[our own Correspondent.
Norfolk, Jan. 18.
‘"On the 16th of May, "’ says that adventurous traveller Captain John Smith
, ‘"on the 16th of May, 1607, they fixed upon a peninsula on the North
side of James River
about fifty miles from its mouth, and then in the possession of the Paspaheghs.
This was pronounced a very fit place for a very great city; but there was some contention about it between Captain Gosnold
even after the provisions were landed.
Here they commenced the settlement of Jamestown
, which was, as it proved, the small beginning of our now great and prosperous Confederacy."’ Hence the city of Jamestown
The subsequent struggles of the new colony, its growth, the exploits of its founders, Smith
, and others, have become as familiar as household words through the pages of history.
For the next century the record of the Colony was one of many difficulties, but of gradual growth.
The two ensuing summers were spent by Smith
and his companions, in exploring the numerous rivers, bays, inlets, and creeks surrounding the country by Jamestown
, and in conquering them by arms, or winning them by treaty with the Indian
Slowly as time progressed the Colonial wilds of Virginia
became inhabited by English emigrants, and one by one the daring adventurers who first settled them passed away.
Englishmen of wealth and influence became planters, purchased lands in the new world, and brought out tenantry to cultivate them.
The culture of tobacco became a source of wealth, and hundreds were tempted by the prospect of gain to leave their English homes for the new found El Dorado
For the next twelve years after the settlement of Jamestown
the number of planters rapidly increased; but still the affairs of the colony did not thrive equal to the expectations of the people.
In 1620, the same year Miles Standish put his foot on the ‘"blarney stone"’ of New England
, twelve hundred and sixty-one additional settlers were induced to emigrate, but they soon became dissatisfied, and cherished the hope of a speedy return to England
Like men who rushed to the Pacific coast
in the years 1849 and 1850, they left the comforts of civilization for the sake of gain, and soon found out the difference between a comfortable home in Britain and life in the wilderness.
But then there were few women in the country; and what else could have been expected.
In order to attach them more closely to the settlement, and to render the colony more permanent, ninety young women, of a reputable character, were sent over to become the wives of the planters.
So good an effect did these ninety young women, of a reputable character, have upon the community in the bush, that they were soon followed by sixty more, (of whose character or characteristics history says nothing,) sent at the expense of the English Colonial Company
Thereafter women came in every ship, the planters paying the cost of their transportation; and so well did these young women conduct themselves that the price of a wife rose from one hundred and twenty to one hundred and fifty pounds of tobacco.
After this there was very little discontent, and the settlements increased rapidly.
The next year the London Company granted their Colony a written constitution, and a local Government was formed.
So things went on prosperously until the reign of King James was over; then came Charles I, Cromwell
, Charles II, and finally the Georges.
And through all the years — through many difficulties — the settlements in Virginia
continued to grow in wealth and importance.
With the number of emigrants increased the amount of tobacco raised in the Virginia Colony
, and it soon became necessary to form towns for the purpose of concentrating trade for facilitating the exportation of tobacco, and for the promotion of commerce.
In selecting locations for these towns none seemed to offer better advantages than a district called by Capt. Smith
situated on the Elizabeth river
, and on the 8th day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and eighty, seventy-three years after the settlement of Jamestown
, the Assembly of Virginia passed an act directing the purchase of fifty acres of land for the town of Norfolk
Extraordinary inducements were offered to lawyers, bricklayers, artizans, and mechanics, to take up their residence within the fifty acres; and they were exempted from arrest, and their property was not liable to seizure for debt.
Owing to the healthfulness of the location, the fine harbor, its facilities for trade, the place increased gradually towards the dimensions of a town.
September 15th, 1736, by a royal charter from George II, (about whom Mr. Thackeray
tells so many pleasant stories,) it was formed into a borough; and that is how the city of Norfolk
From 1736, the date of its chapter, to 1770, the town of Norfolk
Its fine location and its excellent harbor gave an importance few other towns possessed.--Trade from all parts of the State
flowed into its streets, and avenues were opened to commerce with the world.
At one time there was but a single rival in the colony, and that, Dumfries
, a Scotch settlement on the Potomac
, now a ruined and desolate burg.
