Arriving in Virginia; an excerpt from “A True Relation of such occurrences and accidents of note, as hath hapned in Virginia” by John Smith (1608)


In this excerpt from “A True Relation of such occurrences and accidents of note, as hath hapned in Virginia, since the first planting of that Collony, which is now resident in the South part thereof, till the last returne,” John Smith describes how the Jamestown colonists first arrived to Virginia in April 1607. Captain Christopher Newport, Captain Gabriel Archer, Edward Maria Wingfield, and others travel up the James River and encounter the Indians of Tsenacomoco, who entertain the Englishmen and also attack them.


Kinde Sir, commendations remembered, etc. You shall understand that after many crosses in the downes by tempests, wee arrived safely uppon the Southwest part of the great Canaries: within foure or five daies after, we set saile for Dominica, the 26. of Aprill: the first land we made, wee fell with Cape Henry, the verie mouth of the Bay of Chissiapiacke, which at that present we little expected, having by a cruell storme bene put to the Northward: anchoring in this Bay twentie or thirtie went a shore with the Captain, and in comming aboard, they were assalted with certaine Indians, which charged them within Pistoll shot: whereupon Captaine Archer and Mathew Morton were shot: whereupon Captaine Newport seconding them, made a shot at them, which the Indians little respected, but having spent their arrowes retyred without harme. And in that place was the Box opened, wherein the Counsell for Virginia was nominated: and arriving at the place where wee are now seated, the Counsell was sworne, the President elected, which for that yeare was Maister Edward Maria Wingfield, where was made choice for our situation, a verie fit place for the erecting of a great cittie, about which some contention passed betwixt Captaine Wingfield and Captaine Gosnold. Notwithstanding all our provision was brought a shore, and with as much speede as might bee wee went about our fortification.

The two and twenty day of Aprill, Captain Newport and my selfe with divers others, to the number of twenty two persons, set forward to discover the River, some fiftie or sixtie miles, finding it in some places broader, and in some narrower; the Countrie (for the moste part) on each side plaine high ground, with many fresh Springes, the people in all places kindely intreating us, daunsing and feasting us with strawberries, Mulberies, Bread, Fish,a nd other their Countrie provisions whereof we had plenty: for which Captaine Newport kindely requited their least favours with Bels, Pinnes, Needles, beades or Glasses, which so contented them that his liberallitie made them follow us from place to place, and ever kindely to respect us. In the midway staying to refresh our selves in a little Ile foure or five savages came unto us which described unto us the course of the River, and after in our journey, they often met us, trading with us for such provision as wee had, and ariving at Arsatecke, hee whom we supposed to bee the chiefe King of all the rest, moste kindely entertained us, giving us a guide to go with us up the River to Powhatan, of which place their great Emperor taketh his name, where he that they honored for King used us kindely. But to finish this discoverie, we passed on further, where within a mile we were intercepted with great craggy stones that in midst of the river, where the water falleth so rudely, and with such a violence, as not any boat can possibly passé, and so broad disperseth the streame, as there is not past five or six Foote at a low water, and to the shore, scarce passage with a barge, the water floweth foure foote, and the freshes by reason of the Rockes have left markes of the inundations 8. or 9. foote: The south side is plaine low ground, and the north side high mountains, the rockes being of a gravelly nature, interlaced with many vains of glistring spangles.

That night we returned to Powhatan: the next day (being Whitsunday after dinner) we returned to the fals, leaving a mariner in pawn with the Indians for a guide of theirs. Hee that they honoured for King followed us by the river. That afternoone we trifled in looking upon the Rockes and river (further he would not goe) so there we erected a crosse, and that night taking our man at Powhatans, Captaine Newport congratulated his kindenes with a Gown and a Hatchet: returning to Arsetecke, and stayed there the next day to observe the height thereof, and so with many signes of love we departed. The next day the Queene of Apamatuck kindely intreated us, her people being no lesse contented then the rest, and from thence we went to another place, (the name whereof I doe not remember) where the people shewed us the manner of their diving for Mussel, in which they fine Pearles.

That night passing the Weanock some twentie miles from our Fort, they according to their former churlish condition, seemed little to affect us, but as wee departed and lodged at the point of Weanocke, the people the next morning seemed kindely to content us. Yet we might perceive many signes of a more Jealousie in them then before, and also the Hinde that the King of Arseteck had given us, altered his resolution in going to our Fort, and with many kinde circumstances left us there. This gave us some occasion to doubt some mischief at the Fort, yet Captaine Newport intended to have visited Paspahegh and Tappahanocke, but the instant change of the winde being faire for our return we repaired to the fort with all speed, where the first we heard was that 400. Indians the day before had assalted the fort, and supprised it. Had not God (beyond al their expectations) by meanes of the shippes at whom they shot with their Ordinances and Muskets, caused them to retire, they had entred the fort with our own men, which were then busied in setting Corne, their armes being then in drie-fats and few ready but certain Gentlemen of their own, in which conflict, most of the Counsel was hurt, a boy slaine in the Pinnas, and thirteene or fourteene more hurt. With all speede we pallisadoed our Fort: (each other day) for sixe or seaven daies we had alarums by ambuscadoes, and foure or five cruelly wounded by being abroad: the Indians losse wee know not, but as they report three were slain and divers hurt.

Captaine Newport having set things in order, set saile for England the 22 of June, leaving provision for 13. or 14 weeks.

John Smith writes "A True Relation of such occurences and accidents of note, as hath hapned in Virginia" describing the arrival of residents to Virginia.
APA Citation:
Smith, John. Arriving in Virginia; an excerpt from “A True Relation of such occurrences and accidents of note, as hath hapned in Virginia” by John Smith (1608). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
Smith, John. "Arriving in Virginia; an excerpt from “A True Relation of such occurrences and accidents of note, as hath hapned in Virginia” by John Smith (1608)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 21 May. 2024
Last updated: 2020, December 07
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