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 John Smith

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John Smith

  • Birth 1580 Lincolnshire, England
  • Death 21 Jun 1631 London, City of London, Greater London, England
  • Burial London, City of London, Greater London, England
  • Memorial ID 1936

Jamestown founder, Folk Person - Years after Columbus discovered America, people from Europe came to the New World looking for a better life and their new settlements became colonies. They came from France, England and Spain. The first permanent English settlement was in Virginia called Jamestown and its leader was Captain John Smith. He was born in 1580 in Willoughby, England leaving home at age 16 after his father died. He began his travels by joining volunteers in France who were fighting for Dutch independence from Spain. Two years later, he set off for the Mediterranean Sea, working on a merchant ship. He joined Austrian forces to fight the Turks in the 'Long War.' A valiant soldier, he was promoted to Captain while fighting in Hungary. Returning to England, John Smith joined an expedition setting sail for America for the express purpose of colonization while seeking gold. Surmising it would be an easy task, the group really had no desire to work or colonize in the new world. Upon finding the gold, they planned to return to England as rich men. Sailing in three tiny ships, the trip took four months and finally reached the American shore at a point which was the entry to Chesapeake Bay. They sailed into the bay proceeding up a river which they named the 'James.' They selected an island site and called it Jamestown. Hostile Indians attacked and their food ran out leaving them to beg from the Indians. Many people became sick and died. The Colony was on the verge of extinction but John Smith took charge with the motto, 'He who will not work, shall not eat.' The party obeyed him and began cutting down trees, clearing the land and planting corn. The colony thrived while Smith explored the region looking for a way to the Pacific. He became a friend of Pocahontas and her tribe. He made maps and kept a diary of his activities while trading with the Indians. Injured while scouting, he was forced to return to England. With no leader, the little colony suffered misfortune. Indians plundered the village. Food was scarce and the settlers began starving to death. Only sixty of the five hundred colonists were left when supply ships with men and provisions came at last from England. Captain John Smith recovered from his injuries after returning to England but would never again see his little colony. He was sent by the king on another expedition to the New World. He explored the shores of Canada and New England while studying each region, making maps and compiling a diary. Upon return to England, he spent the remainder of his life writing about his life, his stories laced with embellishment and falsification. Epilogue: excerpts from his stories - A few of his claimed many adventures: 'While living in France still a young boy, I was robbed and carried to a dense forest. Found by a kind farmer, he offered me a home but I exclaimed! No, no, I want adventure. I will look for it. I will find it.' On a trip from France to the Holy Land: 'I was thrown into the sea but swam to shore and saved myself.' War against the Turks: 'While fighting off the Turks, I killed three, however, overwhelmed, I was captured and sold as a slave'. While in Virginia: 'I was captured by the Indians and they took me to their chief Powhatan - I was bound with ropes, then laid on the ground as they prepared to kill me with clubs - At this moment a little ten-year old Indian girl rushed in, threw her arms around me and begged the stern chief to spare my life - This little girl was Pocahontas, the daughter of the Indian chief. Today, the flamboyant Captain John Smith is still given credit as the founder and savor of Jamestown. On the supposed site in Virginia are located museums, recreations of the Powahtan Indian Village, the three ships, Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery, which brought the first English settlers to the New World as well as a reconstructed storehouse, church, a number of houses and the wooden wall or fort which formed a protective triangle around the buildings.

Bio by: Donald Greyfield


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 1936
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for John Smith (1580–21 Jun 1631), Find A Grave Memorial no. 1936, citing St Sepulchre without Newgate Churchyard, London, City of London, Greater London, England ; Maintained by Find A Grave .