Posted by: newperspectives85 | January 3, 2012


History of Virginia Part 1 Project 11.17.11
Henricus was established by Thomas Dale after Jamestown suffered from conditions such as disease and Indian attacks. It would be successful for two reasons: its elevation and defendability. English colonists had a rocky relationship with the Powhatan Indians, but there were some things that the Indians could teach the colonists. Strict discipline was a must to survive the colony. In the early 1620s, however, Henricus saw all of its work fall as they were under siege by Indians. First, one must see how Henricus was so successful.
Henricus, established in 1611, was the second successful settlement after Jamestown. Two reasons for this was its elevation above swamps and defendability against Indians. In Jamestown, swamps made the colony dangerous as it was a breeding ground for diseases such as swellings from filthy water, dysentery, typhoid fever, warres, and famine. Life in Jamestown was rough because of the elevation. Henricus being elevated above the swamp made for healthier air and better living conditions. Defendability against enemies also helped as Thomas Dale, who arrived from England built five palisades, or watchtowers to keep enemies, especially the Powhatan Indians out. The English colonists had to be prepared for battle at any time. The colonists did not have the best relationship with the Indians.
English relations with the colonists were not perfect. Englishmen saw Indians as savages because they did not understand their ways. The colonists came from Britain, a Christian nation. Anything that was not what they thought was true religion was seen as wrong and needed to be civilized. For example, Indians performed a dance during some of their ceremonies, which may have caused some colonists to wonder whether this was a religion of the devil. According to Benjamin Woolley, “in some ceremonies, Indians put on a frantic dance, shouting, howling, and stamping against the ground, with many antic tricks and faces, making noise like so many wolves or devils” (2007, p.61). In the early seventeenth century, the Anglican Church was the established religion. To practice anything other than the Anglican Church’s beliefs would be seen as dissident or suspicious. Despite efforts to civilize Indians, they were more resistant to Christianity. In 1611, Powhatan would attack 200 Englishmen who were with General Brewster. During Indian attacks, the Powhatan Indians were more advanced because of their skill using seemingly ordinary tools. The reality is these ordinary tools could be used as deadly weapons that could kill if in the hands of an expert native. Two of the weapons, for example, were tomahawks and a bow and arrow. Tomahawks were used as clubs. Speed and strength mattered when using this against enemies. To hit the enemy with the right amount of speed and strength, the Indian could kill with only a club. For this reason, colonists had to distance themselves, even with a musket. A musket took more effort to load than a tomahawk. The colonists had to put gunpowder and shot in the musket which would take time that may they may not have against an Indian’s speed with a tomahawk. It took no time for an Indian to run with a tomahawk towards their enemy. Bow and arrows were also the Indians’ choice of weaponry. The colonists did not understand their choice in that weapon because they figured that did not have as much accuracy as a musket. The reality was in the hands of an experienced native, they were deadly accurate from a distance. For the English to be close to any Indian would be to put their life at risk because of how fast the Indians were. English colonists had to walk around in very heavy steel to be protected. Their armor, hat, and musket were all made of steel, which made it harder for the colonists to move around, but did save their lives. It may have been frustrating having to carry all that weight around, but they were probably grateful it saved their lives. The Indians had the advantage because they were an indigenous people. Despite the conflicts, English and Indians could learn from each other.
Being indigenous has to do with being an original group of people who have settled in a particular area for a very long time. This was the case for the Indians living in what is now Chesterfield and Henrico County, which was Henricus Park in the seventeenth century. According to the Henricus website, “archaeological evidence indicates that Native Americans were living in what is now Chesterfield and Henrico counties at least 10,000 years ago. Known as Paleo-Indians, these early inhabitants of the area were loosely organized into bands in which people in which people were related by kinship ties” (para 1). The Indians hunted everything, while the English raised animals like pigs and cattle. The English did have something to offer the Indians though. When the English had dinner, they heated and cooked their meals by smoking yehakins, which were Indian forts. This was done using dry leaves and straw. All the smoke would force moisture out of the hut resulting in better air. Indians and English could learn from each other. English could also learn medicine from Indians.
Medicine in seventeenth century Virginia was not the best. Colonial doctors relied on observations, which did not always catch what was going on. For example, if a patient had a fever, the doctor would stick a needle in one’s vein until their forehead was no longer warm. The patient could lose a lot of blood via this method. Once the doctor felt their forehead was cold, he thought that the patient’s fever was gone. The patient was free to go, but fifteen to twenty minutes later, the fever would come back. What would happen is the patient would have to go back to the doctor and repeat the whole process again. This kind of medicine could kill someone because after several times going back to the doctor, all of the blood could be gone. The reliance on human observation was bad due to lack of knowledge on medical conditions. There was no organized school of medicine in seventeenth century Virginia. The Indian medicine man was more reliable than the colonial doctor because of his herbal remedies. For example, to cure pestilence, clay was used. According to Dennis A.J. Morey, “a colonist expressed considerable faith in a local white clay, which was aromatic, cordial, and possessed absorbent, diaphoretic, and prison-expelling properties. This clay was recommended for pestilent or malignant fevers” (page 11). Typhoid, commonly seen in Jamestown due to the swampiness also had a remedy: snakeroot. According to Morey, “snakeroot had tonic, diuretic, and diaphoretic effects, and was commonly prescribed in typhoid and digestive disorders, while black snakeroot was prescribed for gout, rheumatism, and amenorrhea” (page 11). Tobacco was not out of the realm of possible solutions for illness. In fact, it was very effective in treating people. Morey states that “tobacco was not only smoked, but transformed into solutions, ointments, and powders, and prescribed orally as tooth pastes and enemas. It appeared that no disease escaped such treatment” (page 13). Due to past conditions in Jamestown, in part due to disease, Thomas Dale enforced martial law to ensure the survival of the colonists.
