Captain John Smith's Trail on the James

Captain John Smith's Trail on the James (HM1OK7)

Location: Charles City, VA 23030 Charles City County
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Country: United States of America
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N 37° 19.164', W 77° 5.941'

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South Panel

(left panel)
Gateways to Exploration
Four centuries ago, English eyes searched this landscape for a place to build a fort. Three English ships: the Susan Constant, the Godspeed, and the Discovery had crossed the Atlantic and entered the Chesapeake Bay on April 29, 1607. The ships entered the Powhatan River, as it was known to the Native people, and sailed as far inland as the Appomattox River before turning back.

The Chesapeake Bay, one of the largest estuaries in the world, the James River, which lies before you, and the Chickahominy River, which lies seven miles to the north, were gateways for exploration. The English called this a new world, but it wasn't new to the Native people who watched the ships and rightly may have feared for the security of their homeland.

Discovery Center
The water, forest and sky were filled with creatures new to English eyes. Can you spot a nest for this bird in the park?
John White's drawing of a Bald Eagle. Courtesy The British Museum.

While visiting the park, listen for the song of this bird.
John White's drawing of a Cardinal. Courtesy The British Museum.

Caption John Smith's Trail on the James is a 40-site water trail and auto tour for modern explorers.
This is site #20 on the Cypress Loop.

"The New World" MMV New Line Productions, Inc. All rights reserved. Photo by Marie Wallace. Photo courtesy of New Line Productions, Inc.

(center panel)
Gateways to Temptation

Where you stand was once Weyanock territory. The chief, or weroance, known by the name Kaquothocun, lived in a town to the west. The first English ship passed by without landing, but two weeks later the English returned to visit. The Weyanock farm impressed them for one wrote this "platt of gound" extended for "some 100 acres" and included "beanes, wheate [corn], peaze, Tobacco, Gourdes, pompions [pumpkins], and other things unknown to us in our tongue."

Native peoples did not rely on farms alone; fresh water marshes, like the one in this park, also supplied food. They dug and cooked tubers of plants, such as tuckahoe, and used trot lines with bone fish hooks to catch fish, which they then dried for leaner seasons. The Weyanocks also grew tobacco which they smoked in ceremonies. Ironically, it was tobacco that proved to be the great temptation and gave the English an economic incentive to invade these Native homelands.

Discovery Center
Native cultures utilized objects and living things within their environment for many purposes. Can you think of the different ways they may have used this reptile?
John White's drawing of a Common Box Tortoise. Courtesy The British Museum.

This plant was a staple in the diet of Native people. Look for it in the wetlands at the lower level of this park.

The Town of Secota Courtesy The Mariners' Museum, Newport News, Va.
Bone fish hook. Courtesy Virginia Dept. of Historic Resources
The broiling of their fish over the flame. Courtesy The Mariners' Museum, Newport News, Va.

(right panel)
Gateways to Land

Why might the English have been interested in this place as a potential site for their settlement?

Well, to unload large vessels you need to bring them in close to shore. River water naturally scours a deep channel close to the shore line at the outside edge of a bend in the river. Historic river landings like the one here in the park known as Wilcox's Wharf, and one just to the west known as Swineyards, became landings because they are situated at such a bend in the river.

Although the first English chose another place to settle, it was not long before these landings became gateways to inland settlements. Through these historic river landings came the adventurers, settlers, servants, and slaves who helped to forge a new and different nation.

Discovery Center
Indians caught sturgeon up to 12 feet in length. Can you imagine how?
Their manner of fishing. Courtesy The Mariners' Museum, Newport News, Va.

Fry-Jefferson map 1751. Courtesy The Library of Virginia.
"The New World" MMV New Line Productions, Inc. All rights reserved. Photo by Marie Wallace. Photo courtesy of New Line Productions, Inc.
HM NumberHM1OK7
Marker Number20
Placed ByChesapeake Bay Gateways Network, Charles City County, Lawrence Lewis Jr. Park
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Monday, October 12th, 2015 at 1:03pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18S E 314010 N 4132371
Decimal Degrees37.31940000, -77.09901667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 37° 19.164', W 77° 5.941'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds37° 19' 9.84" N, 77° 5' 56.46" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)804
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling South
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 12400 Wilcox Wharf Rd, Charles City VA 23030, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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