Captain John Smith's Adventures on the James
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Before determining to settle at Jamestown, the English sought a safe place to plant their colony further west along the James River. On that trip, John Smith and his fellow Englishmen found an Appamattuck Indian town in the vicinity of Bermuda Hundred.
Future Virginia governor George Percy recalled: "The eighth day of May we discovered [explored] up the River. We landed in the Countrey of Apamatica, at our landing, there came many stout and able Savages to resist us with their Bowes and Arrowes, in a most warlike manner ?Amongst the rest one of the chiefest standing before them crosselegged, with his Arrow readie in his Bow in one hand, and taking a Pipe of Tobacco in the other ?Wee made signes of peace, which they perceived in the end, and let us land in quietnesse."
John Smith would return in 1608 to trade with the Appamattuck for corn to sustain the near-starving colonists.
Capt. John Smith's Trail
John Smith knew the James River by its Algonquian name: Powhatan, the same as the region's paramount chief. Smith traveled the river many times between 1607 and 1609, trading with Virginia Indians to ensure survival at Jamestown. What he saw of Virginia's verdant woodlands and pristine waters inspired him to explore the greater Chesapeake Bay, chronicling its natural wonders.
(sidebar)Why "Bermuda Hundred"?
Following the first lean years of the Jamestown colony, the English began to expand their settlements. Tobacco farming promised great wealth but required both land and labor. The Virginia Company of London offered land - a rare commodity in England - to intrepid investors, provided they could recruit laborers to work the plantations.
Echoing an old term for political units, these farms were called "hundreds." The name may have stuck because a plantation owner received 100 acres for each immigrant he recruited.
The name Bermuda Hundred also alludes to the Bermuda Islands, where a supply ship bound for Jamestown was shipwrecked in 1609. Led by Sir Thomas Gates, the survivors escaped in ships built from the wreckage and arrived at Jamestown on June 7, 1610. William Strachey's account of the ordeal inspired Shakespeare's The Tempest. When Bermuda Hundred was established in 1613, Gates was serving as the Virginia colony's 3rd governor.