The battle at Yorktown was the end of British rule in what became the United States. The beginning was Jamestown, the site of the first permanent English settlement in 1607. So that’s where I was today, all bundled up and still freezing.
When we say the first, we have to qualify it. St. Augustine is the oldest city in the US but that settled by the Spanish. The English who came to coastal North Carolina in the late 16th Century never settled, though the story is told at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. But Jamestown was a commercial enterprise. The businessmen back “home” hoped it would be wildly successful and ship goods back to England.
This is the story of John Smith and Pocahontas, the daughter of Chief Powhatan. Well, not really their story together, since the exhibits debunk the story that Pocahontas saved Smith’s life. But she married John Rolfe, an English settler that did well with planting and selling tobacco back to the English.
Not much remains of the original settlement on the surface. Archaeologists have found tons of buried artifacts which they’ve studied, catalogued and in many cases, reburied. But there’s a (reconstructed) church that’s quite impressive. Once the Virginia colonial capitol moved to Williamsburg, the center of the action moved away from Jamestown.
Jamestown and Yorktown are connected by the Colonial Parkway, a 23-mile road very reminiscent of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Natchez Trace Parkway. The arched overpasses look like they came from the same blueprint. Colonial Williamsburg, not connected with a national park, lies in the middle of this 23 miles.
But here’s what bothers me. In an area with such wealth and education, Colonial National Historical Park doesn’t have a conventional Friends group. I inquired at both Yorktown and Jamestown and searched the web but nothing. The park partners that are mentioned on the website-the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and Friends of Green Spring (a small, closed site)- are not directly connected with the unit. Though they may give an aura of support , I don’t think they actually donate money to the park, like Friends of the Smokies. for example.
Yes, I notice and worry about these things. Every national park should have a Friends group.