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The First Settlement and the First Girl Scout Cookies

March 14, 2013

Virginia – Friday, March 8

After seeing all those Coast Guard trainees last night, I was inspired to make a donation to them. I would like to have met them after their training exercise out on the cold water with hot coffee and hot chocolate, but since that wasn’t possible, I tried to read up about the training facilities a bit. There were no links for community help or donations or anything, so this morning I called them, and the security officer thought it sounded like a nice idea, and he transferred me to the gym area in the recreational building, which is part of their MWR program (for Morale, Well-Being and Recreation – and where special activities sometimes take place), so I was going to go through security and leave the donation in the gym. But when I got there and went into the security office, they told me they were unable to accept the donation after all, because there would be so much red tape with it – it would have to go to the company commander and on and on – and it just became too complicated. And that didn’t make sense to some of them either, but, no donation for the Coast Guard Training Center. I guess it’s the thought that counts!

After that, Tula and I walked a couple miles around Yorktown by daylight – and watched a big ship come under the drawbridge, which had to be opened.

Then I headed for Jamestown. There are 2 Jamestown places to visit – one is Historic Jamestowne, which is the actual site of the fort and original colony, located on an island that is reached by crossing an isthmus. And the other is Jamestown Settlement, which is a recreation of the ships, and forts, and people dressed in 1700s clothes demonstrating life back then. I knew I wouldn’t have time to get to both, and I opted for Historic Jamestowne – being able to walk where America’s first settlers lived and walked was the big draw! Historic Jamestowne is a national park site, and after a quick stop in the visitor center, I scurried out to join a ranger-led tour that had just left. The ranger was very enthusiastic with his settlement story, and I really enjoyed the tour. When the settlers first arrived in 1607 (13 years before New England settlers), they apparently knew they wanted to settle on the James River, and it had also been suggested that they leave the “naturals” (their word for Native Americans) alone, and not take their space. But the “naturals” seemed to be living near all the desirable land on both sides of the river, so the new settlers stayed on their ships for a few days to figure things out. In the end, they decided to build their settlement on the only “vacant” ground they could find – an island in the middle of the river. Which, as they discovered later, had no fresh water and was bug-infested, causing a lot of illnesses. And, it happened to be the hunting grounds for all the Powhatan Indians. So there were many challenges and nearly half of the original settlers died. Originally the settlers lived in a small fort for protection; later they moved a few hundred yards down the island to New Town, and there are still foundations of the homes built in New Town. One of the original “roads” from the fort to the New Town is still there, and I enjoyed walking on a 400 year old road. The only original structure still standing is a church tower. But it’s big and still looks sturdy, which is pretty amazing considering how old it is. The nearby reconstructed church has the original foundation stones under glass by the pews. The ranger also talked about Captain John Smith, and debunked the myth that he and Pocahontas had a romantic relationship as suggested in the Disney movie – which I watched numerous times when the girls were young! When 27 yr. old Capt. John Smith was settling Jamestown, Pocahontas was a girl of 11 and there was no romantic attachment. When he returned to England years later, he left the colony in the care of John Rolfe, and he married Pocahontas, who by then was 18 or so. It is said to be America’s first interracial marriage.

I did quite a bit of walking on the park grounds, and Tula and I also walked around the 3 mile auto route on adjoining parts of the island, which in its natural state looked a lot like it did when the colonists first arrived – not very inviting! I went back to the park grounds for a little more walking, and then ran out of time to go to the “archearium” to see some of the 1 million artifacts that have been discovered since 1994, when the Jamestown site was rediscovered. Before the 1990s, it had been determined that the original ground that the Jamestown fort stood on was out in the middle of the river due to all the natural changes over 400 years. But a very determined scientist set out to prove them wrong, and sure enough, all the recent excavations have proved that the site is not under water and the original post ends for the fort were found, along with artifacts they continue to uncover.

Since I’m on an American journey, and Jamestown was the first American settlement, it was only logical to make a donation to Preservation Virginia, the organization which is overseeing the excavation of all the Jamestown artifacts!

By this time I only had a little over 1/2 hour to meet up with my cousin Sandra in Williamsburg, where we were going to have a light dinner at one of the old taverns. On the way there, Tara called and I was talking with her, and getting a little lost finding the restaurant I was heading for, so it was safer to just find a place to pull over while I talked. I pulled into a bank parking lot while we finished out phone conversation, and when we were done, I turned the corner at the bank to get back on the road, and saw some girl scouts with a table set up selling cookies! I knew it was Girl Scout Cookie Sale time again, and I had told myself that I would stop at the first group of girl scouts I saw, to buy one box of cookies, and make a donation. And that’s what I did! The girls, and the 2 moms with them, were really excited about the donation, and they had some questions about what I was doing, and we took some pictures. They have some fun plans for Troop 1231, and I’m happy they were the girl scout troop I ran into first. That was unexpected, and a fun stop even if it made me a little late for dinner! I hope you girls sell lots and lots of cookies – I would have bought more, but then I would have eaten them all and that’s not a good thing!!

Sandra and I were able to get a table at Shields Tavern in historic Williamsburg, and they try to make the dining experience as authentic as possible for the mid-1700s. The tavern rooms were in an original building with a lot of small rooms and the only light was candlelight. All the servers were wearing 1700s clothing, and there was a guy playing an old Stradivarius guitar (I associate Stradivarius only with violins, but that isn’t the case) and singing songs from the 1700s – one of which was Shenandoah which started as a sea chantey before migrating to the mountains. We had some really good soup (actually a shrimp/crawfish stew but it was like a thick tomato soup) and bread and yummy fresh berry crisp for dessert. Our server told us the history of the rooms we were in, and it felt like we really were back in the old days! We had spent a lot of time in the restaurant and it had gotten late, and they were getting ready to close. It was great having dinner 2 nights in a row with a cousin I don’t see as often as I’d like to 🙂 I only saw a little of Williamsburg when I drove in, and I loved what I saw, so my plans for tomorrow abruptly changed!
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