Thomas Dale would enforce military discipline while in Henricus. When he arrived, he found the people in shambles as they barely survived circumstances such as starvation, Indian attacks, and disease. To keep from getting killed, Dale implemented the lawes divine, moral, and martial. These laws were very strict in nature, restricting freedoms because of the severity of conditions in the colony. In addition, Thomas Dale believed having a higher power would determine the success of the settlement. As a result, religion was taken very seriously. According to Morey, “the authorities clearly believed that the success of the settlement in the New World depended upon the grace of God, and that no word or act should offend Him” (page 11-12). What this belief would lead to is a routine of going to church every day of the week and several times in one day. To not attend, would mean consequences, severe ones. According to Morey, “failure to attend a church service resulted in a loss of a day’s food allowance, missing two services was punished by whipping, and missing three services resulted in being condemned to the gallies for six months” (page 12). This was to ensure that people survived in the community. To offend God by saying negative things against them could be the last thing one ever does in life because the ultimate punishment of death was the consequence. Morey states that “any man found guilty of speaking impiously against the Holy Trinity or Articles of the Faith, especially deriding God’s holy word, could expect the death penalty” (page 12). Ministers were also held to high standards, and to fail would mean loss of salary, or back then, tobacco. Morey states that “ministers were required to conduct divine services, preach a sermon twice each week, keep records of births, deaths and marriages, and to appoint a vestry of four reliable men, who were to observe and report any abuses on the neglect on the part of the settlers” (page 12). Morey also states that “failure to perform these tasks resulted in the forfeiture of their entertainment such as supplies from the Company store, and any remuneration, which usually consisted of so many pounds of tobacco, since money had little use in the early 1600s in the New World” (page 12). In addition to the religious aspects of life on the colony, Dale would also enforce strict discipline for minor offenses. Examples include things like just leaving the colony or stealing from the store. Minor offenses saw serious consequences. According to Jeffrey M. O’Dell, “under Dale’s code, deserters could be summarily executed, those who stole from the public store were bound to trees to starve” (1983, p.3). Even minor offenses such as picking a flower off of a neighbor’s garden or an ear of corn had severe consequences. David A. Price states that “the colony’s lawes divine, morale, and martiall were enlarged and toughened to the point that execution was the penalty for adultery, unauthorized trading with the natives, or removing so much as a flower or an ear of corn from another man’s garden” (2003, p.146). In addition, to run away while on duty would be to sign one’s death warrant. This was because of the importance of safety. Price states that “in battle, any man under arms who would ‘runne away cowardly’ was to be executed ‘with the armes which he carrieth” (2003, p.146). This code was seen as harsh but considering the circumstances, Dale felt he had no other choice as there were threats outside from the Indians as well as the lack of discipline from within. The code used was meant to make examples out of the few, and scare the rest of the colony into obeying. Under Dale’s rule, men were worked to extremes, but several forts were built, and were strong and well armed to fend off Indian attacks. Henricus would also be the site for the first American hospital: Mount Malady. The first college would also be built on the site where Indians would be taught Christianity and Englishmen would be trained for ministry. However, all of the work on Henricus would end in 1622 as Indians attacked.
1622 saw a massive Indian attack by the Powhatan Indians under Opechancanough. All the work done on Henricus was gone. Rebuilding was a not an option at the time. One interesting story from the attack was a woman who defended her home for three weeks, Alice Proctor. She was a unique case of one who would hold a gun to defend her home, as gentlemen tended to be the ones to shoot at their enemies, while women remained at home to take care of the children and clothing.
Henricus was the second successful settlement in Virginia due to lessons learned from Jamestown. The colony was well armed to fight Indians and high in elevation to improve health. Despite their rocky relationship, the English and the Indians could learn from each other. Dale’s code of discipline was harsh, but it helped maintain life on the colony. Despite the massive attack on Henricus, the historical park serves Chesterfield and Henrico counties as part of the Standards of Learning for elementary school students.

Works Cited
Henricus Historical Park. “Pre 1611.” Retrieved November 17, 2011 from
Morey, Dennis A.J. Seventeenth Century Medicine and the Citie of Henricus. Chesterfield County, Virginia: The Henricus Foundation.
Morey, Dennis A.J. The Citie of Henricus and the Lawes Written in Blood. Chesterfield County, Virginia: The Henricus Foundation.
O’Dell, Jeffrey M. Chesterfield County Early Architecture and Historic Sites. Chesterfield County, Virginia, 1983.
Price, David A. Love and Hate in Jamestown: John Smith, Pocahontas, and the Start of a New Nation. New York: Vintage Books, 2003.
Woolley, Benjamin. Savage Kingdom: The True Story of Jamestown, 1607, and the Settlement of America. New York: HarperCollins, 2007.



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