The Top Crop

Although Pocahontas won the hearts of the English, tobacco also captured their attention. In 1612, colonists began growing tobacco, and it was a primary reason behind the Jamestown settlement's success. In fact, Jamestown became the capital of Virginia.

The tobacco plant in the Americas can be traced back more than 8,000 years. Native Americans eventually started smoking and chewing the dried tobacco leaves, and by the time Europeans came to North America, tobacco was growing in abundance in the Americas.

Moreover, the tobacco crop attracted more settlers to the colonies, where they planted it in every available inch of fertile soil. But once indentured servitude ended, settlers were hard-pressed to maintain their tobacco and other crops. So, they began purchasing laborers from Dutch traders who kidnapped black Africans in their homelands, transported them against their will across the ocean, and sold them to plantation owners — the start of slavery in America.

Relations with the Native Americans began to sour, for the natives frequently attacked Jamestown. In 1622, 350 colonists were killed. By 1644, a total of 500 had perished. In 1676, the colonists rebelled against the rule of Governor William Berkeley in what's known as Bacon's Rebellion. A group of former indentured servants, led by plantation owner Nathaniel Bacon, didn't think Berkeley was protecting them from Native American raids. When Bacon and his men formed a small army to punish the Native Americans, Berkeley denounced them as rebels. Marching against Jamestown in 1676, Bacon captured the town and burned it.

Middle Plantation, in what is now Williamsburg, became the seat of colonial government in 1699, and Jamestown was left deserted.

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