Sunday, January 10, 2010

First California Company Enjoys an Outstanding Jamestowne Program in San Diego

The Jamestowne Society’s First California Company presented a world-class program at its annual meeting yesterday (January 9) in San Diego with speakers Society Governor Carter Branham Snow Furr, Esq., and renowned scholar Dr. Karen Ordahl Kupperman of New York University (and author of The Jamestowne Project).

Before an estimated audience of sixty (including members of DeAnza Chapter of NSDAR), Governor Furr (who, with his wife, enjoyed a respite from the wintry rigors in Norfolk, VA) reported on the state of the Society.

He observed that there are now 36 Society Companies and 200 new members were enrolled last year. He commented on the excellent presentation at the Society’s recent November meeting in Richmond on the archeological dig at Werowomoco (near Jamestowne on the York River). This was the site of the largest village and seat of the Powhatan chiefdom when the first settlers arrived. He suggested visiting the Society’s web site at to see the Power Point slides. They include evidence of the residence of the Powhatan’s supreme Chief, where, among other things, John Smith was held after his capture in late 1607 and Admiral Christopher Newport made first official contact with the Chief.

He briefly discussed the various funds that the Society employs to, among other purposes, provide fellowships for graduate students (one of which helped with support for the Werowomoco dig), maintain the headquarters, and support Preservation Virginia (formerly the APVA).

He announced that the Society’s spring 2010 meeting will be held at the Williamsburg Lodge on May 15, with a presentation by Allain Outlaw, who has been working on the excavation of Argalltown, purported to be “Jamestowne’s first suburb” (NOTE: See our posting of Saturday, September 19, 2009: “New Archeological Discoveries Near Jamestowne”
). The annual Company Governors’ Roundtable will again be held the preceding day, May 14 (more details at the Society’s website).

Dr. Kupperman gave a compelling, entertaining and informative review of how and why the English undertook New World colonization efforts, the goals, structure and financing of the settling and development of Jamestowne, and new lessons being learned from the million-plus artifacts from the Jamestown Rediscovery digs that belie much of the settlement’s documented history that we now realize has been tainted.

She detailed how the management and governance policies of the Virginia Company changed over Jamestowne’s first decade of existence, and the evolution from a marginally staffed and militarily structured trading post into England’s first planted colony that would generate its profit from production of tobacco – the world’s first mass-marketed consumer product. She further elaborated on the first use of incentives such as land grants (known as “headrights”) to foster emigration and adventure from an over-populated and financially depressed England. She emphasized how the Virginia Company further changed its policy to encourage the emigration of young, well-qualified women to help maintain the colonial quality of life, permanence and stability. The leadership of the Company finally directed the colony to govern its local affairs (especially taxation) by electing a General Assembly; the first of its kind in America.

She concluded by relating how Jamestowne, unlike being the failure as it is often portrayed, became the model for all subsequent English colonial ventures (beginning with the Mayflower’s landing in Massachusetts), largely based on John Smith’s writings (as perceptive an observer as he was an intrepid explorer). These models were then employed worldwide as the foundation for the British Empire.

First California Governor Joanne Howell Murphy chaired the meeting, and the program was arranged and presented by Lieutenant Governor Ginny Gottlieb. The meeting was held at the Fairbanks Ranch Country Club in Rancho Santa Fe, California. For more information about First California Company, please go to

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