There is so much neat historical significance in and around this area that I just do not know where to being. First, we have Jamestown, the first permanent English community that was founded in the US, way back in 1607, 13 years before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock up in Massachusetts. Then we have the Chippokes Plantation, whose land we are camping on, which is the oldest, continuously farmed land in the US, specifically for 399 years! We have Yorktown close by, where Cornwallis surrendered to the combined America and French forces which led to the end of the Revolutionary War and the birth of our nation. We also have Colonial Williamsburg near us. Colonial Williamsburg has a living history museum where three streets of the original Williamsburg have been preserved with houses and shops dating back to the Colonial period of the US. Finally, we have the most interesting story of the ship Sea Venture that sunk in July 1609 during a storm after striking a reef on the eastern shore of Bermuda. It is significant to this area because it was part of the second group of supply ships that were headed for Jamestown. The survivors of that wreck ended up building two ships from the wreckage and in 1610, arrived in Jamestown with their harrowing tale.
I am not sure I will have a chance to adequately discuss all of this history in the short time we are here but I will give it a yeoman’s effort. Today, I will discuss the Chippokes Plantations since we are camping on its grounds and Mary Margaret and I went this afternoon to explore it.
As it turns out, the Chippokes Plantation is the oldest continuously farmed plantation in the US and has retained its original boundaries since it was established in 1619. This was a year before the Pilgrims, sailing on the Mayflower, landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
It was established by Captain William Powell. He was Lieutenant Governor of Jamestown at that time. The records are not clear if William Power landed with the first fleet of ships that were sent from England in 1607 (the Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery) and founded Jamestown or arrived with the second group of supply ships in 1609. However, it is clear that he did establish Chippokes Plantation, which is located right across the river from Jamestown. In 1619 Powell established the plantation and named it after the local Algonquian Indian Chief Choapoke, who he killed in a 1610 raid in retaliation of an attack that Chief Choapoke led on Jamestown a few days before. Chief Choapoke had his village on the land that became the plantation.
Powell was later killed in early 1623 in an Indian ambush and the plantation was passed on to his son, George. George soon sold it and it has changed hands frequently through time. Unlike many large plantations along the James River, it was never a family seat during the 1600 and 1700s, but, served as a secondary plantation managed by overseers or farmed by tenants.
Today, the plantation has a number of historic buildings, the earliest dates back to early 1800s. The first house we visited is called the River House. Built in two phases starting 1830s and then expanded during the 1840s. The house was gutted in a restoration attempt in the mid-1900s but never completed. Here are the pictures I took.
Next, we went to the Jones-Stewart Mansion that was built in the 1850s. It was fully furnished with period antiques but we were not allowed to take pictures inside. I have posted the picture we took from the outside.
We also visited the kitchen outbuilding. The docent was dressed in period dress and gave us a personal description of cooking activities that occurred here. It was wonderful.
Tomorrow, we hope to explore Jamestown, weather permitting.