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History from 1500 to 1699
How it is linked to
events in Europe, the United States of America, United Kingdom and Canada
Archibald Forbes (see About
Us) at e-mail exclusively for Bermuda
To refer to
this web file, please use "bermuda-online.org/history.htm"
as your Subject
Bermuda was first
1505, but not settled
- 1502. Christopher Columbus took his fourth voyage to
the New World.
- Circa 1505. Bermuda was believed to
have been discovered by accident by Juan de
Bermudez, Captain of La Garza, a Spanish vessel, part of a Spanish fleet. But
because it was so small, the island group remained
uninhabited and unsettled until 1609, except for the occasional shipwrecked
- 1509. It was first recorded
in European journals
the early Islamic
states of the western Sudan, including Ghana
(1712–1861), and Songhai
(1275–1591), about a third of the population were enslaved.
See in Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery.
reported in London and other journals
that instead of ritually killing captured tribes
or enslaving them themselves, African chiefs profited by selling them instead
to Arab and European traders.
- 1509. King Henry VII
of England died and was succeeded by his son, King
- 1511. In Spain a book of Spanish
discoveries in the Caribbean published by Peter Martyr had a map (see below) of La Bermudas
(or Garza, after the ship captained by Juan de Bermudez) well north
of the Caribbean.
First known map to
include Bermuda (shown as La Bermude, top right. lower case, upside down)
- 1515. Spanish writer and historian Oviedo
sailed near Bermuda but was unable to land.
1527. A petition
by Hernando Camero, a Portuguese from the Azores, to claim and people Bermuda for the crown of Spain, but was never followed up
seriously. A later war involving Spain may have been why.
Portuguese slave ship sank off the South Shore, Bermuda. From this
tragedy, the inscription of the "Spanish Rock" at Spittal Pond may
1543. A French map of the world showing La Bermuda was published.
- 1543. In Bermuda, Spanish Rock was
inscribed with this date, plus a cross, by Portuguese mariners.
- 1544. Sebastian Cabot's Mappo Mundi was
published. Many Bermuda resources including the Government of Bermuda official
website and late Bermudian author Terry Tucker's book Bermuda
Today and Yesterday claim this map showed Bermuda as "ya de
demonios" (Isle of Devils, in Spanish). But this has been
disputed by an American historian, apparently for cause, with the
assertion that the copy of Cabot's map in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, which
for many years was the only known copy, has Bermuda clearly labeled
"La Bermuda." Whatever, the devilish sounds were
not demons but the cries - wild, eerie shrieks of sea and land birds,
cahows indigenous to Bermuda and also likely, the sounds of hogs
sqealing, not indigenous but landed there by sailors to provide food
in the event of being shipwrecked.
1547-1608. Bermuda remained
- 1547. King Edward VI
ascended the throne on England.
- 1554. The birth, in Lyme Regis,
England, of the man who discovered and colonized Bermuda, Admiral Sir George Somers.
From the port of La Rochelle,
France, set out a man-of-war of some hundred tons, along with a
pinnace of twenty-five tons, crewed by one hundred fifty soldiers
and sailors, and commanded by a sea captain from La Rochelle by name
of Captain Mesmin. The
privateer took a Spanish prize in the Caribbean and headed home,
with half the crew manning the newly-pirated acquisition.
Unfortunately, the Bermuda reefs intervened and the prize became one
of the early shipwrecks at the island. Some of the crew from the
wreck were probably the first people to set foot on Watford Island,
from which place the largest bridge in Bermuda was later so named,
spanning the gap between that island and Somerset. The
story is one of treachery and ethnic betrayal that began from the
moment of the wrecking of the Spanish vessel. Captain Mesmin, in the
French ship, hung offshore and received entreaties from the wrecked
crew to take all of them aboard his ship and back to France. But he
refused. Mesmin left the 45 men to their own devices, their ship
still partly afloat, but firmly wedged and half sunk on the reefs.
With their ship breaking apart under their
feet, the abandoned sailors made two rafts, the better to reach dry
land at Bermuda, seen in the distance. Enduring a bashing from the
sea, both rafts floated to land, but one ended up at the eastern end
of Bermuda and the other grounded to the west. The
occupants of the latter, having set foot back on terra firma, with
no loss among their number, they began to walk along the coast
hoping to find some trace of their companions. But they had not got
very far when they came across an obstruction in their path in the
shape of a river which was at least 300 paces across. That
obstructive “river” is believed to be the channel between
Watford and Somerset Islands. The
25 shipwrecked mariners were obliged to return to the remains of
their raft and reuse it to traverse the gap from Watford Island to
Somerset. In so doing, as they had demolished part of the raft for
firewood, five of the men were left behind on Watford Island,
becoming in a way its first settlers. The
other score took two weeks to travel to the eastern end of the main
island of Bermuda, where they found the other members of the
shipwrecked crew. Due to prickly pear, “they were forced to cut up
their hats to put them on their feet as soles, because their shoes
were all ripped and torn”. The
treacherous saga continued and a boat was built to take the men back
to the Caribbean. This was accomplished, but three of the sailors,
being ethnic Normans and not from La Rochelle, were left behind in
Bermuda. A ship sent out from Normandy to that end later rescued
Queen Elizabeth 1 assumed the throne on the death of her
older half-sister, Queen Mary 1.
- 1558. Birth of Thomas Smith
(Smythe), later Sir Thomas and the Treasurer of the Virginia Company, who had
links to Bermuda
- 1560 to 1570. The first known visit to
Bermuda by a Frenchman was by Captain Russel or Roussel, shipwrecked here then. His ship
struck a reef and was so badly holed that lives were lost. Russel and the remainder of his
crew made a smaller boat out of materials from the perished ship and sailed to
Newfoundland where they got passage back to France.
- 1562. Sir John Hawkins
first went to the New World and began the British slave trade from Guinea. But the Portuguese
started it earlier.
- 1582. Establishment in Newfoundland of first
British colony in New World.
- 1584. January 11.
The Spanish ship Santa Lucia was wrecked off Bermuda. Captained
by Juan Lopez, she had been part of a fleet of ships that had left
Spain for the Indies in 1583. She was not carrying any merchandise
or treasure and her function was that of a courier ship, carrying
government, financial and private documents, as well as gathering
information on the progress and condition of the fleet, and of the
various port cities visited. Once the fleet reached Vera Cruz in
Mexico, she was to return home as soon as possible. However, en
route from Vera Cruz, via Havana, to Spain, she ran into a storm and
was unable to negotiate Bermuda’s reef-strewn waters.
- 1585-1589. The first of two attempts to
establish a colony on Roanoke Island were organized by Sir Walter Raleigh. The second
disappeared without a trace in 1589. British
White made a map and other drawings when he traveled to
Roanoke Island in 1585 on an expedition commanded by Sir Ralph Lane.
In 1587, a second colony of 116 English settlers landed on Roanoke
Island, led by White. He left the island for England for more
supplies but couldn't return again until 1590 because of the war
between England and Spain. When
he came back, the colony was gone. White knew the majority had
planned to move "50 miles into the maine," as he wrote,
referring to the mainland. The only clue he found about the fate of
the other two dozen was the word "CROATOAN" carved into a
post, leading historians to believe they moved south to live with
American Indians on what's now Hatteras Island.
- 1587. A report from
Spanish sailor Pedro de Aspide reported pearl fisheries in waters
around Bermuda and begged royal assent to exploit them. (Later, it
was established they had no pearls).
- 1593. St. Augustine in Florida was
founded by the Spanish, as the first continuously lived-in settlement by
Europeans in the New World.
- 1591. April 10.
Three ships sailed from Plymouth, England for the East Indies. They were the Penelope,
Merchant Royal and Edward Bonaventura. In the latter was English seaman Henry May,
transferred by his captain, James Lancaster, to a French vessel. The French ship was under
the command of M. de la Barbotiere.
- 1593. November 30.
Captain de la Barbotiere sailed from Laguna, Hispaniola, on the
voyage described above.
- 1593. December 17. Seventeen days
after leaving Laguna, Captain de la Barbotiere and his pilots thought they
were out of danger of the Isle of Devils or Bermuda. They got their wine of height for a
safe latitude, drank long and deep, with a minimal deck watch, but erred severely in their
navigation. At midnight on December 17, the ship struck the north-west reefs of Bermuda
and was so badly damaged that out of fifty five men, only twenty six reached the shore
alive. Henry May and Captain de la Barbotiere were among the survivors. It is the wreck of
this French ship on the Bermuda coat of arms. The crew cut down Bermuda cedar trees and
built a seaworthy craft of eighteen tons. They caulked her seams with lime salvaged from
the ship and oil extracted from local turtles they caught for food. They ate turtle meat
fish, birds - and wild hogs.
- 1594. May 11. Captain de la Barbotiere
and his repaired ship sailed from Bermuda to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, on May 20, where the Englishman,
Barbotiere and crew observed the settlement before continuing to Newfoundland, where May
boarded another French ship directly for Europe. He reached Falmouth, Cornwall, two months
later in 1594.
- 1596. November. En
route from Cartagena, Columbia to Cadiz, Spain, and laden with treasure, the
350-ton merchant ship San Pedro was wrecked on Bermuda’s inner reef. A
treasure ship from the Spanish colonial period, she was part of the Nueva
Espana fleet which carried manufactured goods from Spain to the New World
and returned with gold, silver, coins, jewels and other valuable products. (She
was discovered in 1960 by veteran shipwreck diver, Teddy Tucker and Robert
Canten. Among the treasures they recovered was a gold pectoral cross with
seven emeralds, said to be one of the most valuable pieces of jewellery
retrieved from any Spanish shipwreck. Other items included a thirty-two
ounce gold bar, two small gold ingots, a bronze mortar, a navigating
instrument, a pewter porringer, tools, Chinese ceramic, glazed pottery,
French coins, an ostrich egg, pearl-studded gold buttons and race Carib
Indian weapons. It was the first major treasure recovery as well as the most
significant Tudor period find of the twentieth century).
- 1600. The East India Company of England was
- 1600. In England, the lode
stone acquired by Admiral Sir George Somers to magnetize his compass needles and
later used by him to discover Bermuda, was manufactured.
- 1602. New England was first named and
explored by English mariner Bartholomew Gosnold. He was the first Englishman in the
region, after sailing from the Azores and then again from Maine to Cape Cod. He named the
region after his homeland and Martha's Vineyard after the first name of his eldest child.
