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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

By Keith Archibald Forbes (see About Us) exclusively for Bermuda Online

See end of this file for all of our many History files

Bermuda was first sighted in 1505, but not settled

1502. Christopher Columbus took his fourth voyage to the New World.

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 sailing from Cadiz to Mexico. But because it was so small, the island group remained uninhabited and unsettled until 1609, except for the occasional shipwrecked mariner.

1509. It was first recorded in European journals that in the early Islamic states of the western Sudan, including Ghana (750–1076), Mali (1235–1645), Segou (1712–1861), and Songhai (1275–1591), about a third of the population were enslaved. It was 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 Henry VIII.

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. It was Bermuda's first-known appearance on a map.

1511 map including Bermuda top right

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

1515. Spanish courtier, writer and historian Gonzalo Ferdinandez 'Oviedo y Valdez  sailed near Bermuda but was unable to land. However, he recorded an account of the island as it was then.

1527. A petition was made by Hernando Camero, sometimes referred to as Ferdinand Caemlo, 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.

1543. A Portuguese slave ship sank off the South Shore, Bermuda. From this tragedy, the inscription of the "Spanish Rock" at Spittal Pond may derive.

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 unsettled

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. 

1556. 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 them.

1558. 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.

1580. The Kingdoms of Spain and Portugal were united, with the union lasting until 1640. During that time, both countries had significant dealings with Bermuda, as details below show. Portugal was always friendly, as Britain's oldest allay, Spain's was periodically hostile.

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. Her wreck was not discovered until 1964 and originally she was believed to be the store ship La Viga, which had wrecked in 1639. Known as the Western Ledge Reef Wreck, the Santa Lucia’s remains have been extremely well preserved, mainly because of the largest ballast pile that covered her lower hull section. During the sixteenth century around twenty Spanish ships ran aground on Bermuda’s treacherous reefs. A number of these have been found, and several studied archaeologically, but none have provided such a detailed picture of sixteenth-century Spanish ships as the Santa Lucia.​

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 explorer John 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, only mollusks).

1589. Thomas Gates, later knighted and Governor-designate of Virginia but shipwrecked in July 1609 off Bermuda, edited and published A Summary and True Discourse of Sir Francis Drake's West Indian Voyage in which he too had participated.

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, de la 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).

1597. Sir Thomas Gates, later appointed Governor of Virginia but shipwrecked in July 1609 off Bermuda and a resident there for nearly a year, participated in the British fleet that successfully attacked the Portuguese-held Azores Islands.

1598. March 4. Sir Thomas Gates, later appointed Governor of Virginia but shipwrecked in July 1609 off Bermuda and a resident there for nearly a year, was admitted to Grey's Inn, one of London's Inns of Court.

1600. The East India Company of England was founded.

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 Raleigh’s Indian tobacco planted in Virginia. 

1603 Map of Bermuda by Captain Diego Ramirez

Captain  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 was born. 

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 mainland.

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 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, coxswain; 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. Found growing was an onion, much appreciated by the new settlers. 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 1610 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. The Jamestown colony was collapsing until they were saved by the arrival of ships from Bermuda. During the winter of 1609-10, the colonists suffered through sickness, starvation and Indian attacks led to the deaths of more than 200 men, women and children crowded into James Fort. Later, it was proved from forensic evidence that cannibalism occurred. Of the 200 to 300 settlers crowded inside James Fort only 60 emaciated survivors remained to greet the arriving ship from Bermuda. 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. An important experimental collection of seeds was brought to Bermuda by a Frenchman by order of King James 1 of England. He ordered mulberries to be grown in the islands with the silk trade in mind.  (In 1627, an Act was passed requiring 50 mulberries to be planted on every share of land for three successive years). Rich in vitamin C, the fruits are eaten raw or cooked to make jams and wine.

