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Norfolk Highlights 1584 - 1881
By George Holbert Tucker

Chapter 2

Exploring with the Smith Party

As far as can be ascertained, Captain John Smith and the twelve Jamestown colonists who accompanied him on his second exploration of the Chesapeake Bay were the first known white men to enter what is now the Elizabeth River to visit the area now incorporated within the present limits of Norfolk.

Smith had previously explored the Chesapeake Bay region during the early summer months of 1608, at which time he almost lost his life when he was stung by a stingray off what is still known as Stingray Point in Middlesex County.

According to the account of the second exploratory trip written by Anthony Bagnall, the surgeon of the expedition, Nathaniel Powell, a gentleman, and Anas Todkill, a soldier, the cocky, red-haired, red-bearded Captain Smith and his party left Jamestown on July 24, 1608, in an open boat equipped with a sail and oars for the trip into country "till then to any Christian unknowne."

Besides the three men already mentioned, Smith's party consisted of Thomas Momford, Richard Featherstone, Michael Sickelmore, and James Bourne, gentlemen; and Jonas Profit, Edward Pising, Richard Keale, James Watkins, and William Ward, soldiers.

Heading down the James River, Smith and his party spent a few days at Kecoughtan (Hampton), where "the King feasted us with mirth."

The English were not above a little skulduggery to encourage cooperation on the part of the natives, as the account shows: "In the evening we fired a few rackets (rockets), which flying into the ayre so terrified the poor Salvages, they supposed nothing impossible we attempted, and desired to assist us."

Throughout the trip most of Smith's men "were sicke almost to death, until they were seasoned to the Country," but that didn't interrupt the dynamic captain's plans. And before the expedition returned to Jamestown on September 7, 1608, he and his men had chalked up all kinds of experiences, ranging from almost continuous Indian attacks to the death of Richard Featherstone, whom they buried "with a volley of shot."

The visit to the Elizabeth River area took place on their way back to Jamestown. This is how the narrative describes it:

"In a fayre calme, rowing towards poynt Comfort, we anchored in Gosnolls Bay, but such a suddaine gust surprised us in the night with thunder and rayne, that we never thought more to have seene James Towne. Yet running before the wind, we sometimes saw the Land by the flashes of fire from heaven by which light onely we kept from the splitting shore, until it pleased God in that blacke darknesse to preserve us by that light to finde poynt Comfort: there refreshing our selves, because we had onely but heard of the Chisapeacks & Nandsamunds, we thought it as fit to know all our neighbours neare home, as so many Nations abroad.

"So setting sayle for the Southerne shore, we sayled up a narrow river up the country of Chisapeack; it hath a good channell, but many shoules about the entrance. By that we had sayled six or seaven myles, we saw two or three little garden plots with their houses, the shore overgrowne with the greatest Pyne and Firre trees we ever saw in the Country. But nott seeing nor hearing any people, and the river very narrow, we returned to the great river, to see if we could finde any of them."

Chapter 3
Whence Elizabeth River, Willoughby, and Two Points

Norfolk Highlights 1584 - 1881

Norfolk Highlights 1584 - 1881

See the "Table of Contents" for links to every chapter in Norfolk Highlights 1584 - 1881 by George Holbert Tucker.