- 1603. Queen Elizabeth was succeeded by King
James I of England and VI of Scotland.
- 1603. Diego Ramirez, captain of a Spanish
galleon, spent 3 weeks on Bermuda with his crew to repair their ship and sent a description to his superiors in Seville,
Spain. A black crewmember was Venturilla. He was sent ashore with a lantern and
axe to cut a piece of cedar while the rest of his crew waited on the
ship. When on land, he was mobbed by many cahows and yelled to his
crewmates for help. They assumed he was being attacked by the devil,
rushed to his aid and that night captured more than 500 birds which
they ate. All
left after repairing the ship. The map created by
Captain Diego Ramirez during his visit that year is the first-ever
known map showing a representation or shape specifically of the island of Bermuda.
He also discovered tobacco growing in Bermuda, at Spanish Point
where he landed, named after his nationality. It is possible that
the Spanish, well acquainted with tobacco since 1492, planted tobacco in Bermuda
during one of their shipwrecks and if so it was probably the better quality Caribbean
variety than Raleighs Indian tobacco planted in
Diego Ramirez's 1603 map of Bermuda
- 1605. Annapolis Royal, in Nova Scotia,
became the first permanent English-speaking settlement in North America.
- 1606. In April, King James I issued a charter
to the Virginia Company for land along mid Atlantic coast. Dutch painter Rembrandt
- 1606. On February 1, Guy Fawkes and
others were executed in London, drawn and quartered, for attempting to blow up Parliament.
Their limbs were severed, stomachs were disemboweled
and heads held aloft on spiked staves.
- 1606. December 20. Captain Christopher Newport left London with the Godspeed, Discovery and
Susan Constant for Virginia.
- 1607. The Virginia
Company of London was established.
- 1607. Near Fort Popham, on the Kennebec
River, in Maine, the English Popham Colony was established, abandoned after George Popham
died. Yet they built the pinnace Virginia, the first English vessel launched from the
- 1607. May 13, 104 male settlers arrived at
James City for the first permanent English settlement in the New World.
- 1607. May 26. In Jamestown, Paspahegh
Indians attacked the colonists, killed two and wounded ten. On June 15, James Fort was
completed. On September 10, the Council accused Councilor George Kendall of discord. He was placed under arrest on the Discovery and
executed. On September 12
the Council found President Edward M. Wingfield guilty of libel. He was deposed and John
Ratcliffe took his place. On December 10 Captain John Smith went up the Chickahominy for
food but was captured. On December 29 he was brought before Powhatan but his daughter
Pocahontas saved Smith's life.
- 1608. January 1. Smith returned to James
Fort and saw only 38 of the original 104 settlers. Smith was accused of deaths of
men on his expedition. He was tried and condemned to be hung.
But Captain Christopher Newport returned on the John and Francis with the First Supply of
food and more settlers. Newport halted the Smith execution. In February, Smith took
Newport up the York River to meet Powhatan for an exchange of beads for provisions and
sons. Thomas Savage lived with the Indians and Namontack with the British. They acted as
interpreters and liaisons.
- 1608. Champlain founded the French settlement at
Quebec City, courted Indian traders and imported French missionaries.
- 1608. Birth of famous English poet John
Milton, whose poetical works are still popular today.
- 1608. In September the "Second
Supply" with 70 new immigrants arrived on the Mary and Margaret, including an
Elizabethan bed for Powhatan, a five piece barge to explore the Richmond Falls and two
women, Mrs. Thomas Forrest and her maid Anne Burras.
- 1608. In November, Jamestown had its first
wedding, with much celebration, when Anne Burras was married to John Laydon, a
carpenter who had arrived earlier.
1609. Bermuda settled by
English colonists. Events thereafter
1609. In May, James I issued the second charter to the Virginia
Sir Thomas Smith (Smythe) was appointed Treasurer of the Virginia Company.
1609. June 2, not
long after her launch, the
Virginia Company's ship "Sea Venture" sailed on its maiden
voyage from Plymouth,
England for Jamestown, Virginia. She was built in 1609 in Aldeburgh, Suffolk,
England, and was England's first purpose-designed emigrant ship.
She displaced 300 tons, cost £1,500, and differed from her
contemporaries primarily in her internal arrangements. Her guns were
placed on her main deck, rather than below decks as was then the
norm. This meant the ship did not need double-timbering, and she may
have been the first single-timbered, armed merchant ship built in
England. Her hold was sheathed and furnished for
passengers. She was armed with eight nine-pounder demi-culverins,
eight five-pounder sakers (cannon), four three-pounder falcons (also
cannon), and four arquebuses. Her uncompleted journey to
Jamestown appears to have been her maiden voyage. Sir Thomas Gates was Lieutenant Governor
designate. Admiral Sir George
Somers, a British naval hero of Lyme
Regis, Dorset, The historic English town from where Bermuda's
History began (see how Lyme Regis records it under "Lyme
Regis and Bermuda") commanded the
"Third Supply" Relief Fleet of nine vessels. Captain Christopher Newport
was chief officer of the fleet. George Yeardley was then commander of land forces under Gates.
600 colonists included John Rolfe and his
pregnant first wife, who died later in Bermuda. The fleet was to relieve the struggling British colony established in
1607 under Captain John Smith after failure of the Roanoke Island venture of Sir Walter
Raleigh. It was the largest and most expensive colonization.
1609. July 28,
a hurricane that had begun on July 24 sank one ship and threw the flagship Sea Venture so far off course
that it was wrecked on a reef in Bermuda. All 150, including John Rolfe
and his pregnant wife were saved. Also aboard the Se Venture was the
greatest part of the food intended not for passengers but for hungry colonists
at Jamestown. Their food was instead eaten by the passengers wrecked in Bermuda.
The colonists later painstakingly rebuilt two boats, Deliverance and Patience, from the
at Buildings Bay, St. George's. The
list of passengers included Sir
Thomas Gates, Governor for Virginia; Sir
George Somers, Admiral of the flotilla; Rev. Richard Bucke, chaplain to the
expedition; William Strachney, Surrey, Secretary-elect of Virginia Company;
Silvester Jourdain, of Lyme Regis, Dorset; Joseph Chard; Henry Shelly; Robert Walsingham, cockswain; Robert Frobisher, shipwright; Nicholas Bennit,
carpenter; Francis Pearepoint; William Brian; William Martin; Henry Ravens,
master mate; Richard Knowles; Stephen Hopkins; Christopher Carter; Robert
Waters; Edward Waters; Samuel Sharpe; Henry Paine, shot to death for mutiny;
Humfrey Reede; James Swift; Thomas Powell, cook; Edward Eason; Mistress Eason;
baby boy Bermuda Eason, born in Bermuda the previous-mentioned; John Want;
Mistress Horton; Elizabeth Persons, maid to Mistress Horton; married Thomas
Powell while in Bermuda; Capt (Sir) George Yeardley, experienced veteran of the
Dutch wars; Jeffrey Briars (died in Bermuda); Richard Lewis, died in Bermuda;
Edward Samuel, murdered by Robert Waters; William Hitchman, died in Bermuda;
Thomas Whittingham, later lost at sea with Ravens; Edward Chard; Captain Matthew
Somers nephew and heir of Sir George (was aboard the "Swallow" on the
same expedition); Robert Rich, the brother of Sir Nathaniel Rich, a shareholder;
Christopher Newport, Captain of the Sea Venture, former privateer; Stephen
Hopkins; John Rolfe, a young man in his twenties and traveling with his wife.
Their baby girl was born in Bermuda, christened Bermuda 11 February 1610 and
died shortly thereafter and buried in Bermuda. His wife died shortly after
reaching Virginia Spring 1610 and he married Pocahontas in April 1614; Mistress
Rolfe, first wife of above; Henry Bagwell, aged 35; Thomas Godby, aged 36; Lieut.
Edward Waters, aged 40; Elizabeth Joons, aged 30, servant; John Lytefoote; John
Proctor; Josuah Chard; Henry Bagwell; Samuel Sharp; Capt. Wm Pierce;
George Grave; Richard Buck with wife, Miss Langley and four Buck children;
Stephen Hopkins; Wm Pierce. All these first involuntary British settlers in
Bermuda, denied for many months the ability to get to Jamestown in Virginia,
were extremely fortunate in several major respects. They had arrived on an
island with no prior continuous human habitation, just a few signs of temporary
earlier castaways, most likely Spanish or Portuguese. They found ready sources
of food from coastal waters teeming with fish and other edibles from the sea.
Big, fat birds - Bermuda cahows, later nearly extinct - were there for the
eating. Feral wild hogs galore, most likely left there by Spanish mariners as a
source of food in the event of shipwrecks, roamed the island. Although hot and
humid in summer the climate was wonderfully mild in winter, especially when
compared to the United Kingdom and Jamestown. Whereas in Virginia, conditions in
the first English
settlement in the New World were far from glamorous (early settlers in
Jamestown were often starving, and forced to eat dogs, mice, and shoe leather to
survive devastating winters. A few written accounts take things one gruesome
step farther and suggest that some Jamestown colonists even ate their own dead.
Native American Indians were constantly hostile.
hogs, a choice source of food for the newcomers.
1609. July 30. Seven
small ships of the nine that had sailed in the Third Supply fleet (but not the
flagship Sea Venture wrecked in Bermuda) arrived at the Jamestown colony
with even more new colonists to feed, and few supplies, most of which had been
aboard the larger flagship.
1609. Admiral Sir
George Somers was rowed around the island and from
the trip made the second known manuscript map of Bermuda, (after the
one by Ramirez) which has survived in two copies, one in
Bermuda in the collections of the Bermuda National Trust and the
other at the British Library.
February. Birth in Bermuda of the daughter, named Bermuda, the first
child known to have been born in Bermuda, of John Rolfe and his wife
Sarah Hacker Rolfe.
Rolfe was born in
Norfolk, England as the son of John Rolfe and Dorothea Mason, and
was baptized on May 6, 1585. John
Rolfe is one of the most famous of the 17th century new world
arrivals. He and his wife were Sea Venture castaways. But Mrs. Rolfe and her daughter
Bermuda died less than two months later in Bermuda. (Later,
Mr. Rolfe, as a widower, continued on to Jamestown, Virginia where
in 1614, he married native American Princess Pocahontas.)
