Why Did The Settlers Go To Jamestown

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The original settlers went to Jamestown for different reasons, though the primary mission of the settlement was to provide a source of wealth (hopefully gold and silver) and to establish an English foothold against potential Spanish expansion in the New World. The family of one of the original colonists, the genteel James Forrest, seem to have intended to supervise the search for gold, and saw the expedition as an opportunity to get rich. His wife Margaret accompanied him, perhaps at his behest. Her servant, Anne Burras, had no choice but to accompany her mistress. In the first decades of the settlement, many laborers arrived as indentured servants, selling their labor over a three or seven year period in return for property at the end of their indenture, or contract. Others came as soldiers, who, depending on their rank, also served as laborers or leaders in the colony. John Smith, a career military adventurer, was an example of the latter. The colony also received many convict laborers, who often worked under longer terms than indentured servants. As tobacco emerged as a viable export crop after 1610, the colony became a source for many ambitious young men of the "middling sort" in England who hoped to gain wealth through the cultivation of the crop. Later voyages also brought skilled craftsmen from England, Germany, and Poland, who because of their high desirability in the colony either received short indentures or had their voyages subsidized by the Virginia Company. Later in the seventeenth century, large quantities of African laborers would enter the colony against their will (i.e. as slaves) but their numbers were not significant in the early years of the settlement.