Discoveries which boost our knowledge of early America

Morning View
Morning View

The discovery of human remains of the earliest leaders of the Jamestown colony puts that phase of American history back in the spotlight.

In 2007, there were celebrations to mark the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, the first permanent English-speaking settlement in north America, in what is now the state of Virginia.

Thirteen years later, in 1620, the Pilgrims would land at Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts.

Sixteen years after that, in 1636, a ship from Ulster – the Eagle Wing – would attempt to join these English settlers but fail to make the Atlantic crossing.

Travel down the east coast of America today, which has great cities and sandy beaches and pretty harbours and millions of coastal homes, and it is hard to envisage how inhospitable the region was a mere four centuries ago.

Most of the first wave of Jamestown settlers died within months from disease. In the following decade, hundreds of other newly arrived settlers were killed by Indians.

By the time the News Letter was first published, more than a century later in 1737, the territory was still dangerous, despite the fact that the English-speaking communities were much larger. Ulster pioneers by then were a significant part of them. By the end of that century, they were second in influence to the English themselves.

The oldest surviving News Letter, from October 1738, has a report of four families “murdered by the Indians”.

Intriguingly, the archaeologists at Jamestown have also found artefacts including a Catholic container for holy relics found in the Protestant church.

These discoveries enhance our understanding of the very beginning of the society that would rapidly grow into the most extraordinary nation in human history.

It is a story in which Ulster folk would, not long after Jamestown, play an early and key role. The story of America is one which the News Letter has reported for almost 300 years.