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Jane Banner


Jamestown, the first permanent English colony in North America, began in 1607. From the very first months of the colony, the Jamestown settlers had a hard time feeding themselves. Damage to a large supply fleet from England in the summer of 1609 put more strain on the colony. The new settlers who came on the damaged ships ate through the colonys seven acres of planted corn in three days. A month later a mysterious gunpowder explosion severely injured Captain John Smith, who had been acting president of the colony at that time, and sent him back to London. Now the 300 settlers crowded into James Fort faced the coming winter of 1609-10 with fractured leadership, insufficient provisions, and imminent war with the Powhatans who had tired of the settlers' demands on them for food and the tactics used to obtain their food.

Who was Jane?

Women rarely appear by name in the early records of the Virginia colony, but we have important clues to her identity.

How did Jane get to Jamestown?

She survived a hurricane before she faced trials on the frontier of an English settlement.

How did Powhatan Indians lay siege to James Fort?

Within a couple of months, attacks by the Nansemonds and Powhatans had resulted in the death or desertion of about 130 settlers -- nearly a third of the colony.

How bad was the "starving time" winter?

The survivors wrote that in desperation they ate snakes, rats, cats, and their dogs and horses. They even boiled shoe leather for sustenance.

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