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

1611. May 19. Because Sir Thomas Gates, by then back in England after his experiences in Bermuda and Virginia, had served as an outspoken advocate for the Virginia Company at a crucial time, private investors had been persuaded to fund two additional expeditions to Virginia. The first of these was led by Sir Thomas Dale, an acquaintance of Gates since November 1606, when the two met in Oudewater, South Holland. Dale arrived in Virginia on this, with about 300 well-armed soldiers. Finding that De La Warr had left the colony due to illness, Dale assumed the position of deputy governor. On June 22 he issued an expanded version of the Lawes Divine, Morall and Martiall, enforcing strict discipline on the colony's military personnel. Also in June, Dale and his men attacked the Nansemond Indians near the mouth of the James, and, late in the month, fought off a Spanish reconnaissance mission at Point Comfort. 

1611. August. Sir Thomas Gates returned to Virginia at the head of a second expedition, which included three ships, 280 men, 20 women, 200 heads of cattle, 200 swine, and various other supplies and equipment. Spying the fleet as it entered the bay, Dale feared that the Spanish had returned. In the end, however, he welcomed his old comrade back to Virginia, and Gates became the colony's lieutenant governor.

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. 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 flowers."

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. September. Sir Thomas Gates, once from Bermuda then Jamestown, Virginia took advantage of the soldiers he had brought from England and dispatched Sir Thomas Dale to near the falls of the James River in Virginia. There he attacked and defeated the Powhatans and founded the City of Henrico , or Henricus, the first permanent English settlement outside Jamestown. This milestone made possible another cluster of settlements, founded by Dale and known as the New Bermudas or Bermuda Incorporation: Bermuda City, Bermuda Hundred, Digges Hundred, the Upper Hundred (or Curles), and West and Shirley Hundred and Island .

1611. 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 Somers, later 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.

Plough, like Godspeed1612. 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) settlers 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 (1583-1618), 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. Also found was a great deal of tobacco, which became a very successful export for Bermuda as it was high quality and attracted high prices.

Spanish hog food for the newcomers

Bermuda hogs

Spanish feral 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 decided 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 tobacco farmer, was producing a crop of tobacco, either from from a Spanish plant that he had rescued from his sea chest when he and follow-colonists had survived shipwreck in Bermuda, or from tobacco he had found growing in Bermuda, planted there from Spanish survivors of ships wrecked off Bermuda reefs. He was producing tobacco at least as good as anything produced in Spain. 

1612. Partly 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 Jamestown).

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 produced.

1612. The first Government House was built. It stood on Water Street, St. George's, near the Town Square. 

Government House Bermuda 1612

Government House 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.

Rich's Mount

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. April. In Virginia,  Captain Samuel Argall (1580-1626) captured Pocahontas, daughter of the paramount chief Powhatan. Bargaining for the girl's return helped to end the war, although, in the end, she did not return to the Powhatans. Instead, a month after Gates's departure in 1614, she married John Rolfe.

1613. June. Smith's Fort, on Governor's Island in Bermuda, approved in 1612, was completed, to repel Spanish and other enemy ships.

Smith's Fort remnants

Smith's Fort remnants

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 (1590-1675) 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 the Eastward was then called Bedford Tribe, now Hamilton's [i.e. Hamilton Tribe or Parish, not the City of Hamilton]; the second, Smith’s Tribe; the third, Cavendish, now Devonshire; the fourth, Pembrook's; the fifth, Paget's; the sixth, Mansils, now Warwick's; 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, because it was close to the direct sea lane to Europe through which Spanish treasure ships passed and Spain wanted both the ships and the route to remain in Spanish hands. 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 in Spain 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 fort on Castle Island, 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 from Bermuda were sent whistling seaward on that date. Those shots across the bows of the two Spanish vessels became a legend in the early history of Bermuda.

1614. March 6, 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. March. When Sir Thomas Gates, earlier from Bermuda and Virginia finally returned to England, leaving Dale in command, the colonists had the upper hand in the still-raging First Anglo-Powhatan War. The settlements on the upper James had forced the Powhatans to evacuate much of their territory on the river.

1614. The ship Margaret arrived from England along with two frigates bringing the surveyor Bartlet and others.

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 Rolfe.

John Rolfe and Pocahontas

An imagined 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.

