Today In History: Massacre Leaves 347 English Settlers Dead In Jamestown, Virginia (1622)

1622 Massacre In Jamestown. Public Domain

On this day in 1622, the Jamestown Massacre took place. The massacre was an unfortunate event and an economic setback that claimed the lives of 347 settlers residing in the colony of Virginia. 

The settlers of Jamestown had developed a good relationship with the local native tribes at the onset of the colony’s establishment. Interaction with the Indians disintegrated over the years for various reasons. One reason was rooted in a diplomatic marriage between Pocahontas and John Rolfe, a wealthy tobacco farmer. The confluence of Indian and colonist interests worked well for a spell, but things fell apart when Pocahontas died while abroad. Her brother was soon after made the head of the Powhatan Confederacy.

Jamestown Colony. Daily Beast

Since the onset of their arrival Virginia, settlers discovered that food was scarce and winters were harsh. Many of the English residents who made up the colony were indentured servants working in exchange for their passage to the New World. Upon arrival, they were given room and board for anywhere between three to seven years. In some fortunate cases, they might have been granted a stipend or land after years of servitude was completed.

The colony hit strides when things were well organized and went smoothly. Progress was hindered at other times from incompetency from the aristocracy. The purpose of the colony was economic and a good amount of time was lost while the colony struggled to find ways to turn a much-needed profit. Finally, to offset their losses, the governor handed out three-acre plots; farming of tobacco and other goods was successful and an economic upshift was the result.

Over the next few years, laws were put into place along with official government institutions. Voting rights were defined and there was even a protest by Polish workers dissatisfied with restrictions that forbid them from casting a ballot.  Ownership of land was made possible and to organize the land and the colonies the land they took up was divided into four parts. The colony had come into its own.

To prosper in these ways, the settlers had embarked on a path of perpetual expansion which encroached on native lands. A decision was made to forego negotiations. The confederacy of tribes wanted the colonists gone.

Beginning at daybreak on March 22, Indians attacked rural plantations, hamlets, and villages along the James River. The event set the stage for years to come during which the colony would continue to endure and prosper despite an often tempestuous setting with their native neighbors.