1610. May 10. The
"Deliverance" left Bermuda for the Virginia colony,
arriving on 23/24 May at Jamestown, VA. She was about 80 tons, about
57 feet in length with 64 ft foremast,72 ft mainmast, and 44 ft
mizzen mast. She carried Sir Thomas Gates, Sir George
Somers, William Strachey and 100 settlers (all except for three, who as
deserters had remained in Bermuda). They included widower John
Rolfe who later achieved fame as the husband of an Indian princess, Pocahontas.
Strachey wrote for Sir Thomas Gates, Admiral Sir George
Somers and Captain
Christopher Newport a thrilling account of the shipwreck off and
discovery of Bermuda. Only three members of the original castaways
refused to go on to Virginia. They were imprisoned for mutiny but
escaped and fled, believed to have been to the Walsingham area of
the Main Island. The
three who chose to stay, These miscreants were Edward Chard, Robert
Waters and Christopher Carter, who were later fancifully but falsely
referred to themselves as the “Three Kings of Bermuda”, purely
because they were the only known inhabitants for a while. As
fugitives, they lived as such, instead of trying to redeem
themselves by improving their lot. Later, in 1612 when Bermuda
was settled by design and not by accident as before, they were
caught appropriately punished and deported in irons back to
1610. May 23. The survivors of
the shipwreck of the Third Supply mission's flagship Sea Venture finally arrived
at Jamestown in two makeshift small ships Deliverance and Plough under the
command of Captain Christopher Newport they had constructed while stranded on
Bermuda for nine months. They found fewer than 100 colonists still
alive, many of whom were sick. Worse yet, the Bermuda survivors had brought few
supplies and only a small amount of food with them, expecting to find a thriving
colony at Jamestown. The latter's settlers were faced with abandoning Jamestown
and returning to England. It has been speculated but so far this has not been
proved that Sir George Somers and John Rolfe (both on the Sea Venture
which was wrecked in Bermuda on its way to Jamestown in July 1609) took the
Bermuda Tobacco seed (found growing at Tobacco Bay and possibly also planted at
Spanish Point, Pembroke, prior to 1603 in Bermuda by shipwrecked Spaniards en
route back to Spain from the New World) to Virginia from Bermuda on the two
ships they built, the Deliverance and Patience.
1610. May 24. May 24, Lieutenant Governor Gates proclaimed martial
law and instructed the colonists to abandon Jamestown.
1610. June 7, 1610. Both
groups of survivors (from Jamestown and Bermuda) boarded ships, and they all set
sail down the James River toward the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
1610. But on June 8 Lord De La Warr
arrived with further supplies from England. Virginia was saved.
November 8 or 9. 1610. Admiral Sir George
Somers returned to Bermuda for needed
food, and a
few months later died on the island, it is said from a surfeit of pig. His heart was buried in St.
George's, and his body later taken and buried in Dorset, England, where he was born.
Sir John Smith, the famous explorer and early colonial historian, believed Sir
George as an unselfish friend to Virginia. He went to Bermuda to fetch “hogs
and other good things” for languishing Jamestown because “his noble mind
ever regarded a general good more than his own ends.” Despite his age (nearing
60), he made the “dangerous voyage” in the Patience and, upon arrival,
exerted “extraordinary care, pains, and industry” to gather food. But alas,
“the strength of his body” was not equal to the “ever memorable courage of
his mind.” He died “in that very place which we now call Saint Georges
town” after exhorting his sailors “with all expedition to return to
Virginia” with food. (The unsubstantiated but oft-quoted assertion that he
died “of a surfeit eating Pork” comes from Edward Howe, an English
chronicler who was not involved with the voyage.) Somers’s men embalmed the
body” and then carried it on to “Whit-Church in Dorsetshire for burial after
leaving volunteers Christopher Carter, Edward Chard and Edward Waters behind in
Bermuda so as “not to leave such a place abandoned.” Another account
notes however that the corpse of Sir George was not openly placed on board but
secretly stowed aboard the Patience in a cedar chest, because “superstitious
mariners” would have refused to carry it as the portage of dead bodies was
deemed “prodigiously ominous.”
Admiral Sir George
Somers, Founder of Bermuda
- 1610. Henry Hudson explored the Hudson
- 1611. May. Sir Thomas Dale arrived at
Jamestown with 300 new settlers.
- 1611. George Yeardley, on the Sea Venture in 1609
before he went to Virginia in 1610, was knighted ( and later became a
two term Governor of Virginia).
- 1611. While Matthew Somers,
nephew of the late Sir George Somers, sailed back to England from Bermuda on
the Patience bearing his uncle's pickled body minus his heart for burial
in Lyme Regis. He had died in Bermuda on November 8 or 9, 1610. The so-called ‘Three Kings’ of Bermuda, Christopher
Carter, Edward Waters and Edward Chard were the only colonists left behind,
possibly to help defend the island against a Spanish takeover.
- 1611. June 1. Lyme Regis
records state that the body of Sir George Somers arrived there on this day.
Unexplained still is why there was a seven-month interval between Sir
George’s death in Bermuda and his arrival in England? Did Matthew Somers
and the crew of the Patience stay on in Bermuda into the spring of 1611? A
typical passage from Bermuda to Dorset took less than a month. Or did they
spend the spring venturing in Caribbean or North Atlantic waters, with
Somers’s body lying in the hold all the while? Somer's body was taken to
and brought ashore near the Lyme Regis village church of St. Candida and
Holy Cross. There, he was honorably buried, with many vollies of shot and
the rites of a soldier.” Smith even gives the Latin inscription carved on
Somers’s tomb, which in English read: "Alas Virginia’s Summer so
soon past. Autumn succeeds and stormy Winters blast. Yet England’s joyful
Spring with joyful showers. O Florida, shall bring thy sweetest
- 1611. The Virginia Company
set about promoting colonization and recruiting pioneer settlers to Bermuda.
It gave Sir George Somers a unique credential by bestowing his surname upon
the new colony. Thus his most enduring contribution to Bermuda occurred
after his death. Renaming Bermuda “the Somers Islands” meant an official
substitution of the name of an English knight instead of that of the Spanish
mariner Juan de Bermudez upon the world’s maps. By giving his name to an
entire colony, Somers surpassed Francis Drake, Walter Raleigh, Martin
Frobisher, Humphrey Gilbert and his other Elizabethan seafaring peers.
- 1611. In London, the first King James
Bible was published.
- 1611. On November 1, in London, England, at
Whitehall, for King James VI of Scotland and I of England, the first performance of the
original dramatic and musical work THE TEMPEST by the British
dramatist and playwright William Shakespeare, with music by the British composer
Robert Johnson. See http://www.historytoday.com/richard-cavendish/tempest-first-performed.
The drama was based on true accounts by English writer, historian and
lawyer William Strachey, of Lyme Regis, Dorset, England, and Sylvester Jourdain
of the accidental discovery of and residence on the island of Bermuda, later
called the Somer's Islands to honour Admiral Sir George
referred to as the father of Bermuda. Both Strachey and Jourdain had
been in Bermuda with Somers, as passengers on the Sea Venture until it sank off
Bermuda and then on the Deliverance until they got to Jamestown, Virginia and ultimately
went back to
England. Whole sections of the original text were taken by Shakespeare from their dramatic
accounts and the story of Admiral Sir George Somers. But Shakespeare obscured facts with fiction on his
mythical Italian island.
- 1612. July 11. Bermuda
created it's own legal system. Its laws were based on English Common Law,
Principles of Equity, and most of the English Acts that were in being as
from that date. However, these latter laws and principles were subject
to legislation passed by Bermuda’s Legislature from that date.
- 1612. July 11. Arrival in
Bermuda of the Plough, across the Atlantic from England in a voyage that
took only 61 days. She had a very smooth and uneventful voyage when
compared to that of the Sea Venture three years earlier. She was described
in British records as a “shippe” rather than a pinnace or another type
of sailing vessel. She was not very big, had only 60 (another account says
50) people and supplies on
board (the Sea Venture, by contrast, was 300 tons and had 150 sailors
and passengers on board). Unlike the Sea Venture, the Plough's voyage to
Bermuda was both voluntary and deliberate, carrying settlers specifically
for Bermuda. She had been sent by the Virginia Company
based in London (the corporation that had established
Jamestown, Virginia, five years earlier) with Richard Moore, the new Governor appointed by the
Virginia Company. Richard Moore (1783-1618), was a native of Leckhampton,
Gloucestershire, England. He was married to Elizabeth Norwood (1588-1632),
who was also a native of England. Richard was a ship’s carpenter by
vocation, but he was “an able and resolute man.” He was “armed with
the subjoined commission from the Virginia Company in 1612 to serve as
governor and manage the company’s resources invested in the Islands of
Bermuda.” Thus, Richard Moore became the first British Governor of
Bermuda. (His wife Elizabeth accompanied him. Their son, Edmund, was said to
have been born in Bermuda but this has been disputed. After a few years,
Richard moved his family to Virginia where they lived for a time. He and
Elizabeth eventually returned to England where they died in Manble,
Worcestershire). There were also sixty settlers (Bermuda was then called the Somers
Isles). The latter were the first permanent
settlers. The Plough arrived off St. David’s Head at about 10am.
She slowly approached the island and entered the natural channel leading
into St George’s Harbour as plotted out by Sir George Somers for the Deliverance
and Patience a year and a half earlier. The captain almost
immediately turned abruptly south into Smith’s Sound through Bremen Cut
and anchored at the eastern end of Smith’s Sound — and just off the only
visible beach in Smith’s Sound — at about 4pm. This historic beach is at
Vaughn’s Bay Park. As such, it could
navigate the shallow and narrow Bremen Cut into the Smith’s Sound
anchorage. The Plough was similar in size and design to the Godspeed,
which brought some of the first settlers to Jamestown in 1607. Bremen Cut is
not a deep channel — it is fairly narrow and at low tide today is only
seven feet deep — but Captain Davis, the Plough’s navigator, knew
what he was doing — earlier, he had been well-briefed on the approach to
Bermuda and where to rendezvous with Christopher Carter, Edward Chard and
Edward Waters, the three men left behind on Bermuda earlier in 1611 when
Mathew Somers had left Bermuda on the Patience with Sir George
Somers’ body on board. Carter, Chard and Waters had concluded the vessel
they saw approaching was English so launched their boat and rowed to the Plough to join the settlers for a
great celebration. Carter, Chard and Waters had also written to say they would set up
a camp near the channel to keep an eye out for any approaching
ships. An inbound English ship may have been instructed to turn into Smiths
Sound to distinguish it from a Spanish or other potentially hostile vessel.
