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Bermuda's History from 1500 to 1699

How it is linked to events in Europe, the United States of America, United Kingdom and Canada

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By Keith Archibald Forbes (see About Us) at e-mail exclusively for Bermuda Online

To refer to this web file, please use "bermuda-online.org/history.htm" as your Subject

Admiral Sir George Somers, Bermuda 1609 Artists who painted Bermuda Bermuda, Britain & Commonwealth
Bermuda & Canada Bermuda & France Bermuda & USA
Bermuda's postage stamps Historic Houses History 1500 to 1699
History 1700 to 1799 History 1800 to 1899 History 1900 to 1939 pre-war
History 1939 to 1951 History 1952 to 1999 History  2000 to 2005
History 2006 Part 1 History 2006 Part 2 History 2007 Jan and Feb
History 2007 March History 2007 April History 2007 May
History 2007 June 1-15th History 2007 June 16 to 30th History 2007 July 1-15
History 2007 July 16th to 31st History 2007 August 1 to 7 History 2007 August 8 to 14
History 2007 August 15 to 21 History 2007 August 22-31 History 2007 September 1 to 10
History 2007 September 11 to December 31 History 2008 to 2010 History 2011 through 2012
History 2013 History 2014 part 1 History 2014 part 2
History 2015 January History 2015 February History 2015 March
History 2015 April History 2015 May History 2015 June
History 2015 July    

Bermuda was first sighted in 1505, but not settled

1511 map including Bermuda top right

First known map to include Bermuda (shown as La Bermude, top right. lower case, upside down)

1547-1608. Bermuda remained unsettled

1603 Map of Bermuda by Captain Diego Ramirez

Captain  Diego Ramirez's 1603 map of Bermuda

1609. Bermuda settled by English colonists. Events thereafter

1609. In May, James I issued the second charter to the Virginia Company. Sir Thomas Smith (Smythe) was appointed Treasurer of the Virginia Company.

1609. May-June. The Virginia Company of London issued the colony's new governor, Sir Thomas Gates, confidential "Instruccions orders and Constitucions by way of advise sett downe declared and propounded to Sir Thomas Gates knight Governour of Virginia … for the Direccion of the affaires of that Countrey."

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 Sea Venture voyage1609 landing of Sea Venture passengersSea Venture 1609

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 wreckage at Buildings Bay, St. George's. All crew and passengers survived the sinking. 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 (since that time the Church of England has always had an active presence in Bermuda); 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.

Spanish hog food for the newcomers

Spanish feral 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.

Somers map of Bermuda 1609-1610

1609. September 3. Henry Hudson, on behalf of English investors, first encountered (but did not discover) and explored the Hudson Bay later named after him.

1609. November. In Virginia, Powhatan invites a party of about thirty colonists, led by John Ratcliffe, to Orapax on the promise of a store of corn. The English are ambushed and killed; Ratcliffe himself is tortured to death. Powhatan Indians lay siege to Jamestown, denying colonists access to outside food sources. The Starving Time begins, and by spring 160 colonists, or about 75 percent of Jamestown's population, will be dead from hunger and disease. This action begins the First Anglo-Powhatan War (1609–1614). This was the scenario that later involved both Sir Thomas Gates and Admiral Sir George Somers when they arrived in 2010 from being shipwrecked in Bermuda since July of this year.

1610. 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 Heacham, 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, some say Jamestown, later. (Mr. Rolfe, as a widower, continued on to Jamestown, Virginia where in 1614, he married native American Princess Pocahontas.)

1610. March. At St. George's, Bermuda, Sir Thomas Gates, as acting Governor of Bermuda, oversaw the public execution of Henry Paine, one of the crew of the 1609 Sea Venture.

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. He made a point of taking with him from Bermuda to Jamestown a quantity of Bermuda-grown tobacco found growing, taken and left there by Spanish and Portuguese mariners who had been there temporarily. 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. They grew tobacco at their campsite on Smith’s island, which is confirmed in Jourdain’s writings. He stated that they, Carter, Chard and Waters "made a great deale of tobacco, and if some would come that have skill in making it, it would see very commodious both to the merchant and to the maker of it.” 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 England. 

1610 book Discovery of Bermuda

1610. May 21. Sir Thomas Gates, Admiral Sir George Somers, and the survivors of the Sea Venture anchored at Fort Algernon, Point Comfort, where they found Captain James Davis and 30 relatively healthy colonists. But this was not the case in Jamestown. 

1610. May 23. Sir Thomas Gates, Admiral Sir George Somers and 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. Sir Thomas Gates, with Admiral Sir George Somers and Sea Venture survivors arrived at Jamestown to find 60 gaunt remnants of the 240 or so people who had crowded into James Fort the previous November. These men and women, under the command of George Percy, had barely survived what came to be known as the Starving Time. Unlike at Fort Algernon, where all the colonists had survived the winter, the Virginia Indians had made it impossible for the James Fort settlers to hunt or forage. In an attempt to instill military discipline, Gates issued on his first day at Jamestown the first of a set of regulations published in 1612 as For the Colony in Virginea Brittania. Lawes Divine, Morall and Martiall, &c. Food, not discipline, proved most important, however, and, unable to procure adequate provisions, Gates ordered the colony abandoned after just a few weeks; he planned to sail his charges to Newfoundland, where they would find passage back to England aboard the fishing fleet. The colonists happily loaded what they could onto four pinnaces, and buried the fort's cannon near the main gate. They likely would have burned the fort down as good riddance were it not for Gates's insistence that, according to Percy, they "let the towne Stande."

