The Thomas Jefferson Papers

Virginia Records Timeline: 1553-1743



January 20. The Virginia Company dissolves the Magazine, a subsidiary company formed to supply the colony, which has fallen into desperate financial straits. Thereafter, free trade prevails in the supply of the colony.

May 17. In London, Sir Edwin Sandys describes the low state of Jamestown and its outer settlements for officers and members of the Virginia Company. He notes the growth of private plantations at the expense of the Company's lands. He is also dismayed by the persistent attention to tobacco cultivation, noting that, "within the Compass of 14 monneths [months] eleven seuerall [several] Comodities . . .were by this time all reduced to two namely Tobaccoo and Sassafras, . . . ." Records of Virginia Company, Volume I, "The Collony beinge thus weake..." | The Court Book, Part A

May 31. Meeting in court, the Virginia Company discusses the use of Virginia and Bermuda (Somer's Island) as bases for piracy against the Spanish, for which Sir Edwin Sandys, the Company Treasurer, has recently been rebuked before the court of James I. Sandys recognizes that the colonists welcome pirates for the "Comodities they bringe unto them, . . . ." Records of the Virginia Company, Volume I

June 20. Edwin Sandys is replaced by his ally the Earl of Southampton as treasurer of the Virginia Company. Sandys continues to exercise considerable influence on Company policy.

July 22. The Virginia Company issues a pamphlet "A Declaration of the State of the Colony and Affairs in Virginia," summarizing accomplishments in the past year. Of 1,261 people who have gone to Virginia, 650 settled on some form of Company lands. Of these, eighty became tenants of the governor, one hundred tenants on the new college's land at Middle Plantation, and 150 became apprentices or servants. Ninety women settled in Virginia. Future expeditions to Virginia will include orphans sent by the Lord Mayor of London, the poor, and some criminals.

November 11. The Mayflower arrives off Cape Cod.

descriptive record icon enlarge image icon  Mayflower, created/published c[between 1900 and 1920], creator Charles Austin Needham (1844-1922), photograph of a painting.


June 11. Sandys reports to the members of the Virginia Company the colony's exasperating dependence on the cultivation of "that smokie weed of Tobacco." He notes that it is "extreamly the Kinge and scandalous unto the Plantacon and unto the whole Company." Sandys argues that the high price of tobacco is behind the neglect of all other crops. Records of the Virginia Company, Volume I, "Touchinge Tobacco...."

Fall. Sir Francis Wyatt arrives in Jamestown to replace George Yeardley as governor.

Fall. Nemattanow, called "Jack of the Feathers" by the English, kills several Jamestown settlers. Records of the Virginia Company, Volume I, "After these businesses..."

This year, the Crown disallows lotteries for the Virginia Company of London. This has been a modest but regular source of revenue for the Company, which now faces severe financial constraints.

By the end of this year, all of the small group of colonists sent to Virginia in 1620 to establish an ironworks are dead.



Early March. Nemattanow, "Jack of the Feathers," is killed by the English in revenge.

March 22. Powhatan Indians attack settlements immediately outside Jamestown, killing 347 men, women, and children. A Pamunkey Indian, Chanco, indirectly warns Governor Wyatt and Jamestown mounts a successful defense. Charles City, the Ironworks, College Land, and Martin's Hundred are all abandoned after the massacre because many are concerned about the vulnerability of isolated settlements. The "Massacre of 1622" is followed in December by an epidemic brought by the ship Abigail. It kills twice as many people as died in the Massacre and the colony's population is reduced to about five hundred. A Declaration of the State of the Colony and Affaires in Virginia. With a Relation of the Barbarous the Native Indians upon the English.

April. Captain John Martin, the only member of the colony's first council still in Virginia, agrees to give up his original patent for land, "Martin's Hundred," for a new one. His original patent gave him independence from both the Company and the General Assembly, including some of its laws. The Company seeks to bring all private plantations or hundreds into the government's jurisdiction.

June 21. Governor Sir Francis Wyatt issues proclamations against drunkenness, swearing, and "taking Boats without Leave and Stealing Oars." Punishments are graded according to one's status. For drunkenness, "gentlemen or other above the degree of Serieant [Servant]" receive fines; a "free man" will be "sette in the stocks twelv howres"; while hired servants and apprentices, who are of lowest status and not likely to have the means to pay fines, pay with their bodies: servants are to be "put necke & heeles two howres," and apprentices are to be "whipt." Proclamations

August. The English attack the Powhatan Indians and put a price on the head of their chief, Opechancanough. Conflicts continue for the next ten years except for one short period of peace. In 1644, an English soldier shoots Opechancanough in the back and kills him.

Fall. The colony has a smaller-than-usual harvest and takes food from Indians by trade or force. The colony experiences another "starving time" during the winter of 1622-23.

This year, a small wine sample from Virginia is sent to London, but it spoils on the way.



April 12. The Virginia Company presents an account of the colony and an explanation of its management and policies to King James I. A Declaration of the present State of Virginia....

April 23. Captain Nathaniel Butler presents a report entitled "Unmasked Face of Our Colony in Virginia as it was in the winter of the Year 1622" to the Privy Council in London. Butler is the governor of Bermuda and recently visited Jamestown on his way back to England.

April. Jamestown colonists embark on a trading expedition to obtain food from the Powhatan confederation Indians. Negotiations break down and about twenty colonists are killed and others taken captive.

May 9. The Crown appoints a commission to investigate the Virginia Company's financial affairs and sequesters its papers. Company deputy Nicholas Ferrar arranges to have copies of the Court Book made before turning it over to the Privy Council.


May. The Virginia Company of London loses its charter. Since 1606, approximately seventy-three hundred emigrants have sailed for the colony, and 6,040 have died either en route or after arrival. However, the Privy Council argues that that the colony has had a net increase of only 275 people since its founding. The colony suffers from chronic food shortages and seems unable to get a subsistence from its own efforts. The greatest death rate has occurred between 1621 and 1623, during the period of the Great Migration. The causes of the colony's low condition are numerous: over-cultivation of tobacco; conflicts with the Powhatans, caused or aggravated by the colonists' dependence on them for food; poorly coordinated arrivals of colonists and supplies; and an unhealthy location and bad water supply that causes chronic ill health and high death rates. The Company is bankrupt and divided between factions led by Sir Edwin Sandys and Sir Thomas Smith. In sum, the problems are complex and various, and the Company, riven by factional fighting, is unable to resolve them. Despite the loss of its charter, the Company lingers on until 1630.


A census for this year records that there are ten Africans living on Jamestown island.

March 5. King James I dies and is succeeded by Charles I.

Charles I and Henrietta Maria with their children
descriptive record icon enlarge image icon  [Charles I and Henrietta Maria with their children, afterwards Charles II and James II], created/published c[between 1900 and 1912], creator Sir Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641), photograph of a painting.

May 13. King Charles declares Virginia, the Bermuda Islands, and New England to be royal colonies directly dependent upon the crown.

The Jamestown Assembly petitions Charles I for permission to retain their legislature and is refused.


The Massachusetts Bay Company is chartered.

Commerce and land accumulation begin to create greater social and economic disparities in Virginia colony. Merchants increase their connections with London and trade in indentured servants, slaves, and tobacco. Headrights award fifty acres of land per person to the individual responsible for bringing freemen, indentured servants, or slaves into the colony. Estate owners accumulate additional land through the purchase of headrights, and a thriving commerce in them arises.