Davis probably had Sir George Somers’ map with him. Only two copies of
this map survive — one in London and one in Bermuda Archives. Even before
all the new arrivals from the Plough came
ashore, from the greeting they got it was obvious they found these three English inhabitants,
former fellow-passengers from the Sea Venture, not only alive and healthy,
but well-provided with a great variety of food supplies. They heard with
amazement how an acre of good
corn was ripe and ready to be harvested, with other supplies readily
available including a large number of pumpkins and Indian
beans, as well as many tortoises trapped and ready, and a good supply of
hog-meat salted and made into sides of bacon. The three had cultivated
about an acre of garden there growing “Corne, great store of Wheate,
Beanes, Tobacco and Mellon and many other good things for the use of man. Having
arrived safely in Smith’s Sound, “in a very safe harbour near S Georges
Iland” (originally Tortus Island) the Plough disembarked all its
passengers at Vaughn’s Bay using her longboat. The new arrivals
immediately “went to prayer” and commenced their service of
thanksgiving. The sailors, in contrast, had noticed a large school of fish
following the Plough in and got out their hooks and lines and caught
more than enough to feed the entire complement of 60 people. They had earlier departed from their camp, likely located
in the fertile (deep red soil) valley east of the escarpment that runs North
to South at the narrow waist of the island. This site boasts good landing
areas on the North and South sides of the island. The
next day was the Sabbath, spent in prayer and rest, but on Monday they moved
the Plough nearer to the harbour to be closer to
Carter’s camp on Smith’s Island. After a few weeks on Smith’s Island
and following “the ambergris affair”, the Plough left to return
to England and Governor Richard Moore decided to move the settlers to the
bigger island originally known as Tortus island, due to the many hilly humps
on the Island. It was there that he established St George’s (earlier also
called New London) and built the first dwellings and church in August, 1612.
The first long-term dwellings were constructed
there, initially of cedar wood and palmetto thatch. The newcomers
discovered to their delight that the virgin soil soil produced a great variety of
simples, many fine tall cedars, an innumerable number of palmettos, many
mulberry trees and wild olives. This encouraged them later to "grow (as
the first British colonists in the New World to do so) a
fine quantity of white, red, and orange-coloured potatoes (originally from
Peru) from seed brought
earlier by the colonists from England,
sugar cane, indigo, parsnips, very large radishes, American bread-fruit,
cassava, Indian pumpkin, watermelons, musk melons, and the delicate
pineapple, and in short, whatever else of this sort may be wanted to satisfy
either necessity or pleasure. But beyond all the rest of the elements, the
sea is found to be most abundantly generous to these islands. In it there
are as many excellent fish and of as great a variety and most easily caught,
as anywhere in the world. Plus, in terms of game, there was a good supply of many sorts of fowl, such
as the grey and green plover, some ducks and mallards, red-shanks, sea
wigeons, grey bitterns, cormorants, white and grey herons, a profusion of
sparrows and robins, woodpeckers,
and very many crows, who for a while were too bold in their wonder at the
new sight of men, until many of them paid the price for their curiosity,
consumed by the colonists." And the feral wild pigs, left by Spanish
castaways, were abundant.
hogs, a choice source of food for the newcomers.
- 1612. For a number of
decades from this date, St.
George’s was most a village of timbered houses, thatched with palmetto,
with the exception of the State House of 1621. They remained this way
until the early 1700s when limestone was used instead. Governor Richard Moore
that Paget Fort, on the island of that name, was the most important place to be
defended. He had platforms for guns cut on the southeastern end of the island as
this overlooked the entrance to the channel. (This appears to be below the
present site of the fort). Among the settlers were the first swarms of
bees, deliberately included. Bermuda was subsequently sold by the Virginia Company to the
new Bermuda Company.
- 1612. In Virginia, John Rolfe, by then a
farmer, offered a crop of tobacco to help save the Jamestown settlement. Lord De La Warr
and the Council issued the legal code "Laws Divine, Moral and Martial" (1612)
which governed the colony until 1619. Much of this particular document was written by
William Strachey, originally from Lyme Regis and also a Bermuda survivor. He had also
written an excellent account of the voyage of the Sea Venture and how its passengers
arrived safely from Bermuda in 1610. (His signet ring was found centuries later in
- 1612. The island of Bermuda
now referred to as Cooper's Island was claimed by Christopher Carter in
payment for his share of ambergris forfeited to the Bermuda Company. He
spent years there digging in vain for what he thought was buried treasure.
- 1612. In Lyme Regis,
Matthew Somers, troubled teen and protégé, who carted his uncle Sir George
Somers body back to England to prove he was dead and thus claim his
inheritance, had his claim disputed. Somers’s will left most of his
property to Matthew, but a document dated this year revealed that
Matthew’s older brother, Nicholas, was then in possession of most of the
estate. Doubts had emerged about the authenticity of the will that Matthew
- 1612. The
first Government House was built. It stood on Water Street, St.
George's, near the Town Square.
Bermuda 1612 - sketch
- 1612. The Town of St. George
was established, with the assistance of the ship Elizabeth which arrived on
her first visit, with 30 settlers.
- 1612. December. An un-named
ship arrived at Bermuda with 30 passengers and provisions.
- 1613. March. The first
Governor of Bermuda, Richard Moore, was much occupied in raising a timber
watchtower on a hill overtopping the town of St. George's to the westwards,
to serve for the discovery of shipping upon the coast. From that tower,
signals would be sent to the town below about sails on the horizon,
reinforced one way or the other as soon as the ship was gleaned to be friend
or foe. Signals have been continuously sent out from that hill, where Fort
George (Harbour Radio) now stands, since then. It was originally called Rich's
Mount (see graphic above) partly after the Governor of the time, and a single tower. It
is the only military site in continuous occupation since the first days of
the settlement of Bermuda in the late summer of 1612.
- 1613. June. Smith's Fort,
on Governor's Island in
Bermuda, approved in 1612, was completed, to repel Spanish and other enemy ships.
- 1613. June. The ship Martha
arrived at Bermuda with 60 settlers.
- 1613. The ship Elizabeth
arrived with 40 settlers on her second visit.
- 1613. Just before Christmas
Richard Norwood arrived in the Somers Isles (Bermuda). His grandfather was
the Usher at Berkhamsted School in Hertfordshire, England where Richard too was
a pupil. The school still exists. His advice had been
very helpful to the captain when the ship they were on went aground on one
of the outer reefs. It was only a year and a half after the first boatload
of settlers which included Bermuda’s first governor, Richard Moore.
Norwood had been sent to the islands as a “technical specialist”,
meaning that he had been hired as a pearl diver in search of what proved to
be Bermuda’s non-existent pearls. When that job fizzled out, it was sheer
chance that launched him on a career that would give him a very special
place in Bermuda’s history as its first map maker and surveyor. He was a
man of exceptional ability in those occupations, as well as in the many
other pursuits in which he engaged during his long lifetime. Norwood had
already distinguished himself as a mariner, navigator, and diver and would
later prove his genius as a mathematician, textbook writer, schoolmaster and
historian, as well as surveyor and map-maker. He had many other interests,
too, such as nature and religion and in 1638 wrote a journal of his early
life. Its detail and clarity have proved invaluable for historians. The
original document, passed down through generations of his descendants, is
now in the Bermuda Archives. In 1945 the Bermuda Historical Monument Trust
had the journal published. The pearl-diving eventually came to nothing, and
he then commenced a survey of the coastline for Governor Moore and Governor
Daniel Tucker. The ancient record says: ‘’The first tribe to bee
Eastward was then called Bedford Tribe, now Hamiltons [i.e. Hamilton Tribe
or Parish, not the City of Hamilton]; the second, Smith’s Tribe; the
third, Cavendish, now Devonshire; the fourth, Pembrooks; the fifth, Pagets;
the sixth, Mansils, now Warwicks; the seventh, Southampton; the eighth,
Sandys.’ The persons whose names have been perpetuated were: James
Hamilton, second Marquis of Hamilton; Sir Tomas Smith or Smythe; William
Cavendish, first Earl of Devonshire; William Herbert, third Earl of
Pembroke; William Paget, fourth Lord Paget; Robert Rich, second Earl of
Warwick; Henry Wriothesley (pronounced ‘Rocksley’) third Earl of
Southampton; and lastly (the farthest west) – Sir Edwin Sandys.’’
Norwood had the help of Charles Caldicott. There were some 120 islands to be
surveyed, all densely covered with cedar forests and without roads. The
final survey, begun in the summer of 1616, was completed by May 1617. The
resulting map, published in London in 1622, five years after Norwood’s
return to England, was engraved by several cartographers (including John
Speed in 1631, Abraham Goos 1626 and Hondius). It still serves as the basis
of all land tenure to the present day. Before Richard Norwood sailed for
England with all the data for his map in May 1617, he was involved in what
became known as the scandal of the overplus. The fact was, Governor Tucker
was due three shares from the Company; if the survey had continued straight
ahead from east to west inevitably the expected overplus, the Governor’s
perquisite, would fall at the extreme west end. But at a middle stage of the
work, the Governor suddenly ordered Norwood to begin working from Sandys
eastward, the reason given being that the rats had not yet attacked that
part which therefore could easily be laid out. Norwood complied. The
overplus which he had correctly anticipated, now fell in a specially
luscious vale between Southampton and Sandys which Tucker immediately
claimed as his bonus. Feelings ran high and when, undeterred, the Governor
proceeded to build himself a fine house on this 200 acres the Rev Lewis
Hughes denounced him bitterly as building a ‘flauntinge’ cedar mansion
for himself while leaving ‘Gods house...but a thacht hovell.’ Even the
Somers Island Company in London seemed likely to deprive the retiring
Governor of the overplus and the house built at their expense. But in his
last term of office he managed to send a huge consignment of tobacco from
Bermuda, and appeared himself in London to state his own case. The result
was that he retained the by then famous house (on the property later
designated The Grove) and a little less than half the overplus property –
a large and beautiful slice of land. Norwood was innocent of any complicity
in the overplus plot, if plot there had been. He remained away from Bermuda
for twenty years during which time he wrote several learned books on
trigonometry, on navigation, on fortifications – books which went through
many editions and continued being published for over half a century.
