Tuesday, July 28, 2015

English Colonization of America

Rough Draft - Partial

Gosnold, Prinne, and Wymouth

The English continued to fish near North America and trade with Native Americans, but attempts to settle stopped. A voyage made by Bartholomew Gosnold changed everything. His was the first careful exploration of parts of North America where the first successful English colonies were started.
Gosnold and thirty-two crewmen sailed from Falmouth, England, on March 26th, 1602, intending to found a small settlement.[*] Previously, explorers sailed first for the Gulf of Mexico and then up the coast. Gosnold sailed as nearly west as the winds and currents permitted. This more direct route was used by those who followed. After Seven weeks they entered a bay we now know as Massachusetts Bay. He followed the winding coast southward, exploring and naming Cape Cod. They traded with the natives and explored the country. “Every thing on which they cast their eyes became a new source of wonder and delight.”
The native tribes were welcoming. They gave the sailors copper bangles, and the English explorers imagined from that there were rich mines of copper and maybe gold nearby. They found forests “abounding with stately trees,” meadows full of deer, and a rich soil that an experiment showed would grow vegetables.  The saw plants growing wild that in England required care and work to cultivate.  
Gosnold built a house on one of the Elizabeth Islands, a group of small islands just south of Cape Cod. After building it, he decided that they didn’t have enough supplies to last until a return voyage was made, and the natives were turning hostile. They returned to England after four months with a rich cargo of sassafras and furs. Word of his discoveries spread rapidly. His voyage revived interest in colonization. Especially important was his route across the Atlantic which cut off “more than five hundred leagues,” That’s over 1700 miles.

Task: Find out what Sassafras is and why it was important to Europeans.

Gosnold described the lands he had seen as “absolutely ravishing,” a place of amazement and beauty.  Plans were made to settle in North Virginia, as this part of America was called. In 1603 merchants from Bristol, England, sent two ships to America.  Martin Prinne, their commander, was to trade with the natives and to see if Gosnold told the truth about America. Prinne sailed down the coast and visited the islands which Gosnold discovered. He too returned with furs and sassafras, and he told his sponsors that Gosnold was truthful. Two years later, in 1605, two noblemen sent George Weymouth to explore the North American coast. Though he was looking for a passage to Asia, he found the Penobscot River in Maine. He returned with an even more excited report about the land’s richness. The problem with their reports is that they arrived in the spring when everything is green and lush. The coasts from Virginia to Maine are different in winter. No-one seems to have asked what the land was like in the coldest months. They believed that the climate was unchanging.  

Gosnold Trading with Native Americans as drawn by Matthäus Merian in 1634.

Americans little remember Gosnold, Prinne, and Wymouth, but their reports created interest in establishing settlements in North America. The English saw American colonies as a circle of trade. Settlers would need English goods, clothes, pots and pans, axes, guns. In turn they would send back lumber, important to England because they had cut down most of their forests.

[*]              By our modern calendar it was April 5, 1602.


  1. Interesting. Back when I was a student (before you were born Young Lady) there was no mention of these guys. Probably because they didn't land within today's borders of Virginia. I doubt we would have even learned about the Lost Colony had it not been for the fact that the first English child born in the New World was named Virginia Dare.

  2. An occasional reader9:53 AM

    But what about the Welsh colonization of America? I have just taken an unofficial history of Wales away with me on vacation, and holed up in a cheapo motel in Cambridge for the night with intermittent internet access have noted this piece of “history.”

    The Daughters of the Revolution set up a sign that said: “In memory of Prince Madoc, the Welsh explorer, who landed on the shores of Mobile Bay in 1170 and left behind, with the Indians, the Welsh language.”

    It was claimed that the Mandan Native American tribe spoke Welsh. A Welsh Methodist preacher, John Evans, was fired with this idea in 1792, and an expedition was backed for him to go to America and map the Missouri River. But alas, he sorrowfully reported back that the Mandans had no Welsh connections, “there is no such people as Welsh Indians...” But the idea still persisted and others claimed their language sounded like Welsh... (which probably just means different to English...) Then the Mandan tribe was wiped out by smallpox in 1837, so no-one could confirm or debunk the idea. Hence perhaps the rationale behind the Daughters of the Revolution sign.

    Oh - and I believe in the tooth-fairy too...