The Tobacco Colonies

In 1585 Sir Walter Raleigh with a group of colonists (91 men, 17 women and nine children) settled on the island of Roanoke (present area of North Carolina). Mysteriously, by 1590 the Roanoke colony had vanished entirely and thus it is sometimes refered to as Lost Colony. It is so probably because the first colonists were mostly adventurous and impoverished men incapable of any sustained effort, and that is why the very early wave of colonisation was a complete failure.

The first successful and permanent English colony able to survive thanks to own labour was Virginia (named by Sir Walter Raleigh in honor of the "virgin-queen," Elizabeth I) in 1607, after the London Company had sent 144 men to Virginia on three ships: the Godspeed, the Discovery and the Susan Constant. They reached the Chesapeake Bay in the spring of 1607 and headed about 60 miles up the James River, where they built a settlement they called Jamestown (named after the king James I). The Jamestown colonists had a rough time. They were so busy looking for gold and other exportable resources that they could barely feed themselves. The first year was devastating for the colonists, with only 32 of them surviving the winter. However, the Native Americans helped them and colony of Jamestown survived. It was not until 1616, when Virginia’s settlers learned how to grow tobacco that it seemed the colony might survive. The first African slaves arrived in Virginia in 1619.

In 1634 Maryland was founded, unlike Virginia, by a group of English Catholics who could not practice their religion in England. These were the about 300 settlers sent by Cecilius Calvert, the 2nd Lord Baltimore, after he was granted about 12 million acres of land at the top of the Chesapeake Bay by the English crown. Lord Baltimore´s intention was to create a safe home for English Catholics in the New World in the time of the European wars of religion. Maryland, named after Henrietta Maria – the French Princess, was similar to Virginia in many ways. Its landowners produced tobacco on large plantations that depended on the labor of servants and (later) African slaves. Maryland became known for its policy of religious toleration for all.