- 1614. March. After having sailed
in February 1614 from Santo Domingo bound for Spain with a fleet of
three naos, Captain Domingo de Ulivarri took the best route north with the
Gulf Stream into the latitude of Bermuda, from where the east-blowing trade
winds would sweep the fleet home to southern Europe. Spanish captains were
under orders to check out the settlement at Bermuda, as it stood dangerously
athwart that sea lane to Europe, though instructions to have these insolent
people quickly annihilated seem fortunately only to be directed at the
English colony at Jamestown, Virginia. A few weeks out, one of the naos sprang
a leak and was abandoned, the complement transferred to the other two
vessels. The actions of Captain de Ulivarri that occurred thereafter at
Bermuda were recorded in a contemporary report. On 14 March at the 33rd
latitude, they woke and found their ships three leagues south of the islands
of Bermuda. The captain, knowing that His Majesty desired to know about the
English colony, was determined to reconnoiter it. He approached the island
from the south until he was in eight fathoms of water. Smoke was spotted on
the island and immediately turning towards it, it was found to be emanating
from two forts about 100 paces apart. One appeared to be built of mortar and
stone and the other of wood. They saw people going from one to the other
wielding artillery. There were ten to twelve pieces in both forts. One of
the ships sailed into the [Castle] harbour. Thinking the visitors English,
the colonists put out in a small boat, stopped a musket shot away, and
refused to board. When they recognized the ship to be Spanish, the forts
fired. The launches that put out to them were newly built and, they judged,
of native wood, because it had very red oars of cedar, which is plentiful on
that island. From a Bermudian report, Governor Moore, 'who was a very good
gunner', blasted off two cannonballs from the King's Castle, one passing
'through and through' one of the ships, which turned tail and departed for
Spain. The irony was that there was only one cannonball left in reserve and
in firing the others, the good gunners spilled the only cask of gunpowder
under the gun. The de Ulivarri account is positive proof of the presence of
masonry fortifications at Bermuda from the earliest days of settlement. This
was how the
only shots ever fired in anger were sent whistling seaward from Castle
Island in March 1614. Those shots across the bows of the two Spanish
vessels became a legend in the early history of Bermuda.
- 1614. Early in March, the
ships Blessing, with 100 passengers and the Starre with 180 new immigrants
arrived in Bermuda. The Governor took
their names and immediately put them all to work on his projects' including
the King's Castle.
- 1614. The ship Margaret
arrived from England along with two frigates bringing the surveyor Bartlet
- 1614. May 24, in
Virginia, colonist John Rolfe - once a castaway in Bermuda and a widower,
whose wife and child Bermuda has died in Bermuda - married Indian Princess Pocahontas
in the first known inter-racial marriage, possibly for political reasons but
also as a love-match. Rolfe
was born in Heacham,
Norfolk, England as the son of John Rolfe and Dorothea Mason, and was
baptized on May 6, 1585. Later, he and Pocahontas had a child, Thomas
portrait of John Rolfe and Pocahontas.
- 1614. June 28. John Rolfe
of Jamestown, earlier of Bermuda, by then married to Pocahontas for only
about a month, shipped the first tobacco from Virginia to England. At
the time, Spain held a virtual monopoly on the lucrative tobacco trade. Most
Spanish colonies in the New World were located in southern climates more
favorable to tobacco growth than the English settlements, notably Jamestown.
As the consumption of tobacco had increased, the balance of trade between
England and Spain began to be seriously affected. Rolfe was one of a number
of businessmen who saw the opportunity to undercut Spanish imports by
growing tobacco in England's new colony at Jamestown, in Virginia. Rolfe had
somehow obtained seeds to take with him from a special popular strain then
being grown in Trinidad and South America, even though Spain had declared a
penalty of death to anyone selling such seeds to a non-Spaniard.
- 1614. A map of Bermuda (see
below) was produced by Captain John Smith.
Smith's 1614 map of Bermuda
- 1614. On November 23, the Virginia Company surrendered Bermuda to the
Crown. It figured Bermuda was a poor investment. Bermuda became the first legal offshore
colony of Britain.
- 1615. The ship Welcome took
away Governor Moore and left provisions.
- 1615. The ship Edwin
June 29. Somer Islands Company Charter of James I came into force. This separate and autonomous
Bermuda Company, formed by English investors who were shareholders of the
Virginia Company, took over, for £2,000 the Charter formerly held by the Virginia Company, under a
charter granted by King James for the Plantation of the Somers Isles and under his
command. Its purpose was to develop Bermuda as a profit-making
enterprise. The first of the
"hog money" coins - so called because they featured an image of a Bermuda hog -
was issued in Bermuda as the earliest of all British colonial coins.
- 1615-17. Richard Norwood used a canoe
to go from place to place in Bermuda to survey the islands before preparing his
detailed pap of Bermuda.
- 1615. Captain John Smith was
imprisoned by French pirates but survived.
- 1616. In Bermuda, the first General
Assizes were held, at St. George's. Bermuda was divided into shares and tribes (parishes)
by surveyor Richard Norwood. Each parish was named after investors in the Bermuda Company.
- 1616, on her second visit, the
ship Edwin brought "many" passengers and proceeded to the West
Indies, returning from there in the same year.
- 1616. May. The ship George
brought Captain Daniel Tucker and others, and returned to England.
- 1616. The ship Sea Flower with
Captain Gardener arrived. She arrived again in 1619, bringing a preacher,
and proceeding for Virginia. She is again mentioned in 1632 with John Rose
- 1616. The first slaves were brought to Bermuda
by Captain George Bargrave to dive for pearls because of their skill in
pearl-diving. It was believed there was money to be made harvesting pearls
off the coast. As it proved unsuccessful, they were put to work planting and harvesting
the initial large crops of tobacco and sugar cane.
- 1616. Governor Daniel Tucker
succeeded Moore and ensured the construction of another battery below and in
front of the original semi-circular platform, on Paget Island.
- 1616. The ship Hopewell with
Captain Powell arrived with passengers and proceeded to the West Indies. She
returned with 3 prizes in 1617.
- 1616. Because of the
popularity of the fast-dwindling cahow of Bermuda as a source of food for
the colonists, a law was enacted to protect them and other species. It was
the earliest known conservation law in the New World.
- 1616. Bees
were first imported to Bermuda, from England. They were sent by
Sir Nathaniel Rich from the UK to his brother, Robert Rich.
- 1616. Hog or Hogge Money - Bermuda's first
minted currency and first coinage for any overseas British colony, earliest of
all British colonial currencies - was created
in London by the Bermuda Company and circulated
until 1624. They were coins, not notes. They were named after the wild feral
Spanish hog found by the first colonists, dropped off ships. They
were left to swim ashore by the Spanish and Portuguese in the 16th century.
hogs. From them came Hog or Hogge Money.
- 1620. By Royal Assent, Bermuda was granted
- 1620. The ship Treasurer was a wreck lying
a Bermuda creek. Governor Nathaniel Butler salvaged some guns from her that
year and erected them on the Smith's and Paget Island forts. The ship's end
was recorded by Captain John Smith in 1624.
- 1620. Under what were possibly the first
conservation laws in the New World, turtles - referred to as young tortoises - in Bermuda were
It became illegal locally to kill them.
- 1620. The State House,
otherwise known as the Town Hall or Sessions House, in St.
George's, commenced in 1619, was completed and opened.
- St. Peter's Church in St.
George's was built - and equipped with the famous "Dole cupboard."
- 1620. Governor Butler of Bermuda
employed Dutch shipwright Jacob Jacobson to instruct settlers in boat building.
Thanks to him, Bermudians were first taught ship building skills.
After being toppled by a hurricane, Moore's Mount was rebuilt just after
Easter by Governor Butler as a triangular work. This tower, being
absolutely finished and perfected . . . hath already stood stiffly in many a
terrible storm, without the least damage that can be discerned and may be
hoped to do so in many more, was given the new name of Rich's Mount.
- 1620. The creation of Maine, by Sir Ferdinando Gorges in 1639
(until its merger with Massachusetts in 1791, before it again became a separate state
later); North Carolina by eight noblemen in 1663; first North then South Carolina, again
by eight noblemen, from 1663; New York, by the Duke of York in 1664; New Jersey, by
Berkeley and Cartaret in 1664; Pennsylvania, by William Penn in 1681; and Georgia, by
James Oglethorpe in 1732.
- 1621. June 21. Death of William
Strachey, one of the original Bermuda castaways in 1609 who went to Jamestown to receive
prominence and write laws. He was one of the principal authors of the document that
described the tempest off the Azores, arrival in Bermuda and eventual arrival in
Jamestown. He returned to London
and was a writer before he died. (His signet ring was found in Jamestown in 1999).
Construction in St. George's, on Princess Street, of the State House, now a
major Bermuda landmark. It was built by Governor Nathaniel
Butler, constructed nine years after the first stone-built military
property in Bermuda, Paget Fort on Castle Island. It was constructed
specifically but not solely to serve more appropriately (instead of at St.
Peter's Church as before, from 1620) as the meeting
place of local parliamentarians. The State House's design is unique in Bermuda,
it was constructed with Bermuda limestone rock and the mortar that was used
was lemon and turtle oil from turtles caught by the colonists. The
parliamentarians met here until 1815 when Parliament moved
to Hamilton. The Governor also wanted to encourage others to build in masonry. Part of his idea was
to stop using scarce cedar timber for houses, for there was an inexhaustible
supply of stone, and of limestone which would not burn easily as wood did. It
is now administered by the Old State House Preservation Society. It's design was perhaps
influenced by the Italianate style introduced to England by Inigo Jones from
about 1610. Except that an Italian flat
roof proved to be completely the wrong idea for Bermuda's porous native limestone building
material. Various changes had to be made from
a flat roof to a hip roof. It was rebuilt yet again, this time with a flat roof
once more, from the level of its downstairs windows in 1969 using John
Smith's engraving as evidence and with technical overseas assistance. It
later became a Freemasons Lodge but is open to the
public. It was the first stone-built civilian property in
Bermuda and one of the oldest standing stone structures erected by English
colonists in the New World. Its flat
roof is not original, a reconstruction of the original flat roof from Gunpowder
was stored in this building for more than a century and a half, until 1767.
During the American Revolution, British troops from New York and South Carolina
were quartered here from September to December 1780. From the time of Governor
Butler until the capital of Bermuda was moved to Hamilton in 1815, it was also
referred to as the Sessions House - as the seat of the local parliament and
Courthouse, where legal justice was dispensed. Today, it is leased by the Government
of Bermuda to the prominent Masonic Lodge St. George No. 200 of the Grand Lodge of
Scotland, for the annual rent of one peppercorn.
