Seventh-grader Vivienne Clark from Albuquerque, N.M., can rattle
off facts about Bartholomew Gosnold: In 1602 he sailed to New
England, becoming the first English explorer to set foot on Cape
Cod. He captained one of the ships that carried settlers to
Jamestown, Va., in 1607.
"I actually think he may have made a better leader in Jamestown
than John Smith," Vivienne says with some authority. Smith is widely
credited with establishing what would become the first permanent
English settlement in North America, but Vivienne concludes: "John
Smith was kind of an opportunist."
She first came across Gosnold while researching relations between
early settlers and native Americans. This week, Vivienne is in
Washington to present her paper in the finals of the National
History Day competition - the culmination of a yearlong program
sponsored by the University of Maryland.
But Vivienne, who is home-schooled, is unusual among middle-
schoolers. She might even stand out in a university lecture hall.
That's because Bartholomew Gosnold is a man history classes have
largely left behind.
His minor role in the Jamestown historical record, and near
invisibility in popular legend, is partly a matter of who writes
history. In this case, it was Smith, the brash adventurer who
recounted his version throughout his long life.
But a skeleton believed to be that of Gosnold may change all
that. The discovery in 2003 at the site of the Jamestown fort has
captured the attention of Colonial historians, who are closely
following efforts this week in England to determine - through DNA
testing of relatives' remains - whether the bones are in fact
Perhaps more important, the Gosnold excavation has refocused a
spotlight on the true seat of this country's founding. William
Kelso, director of archaeology with the Association for the
Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, which uncovered the bones, has
called him "a founding father of modern America."
After Gosnold and Smith's arrival in Jamestown, it would be
another 13 years before the Pilgrims sailed the Mayflower to
Plymouth, Mass., using Smith's navigational maps. But that outpost
has long overshadowed the Jamestown Colony - which will celebrate
its 400th anniversary in 2007.
It's also been easy to let a few major characters dwarf all the
Gosnold, a lawyer turned privateer, played a pivotal role in
organizing the expedition and securing a charter from King James. …