1614 Map of Bermuda by Captain John Smith

Captain John 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 arrived bringing supplies

1615. June 29. Somer Islands Company Charter of James I came into force.  Its official title incorporated shareholders under the Governor and Company of the City of London for the Plantation of the Somers Islands, namely the Bermuda Company This separate and autonomous Company, formed by 118 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. 

1615. The first of the "hogge money" coins - so called because they featured an image of a Bermuda hog - was issued in Bermuda (then called the Somers Islands) as the earliest of all British colonial coins. It is believed they are also the only coins ever to feature hogs or pigs.  They were made in London and sent to the colonists in Bermuda. The hogs had been found running wild and easy to catch by the 1609 colonists and were a major source of meat. It was believed they had been deliberately dumped overboard alive by Portuguese or Spanish mariners using these islands first sighted by the Spaniard Juan de Bermudez but then uninhabited, en route to the Spanish Main Caribbean Islands, Mexico and South America, to swim ashore and become food for the mariners in the event of a shipwreck.

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.

1615-17. After he arrived in 1616, Richard Norwood used a canoe to go from place to place in Bermuda to survey the islands before preparing his detailed pap of Bermuda. He also brought with him to Bermuda a diving bell for pearl diving and wreck salvage.

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. Cassava: was introduced to Bermuda by colonists (and was the principal export in 1868–1869).

1616. On her second visit, the ship Edwin brought "many" passengers  including the first Indian and first black man and proceeded to the West Indies, returning from there in the same year. 

1616. April 23. Death of famous English poet, playwright and actor William Shakespeare whose fictional Tempest was based on the story of the English colonization of Bermuda.

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 master.

1616. The first slaves were brought to Bermuda from Africa via the West Indies 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 ruled Bermuda with an iron fist. He was known to hang people who disagreed with him. He also 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. 

Bermuda Hogs

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

1616. June 3, John Rolfe, one of the earliest Bermuda colonists in 1609, who went to Virginia in 1610 and his Virginian wife Pocahontas (then Rebecca) arrived in London.

1616. The Virginia Company began the headright system by giving 50 acres to anyone who paid the fare and an 50 additional acres to each person brought with him.

1616. Port Royal Church in Southampton Parish was first built. It survives today at St. Anne's Church.

1617. March 17. Pocahontas, whose husband John Rolfe had been one of the original Bermuda colonists, and whose first wife died in Bermuda, died in Gravesend, England.  There is a statue there commemorating her time in England.

The first cargo of Virginia grown tobacco reached England.

1617. Slaves were first mentioned in Bermuda records.

1617. One of the earliest homes that began construction was a house called The Grange, in Southampton (on a part of what is now the Port Royal Golf Course) former fairway at the golf course. It was the home of Bermuda's second Governor Daniel Tucker. (Also see 1618)

1617. September 29.  The death, in Lyme Regis, Dorset, England, of Joanne Raymond of Sussex, wife of William Raymond. But it was as Joane Somers, widowed wife of Admiral Sir George Somers who discovered Bermuda, that she had earlier fame.  She was childless with both husbands.

1617. In Bermuda under Governor Daniel Tucker, five men including James Barker were so fed up with his attitude that they stole a boat and rowed to Ireland and freedom.

1617. October 29. Sir Walter Raleigh was executed for treason at the Tower of London.

1617. Bermuda was divided into twenty five acre strips of shares by surveyor Richard Norwood in his survey.

1618. May. The Indian chief Powhatan died.

1618. After Governor Daniel Tucker had begun constructing his timbered dream house, "The Grange", at the Overplus in Southampton, courtesy of the public purse, labour was dragooned into service. Some men were set to work to dig cellars, others to burn lime and make mortar, others to make shingles.

1618. June 18. Sir James Lancaster died in England. He was a merchant adventurer who knew Admiral Sir George Somers well and often sailed with him.

1618. In Jamestown, the "Great Migration" until 1623 increased the population from 400 to 4,400. But most died from disease, starvation or Indian attack.