- 1621. Southampton Fort, on
Brangman's Island, St. George's Parish, near and opposite Castle Island,
approved in 1620, was completed.
Fort, Brangman's Island, completed 1621
- 1621. The Virginia Company gave a tract of
land in what is now Chesterfield County to the shareholders of The Bermuda Company in
compensation for the small area of Bermuda they bought in 1612.
- 1621. December. The Governor of Bermuda
sent two cedar chests to Virginia with various agricultural products grown in
Bermuda contained in
One contained the first potato seen by colonists in Jamestown. (According
it originated in Peru. It apparently went from Peru to Europe. The history
of the Jamestown colonists has proven they did not have or grow
potatoes before 1612, there was no trade at that time between Jamestown
and Peru and that they did in fact get their first shipment from the
British colonists sent from the UK to Bermuda. This does not claim this is
how the American white and sweet potato started, it merely says and has been
proved that the first shipment of potatoes in Jamestown came from
- 1621-1627. In Bermuda, nine
churches were constructed of wood, plaster and palmetto thatch.
- 1622. The laws of the
Bermuda Company were promulgated, outlining, inter alia, the roles and
status of the Governor, the Governor’s Council and the elected Assembly.
Included in these laws was a stipulation that each of the eight tribes
(parishes) was to elect four members to the Assembly, while the occupiers of
the general lands (i.e. the lands which were held by the Bermuda Company)
were entitled to choose eight individuals, bringing the total complement of
elected representatives to forty. The main functions of the Assembly were to
formulate and pass legislation (which was not to be contrary to the laws of
Britain and which could be vetoed by the Governor and his Council, acting on
behalf of the Bermuda Company) and to manage the finances of the colony, the
latter prerogative specified in Law 143 and worded as follows: “The
Governour shall not lay any taxes or Impositions upon the Lands in the
Summer Ilands; or upon the people or Commodities, otherwise then by the
authority of the generall Assembly; to be levied and imployed as the said
Assembly shall appoynt.” There is also a reference in Law 120 to the
Secretary’s role. Apart from his many other responsibilities outside of
Parliament, his main functions were outlined as follows- “The Secretary
shall also in all Generall Assemblies, hold the place of Speaker; and have
care that all things proceed and passe in due order; and shall keepe a
Register Booke of all the Acts there passed being first signed by the
Governor and Councell present.”
May. A small barque cleared Bermuda bound for Jamestown, Virginia, and
her ballast was limestone, possibly indicating that stone was being cut or
quarried for export for building or burning into lime.
- 1622. On March 22 a Powhatan Indian attack
killed 347 colonists in Jamestown and began a war that lasted a decade. On April 18, Sir
Richard Hawkins died in England. On December 20 the Abigail arrived in Jamestown with no
food and an infectious load of passengers. Plague and starvation reduced the colony to 500
persons. They held out hope for the arrival of the Seaflower.
- 1622. A map was published by
Blaeu of Holland showing
how Bermuda was divided into twenty five acre strips of shares by surveyor Richard Norwood
in his survey of 1615 to 1617.
- 1622. Having obtained no
money from the Virginia Company, Matthew Somers
petitioned King James in 1622. He was then heavily in debt. He claimed
that The Virginia Company’s “injustice and oppression” had forced him
to seek compensation for his uncle’s “discovery” of Bermuda from the
crown. By casting Carter, Waters and Chard as his uncle’s agents, his
petition asked King James to grant him (as Sir George’s heir) a share of
the enormous lump of ambergris the men had discovered, which he claimed was
worth £12,000. The cash-strapped Virginia Company had rebutted
each of Matthew’s points. Sir George, they stated, was a company employee
in 1609; anything he discovered belonged to the investors who employed him.
Two years later, rebuffed by the Crown, Matthew, still in prison for debt,
asked for his half of the £470 that the Virginia Company admitted Sir
George had invested. The company told him that the investment belonged to
Nicholas Somers, the “right heir”; Nicholas was two years Matthew’s
senior, and primogeniture in intestate cases bestowed all of Sir George’s
assets upon him. Matthew again got nothing.
- 1623. Erection began of Holy
Trinity Anglican church, Bailey's Bay. Hamilton Parish. It was topped by a
- 1623. In Bermuda, ministers and
parishioners, seriously alarmed about all forms of witchcraft, selected church
wardens from each Parish. Their job was to seek out all sorcerers, enchanters,
charmers, witches, figure casters, fortune tellers, conjurers has or seems to
have any consort with the devil. Persecution and victimization started locally.
- 1623. An Act "to restrain
the insolence of the Negroes" was legislated in Bermuda. It forbade blacks
to buy or sell, barter or exchange tobacco or any other produce for goods
without the consent of their master.
- 1623. March 18. In Bermuda, the Seaflower
was blown up due to the negligence of the Captain's son.
- 1623. May. Jamestown. Captain
William Tucker concluded peace negotiations with a Powhatan village by proposing a toast
with a drink laced with poison prepared by Dr. John Potts. 200 Powhatan Indians died
instantly and another 50 were slaughtered.
- 1623. In the publication of
this year known as the "First Folio" The opening page of Williams
Shakespeare's play The Tempest appears in this the first edition of
his collected plays. The publication was "Mr.
William Shakespeare's Comedies, histories, & tragedies. Published
according to the true original copy. London : Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and
Ed. Blount, 1623.
The Tempest was believed to have inspired in part by the
real-life shipwreck of the Sea Venture that took place off the
coast of Bermuda in 1609. The castaways took refuge on the uninhabited
island chain, and later accounts of their harrowing adventure and
providential delivery circulated throughout London's literary circles,
seducing even the city's most famous playwright. Shakespeare probably wrote The
Tempest in 1610 and 1611; the action begins with a ferocious storm at
sea and the survivors taking refuge on an island, mimicking the events
surrounding the Sea Venture.
- 1623. September. There was the last known
reference to James City and surveyor William Clayborne laid out the streets of New Town, a
suburb outside the James Fort.
- 1624. Captain John Smith
published his Generall Historie of Virginia, New England and Somers Isles
(Bermuda), see graphic below.
Smith's 1624 book
- Captain John Smith published
his Bermuda map showing forts erected in defense of the islands, see graphic
Smith's 1624 Bermuda map showing forts.
- 1624. June. The Virginia Company lost its
charter and Virginia became a royal province, from mismanagement of the colony. Elsewhere,
the Dutch settled New Amsterdam.
- 1624. In the United Kingdom, George
Fox, founder of the Society of Friends (Quakers), was born.
- 1624. The ship George again
arrived in Bermuda with settlers and provisions.
King Charles I ascended the throne, on the death of King
James I of England and VI of Scotland.
- 1625. In Lyme Regis, England, Matthew
Somers, who brought the body of his uncle Admiral Sir George Somers home from Bermuda in
1611, died after a term in prison for debt. Also in Lyme Regis, John Somers died on July
12, a grandfather many times over. He was the last survivor of the brothers of Admiral Sir
- 1625. Virginia became a royal colony
with the governor and council appointed by King James I.
- 1625 to 1640. An estimated 1,000 or
more indentured servants arrived in Virginia each year, some orphans and condemned
criminals but mostly the unemployed seeking economic opportunity.
Norwood's second survey divided the island into 50-acre shares of land and
was published as a map by John Speed. It showed the unusual shape of
- 1627. By law in Bermuda, pilchards and fry
were only allowed to be taken for bait or food, not for oil. Similar laws went into force
to protect cedar trees.
- 1629. The establishment of the
Massachusetts Bay Colony by the Puritans, as a separate entity from the Plymouth Colony.
- 1629. At
St. George's, Butler's watchtower was
thrown down the hill by a passing hurricane.
- 1629. In Bermuda, the population
was calculated as 2,500 white and between 300 to 400 black and Native American.
- 1630. English Puritan leader John
Winthrop founded Boston.
- October 1630. Scots exiles
were sent to and sold as slaves at the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts,
Berwick in Maine and Bermuda by General Oliver Cromwell following the Battle
of Dunbar (Sept 3, 1650). He sent them on the ship 'Unity' with
instructions to sell them "into perpetual servitude." There is no
known surviving listing in Bermuda of such sales.
- 1630-1650. Economic, political
and religious unrest cause mass emigration from Britain to North American
colonies including Bermuda.
- 1631. In June, Captain John Smith died
in England at the age of 51. He had tried to join the Pilgrim Fathers bound for
America in 1620 but had been rejected.
- 1632. King Charles I issued a charter
for colony of Maryland. It was named in honor of Queen Henrietta Maria.
- 1633. Richard
Norwood completed a third survey of Bermuda. It was never published but
exists in several manuscript copies.
Dutchman Willem Blaeu - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willem_Blaeu
- published his second map, below, of Bermuda, five years before his
- 1633. England was introduced to bananas
when Thomas Johnston displayed a bunch from Bermuda in his shop window on Snow Hill,
- 1634. Establishment of Maryland by Lord
Baltimore as a proprietary colony.
- 1635. Colonization of Connecticut
- 1635. June 10. The ship Truelove
left from England with more colonists for Bermuda.
- 1635. September. The ship Dorset did the
- 1636. The establishment of Rhode Island
and later the city of Providence by Roger Williams as a self governing British colony with
complete religious freedom.
- 1636. The establishment of Connecticut
as a British colony, by Thomas Hooker.
- 1636. In Massachusetts, Harvard College
- 1637. Richard Norwood returned
to Bermuda as a schoolmaster, bringing his wife and four children. His first
school was probably in Devonshire Tribe, but later he built his own school
on his estate in Pembroke. This estate is still called Norwood – the house
on it today was built about 1711 by the husband (Saltus) of Richard
Norwood’s great granddaughter, but there are no remains of the school
- 1639. January 11. King Charles I
granted colonists in America the right to call their General Assembly. He set a precedent
for partial self rule for British colonies.
- 1639. The establishment of the separate
British colony of Maine, by Sir Ferdinando Gorges, the famous seaman from Somerset,
England (until its merger with Massachusetts in 1791, before it again became a separate
- 1642. When Governor Josias Forster
arrived, he upheld, encouraged and helped in the persecution and death of
supposed witches in Bermuda. In his honor, the Forster Chair was made. It was
used by him and future Bermuda Governors to
deliver Throne Speeches. (The chair is
normally on display in the Senate Chambers, but in 2009, Bermuda's 400th
Anniversary Year, was part of an exhibition at the Jamestown-Yorktown
Foundation Museum. A Bermuda Coat of Arms carved out of Bermuda Cedar, and
usually on display above the Forster Chair, was also sent to Jamestown. The
exhibition, which opened on March 2, explored the shared history and links
between England's first two permanent colonies in the New World, Bermuda and
Forster Chair is made of Bermuda Cedar and is decoratively carved with the
following inscription: Capt Josias Forster Esq Governor Of the Sumer Islands
Ano. Do. 1642.