1610. June 7. 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. June 8. While sailing up the James River toward the Chesapeake Bay and then Newfoundland, Jamestown colonists encounter a ship bearing the new governor, Sir Thomas West, twelfth baron De La Warr, and a year's worth of supplies. The colonists returned to Jamestown that evening. The new governor, arrived at Jamestown and heard a sermon delivered by Reverend Richard Bucke, the reverend who had earlier been one of the involuntary, shipwrecked Bermuda colonists.

1610. July 9, 1610. In Virginia, after the colonist Humphrey Blunt is taken by Indians and tortured to death near Point Comfort, Sir Thomas Gates, formerly of Bermuda, attacks a nearby Kecoughtan town, killing twelve to fourteen native Indians and confiscating the cornfields.

1610. July 15, 1610. In Jamestown, Virginia, William Strachey, writer and earlier one on the 1609-1610 Bermuda colonists completes a revised version of a letter about the Sea Venture shipwreck and the condition of the Virginia colony. Addressed to an anonymous woman, it would much later (1625) be published posthumously by Samuel Purchas as "A true reportory of the wracke, and redemption of Sir Thomas Gates Knight."

1610. July 20. Sir Thomas Gates departed Jamestown, Virginia,  for home in England, and his arrival caused a sensation. Having survived the disastrous Sea Venture voyage, having staked out Bermuda for future planting, and having helped save the Jamestown colony, he was a hero in England. It was also salvation for the Virginia Company that had been beset from war between the natives and colonists, starvation, and disease in Virginia, plus resultant bad publicity at home. Investment in the company had dwindled, but Gates's tale of survival and redemption saved the day. With him were  two Virginia Indians recently taken prisoner: the chief, Sasenticum and his son Kainta. 

1610. November 9. Admiral Sir George Somers, just arrived back in Bermuda for much needed food for the Jamestown, Virginia colonists, died on the island at the age of 58, 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.) 

1610. November. In the report A True Declaration of the estate of the Colonie in Virginia, the Virginia Company suggested that the story around the saving of the Sea Venture saga was animated by "the direct line of God's providence."

1610. November 9. In Bermuda, where he lay in state, Sir George Somers’s men embalmed his body, pickling in in brine to preserve it. (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).” His nephew, Matthew Somers, who had been instructed by his uncle to sail back to Virginia with all speed regardless of any other eventualities , disobeyed him and instead sailed back to England from Bermuda, in a voyage that took a number of months on the Patience bearing his uncle's pickled body minus his heart for burial in Lyme Regis. 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, so as not to leave the island abandoned. On reaching the UK, Matthew Somers sailed the Patience to  Lyme Regis, Dorsetshire, for the burial at Whit-Church.

Admiral Sir George Somers, Founder of Bermuda

Admiral Sir George Somers, Founder of Bermuda

Spanish hog food for the newcomers

Bermuda hogs

Spanish feral hogs, a choice source of food for the newcomers.

Government House Bermuda 1612

Government House Bermuda 1612 - sketch

Rich's Mount

Smith's Fort remnants

Smith's Fort remnants

John Rolfe and Pocahontas

An imagined portrait of John Rolfe and Pocahontas. 

1614 Map of Bermuda by Captain John Smith

Captain John Smith's 1614 map of Bermuda

Hogge money 12 pence

Hogge money Hogge money, three pence

1615 Hogge money sixpence, both sides

Hogge money coins of Bermuda from 1615. The bottom photos show the sixpenny piece, shown as the Roman numeral VI, front and rear.

Bermuda Hogs

Bermuda feral hogs. From them came Hog or Hogge Money.

1620 Bermuda Parliament

Southampton Fort, Brangman's Island, completed 1621.

Southampton Fort, Brangman's Island, completed 1621

Edward Sackville, Earl of Dorset

Edward Sackville, 4th Earl of Dorset. See above story.

Generall Historie by Captain John Smith

Captain John Smith's 1624 book

1624 Bermuda map by Captain John Smith, showing forts

1624 map of Castle Roads forts by Captain John Smith

Captain John Smith's 1624 Bermuda map showing forts.

1625-1649

1633 map of Bermuda by Blaeu

1660-1685

1676 map of Berrmuda by John Speed

1676 map showing SAt. George's Parish

John Speed's 1676 Map of Bermuda above and that part specific to St. George's Parish, below

Andrew Marvell

Andrew Marvell

1685-1688

1688-1694 

Admiral Sir George Somers, Bermuda 1609 Artists who painted Bermuda Bermuda, Britain & Commonwealth
Bermuda & Canada Bermuda & France Bermuda & USA
Bermuda's postage stamps Historic Houses History 1500 to 1699
History 1700 to 1799 History 1800 to 1899 History 1900 to 1939 pre-war
History 1939 to 1951 History 1952 to 1999 History  2000 to 2005
History 2006 Part 1 History 2006 Part 2 History 2007 Jan and Feb
History 2007 March History 2007 April History 2007 May
History 2007 June 1-15th History 2007 June 16 to 30th History 2007 July 1-15
History 2007 July 16th to 31st History 2007 August 1 to 7 History 2007 August 8 to 14
History 2007 August 15 to 21 History 2007 August 22-31 History 2007 September 1 to 10
History 2007 September 11 to December 31 History 2008 to 2010 History 2011 through 2012
History 2013 History 2014 part 1 History 2014 part 2
History 2015 January History 2015 February History 2015 March
History 2015 April History 2015 May History 2015 June
History 2015 July    

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