlement - Saturday morning, May 24
This morning we got up and out early. We have a lot to do today. We are returning to Jamestown to see Jamestown Settlement and we are then going to drive across the Chesapeake Bay bridge/tunnel and get back to the coast. In the mean time we have stops to make at Dodd RV in Newport News to pick up some cord Madolyn ordered to fix our shades and we want to stop at Costco in Norfolk to get gas and some other things we need. A busy day.
Newport News City Park nearly filled last night. Unbelievable! We headed to Williamsburg to pick up the Colonial Parkway and then drove that pristine corridor to the shores of the James River and Jamestown. This time we went straight to Jamestown Settlement.
We were able to upgrade our Yorktown ticket and save some money. Our first destination was the Gallery, where all the indoor exhibits are located. It’s a huge modern museum that goes on forever, with exhibit after beautiful exhibit until you get so burned out you have to go outside and take a break to clear your head.
Fortunately they don’t let you take pictures in the gallery, otherwise this thing would never end! Back outside we visited the Indian Village and the Waterfront. Classes of schoolchildren were everywhere, climbing on the boats and climbing ladders to tie on woven mats and make an Indian house. Both they and their adults seemed to enjoy it immensely.
The ships are full scale replicas of the Susan Constant (the large ship) and the Discovery, the Godspeed and the Elizabeth, all ships that braved the Atlantic Ocean to get here - and out there they must have looked and felt tiny and frail. In December 1606 the Susan Constant, the Discovery and the Godspeed left England with 105 colonists and their supplies and equipment aboard. At 116 feet Susan Constant was the flagship and the largest of the three ships, prepared to make a winter crossing of the North Atlantic Ocean with ships that were so small and primitive they were steered with a tiller and didn’t even have a wheel. You had to be pretty desperate to get out of England to face that!
The crossing took four months so they had to do it in the winter so they would have time to get established here before another winter set in. Dry land must have looked pretty good by the time they got here, but then the work began.
Fortunately for them the Indians were friendly at first, so they didn’t have to fight too. They soon screwed up that relationship, but by then they were well enough established to tough it out.
The colony was set up to be run by a small group of the upper class, but before long they had all died off or been ousted and only John Smith remained to take charge. He came in for a lot of criticism, and the investors didn’t like him because he wasn’t a ‘gentleman’ but he outlasted the gentlemen and if it wasn’t for him the colony would probably have gone the way of Raleigh’s Roanoke venture. Smith also left good records of the times and events.
The Indian Village consisted of hunting camp structures and small shelters, combined with full sized houses. The coverings were woven mats tied onto a framework of sticks and layered so as to be as waterproof as possible. They kept a fire going on the dirt floor all the time, and the only provision for getting rid of smoke was a hole in the roof so the insides were very smoky. They had beds made of a wooden frame, and on those they used the skins of furred animals they had killed. During the summer months they harvested plants and berries, and put in a stock of meat for the winter, and these were preserved by drying and smoking. Not an easy life, but not a bad one either in this fairly temperate climate.
To see Jamestown, Williamsburg and Yorktown and really do them justice you would need at least a month. There is so much information here - and all of it interesting and important.
The quality of presentation is unparalleled in any museums we have ever seen, with the possible exception of the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, Illinois. Museums are no longer dusty collections of poorly displayed artifacts. The museums of today are bright, engaging venues that suck you in to their colorful halls and spit you out hours later a better person than when you went in.
They live and breathe the dramas they portray, and turn us all into amateur historians. By noon our brains were on overload, and it was time to leave anyway, so we got on the road and headed back to Newport News where Dodd RV is located, and where our special ordered shade cord and spools were supposed to be waiting. We found the dealership and picked up the stuff, and then got on Highway 64 and headed for Norfolk.
On the way we had to cross what we thought was a bridge, but in reality turned out to be a three mile tunnel. By the time we realized that it was too late to stop and turn off our propane, so we went through the tunnel illegally, but we didn’t crash or burn, and we were really glad to emerge back into the daylight unharmed, and unarrested.
The next page deals with the BIG tunnel crossing.