The year 1770, saw Norfolk
the richest and most flourishing city in Virginia
It had increased in size until its inhabitants numbered six thousand; and had increased in wealth of which its fine streets, its stores and warehouses, its wharves, its churches, and its elegant private residences, were evidence.
When the American Revolution
was in a very prosperous condition.
At that time many of her sons joined the popular Massachusetts
clamor against ‘"the King
,"’ and assisted in the overthrow of British Government in the Colonies.
When hostilities actually begun, the city was the scene of stirring events and suffered severely before the close of the war. Early in the difficulties, the British fleet, under Lord Dunmore, made Norfolk harbor its principal rendezvous.
The Virginians commenced making preparations to defend themselves, and threw up fortifications around the town.
The first battle fought was at ‘"Great Bridge,"’ on the north bank of the Elizabeth river
, a few miles from the city, which took place on the morning of December 9th, 1775. Lord Dunmore dispatched 200 regulars and 300 blacks and tories to capture the bridge which was defended by 300 ‘"shipmen"’ as they called the Virginians, but they met with a severe defeat and returned with a loss of 102 killed and wounded. This victory determined the Virginians to take the city of Norfolk
; but, like the Yankees
, the British
commanders became alarmed at the noise around them, and the fortifications were hastily abandoned.
Twenty pieces of cannon were dismantled and spiked before Lord Dunmore took to his ships.
Owing to the increasing hostility of the people the fleet could not get provisions, and Lord Dunmore sent word to the Virginia
authorities that unless they furnished him, he would bombard the town.
No attention was paid to this, and on the 1st of January, 1776, after a notice to non-combatants to leave the city, he opened fire.
The wooden buildings by the water were soon in flames, and owing to high winds the conflagration spread until nineteenths of the city was destroyed.
Several times after the British fleet came into Hampton Roads
, and two or three times Portsmouth
, immediately across the river, was occupied.
That town also suffered severely during the war and was frequently used as places of rendezvous, as Annapolis
and Old Point
are used by the Yankees
On the 18th of April, 1781, a large body of British troops, under Maj. Gen. Phillips
and Brig Gen
, embarked at Portsmouth
on an expedition for the purpose of destroying some American stores.
A body of light infantry was sent up the Chickahominy
ten or twelve miles, where several armed ships, sundry warehouses, and some ship-yards were burned.
Five miles below the city of Norfolk
is Crany Island
, lying at the entrance of the harbor, three miles from Hampton Roads
.--During the last war with England
this was the scene of a battle.
On the 22d of June, 1813, a large fleet made an attack upon it, with a force of about 4,000 men, but met with a serious defeat.
The loss to the enemy was two hundred, while the Virginians did not lose a man. The fortifications on this island were erected by Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton
, then in command of this district.
One more event of interest, and I have done.
In the year 1856, the city of Norfolk
was the scene of a serious and fatal epidemic that has been appropriately denominated ‘"the great pestilence in Virginia
."’ The yellow fever swept through the town until it was more than decimated.
The tale of horrors that terrible disease unfolded, beggars the power of words to describe.
It has, however, been made the subject of an interesting book from the pen of Mr. William S. Forrest
, entitled, ‘"The Great Pestilence
is now a city of much importance,
it is situated upon the Elizabeth river
, as it widens out to the sea, eight miles from Hampton Roads
, and thirty-five from the ocean.
It has somewhere in the vicinity of fifteen thousand inhabitants, exclusive of the soldiers stationed near.
The harbor is large, safe, easy of access, and defended by Craney Island
, Sewell's Point
, Fort Calhoun
, and Fort Monroe
I turn from the last words of this slight historical sketch to light a cigar, and listen to the rain beat against the window.
All day long it has been wet and stormy, but with an occasional hour of fair weather.--One cannot always tramp for news, and stand at the street corners to catch the items of gossip which float on the current of public talk, and on such days, how better could ‘"your own"’ employ himself than in reading up in the old time records of the town in which he is a sojourner, and of learning what interest attaches to its olden associations.
In a time when every day makes history of greater interest, people are apt to care little for the history of the past; but it some one
looks over my task with pleasure I shall not feel these evening hours have been spent in vain.