Captain John Smith
( Originally Published 1900 )
WHEN Captain Christopher Newport's expedition of three little ships and one hundred and five men, sent out by the " Virginia Company" to colonize America, after four months' buffeting by the rough winter storms of the North Atlantic, sought a harbor of refuge in May, 1607, they sailed into Chesapeake Bay. These three little ships were the " Susan Constant," the "Good Speed" and the "Discovery;" and upon them came Captain John Smith, the renowned adventurer, who, with Newport, founded the first permanent settlement in North America, the colony of Jamestown. The king who chartered the " Virginia Company" was James I., and hence the name. As the fleet sailed into the "fair bay," as Smith called it, the headlands on either side of the entrance were named Cape Charles and Cape Henry, for the king's two sons. Their first anchorage was in a roadstead of such attractive character that they named the adjacent land Point Comfort, which it retains to this day; and farther inland, where Captain Newport afterwards came, in hopes of getting news from home, is now the busy port and town of Newport News. Sir Walter Raleigh, in the previous century, had sent out his ill-starred expedition to Roanoke, which had first entered this great bay ; and at the Elizabeth River, which they had named in honor of Raleigh's queen, they found the Indian village of Chesapik, meaning " the mother of waters;" and from this came the name of Chesapeake Bay. Raleigh had landed colonists here, as well as at Roanoke, and when the " Virginia Company" sent out New-port's expedition it laid three commands upon those in charge : First, they were to seek Raleigh's lost colonists; second, they were to find gold; and third, they were to search for the "northwest passage" through America to the Pacific Ocean. So strong was the belief in finding gold in the New World that the only consideration King James asked for his charter was the stipulation that, the " Virginia Company " should pay him one-fifth of the gold and silver found in its possessions.
As none of Raleigh's colonists could be found, the expedition sailed up the James River after considerable delay, and, selecting a better place for a settlement, landed at Jamestown May 13, 1607, where Smith became their acknowledged leader, and preserved the permanency of the colony. This famous navigator and colonist was a native of Willoughby, in Lincolnshire, England, born in January, 1579. When scarcely more than a boy he fought in the wars of Holland, and then he wandered through Europe and as far as Egypt, afterwards returning to engage in the conflict against the Turks in Hungary. Here he won great renown, fighting many desperate combats, and in one engagement cutting off three Turks' heads; but he was finally wounded and captured. The sober, investigating historians of a later day have taken the liberty to doubt some of Smith's wonderful tales of these remarkable adventures, but he must have done something heroic to season him for the hardy work of the pioneer who was the first to succeed in planting a colony in North America. After the Turks made him a prisoner, he was sold as a slave in Constantinople, being condemned to the hardest and most revolting kinds of labor, until he became desperate under the cruelties and escaped. Then he was for a long time a wanderer through the wilderness, traversing the forests of Russia, and pushing his way alone across Europe, until, almost worn out with fatigue and hardships, he arrived in England just at the time Newport's expedition was being fitted out ; and still having an irrepressible love for adventure, he joined it.