Saturday, February 8, 2014

1612 - First tobacco planting at Jamestown

February, 1612 - The dutch skipper Adriaen Block leaves Amsterdam aboard the Fortuyn setting sail to North America.

He had bought one month earlier this 110-ton ship for the Flemish merchant Arnout Vogels from Anvers and the Pelgrom Brothers. It is possible that he made a roundtrip to Nova Francia.

March 12, 1612 - King James 1 grants a third charter to the Virginia Company of London, including in particular the administration of Bermuda.

April 22, 1612 - George Percy, who governed Jamestown during the terrible starving time in winter 1609-1610, leaves to England.

After completing his service in Virginia, Percy returned to England but remained involved in the colonizing projects. In 1615, he proposed an expedition to Guiana but found no support. In 1620, he sold his shares in the Virginia Company and reenlisted in the army. Sent to the Netherlands in 1621 as the war between Spain and Dutch drew to an end, he commanded there a company until 1627. We ignore however if he died in England or in service abroad.
Percy, apparently never got married and had no child. We have no certainty about his relationship with Anne Floyd (1593-1618) who gave birth to Lady Anne Percy in 1608.

June 29, 1612 - In London, King James allows the organisation of a lottery intended to raise funds in favor of the Virginia settlement.

July 23, 1612 - Samuel Argall leaves England to Virginia aboard the Treasurer, a 130-ton vessel belonging to Sir Robert Rich, armed with 14 guns and carrying 60 men. He has just been appointed Admiral of Virginia with task to expel the French from all the territories claimed by England.

September 17, 1612 - Samuel Argall arrives in Virginia after a 57-day voyage, the fastest ever recorded.

Sir Samuel Argall (East Sutton (Kent) December 4, 158 - 24 janvier1626)
He was the eighth son of Richard Argall, a professional officer, and his wife Mary, the daughter of Sir Reginald Scott of Scott's Hall, Kent.
The archives of the "Guild of Merchant Tailors" point out that captain Samuel Argall was employed by the Virginia Company of London in 1609 and had been tasked to find a shorter route to go to Virginia and to catch sturgeon, known for its caviar. Having left the Azores, he headed westward and passed through Bermuda to reach directly Chesapeake Bay instead of following the traditional southern route down to the tropics. His trip lasted only nine weeks and six days including two weeks when he remained becalmed. This new route now enabled the English to avoid the Spaniards and to save their supplies. Upon his arrival in Jamestown, Argall found the new colony in the greatest distress. He left to the settlers all the foods that were not necessary for him and returned to England late summer with an important catch of sturgeon. 
Argall returned to Virginia in 1610 along with Lord De La Warr and was appointed a member of the council by the governor. Thereafter, he moved off his route during a trip to Bermuda and sailed northward up to the mouth of the Penobscot River, on the coast of Maine. The maps that he drew then were later helpful to captain John Smith and other navigators.

Jamestown settlement - John Rolfe experiments in his garden his first tobacco planting with seeds coming from Trinidad.

John Rolfe (Heacham (Norfolk) May 6, 1585 - Varina Farms March, 1622)
We owe mainly to him to have been the husband of Pocahontas and the first one to achieve successfully tobacco planting in Virginia. It was hitherto grown, further south, in territories under Spanish rule. Rolfe who, despite the Spanish ban, had succeeded to purchase seeds from Trinidad was one of these businessmen who saw the opportunity to curb imports from Spain by growing tobacco in the new English colony.
Embarked aboard the Sea Venture captained by Christopher Newport, he reached Jamestown on May 10, 1610 after the many adventures of a long journey during which he lost in particular his new-born daughter. His wife died soon after their arrival in Jamestown. At that time, the town was starved and only 60 settlers were still alive. It was decided to abandon the colony and to sail back to England when, shortly after, Lord De La Warr's coming allowed to determine its survival.
Once settled in Jamestown, Rolfe hurried to create his first tobacco plantation and succeeded from 1612 in producing a good quality mild.
[April 5, 1614]

The investors in the Virginia Company had hitherto never thought that colonization would also involve farming. It was first for them to make quick profits by trading high-value added goods such as fur or precious metals. The settlers owed until then their livelihoods only by buying their crops to Indians and John Smith who had understood the need to directly farm had been made many enemies within the colonists by forcing them to work the land and plow despite their gentlemen's status.

In 1612, Jamestown produced nevertheless almost nothing and trade connections had become non-existent. The idea of growing tobacco had already come up in minds because of its popularity in Europe but the one that grew the Indians of Virginia was too bitter to be sold in England. The Spanish held on the other hand a true monopoly on the sale of tobacco through the harvest of leaves providing a finer and more pleasant smoke. It was thanks to smuggled tobacco seeds from West Indies that John Rolfe experimented a local variety the quality of which soon had to envy nothing to the Spaniards.


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