On a summer morning in June 1610, 60 skinny and malnourished people aboard two ships, the Deliverance and Patience, looked east toward England. They were all that was left of more than 500 English settlers that had come to the new world in 1607 and 1608. Those fortunate enough to be on board now, had spent the cold winter and early spring, eating worms, rats, cats and even other settlers at times, due to the intense starvation.
Starvation wasn’t the only problem the settlers of Jamestown had to deal with. The native tribes had camped around their little fort and would kill or take prisoner anyone that left the compound. The natives were happy to let the people starve or kill themselves until they were gone from their lands.
Captain Christopher Newport had been sent from England with supplies and more settlers in June 1609, a year before the relief of the Jamestown community. He had left with seven ships, but all were caught in a hurricane and scattered. Captain Newport’s boat was shipwrecked in Bermuda for 9 months. They were able to build the Deliverance and Patience vessels and sail to Jamestown with some food and additional settlers. But it was evident that they were not prepared to survive another winter, and the leaders of the boat and the community decided Jamestown was not going to work and it would be best for them to return to England; a third disastrous attempt to colonize the new world.
As they started to follow the tide out to sea, they saw the arrival of a fleet of ships. The 60 survivors were astonished to see more boats. What were the chances of meeting them when they were just about to leave and turn their backs on this land for good?
Captain Newport, the leaders of the Deliverance and Patience, as well the leaders of the Jamestown survivors were to decide what to do. Should they return to the mosquito and Indian infested lands that had already claimed more than 440 lives? Or should they go back to England.
They decided to go back to Jamestown and try again.
This time, they planted crops and learned from the devastating circumstances they had just survived. They still struggled at times, but were able to grow and prosper substantially in the years to come. They set the stage for another group of English citizens that would settle in Massachusetts for religious freedom. In fact, Stephen Hopkins, one of the men on board the Deliverance and Patience, would lead those pilgrims as the only one with experience in the new world. He gained that experience at Jamestown.
Surviving in what would become America was hard for the Europeans at first. They were used to a world that had been tamed thousands of years before they were born. So when they arrived to a land that was wild and inhabited by a wild people, they struggled to get established. These struggles however, required them to set up a different system than their social class society. They gave land to the settlers and they were required to work the land and make something out of it. The new land established a freedom of religion that wasn’t enjoyed in Europe. Spain demanded Catholicism, England had a state religion, but in the 13 colonies, before the revolution, there were 17 separate religions with multiple congregations.
In the easy times, we tend to coast through life. In the hard times, we have to find new solutions. We have to get stronger and wiser to overcome current problems. But this new strength and wisdom can propel us to new heights.