Saturday, May 14, 2016

May 14, 1607 – Jamestown, Virginia, is settled as an English colony.

It wasn't the first European settlement, however. That honor belongs to the Spanish settlement of San Miguel de Gualdape in South Carolina (the actual location is not known but is somewhere near Georgetown), founded in in 1526. The Spanish then founded Pensacola, Florida, in 1559, and the first French settlement in North America came at Parris Island, South Carolina, in 1562. The French followed with Fort Caroline (now Jacksonville, Florida), on June 22, 1564, and the Spanish with St. Augustine, Florida, on September 20, 1565. The Spanish then founded San Antonio de Carlos 1566 in Estero Bay, Florida (just south of Fort Myers), and then Fort San Juan, North Carolina (near Joara) in 1567.

The first British attempt at colonization came in 1585 with the the Roanoke Colony in Virginia. Another French outpost was established on Sable Island off Nova Scotia in 1598, and the Spanish established San Juan de los Caballeros, New Mexico, the same year. Yet another at Tadoussac, Quebec, Canada, in 1600. In 1604, the French settled Saint Croix Island, Maine, and then Port-Royal, Nova Scotia, Canada, in 1605.

Interestingly, the third British colony was the Popham Colony in Maine, founded just a few months after Jamestown in 1607.

The reason why Jamestown is important is because it is non-military, and thrived. Nearly all the other colonies -- French, Spanish, or British -- were very small, with just a handful of people living there. Most functioned as trading outposts or places for fishing boats to stop for a while before returning to Europe. Some of the colonies were large but were decimated by disease, hurricanes, or starvation and did not thrive. (Pensacola lost a third of its 1,400 residents months after its founding due to a massive hurricane.)

Most of these other colonial outposts didn't last more than a few decades, while Jamestown prospered in time and still exists today. Pensacola, for example, was abandoned in 1562 despite having more than 1,000 colonists living there. Ft. Caroline was destroyed after just a year, despite having more than 250 colonists. St. Augustine was abandoned in 1566 after Native Americans burned it. The 700 residents of San Juan de los Caballeros abandoned their town in 1610, and established Santa Fe.

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