XI. The Fate of Jamestown
The Virginia Company of London was dissolved in 1624 and Jamestown became a royal colony under the control of King James I. By this time, the Jamestown population was growing rapidly with a large influx of English immigrants. The community had long before outgrown the confines of the original fort structure. Jamestown was the colonial capital with brick stores and homes lining its streets, but colonists had spread far beyond Jamestown. People seeking land for tobacco migrated into Maryland, central and northern Virginia, and south into Carolina. In Virginia, however, Jamestown remained the seat of the General Assembly and urban society.
In the 1670s, Nathaniel Bacon led a group of insurgents in an attack, known as Bacon’s Rebellion, against the appointed governor, Sir William Berkeley. During the conflict, rebels completely destroyed the town of Jamestown by setting fires. When Governor Berkeley regained control of Jamestown, he tried to rebuild quickly with wooden structures. Legislative acts in 1680 and 1690 and royal instructions from 1692 reaffirmed Jamestown as the colonial capital and its leaders attempted to rebuild in brick, but the town never fully recovered.
By 1697, sentiments leaned toward moving the capital of the colony to Middle Plantation, the location of the newly established College of William and Mary, named for King William III and Queen Mary II of England. When the Jamestown statehouse burned in 1698, this idea gained more support. In 1699 the General Assembly moved the capital of Virginia to Middle Plantation, renamed Williamsburg after King William III. Almost immediately, the town lots of Jamestown were absorbed into two large plantations, and Jamestown as an urban center ceased to exist.
Although families were not based around Jamestown any longer, the women who lived on large plantations or farms performed the same duties. They were in charge of the household management, the manufacture of goods for their families, and the care of their children. As the Jamestown settlement faded away, women’s roles remained an integral part of colonial society.
Although the women of Jamestown were never as well known as their male counterparts, their presence was important to the success of the original settlement. Without women, the Jamestown colony never would have achieved the social stability and permanence that is key to civilization.