- 1640s. In Bermuda, a dole cupboard
(still extant) was given to St. Peter's Church for the collection of alms for
- 1642. 11 August. The
ship Gillyflower, Elias Pillgram master, left Bermuda for Virginia.
- 1644. 26 July. The ship
Hopewell of the Somer Islands, John Sessiones factor, brought cargo from
- 1645. English poet Edmund
Waller published his poetic piece on Bermuda, waxing eloquent about the
island he visited.
- 1647. A group of so-called
'Eleutheran Adventurers' left Bermuda to find a place where they could
practice religious freedom. They encountered a storm and the ship they were
sailing in ran onto rocks, which were later called the Devils Back Bone
north of Spanish Wells, in the Bahamas. The Adventurers led by William
Sayles found their way to shore and took refuge in what was later called
Preacher's Cave. A religious service was held in Preacher's Cave every year
for the next 100 years on the anniversary of that day.
- 1649. In Bermuda, the execution
in London of King Charles I caused "Bermuda's Civil War." To end it,
militia members were embodied. The majority of colonists swore allegiance to the
crown and forced the Independents or Puritans to leave Bermuda for the Bahamas.
- 1640s (to 1650s). Bermudians Anthony
Peniston and John Stowe built cedar ships to trade in the West Indies.
- 1647. Richard Hunt and his wife
Sarah, of Bromley, Kent, England, arrived in the Bermuda Islands and took
possession of the estates, etc. of the then Earl of Manchester in those islands
in which he was one of the proprietors. Sarah Hunt was one of the nieces of the
Earl. He had devised by his last will his landed property in the Bermudas in
trust to the Earl of Warwick, Lord Holland and Sir Nathanial Rich, his
executors, for the benefit of one of his nieces deemed the most worthy. Richard
and Sarah Hunt brought with them a daughter, also named Sarah.
- 1648. George Fox founded the Society of
- 1648. Governor/Captain William
Sayles and the Eleutheran Adventurers, who had sailed from Bermuda in 1647, settled
the Bahamas. Governor Sayles served three terms as
Governor of Bermuda before becoming the first Governor of the Bahamas and
first Governor of Carolina (before it was split in two as North and South
- 1649. January 31. King Charles I was
beheaded in London by Parliamentary forces under Oliver Cromwell. The English Commonwealth
was formally established.
- 1650. January 1. In
London, the Committee administering the affairs of Bermuda wrote to
Captain Josias Foster, the island's Governor, ordering him to fund and
accommodate Ministers from New England for the purpose of teaching letters and
Godliness to adults and youth. As a direct result, Bermuda's first school,
Warwick Academy, was created from the New England model of 1635.
- 1650. In England, John Churchill, the
future first Duke of Marlborough, was born. Rene Descartes died. So did Sylvester
Jourdain, who became famous after his Bermuda experience. He was buried at St.
Sepulchre Church, Newgate, London.
- 1650. Mass immigration of British
settlers to Bermuda ended.
- 1652. A British fleet representing the
Parliament of Oliver Cromwell arrived off the Virginia island coast. Berkeley surrendered
Virginia. As a result, the Virginia legislature was dominated by the House of Burgesses
- 1656. In Bermuda, a slave
uprising was foiled and all blacks previously given their freedom were banished.
- 1658. Oliver Cromwell died in England.
- 1660. March 3. The Virginia Assembly
elected Berkeley as Governor.
- 1660. May 29. The monarchy was restored in
England. Charles II
became King and the Anglican Church regained its status.
- 1661. In Bermuda, another
conspiracy of slaves - this time, joined by white Irish indentured servants -
was foiled. The militia began a nightly watch.
- 1661. Virginia institutionalized
slavery with a law that made the status of the mother determine slave or free status of
- 1661. In England, Charles II received
Tangier and Bombay as part of the dowry from Catherine of Braganza, Portugal.
- 1661. In Bermuda, during a severe storm,
the ill fated armed British merchant ship Virginia Merchant became grounded near Boat Bay
in Southampton Parish. She was a total wreck and sank there with great loss of life. Of
the 179 people aboard, only 10 survived.
- 1661. The first of the
Butterfield family (later, of local banking fame) arrived in Bermuda from
- 1662. Jamestown's status as the
mandatory port of entry for Virginia ended.
- 1662. The merger of what had been the
separate British colony of New Haven in Connecticut as a separate British colony,
with Connecticut proper.
- 1662. The English Book of Common Prayer was
revised. The Royal Society received a charter from Charles II. Louis XIV of France began
the Palace of Versailles.
- 1662. Bermuda colonists
sent the first exports of honey and beeswax to the Caribbean islands and
- 1662. In Bermuda, Warwick Academy was
founded as the first school in the New World. There are two versions. One is
that it was founded by the Earl of Warwick. This appears most likely as the
school’s mascot and crest animal, the bear, is a symbol of the Earl of
Warwick's passion for
the Elizabethan pastime of bear-baiting. The Warwick Academy School Badge
consists of a Crest with a Motto. the Crest contains two parts of each of
which is interesting historically. The Bear and Ragged Staff device has
been, from earliest times, incorporated in the heraldic crest of the House
of Warwick. When the Bermuda Trading Company controlled the Islands of
Bermuda in the Seventeenth Century the Earl of Warwick was one of the
shareholders. The School is established on land, which once formed part of
that original share. The device of the Bear with the Ragged Staff which by
kind permission of the present Earl, is now used as part of the school
badge, has a prominent place in history, for the same device marked the
advent of Warwick the Kingmaker, and of Richard of Beauchamp who fought with
Henry V. At Crecy in 1346 the same Bear and Ragged Staff adorned the armour
of Thomas who led the vanguard into battle. There seems to be little doubt that
the first buildings were on land donated by the Riche Family (Earls of
Warwick). Richard Norwood, an outstanding mathematician and navigator, was
the first headmaster but only for a very short time as there seem to have
been difficulties in agreement over salary, and about 1659 the Rev. Jonathan
Burr took over. Burr undertook to “teach, writing, ciphering (arithmetic)
and Latin for nothing, and navigation for a fee” but did not succeed and
once again Norwood returned. However, there were still financial problems
owing to lack of support and Norwood could not agree with his ushers or
assistants. The Company made an enquiry at this time and informed the
Governors that a learned schoolmaster was one of the greatest needs of the
colony, as at least one-third of the men could not even write their own
names and those who had had some instruction were educated only to the most
elementary level. A learned schoolmaster was duly obtained. A less likely version
- not shown in the school history but claimed in 2012 - is that Francis
Estlack was a Quaker minister who founded the school in 1662 after he fled
to the Island from Devon, England, to avoid religious persecution. If this
version is true, the founder became involved with the Quaker religious
movement as a teenager. The Quakers, or Friends as they are often known,
believed that they did not need clergy to hear the word of God. That belief
was considered blasphemous in 17th century England. Francis and his wife
left England thinking things would be better there. They spent 15 to 20
years on the Island. Somewhere around 1675 when Joseph was just a year old,
the family moved to the United States.
- 1663. The establishment of the British colony of North Carolina by
- 1663. March. Bermuda bananas
were introduced to England.
- 1663. Richard Norwood completed his second
map of Bermuda.
- 1663. November 30. At a
Bermuda court, it was resolved to prohibit New Englanders and other
strangers from importing wine and setting up booths and warehouses to sell
their products, in competition with Bermudians.
- 1664. The establishment of the British
colony of New York, by the Duke of York. It was done in a bold military way in the event
of trouble but the merchants of the city accepted it willingly, with no damage to the
city. The British simply annexed the Dutch American colony of New Netherlands and renamed
its capital of New Amsterdam as New York.
- 1664. The establishment of the British
colony of New Jersey, by Berkeley and Cartaret.
- 1666. Expectation of a
Dutch invasion caused mobilization of all slaves, men and boys over the age
of 14. They were ordered to carry weapons when an alarm was sounded. The
slaves were required to be obedient to their masters and respective
commanders “under paine of death.”
- 1669. May 15. Sir John Heydon, a
relative of Jeremy Heydon, an original investor in the Bermuda Company of the early 17th
century, became Deputy Governor then Governor of Bermuda. He arrived at Castle Harbor
aboard the Bermuda Company ship "Summers Isles Merchant." He was an
uncompromising Puritan and tried his best to inflict his puritanical beliefs on other
colonists, much to their annoyance. Although unpopular, he remained in Bermuda after
retirement. When 80 years old, he was charged with treason. It was claimed he had allowed
Dutch sailors to chart the reefs of Bermuda for a possible invasion by the Dutch and
Spanish. Heydon was acquitted and before he died a few years later was charitable enough
to apply Christian forgiveness to his neighbors by establishing the Heydon Trust Estate
- 1669. The establishment of the separate
British colony of South Carolina, again by eight noblemen.
- 1670. In Bermuda, John Hardy
described boats of five tons with two masts and loose-footed triangular sails.
He praised their seaworthiness and noted their ability to sail close to the
of Bermuda was estimated at 8,000 men, women, children and slaves. The latter
were about 25%, triple the number of the 1629 statistics.
- 1673. Bermuda claimed and settled
the Turks Islands. The salt trade was established.
- 1673. In Bermuda, yet another
slave conspiracy was foiled. Some conspirators were branded with the letter
"R" for rogue, had their noses slit and were whipped prior to
execution. The rest were branded and whipped. The Government
attempted to restrict the importation of slaves and imposed strict controls on
the existing slaves.
- 1675. The first formal recognition
of the Bermuda rig is a manuscript that describes the "Bermoothes
Bermuda Governor Sir John Heydon banned the future importation of black and
Indian slaves at a time when colonies elsewhere were clamoring for a greater
supply. Heydon also exiled the island's tiny free black, mulatto, and Indian
population by ordering them to leave the island within six months or be
re-enslaved. This order, irregularly invoked into the 19th century, sought
to conflate race with legal status by eliminating free nonwhites and
succeeded in keeping Bermuda's free black population small until the eve of
Abolition in 1834. (Despite the deportation and the import ban, the island's
black population continued to grow, reaching 1,737 in 1684 to compose a
little under a quarter of Bermuda's inhabitants).
