The story of Jamestown gripped me in our early homeschooling days. We read of the hardships suffered there and built replicas of the fort. Since then, Historic Jamestowne had been on my bucket list. As our kids are quickly headed towards adulthood, I was doubtful that we would have the opportunity to realize this dream before our homeschooling days were over. To my great excitement, however, a last-minute decision to use up some airline and hotel points before they expired landed us in Williamsburg, VA, just down the road from Jamestown! You can read an overview of the trip in my post, A Homeschool Mom’s Dream Trip! Williamsburg, Jamestown, & Yorktown, VA + Washington, D. C.
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Heading out on Colonial Parkway from Williamsburg, we spent the second day of our trip in Jamestown. Historic Jamestowne was our first stop. This is the original site of the first permanent English settlement in America where archeologists have been rediscovering the birthplace of America since they began excavations and preservations in 1994.
From the visitor’s center, we made our way down to the archeological site, but we couldn’t miss the stately monument commemorating the 300th anniversary of the settlement along the way.
The Jamestown Memorial Church immediately caught our eye as we made our way to the archeological area. Old church buildings have always fascinated me! I guess that’s natural for the daughter of a pastor who has now also become the wife of a pastor. Growing up, it seems we’d always find an old church to wander through on every family vacation. Whether filled with intricate design or just a simple country church, I can’t help but think about the worshipers who filled the room with praises in years gone by. This church brought a particularly personal element to its congregation through the intriguing gravestones in the adjoining cemetery. Even the kids found it difficult to move on without reading all of the stories engraved on the eroding stones.
The rest of the grounds were equally captivating! Elijah has a passion for archeology and history, so he especially appreciated the dig sites. We were surprised to find out how far the James River has eroded the land back since the original fort was there! From the statue of Captain John Smith near the banks of the river to the peaceful stroll up to the Archaearium (a unique museum holding many of the artifacts found in the Jamestown Rediscovery project), the grounds of Historic Jamestowne provided a perfect place to ponder the early days of European settlement in this beautiful land we call America.
After wandering through the Archaearium, it was time to move on to Jamestown Settlement, so we could really see what life was like for those first English settlers. We grabbed a quick lunch at the Jamestown Settlement Cafe then headed down the pathway towards the outdoor living history area. The Powhatan Indian village gave us the opportunity to appreciate the original inhabitants of the area. Although the historical interpreters were cleaning up and leaving for the day, we still enjoyed walking through the area and exploring the housing.
The re-creations of the three ships, Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery, may have been our favorite part of the Jamestown Settlement. Again, we were nearing the end of the day, so everything was winding down. The boys got to help roll a cannon inside and put it away for the night on one of the ships. One of the guides was especially entertaining. You can hear a little of his banter in the video at the top of this post. Here are a few of our favorite photos from the ships.
When we finally pulled ourselves away from the ships, we hurried back to the re-created fort. Since we had already seen the archaeological site, walking through this life-size re-creation really helped us understand the scale and set-up of the fort. We were able to walk through the buildings (of course, we found another church), try on armor, and see a musket demonstration.
Finally, we made our way back to the gallery. Although we didn’t have time to really see as much of this area as I would have liked, the Tenacity exhibit which showcased women in the Jamestown Settlement captured my attention. Those few women who braved the rugged environment lived through unspeakable hardship and showed unmatched courage. Unfortunately, the Tenacity exhibit was only open through Jan. 5, 2020, but if it ever returns, you’ll want to make sure you experience it!
Jamestown definitely met my nerdy homeschool mom expectations as a bucket-list place! I would recommend that every American visit this area at some point in their lifetime. This trip to Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown, and Washington, DC enabled us to really connect with our nation’s history. I’m thankful we had the opportunity to experience it together as a family.
What national historical sites are on your bucket list?