John Smith

John Smith

John Smith was born in Willoughby, Lincolnshire, in 1560. He moved to France where he became a soldier and served with distinction against the Turks in Hungary. Smith was captured and sold as a slave but managed to escape and returned to England.

In 1606 he joined an expedition to colonize Virginia. While out hunting near Jamestown he was taken prisoner by Native Americans and would have been killed but for the intervention of Princess Pocahontas. Smith was elected president of the Virginia Colony in 1608 and soon afterwards explored the coast of New England.

Smith wrote several books about his experiences including A True Relation of Virginia Since the First Planting of that Colony (1612), A Description of New England (1616), General History of Virginia (1624) and The True Travels, Adventures and Observations of Captain John Smith (1630). John Smith died in 1631.

Primary Sources

(1) John Smith wrote about discovering Virginia in his book, The True Travels, Adventures and Observations of Captain John Smith (1630).

Till the third day we saw not any of the people, then in a little boat there of them appeared. One of them went on shore, to whom we rowed, and he attended us without any sign of fear; after he had spoke much though we understood not a word, of his own accord he came boldly aboard us. We gave him a shirt, a hat, wine and meat, which he liked well; and after he had well viewed the barks and us, he went away in his own boat; and within a quarter of a mile of us in half an hour, had laden his boat with fish, with which he came again to the plot of land, and there divided it in two parts, pointing one part to the ship, the other to the pinnace, and so departed.

The next day came many boats, and in one of them the king's brother, with forty or fifty men, proper people, and in their behaviour very civil; his name was Granganameo, the king is called Wingina, the country Wingandacoa. Though we came to him well armed, he made signs to us to sit down without any show of fear, stroking his head and breast, and also ours, to express his love. After he had made a long speech unto us, we presented him with many toys, which he kindly accepted.

He sent us every day a brace of bucks, conies, hares and fish, sometimes melons, walnuts, cucumbers, peas and many roots. Their corn grows three times in five months; in May they sow, in July reap, in June they sow, in August reap; in July sow, in August reap. We put some of our peas in the ground, which in ten days were fourteen inches high.

The soil is most plentiful, sweet, wholesome, and fruitful of all other; there are about fourteen several sorts of sweet smelling timber trees; the most parts of the underwood, bays and such like, such oaks as we, but far greater and better. This discovery was so welcome into England that it pleased her Majesty to call this country of Wingandocao, Virginia.