Credit: The New York Public Library, Mid-Manhattan Library Picture collection; published 1876
In 1607, a group of settlers first landed on Jamestown Island, approximately 60 miles from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Almost immediately, the colonists were under attack from the Algonquian natives. Disease, famine and the continuing Indian attacks took their toll on the population. In the winter after Jamestown colony leader John Smith departed for England in 1609, only 60 of the original 214 Jamestown settlers survived. Though Jamestown struggled for decades, there were some years of prosperity following the marriage of Pocahontas, daughter of the Algonquian chief Powhatan, to John Rolfe.
For a brief period during the 16th century, Virginia was the only English colony in North America. The first settlement was established in 1587 on Roanoke Island, in what is now North Carolina. By the 1600s, the Virginia colony comprised the entire coast of North America, including the shoreline of Acadia, and a vast area of inland Canada. In 1607, settlements were established at Jamestown and at the Popham colony, but only Jamestown survived. By 1620, the portion of Virginia north of the 39th parallel became New England. Despite the emergence of other English colonies in North America, the Virginia colony was by far the most influential in the 17th and 18th centuries in defining the country’s social and cultural character leading up to the Revolutionary War. It was in Virginia that colonial governments first established slave codes, which became more extensive and were later adopted by other colonies.