1618. A Flemish or Dutch ship went aground and sank off what is now Wreck Hill (then Flemish Hill) on the northernmost tip of the Main Island of Bermuda. The captain of the ship was John Powell, once considered a notorious Caribbean pirate. The buccaneer ship had legal status as a privateer. It had sailed against the Spanish under a Letter of Marque by the Dutch prince Maurice of Orange, so was technically not a Flemish ship but a Dutch one. The British Government did not like the presence of Powell in St. George's, Bermuda so Governor Miles Kendall banished him to what is now Ireland Island. It was from there that Powell and crew tried to build a new ship. Powell is alleged to have earlier captured, likely from a Spanish ship, a group of African slaves. As his involuntary crew members, he made them help in his ship-building efforts. (In 1625, he achieved a claim to fame as the European discover of Barbados, with his brother Henry Powell. Barbados had earlier been deserted by Carib Indians). 

1618. The ship Neptune was sent to Bermuda for the purpose of whale fishing.

1618. The ship Diana was the first magazine ship to arrive in Bermuda and took away 30,000 lbs of tobacco.

1619. The ship Garland left London bound for Virginia but ended up in Bermuda - then the Somer's Islands - where she was seized.

1619. The ship Giliflower arrived in Bermuda with supplies.

1619. The ship Treasurer arrived in Bermuda from Virginia, with Africans brought via Jamestown by Captain Daniel Elfrith (sic?). It was reported that acting Governor Miles Kendall had about 29 Africans from that ship locked up because he believed they were stolen from a Spanish ship in the West Indies. It was later discovered they came originally from Angola. Those who arrived in Jamestown on this ship were the first black African slaves to be imported to the USA.

1619. Jacob Jacobson, a shipwright from Holland, was wrecked off Bermuda but swam to shore and began a boat-building tradition by building several large boats for Bermuda's third Governor, Butler, for the defence of Bermuda.

1619. October. One of the early Bermuda forts was made of wood and burnt to the ground.

1619. Sugar Cane was introduced and later exported to Virginia, but the ground was said to be too rocky and there was more interest in tobacco farming.

1619. The first civilian stone structure to be commenced in Bermuda was the State House in St. George's.

1619. Governor Nathaniel Butler, soon after he arrived, wrote an account of how he found Sir George Somers’s cross neglected “in a by-place, all overgrown with bushes and rubbish.” The wooden cross had been located at the intersection of present-day Duke of York and Duke of Kent Streets, the roads forking at the tomb. Deciding “so noble a gentleman deserved” better, Butler fashioned “a small monumental tomb” three feet high, using a handsome marble stone imported from England. Butler also composed an epitaph, which he had engraved on a brass plate set into the stone: "In the year 1611, Noble Sir George Somers went hence to Heaven, Whose well tried worth, that held him still employed Gave him the knowledge of the world so wide, Hence ’twas by Heaven’s decree that to this place He brought new guests and name to mutual grace. At last his soul and body being to part, He here bequeathed his entrails and his heart. "Neither accurate nor elegant, Butler’s words and his tomb endured for at least two centuries.

1619. Governor Nathaniel Butler built a new platform at forts on Paget and nearby Smith's Islands. Although periodic repairs were attempted during the next century, none lasted.

1619. November. Governor Nathaniel Butler recorded the sinking a short time earlier of the ship Warwick in which he himself had traveled to Bermuda six weeks earlier. She was the “magazine” ship of Robert Rich, the Earl of Warwick, one of the major shareholders of the Bermuda Company. “First came a terrible storm and hurricane, in which the Garland, riding at anchor in the King’s Castle harbour, which was very exposed to northwest winds, was forced for safety’s sake to cut down her mainmast to the ship’s side, and in this crippled state to ride out the storm for her life. But the Warwick, which was moored not far from the Garland, slipped all her anchors and was driven onto the rocks, and completely wrecked. The ship supposedly had a noble purpose, to take supplies from Bermuda to Jamestown, Virginia. Unfortunately, she sank in Castle Harbour in October, 1619 buffeted by the winds of a hurricane. Governor Butler became heavily engaged not only in the salvaging of the Warwick but also what remained of the Sea Venture ship. (To the huge surprise of scientists several hundred years later, they dug her up and discovered she had been armed to the teeth, far too heavily armed for a mere supply ship. Her remains are still there, reburied in the sand. She was one of the newest and most technologically advanced ships of her era). 

