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Citie of Henricus

1611 Settlement

In May 1611 Sir Thomas Dale arrived in Virginia with instructions from the London Company to find a secure and healthy area to establish a new town and seat of the colony. Early in September 1611, Sir Thomas Dale moved up the river to establish Henricus, the colony's second settlement.

Sir Thomas DaleSir Thomas Dale was an experienced officer, having served as a captain in the Netherlands. He had been knighted at Richmond (England) on June 19, 1606, as Sir Thomas Dale of Surrey. With the help of friends, Dale was appointed High Marshall of the colony.

As High Marshall, Dale was responsible for enforcing the laws, determining punishment and leading military expeditions. As commander, Dale was also responsible for overseeing the construction and defense of the city.

Men were assigned specific tasks. While some cleared the land, others began construction of the palisades and buildings and others kept watch against hostile Native Americans. He already had "timber, pales, posts and railes" prepared "for the present impaling this new Towne to secure himself and en from the mallice and trechery of the Indians."

Henricus stood "upon a neck of very high land, 3 parts thereof environed with the main River." As a defensive measure, Dale erected a long fence known as a pale across the narrow end of the neck of land to make it an island. Powhatan's skilled bowmen harassed the Englishmen as the fort and palisade took shape, sending arrows over the walls.

Dale confidently expected that the new town would replace Jamestown as the principal seat of the colony. The location upriver provided security from possible Spanish attack (Britain was hostile with Spain at this time); and the high bluffs provided a healthier environment than the swamps of Jamestown.

John Rolfe, an enterprising settler, was the first to successfully introduce crop tobacco to Virginia on his small Virginia farm. Rolfe obtained the seeds of a strain of Trinidad and Orinoco tobacco that thrived in Virginia soil. This "green gold" quickly became the colony's chief export and transformed the struggling colony into a bustling and robust economy.

In 1614, shortly after the introduction of crop tobacco, Sir Thomas Dale instituted a policy of private ownership of land drastically altering the development of Henricus. To encourage each citizen to work and prosper from his labor, he gave each man three acres of land. In exchange for the land, each man was required to provide 2 barrels of food to the common food stores each year. By 1616 is it believed that approximately 50 persons were all the remained within the Citie walls. Others had established their own private farms along the James River.

As the colonists began to prosper, their increased numbers and aggressive expansion further strained the relationship between the English and the Native Americans. In March 22, 1622, Opechancanough, Powhatan's younger brother and successor, led a raid against English settlements up and down the James River. The Citie of Henricus was destroyed. Although Opechancanough did not succeed in driving the English from the area, some of the settlements were abandoned, including Henricus.

Subsequent efforts to reestablish the town of Henricus failed. In May 1625, more than three years after the devastating attack, only 22 inhabitants were reported residing in ten "dwelling-houses" at Henricus.

In 1637, fifteen years after the Massacre, the site was included in a 2,000 acre tract patented by William Farrar (farrar1). Because it was owned by the Farrar family, specifically William Farrar, Sr., the peninsula became known as Farrar's Island.


The 1611 Citie of Henricus is being recreated in a new and exciting way. To best educate visitors about the important beginnings that occurred at Henricus in a compelling and dynamic way, the Citie is being rebuilt in seven educational venues, or "outdoor classrooms." Each venue will focus on one of the many beginnings that occurred at Henricus, and will include living history interpretation, buildings and gardens.

The influence of the Native Americans on the lives of the English settlers cannot be overstated. The skills and experiences the Native Americans shared with the English enabled the colonists to survive in this new environment.

The Native American encampment is enclosed within a log style palisade. The recreated camp includes two yahawkins (wigwams). To demonstrate the different building techniques of the Eastern Woodland Natives, one yahawkin is covered in bark and one in reed. Carved totems also enhance the experience. Interpreters can demonstrate many of the crafts and skills of the Native Americans, including tanning, canoe making, flintknapping, basket weaving, pottery working and cooking techniques. The agrarian life of the Native Americans also is explored. Corn and tobacco fields are planted as examples of the types of crops the Native Americans grew.

Explore the life of the typical 17th-century Henricus resident within the palisaded walls of the Citie Center. Interpreters will use a watchtower and armory to demonstrate the importance of military rule that controlled this colony. With several dwellings, a completed wooden church, the brick foundation for a another church, and vegetable and herb gardens as a backdrop, the domestic and social interaction of the Citie's inhabitants will also be investigated. Blacksmithing, carpentry and brick making will further demonstrate the daily community life of the colonists.

Mt. Malady, the first public hospital in the American colonies, was built near Henricus in 1612. A contemporary observer described Mt. Malady as "an Hospitall with fourscore lodgins (and beds ready to furnish them) for the sicke and lame, with keepers to attend them for their comfort and reverie." The hospital was most likely a long, narrow structure fortified with a palisade or paled fence. It is thought to have had 40 beds for 80 patients. Comparatively, the typical European hospital housed four or more patients per bed, head-to-toe, regardless of gender. Mt. Malady was more a retreat or "guest house" for the sick than a hospital in the modern sense. Built for "harboring sick men and receiving strangers," the hospital at Henricus provided a safe haven where colonists could recover from their long sea voyage to Virginia. They could also seek treatment for such prevalent diseases as typhoid fever, dysentery and salt poisoning contracted by drinking contaminated water from shallow wells and salt water from the James River. In addition, incoming settlers brought many infectious diseases with them which spread to the colonists. The hot humid Virginia summers, so different from England, would also have been hard on those newly arrived. It is not known how long Mt. Malady stood and served as a hospital. Some believe that it was destroyed during the Indian Massacre of 1622. Public institutional care for the sick disappeared in Colonial Virginia when the London Company was dissolved in 1624. With the dissolving of the Virginia Company, the colonists had to provide for their own medical care through private physicians or at home.

The Virginia Company began to develop the first university in English North America near Henricus in 1619. The Colledge of Henricus was to offer a place of higher learning for both the settlers and Native American youth. The company provided instructions specifying that 10,000 acres be set aside for the university. Later, they reserved an additional 1,000 acres for a college to provide religious instruction to the natives in order to "civilize" them. The land set aside was on the north side of the river and extended from the falls down to the area adjacent to Henricus.

The Colledge of Henricus was a casualty of the Massacre of 1622. Seventeen men were killed on college lands. Survivors fled to Jamestown for safety. The Company in London later sent a directive to Virginia ordering work to resume on the college. Though several attempts were made to follow this directive, public support in Virginia was lacking and these attempts were in vain.

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