James City (Virginia Company)

James City (or James Cittie as it was then called) was one of four incorporations established in the Virginia Colony in 1619 by the proprietor, the Virginia Company. The plantations and developments were divided into four "incorporations" or "citties" [sic], as they were called. These were Charles City, Elizabeth City, Henrico City, and James City.[1] James City included the seat of government for the colony at Jamestown. Each of the four "citties" [sic] extended across the James River, the main conduit of transportation of the era.

In 1634, under Royal authority, a portion became James City Shire, later the County of James City (aka James City County). James City was established in 1619, along with 3 more. In 1634, it was abolished in favor of more counties. April 1623, the Privy Council appointed the proposal and commissioned a compromise. During the re-establishment, the Crown took over the company through a new charter similar to the one of 1606. The company refused this charter, causing the crown to issue a writ of quo warrant for annulment of the charter, ending the Virginia Company in May, 1624.[2]

Early events

In December, 1609, a fleet commanded by Gates set out from Plymouth, England, carrying 500 settlers, food, arms, and equipment to Jamestown, only to meet huge disaster. The ship hit a reef, causing damage and scattering the survivors. In May 16, 1610, they built James Fort, later renamed as Jamestown Colony. This became the first permanent English American settlement.[3]

James City's survival  was profoundly influential to America future as it allowed Virginia to emerge as the richest and most populous of the British mainland colonies with the first English language, law, institution, and  Protestant Church. It blossomed into a vibrant political culture in Jamestown in 1619, even compared to other British colonies which lead in time to new republican ideals which found their fulfillment in the foundation of United States.[3]

Starving Time

The Starving Time was an event that took place during years 1606-1610. It resulted from shortages of food, fractured leadership, and a siege by Powhatan Indian warriors. The colonists struggled to maintain enough food to sustain themselves, putting them in dire need. Relations were strained with the Virginia Indian tribes, their most likely trading partners, and those relations worsened. The severe famine affected the entire region.[4]

Early Indian conflict

Conflict between the colony and the Powhatan Indians lead to bloodshed, increasing the mortality rate due to disease and starvation.[5] The Powhatans launched a mass attack on Jamestown. During the conflict, Pocahontas was kidnapped and made an uneasy truce with her father which brought short peace between the tribe and settlers. However, after Pocahontas' death, new tensions began to rise between the colony and Indians. This conflict grew worse after her father died shortly after Pocahontas death. Her father's death caused the downward spiral of Indian-English relations that led to the uprising of March, 1622.[6]

Massacre event

March 1622, the local tribes launched a major attack, massacring nearly 350 settlers by the time it was done. During the great massacre, the company went bankrupt, while Sandy's unpopularity prompted a royal investigation. This event combined with the subsequent high death rate in 1622-1623, caused it to lose its rule and ended the company.[2]


James City was a modest farm area with multiple small plantations containing 250 acres of land. The chief crop was tobacco which remained the cornerstone of Virginia economy for 200 years.[7] James City, itself, sold 60,000 pounds of tobacco to England by 1622. During the early 1620s, tobacco sold for approximately £200-£1,000 for single crops.[2] After Bacon's Rebellion, the demand for more workers was required, so Jamestown brought over Africans from Africa to be sold for labor.[8]


  1. "How Counties Got Started in Virginia". virginiaplaces.org. Retrieved 9 September 2010.
  2. Macpherson, Heidi Slettedahl; Kaufman, Will (October 2005). "The State of (Dis)Union: American Studies in Britain". Prospects. 30: 27–43. doi:10.1017/s0361233300001964. ISSN 0361-2333.
  3. Donnelly, Ralph W. (1959). "The Confederate Lead Mines of Wythe County, Va". Civil War History. 5 (4): 402–414. doi:10.1353/cwh.1959.0019. ISSN 1533-6271.
  4. "Starving", How Food Made History, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, pp. 215–236, 2011-10-05, doi:10.1002/9781444344677.ch10, ISBN 9781444344677
  5. Deal, D. (2006-09-01). "A Land as God Made It: Jamestown and the Birth of America". Journal of American History. 93 (2): 493–494. doi:10.2307/4486246. ISSN 0021-8723.
  6. "The Facts on File encyclopedia of word and phrase origins". Choice Reviews Online. 42 (01): 42–0005–42-0005. 2004-09-01. doi:10.5860/choice.42-0005. ISSN 0009-4978.
  7. Mancall, Peter C. (December 2007). "Savagery in Jamestown:"George Percy's 'Trewe Relacyon'": A Primary Source for the Jamestown Settlement";A New World: England's First View of America;Writings, with Other Narratives of Roanoke, Jamestown, and the First English Settlement of America;The Journals of Captain John Smith: A Jamestown Biography". Huntington Library Quarterly. 70 (4): 661–670. doi:10.1525/hlq.2007.70.4.661. ISSN 0018-7895.
  8. Cotter, John L. (March 1957). "Excavations at Jamestown, Virginia. Site of the First Permanent English Settlement in America". Antiquity. 31 (121): 19–24. doi:10.1017/s0003598x00027022. ISSN 0003-598X.

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