1620. Sir Thomas Smith (Smythe) resigned as Treasurer of the Virginia Company after being challenged by his rival Sir Duncan Sandys.  

1620. August 1. The first Bermuda Parliament was held at St. Peter's Church in St. George's,  the site of the colony’s first settlement, in response to explicit instructions from the Bermuda Company. It was the only building then in Bermuda large enough to accommodate the parliamentarians. The Parliament was convened here in Bermuda's first capital by then-Governor Nathaniel Butler, who had assumed office in 1619, in compliance with instructions from the Somers Island Company directing him to summon a General Assembly which was to include two representatives ("the ablest and best understanding men") from each of the eight Tribes into which the colony was divided after Richard Norwood, commissioned by the Bermuda Company, completed his first survey of the islands. The Governor presided over an Executive Council which ruled the country in consultation with the House of Assembly. The representatives on this occasion were selected by “voice vote” (open balloting) by male landowners. This was the first example locally of an election franchise for seats in Bermuda’s Legislature which was then restricted to males and which was property-based. In Governor Butler's opening speech he reminded members of their duty to God, their allegiance to the King and of the folly of "choosing and electing your own Governor here." The Gavel which is still used in Parliament, was constructed from a cedar tree in St. Peter's Church courtyard, it is inscribed with the words, "This Gavel and Base was made from the Cedar Tree under which the First Assembly met at St. George 1st August 1620."

1620. Matthew Somers, still without money and having had his inheritance claim denied in Lyme Regis after having brought the body of his uncle Sir George Somers back to Lyme Regis from Bermuda,  approached the Virginia Company court, claiming that his uncle had invested £1,100 in Virginia and asking for it back. A quick check of the company accounts revealed that the actual figure was £470; the company gave no refunds, but Matthew could obtain a dividend of land in Virginia instead. Four months later, Somers promised to transport 100 settlers to Virginia, but asked for £200 in advance “in regard to the personal worth and merit of Sir George Somers.” This attempt to bank on his late uncle’s fame drew a refusal and aroused suspicion. The Virginia Company thereafter referred to Matthew as Sir George’s “pretended” heir.

1620. Work began on the construction of a Town Hall (Sessions House or State House) in St. George’s. The building, the first administrative structure in Bermuda constructed entirely of stone and now referred to as the State House, served (after completion three years later) as the meeting place for Parliament on numerous occasions until 1815. 

1620 Bermuda Parliament

1620. By Royal Assent, Bermuda was granted limited self-government.  

1620. The ship Treasurer was a wreck lying in 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 protected by an act of the local parliament. 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. 

1620. 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. It has long been thought that Jacobson was the originator behind the Bermuda rig.

1620. 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. Potatoes arrived in the British Colonies when the Governor of Bermuda, Nathaniel Butler, sent two large cedar chests containing potatoes and other vegetables to Governor Francis Wyatt of Virginia at Jamestown.  (The first permanent potato patches in North America were established in 1719, most likely near Londonderry (Derry), NH, by Scotch-Irish immigrants.  From there, the crop spread across the country).

1621. The Spanish vessel San Antonio was wrecked off a Bermuda reef. Local divers retrieved a spice jar from the Ming Dynasty (1583-1620). 

State House1621. 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. 

Southampton Fort, Brangman's Island, completed 1621.

Southampton 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. 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).

1621. December. The Governor of Bermuda sent two cedar chests to Virginia with various agricultural products grown in Bermuda contained in them. One contained the first potato seen by colonists in Jamestown. 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 Bermuda).

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.”

1622. 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 palmetto-thatched roof.

