Sunday, February 2, 2014

1605 - The appeal of Northern Virginia

Northern Virginia was the name given to the upper part of lands granted in 1578 to Sir Humphrey Gilbert by Queen Elizabeth and to Sir Walter Raleigh in 1584. It was equivalent to current Maine and New Hampshire.
The French being very active since a few years in the region through the settling of many trading posts, the English urgently needed not to give way for fear of losing permanently an area that they considered to hold legally thanks to their Royal charter.

March 5, 1605 - Captain George Weymouth leaves Gravesend in the Thames Estuary aboard the Arcangel for an expedition which has to take him along coastal Maine. Backed by Thomas, Earl of Arundel and Earl of Southampton, it is overseen by Sir Ferdinando Gorges. Its purpose is to locate places propitious to the settlement of a colony.

Among the passengers was James Rosier, a gentleman newly converted to Catholicism hired by Arundel as naturalist and recorder. He had maybe, 3 years arlier, been a part of Gosnold’s trip to New England. Rosier published on the way back a complete report of the expedition covering both plants and animals collected as well as the Natives he had met.

George Weymouth (? -c.1612) 
He studied mathematics, navigation and shipbuilding before leaving to explore coastal North America. He set sail on May 2, 1602 at the head of an expedition funded by the East India Company intending to find the mythical Northwest Passage. Confident, Queen Elizabeth had given him a letter for the Emperor of China. He reached Hudson Strait on July 26, but was not able to cross it because of bad weather and a crew mutiny. Weymouth thought it best to turn back and explored the Labrador coast before returning to England. He was back to Dartmouth on September 5. He presented, next year, to king James 1 a manuscript entitled "The Jewells of Artes" dealing with navigation, shipbuilding and fortifications.

Sir Ferdinando Gorges (1565-1647)  
Born into a prosperous family from Somerset, he chose to enter the military career and served at first against the Spaniards, in Holland. He had afterwards the opportunity to fight in France beside Henri IV in his war of accession to the throne. Knighted by Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, he was appointed by Queen Elizabeth commander of the fort of Plymouth with assignment to organize the defence of the western counties in readiness for a Spanish invasion. He was however more or less directly involved in the Earl of Essex rebellion but decided, in front of charges of treason, to testify against his former protector, at the time of his trial. This experience convinced afterward Gorges to side with the Crown but he found again the command of Plymouth only in 1603, after the accession to the throne of James 1. It is from this time that arose his interest for colonization.

May 17th, 1605 - Captain George Weymouth lands on Monhegan Island, 12 miles off the Maine coast.

This island had already been explored in 1603 by Martin Pring and one year later by Samuel de Champlain. It was then of use as seasonal post to French or Spanish fishermen for fish drying.
Its name derived from the Algonquian word Monchiggon meaning " the island towards the sea ". It was afforested and on shores grew currants, raspberries, peas, rosehips, strawberry plants and wild grapevine. As agreed, captain Weymouth made experiment the quality of soils and waters. Seeds grew with an exceptional speed.

May 30, 1605 - Captain Weymouth and 13 of his men go aboard a shallop to explore the dry land. They reach the mouth of a river that they name St Georges and anchor at a place they call Pentecost harbor when they are approached for the first time by Natives come to meet them in birch-bark canoes.

This meeting was friendly and Weymouth offered to the Indians knives, combs, mirrors, bracelets and various things which obviously seemed to interest them. They were dressed in beaver and deer pelts and wore leather sandals. None had a beard but they had on the other hand long black hair. The English were impressed by the care and skill brought to make their boats as well as by the quick-wittedness of their hosts.

June 1, 1605 - Weymouth barters again with the Natives. He gives them knives and various junk items, receiving in exchange beavers, otter or sable pelts and some tobacco.

The English built their first real contact with the Indians, exchanging words, comparing weapons and the way to use them.These good starting relations however had to worsen when Weymouth and his men seized 5 Indians. According to Rosiers, the author of the Voyage Relation, the purpose was to bring them back to England to teach them the language in order to know more about their rules, their customs and their people. The captured Indians were Manida, Skidwarres, Nahanada, Assacumet and Tisquantum (Squanto). 

June 11, 1605- Weymouth and 17 of his men sail up St George River to explore neighboring mountains (probaby Union and Camden Mountains) but hot weather obliges them to turn back. 
The country proved however almost heavenly and all showed enthusiastic in the idea that they have never seen in their journeys a so fascinating nature.

June 16, 1605 - After erecting a cross (probably on Allen's Island), Captain Weymouth decides to weigh anchor and head back to England.

July 18, 1605 - Weymouth is back to Dartmouth.

It seems, according to the testimonies, that the five Indians were treated well by Sir Ferdinando Gorges and all could return home. Nahanada accompanied in 1606 captain Hanham and his assistant Martin Pring for a trip to the Kennebec area. Skidwarres took part in the expedition organized in 1607 by George Popham and Raleigh Gilbert and brought them up to the village of Nahanada, become the leader of a hundred Indians'community, which reserved them a warm welcome.

October 30, 1605 - Sir John Zouche of Codnor, Derbyshire and Captain George Weymouth associate to create a private colony in Northern Virginia  (New England).

This principle was however opposed by John Popham who defended public colonies placed under the responsibility of great incorporated companies. The second idea prevailed.
As chief-commander, Sir John took over at his own expenses the setting of two ships with all necessary supplies and equipment as well as the recruitment of 200 men and a sum of £ 100 granted to Captain Weymouth
The project was not without ambition but the Guy Fawkes Plot case that broke at the end of the year brought it in the background until it was given up in favor of the Royal Charter granted on April 10, 1606, to the London and Plymouth Companies represented by Sir Thomas Gates, George Somers, Richard Hakluyt, Thomas Hanham, Raleigh Gilbert, William Parker, George Popham and others.

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