Map of Bermuda by John Speed was published, see graphic below
John Speed's 1676
Map of Bermuda above and that part specific to St. George's Parish, below
- 1676. September 19. Nathaniel Bacon
led south Virginians against the Indians in violation of Governor Berkeley's
opposed Berkeley and burnt Jamestown to the ground. On October 26 he died of dysentery.
- 1677. William of Orange married
Princess Mary, daughter of the Duke of York.
- 1677. In Bermuda, an Act of 1675
prohibiting the importation of slaves is upheld.
- 1678. Bermudians first sailed south to establish
the Turks Islands in the Caribbean as the center for decades of their industry for salt
raking and salt trading. Their
ships had two masts and loose-footed sails. They were used for storage, fishing
and going from island to island.
- 1679. In April, the ship
"Mayflower" left Barbados for Bermuda and Providence Island in the Bahamas. At
the same time, the ship "Providence" left Barbados for Bermuda and Boston.
- 1679. The population of
Bermuda totaled 8,000 including slaves, about 1,000 of whom were
fit to bear arms.
- 1681. In Bermuda, an Indian slave
named John, the "property" of William Mulligan of Smith's Parish, was
convicted of setting his master's house on fire and firing shots at Mulligan's
family. John was hanged, drawn and quartered at Gibbet Island.
- 1681. Bermudians raised
militias from the seasonal population on the Turks Islands, over which
Bermuda had effective control of from 1681 until the British government
assigned them to the Bahamas at the end of the Eighteenth Century
- 1682. In Bermuda, a slave
conspiracy involving 5 men was discovered and quelled.
- 1684. In Bermuda, privateering
became, with salt-raking, the major economic activity.
- 1684. The Somers Island
Company was dissolved. Direct control of the administration of Bermuda was
transferred from the Bermuda Company to the British Government. Following
this transfer of authority, British-appointed Governors, representing the
Crown, played an all-encompassing executive role in the management of our
affairs for almost three centuries. Britain assumed control of Bermuda’s affairs and
from then on sent out Governors on an ongoing basis as official
representatives of the Crown. The government of
Bermuda reverted to the Crown, after disgruntled
Bermuda colonists had joined forces with Perient Trott, a London merchant
and renegade company member, to launch a legal attack on the company's
charter. In what turned out to be the opening salvo of Charles II's judicial
battle to rein in England's American colonies, Bermudians ultimately
succeeded in dissolving the company after a five-year quo warranto
trial. After the fall of the Bermuda Company in 1684, the Crown claimed
all of the company’s public land, including what was then the commons in
St. George's, later the park, then Somer's Garden. The dissolution of the Somers
Island Company was a watershed in the history of the colony. Free from
company trade restrictions, Bermudians abandoned tobacco agriculture and
took to the sea in pursuit of commerce. They developed an extensive carrying trade, selling salt from Turks Island
and trading goods between North America and the West Indies. This formed the
basis of the economy of Bermuda until the early 1800s.
- 1685. King Charles II died
and James II - briefly - ascended the British
The economic shift from field to sea was a maritime revolution that
fundamentally transformed Bermuda's society and landscape. For
over 15 years Bermuda's annual tobacco exports fell from more than
half a million pounds to fewer than ten thousand. In the same
period, the island's merchant fleet rose from a handful to more than
seventy vessels. Taking advantage of their island's advantageous
location, Bermuda's first generation of mariners profited from
connecting emerging regional economies in North America with the
wealthy sugar-producing islands of the Caribbean. Freighting cargoes
for other colonial merchants and buying goods on speculation enabled
Bermuda to prosper far more than the older tobacco economy had
allowed, and the island's extensive tramp trade made Bermudians
among the best-informed denizens of the North Atlantic.
- 1685. King Louis XVI of France revoked the Edict of Nantes and exiled thousands of French Protestants
- 1685. In Germany, J. S. Bach and Handel were born.
- 1687. The Parthenon in Athens was badly
damaged by the Venetian bombardment of Turks on the Acropolis.
- 1687. The first
Crown-appointed governor, Royal Naval officer Sir Robert Robinson,
arrived in Bermuda. Finding the state of defences less than
satisfactory, he raised a militia of 780 men, with provisions made
to arm those men with no weapons of their own. He also pushed an
Act of Parliament, Militia Act 1687, through the reluctant Colonial Assembly, raising
two troops of horse. A standing watch was raised to patrol through
the parishes, with three 'well armed' footmen and a horseman in each
parish (then known as 'tribes') on each night.
- 1687. September.
The first elected Assembly convened under the direct authority of
Britain met and passed twenty-five pieces of legislation, one of
which established a Judiciary, with provisions for a Chief Justice
and five assistants - a development which removed judicial
responsibilities from the Council’s portfolio and enabled that
body to concentrate more on its advisory functions and legislative
affairs. Another Bill passed by the Assembly in the same year
proposed to reduce the number of representatives in each parish from
four to two, but the legislation was never brought into operation
because there was no formal communication of the Royal assent - a
necessary final step in the law-making process.
- 1687. Sir Robert
Robinson arrived in Bermuda as the new Royally-appointed Governor.
He replaced Sir Richard Coney, the last of the Bermuda Company
Governors, who had been re-appointed by King James II.
- 1688. King James II, the last Roman
was driven from the English throne because of his religion and went into
- 1688. King William III
and Queen Mary II were enthroned and reigned in England.
- 1689. The English Declaration of Rights was
- 1690. Militia Act
1690/91. Another Militia Act was passed in Bermuda, requiring every
man, whether free or enslaved, between the ages of 15 and 60 to
'appear at every exercise and muster and provide himself with sword
and musket. Slave owners were responsible to provide weapons to
their slaves.' Those found negligent could be fined, and those not
paying fines could be flogged. King's Castle thus received a guard
of four men, under a Lieutenant. Two men were posted at Paget's
Fort, and a lookout at the highest point in Saint George's.
- 1691. St.
George’s was first referred to officially as the ninth parish of
Bermuda with representation equal to the other parishes (four
members each), thereby lowering the total of the elected
representatives from all the constituencies to thirty-six. An Act
was passed which confirmed that all parish constituencies, including
St. George’s, were entitled to four representatives in the House
of Assembly. The relevant section of the legislation was worded
as follows- “In every General Assembly hereafter to be held and
called in these islands, there be chosen four representatives for
each of the respective tribes in these islands, and four for the
town and parish of St. George’s.”
Thomas Tew was an Anglo-American sailor of no great distinction
before arriving in Bermuda from Rhode Island. Some contemporaries
maintain that Tew had come to the island to settle permanently on
land. But the promise of fortune beyond the horizon lured him. He
was an unrefined man with the language and manners of the sea. At
first, he entered the somewhat reputable state-sponsored brand of
piracy. For 300 pounds he bought a letter of marque – a licence to
privateer – from Governor Isaac Richier. Next, he found himself a
crew – probably former salt traders tempted by the promise of
greater riches. Little is known about Tew’s first voyages on the Amity.
Around this time, however, something occurred which would alter
the destinies of all sea-faring Bermudians. The Governor of the
Bahamas, Ellas Askett, began a policy of seizing Bermudian ships in
the Caribbean. Bermuda shares much in common with the Bahamas.
During the English Civil War puritans in Bermuda found refuge there
when loyalists here drove them into exile. Free blacks also were
forced in to exile there during the slave rebellions in Bermuda
during the mid-17th century. There are still many Bahamian families,
especially in the northern islands, with Bermudian names. But at
that time, the tensions between the two colonies threatened war.
Governor Askett is recorded as saying: “I have never hanged a
Bermudian, but would make no more of it than to hang a dog.” This
incident is thought to mark the beginning of Bermudian piracy.
Thomas Tew was commissioned to raid a French settlement in East
Africa. Somewhere along the way, he offered to his crew to forfeit
the protection of the Crown and become pirates. The response has
become famous: “A gold chain or a wooden leg, we’ll stand by
you!” The only surviving account of what happened next is The
History of Pyrates by one Captain Johnson. Scholars have long
suspected that this was a pen name for Daniel Defoe (of Robinson
Crusoe fame), but this is now considered seriously doubtful.
“Tew sailed around Africa, in to the Indian Ocean and eventually
in to the Red Sea. It was fairly easy for pirates because it
concentrated with ships. Tew found an Arabian vessel laden with gold
and protected by 300 soldiers. His crew, although outnumbered,
managed to capture the ship and the gold it contained. After that,
if we follow the Johnson account, Tew then met a French pirate
called Captain Misson who persuaded Tew to follow him to Libertalia.
It was supposedly a pirate’s utopia in Madagascar where there was
no slavery. From there, Tew sailed back to Rhode Island where he and
his crew divided their treasure among them. The Bermudian crew, of
both black and white members, was
given £3,000 each, while Tew took £12,000 for himself. Tew’s
Bermudian investors, hearing of their good fortune, soon arrived to
collect their share. According to legend, Tew directed them to a
beach and instructed them to start digging. They all became very
rich men, very quickly. It is believed the Gilbert
family used their new-found wealth to purchase a sizeable amount of
land in Devonshire.
- 1693. In Virginia, the College of
William and Mary was founded.
- 1694. Queen Mary of England
- 1694. A law adopted
by this Bermuda Colony was titled "An Act Laying an Imposition
on all Jews, and reputed Jews, Trading or Merchandising on These
Islands." It levied a five pound tax on any Jew, or
"reputed Jew" wanting to do business in Bermuda. Why?
According to the bill's preamble, Jews "have come to and
resided in these islands, and have sold and vended great quantities
of goods, wares, merchandizes and commodities, and the monies
thereby received and gotten do still send out and carry away from
these islands into foreign and remote parts and places, to the great
impoverishment, hurt and prejudice of their majesties subjects in
- 1698. Bermuda's
Attorney-General became (until April 1, 1999) the principal legal advisor to
the Government of Bermuda. In addition to being the chief legal
advisor he was also the principal prosecutor in all criminal matters
in the Island’s Courts.
- 1699. The
second Government House was erected, again in St. George's, at
what is now called the Globe Hotel, opposite St. Peter's Church. The
earlier Government House was a wreck by the mid-1680s and so
Governor Samuel Day built a new one of stone. When his rule was up,
Day refused to relinquish the building, which became his private
December 10, 2013.
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