1623. Castor Oil was introduced to Bermuda by settlers. This plant has been used for thousand of years. The seeds/beans contain the oil which was often taken as a laxative  but taken in large doses resulted in poisoning due to its alkaloid and protein content and polysaccharides which cause violent reactions in humans. 

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. April. Edward Sackville was briefly governor of the Bermuda Islands Company. It is not known whether he actually arrived in Bermuda because in May that year he received a license to travel for three years and was nominated ambassador to Louis XIII of France again in September.

Edward Sackville, Earl of Dorset

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

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.

Generall Historie by Captain John Smith

Captain John Smith's 1624 book

Captain John Smith published his Bermuda map showing forts erected in defense of the islands, see graphic below.

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.

1624. The book "The Unmasking of Virginia" was published, by Nathaniel Butler. 1624. Butler had gone to Virginia after serving as a capable Governor of Bermuda. The book was mostly about the 1622 Indian massacre. It helped bring about the end of the Virginia Company.

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

1624. Slaves weaved home-grown sea island cotton into cloth dyed with indigo. There was a time in which the early inhabitants had little clothing and cotton was ordered to be grown on every share of land.

1624. Bermuda was exporting 70,000lbs of tobacco per year but by then Virginia’s tobacco exports had caught up to Bermuda. (By 1630, Virginia had far surpassed Bermuda’s exports of tobacco).


1625. 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 George Somers.

1625. William Strachey's account of the 1609-1610 Sea Venture adventure, "A true reportory of the wracke, and redemption of Sir Thomas Gates Knight", was published in 1625 and was then confirmed as the probable source material, given to William Shakespeare much earlier, for his play 1610-1611 The Tempest

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.

1626. Richard 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 Bermuda.

1626. September. St Mary the Virgin Anglican Church in Warwick Parish was constructed. (It celebrated its 390th anniversary in September 2016) . The church was started by a group of Warwick farmers who wanted to get together for regular prayer. That first building was likely a wooden hut made of cedar, the present-day stone structure was built by 1830. Since then, the 105-member church has undergone many transitions.

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.

1629. Christmas Eve. Bermuda's first slave uprising occurred.

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.

1633. Dockyard Lime was brought to Bermuda by settlers. It was used as rent payment to landlords and exported to North America. The juice can be used to keep mosquitoes away. Jams and jellies were also made from it. The fruits contain pectin which is used today in some parts of the world in anti-diarrhea medicines.

1633. Dutchman Willem Blaeu published his second map, below, of Bermuda, five years before his death.

1633 map of Bermuda by Blaeu

1633. England was introduced to bananas when Thomas Johnston displayed a bunch from Bermuda in his shop window on Snow Hill, London.

1634. Establishment of Maryland by Lord Baltimore as a proprietary colony.

1635. Colonization of Connecticut began.

1635. June 10. The ship Truelove left from England with more colonists for Bermuda. 

1635. September. The ship Dorset did the same.

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 was founded.

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 house.

1637. Governor Chaddock arrived and almost immediately had two boats built, one with a giant capstan or crane purpose-built to recover cannon or heavier objects from the many shipwrecks around Bermuda. He salvaged so many on one area of the wreck-strewn reefs to the west of Bermuda that the area became known as the Chaddock Bar.

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 state later).

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 Jamestown). The 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 the poor.

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 Barbados.

1644.  A large group of slaves arrived in Bermuda by ship, commanded by Captain William Jackson, whose fleet had made a seep of a number of Spanish-held Caribbean islands. The 36 captured slaves included a number of Indian women.

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', sick religious intolerance under Cromwell's rule in England that extended to Bermuda, 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 Sayle 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.

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 Friends (Quakers).

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 Carolina). 

1649. January 31. King Charles I was beheaded in London by Parliamentary forces under Oliver Cromwell. The English Commonwealth was formally established.

1649. In Bermuda, the execution by beheading in Whitehall, London of imprisoned 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.

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 until 1660.

1656. A slave uprising in Bermuda was foiled, two, Black Tom and Cabilecto, were executed and all blacks previously given their freedom were banished, shipped against their will to Eleutheria in the Bahamas.


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



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