Living History Readers: Pilgrims and Colonists

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1 Living History Readers: Pilgrims and Colonists by Smith Burnham revised by Sandi Queen 2015 Queen Homeschool Supplies, Inc. 168 Plantz Ridge Road New Freeport, PA

2 2

3 Chapter One: John Smith The Captain of Many Adventures Stories of the strange adventures of Columbus, John Cabot, and other explorers made a restless boy of little motherless John Smith of Willoughby, England. When he was fourteen, he had made ready to leave home to make it on his own, when his father died and left him the owner of a large estate, in the charge of guardians. Those mean men Captain John Smith 3

4 cared more for the property than for the boy who was to have it when he was old enough. So, they gave him only a bit of pocket money and hired him out by law as an apprentice to a tradesman who treated the well to do boy as if he were a slave. In less than a year, young John Smith ran away from his master and guardians, as well as his property. He had attended two free schools, and gained what would be equal to a public school education in these days. He went right to Paris, because France and Spain were at war just then, but peace was declared almost as soon as he was able to enlist. After several hard experiences, young John engaged in the service of the duke of a little kingdom which was fighting the Turks. In one of his books, John Smith describes his adventures in these battles. He tells of killing three Turks single handedly in mortal combat, and of how his princely master designed for him a coat of arms which contained as part of the design the heads of three Turks. But ill fortune soon befell young Captain John Smith. In a battle with the Turks, he was wounded and left for dead, and became the property of a Turkish chief, who, as Smith later tells, sent him forthwith to Constantinople to his fair mistress for a slave. By twenty and twenty, chained by the necks, the slaves marched in file to this great city, where they were delivered to their several masters. The princess, to whom Captain John Smith was sent, was too young to own any kind of property. Afraid her mother would sell her new slave before she was of age to legally keep him, she sent him to her brother, a distant chief, asking him to be kind to her prize. But the brother treated his sister s slave so brutally that Smith killed him 4

5 and escaped in his master s clothes to Russia. Here he found people who were unfriendly enough to the Turks to file off the iron collar which he still wore. On his way back to England, Smith found himself on the ship of a friendly French pirate, where he had to fight for his life against two Spanish men of war. The French ship succeeded in escaping from the Spaniards into a port on the northern coast of Africa. From here, Smith took ship for London and entered the service of the Virginia Company, whose business it was to carry on the settling of America, begun by Sir Walter Raleigh. The Virginia Company secured a charter from King James in December, 1606, and sent more than a hundred men to America. It was as strange company for such an enterprise. There were four carpenters, one blacksmith, one bricklayer, one mason, one tailor, one sailor, one drummer, two surgeons, two boys, or men servants, and only twelve laborers. But there were forty eight gentlemen, of whom some were troublemakers and others downright criminals, who could not work because they did not know how to do anything useful. Even before they reached Virginia, quarrels broke out among members of the party, and Captain John Smith was falsely accused of conspiracy and condemned to be hanged. He escaped, however, and afterward forgave the conspirators. The king had sent out the colony with sealed orders, which were not to be opened until they reached virginia. When the orders were opened, JOhn Smith was found to be among the seven men appointed as council for the colony. But the men highest in control were unfit to command such an enterprise. They spent seventeen days 5

6 searching for a good site for a settlement. The place which they finally chose was a long distance from the coast, was hard for a sailing vessel to reach, and lay in an unhealthy place between the shallow river and a bad swamp. The river was named the James, and the settlement Jamestown, both in honor of the king. As for Captain John Smith, the others were jealous of him. They thought he knew too much, because he saw how little they knew. Most of the party expected to get rich quick, and they did not care how they did it, so long as it was at the expense of someone else. So, instead of fishing for oysters, planting gardens, and clearing farms, they went hunting for gold and making trouble with the Indians, whom we now know as Native Americans. They did discover something they thought was gold, but Know it all Smith told them the yellow stuff was only Fool s gold, which is the common name for iron pyrite. Instead of following Smith s advice and working together to prepare for the future, they became so spiteful that they would have imprisoned him if he had not been too shrewd for them. The Indians grew more and more hostile. The condition of the settlers was fast becoming hopeless. Smith himself wrote of their condition: What toil we had, with so small a power (twelve laborers out of more than one hundred men) to guard our workmen a days, watch all night, resist our enemies, and effect our business to re lade the ships, cut down trees and prepare the ground to plant our corn. 6

7 Pilgrims and Colonists Building Jamestown Settlement The settlers provisions were disappearing faster than they expected. One of them wrote at this time of the sad state of affairs: Our drink was water; our lodgings, castles in the air. The foolish president of the council was soon displaced. The man elected in his stead was said to be of weak judgment in dangers, and less industry in peace/ but he had the sense to leave the management of the affairs to John Smith. That capable captain now took hold with a firm hand. He fought the Indians till they gained a wholesome respect for him and the English. Then he played on their curiosity and superstition so as to get them to bring Indian corn, venison, and wild turkey to feed his men. He set the idlers to work at chopping down trees and the like. 7

8 Pocahontas Saves Captain Smith s Life When he had things going right in Jamestown, the tireless captain went out exploring the wilderness. Captured by a hostile tribe of Indians, he showed them his 8

9 compass and told them a story which made them afraid to kill him. So they took him, as a great prize, to Powhatan, the head chief of all the tribes of that part of the country. Powhatan and his chiefs knew too well that this was the mighty chief who had thus far kept the white men out of their clutches. They held a solemn powwow and condemned the troublesome captain to death. They laid his head on a stone and a chief was lifting his war club to make the final blow, when Pocahontas, the young daughter of Powhatan, reached out and threw herself between the death club and Smith s head. She pleaded so earnestly, threatening to kill herself if Smith was harmed, that her father gave orders to stop the execution, and to keep the white man prisoner. With the help of the Indian girl, he soon made his escape. Pocahontas proved a true friend to the English. More than once, she warned Captain Smith of the deep laid plans of the Virginia tribes to murder all the new settlers at once. She became a convert to Christianity, was christened Rebecca, and became a member of the Church of England. A young settler, John Rolfe, married her and took her to England, where she was received in the homes of lords and ladies, and entertained by the queen as Lady Rebecca and the Princess Pocahontas. Some of the First Families of Virginia proudly prove that this beautiful and devoted Indian girl was one of their ancestors. Not long after his escape from the Indians, John Smith was seriously injured by the explosion of some gunpowder, and was compelled to return to England for treatment. His work in Virginia was done. But the restless soul of the old Captain could not let him be content to remain at ease in 9

10 Pocahontas as Lady Rebecca England. He made other voyages of exploration along the coast to the north of the Dutch island of Manhattan. From his careful observations, he drew a good map of that northern country and gave it the name New England. So besides starting the greatest southern colony of North America, he prepared the way for the Pilgrims to settle at Plymouth. 10

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