West Virginia, the Mountain State

By Charles H. Ambler; Festus P. Summers | Go to book overview

Chapter III
Explorations and Early Settlements

THE QUEST FOR GOLD AND THE SOUTH SEA

BEFORE THE FIRST permanent English settlement was firmly established in Virginia, its promoters manifested an interest in westward explorations. Like others who had preceded them to America, these early explorers hoped to find wealth and a direct route to the "South Sea." It was in quest of these that Christopher Newport reached the falls of the James in 1607, and the following year penetrated the upper reaches of that stream to a distance of thirty miles inland from the present site of Richmond.1

That these initial successes were not followed up immediately was probably due to the fact that there were few persons of Admiral Newport's initiative among his immediate successors. Then, too, the work of founding a new colony under trying conditions taxed the Virginians to their utmost; thousands died in the attempt. Nevertheless, stories of the interior lingered in the memories of the colonists and were kept alive by natives, especially those interested in trade. Thus, in May, 1626, the governor and the council wrote the Privy Council, in England, that "discoveries by land . . . are of great hope both from the richness of the mountains and the possibilities of finding the passage to the South Sea." The same communication asked aid to accomplish these undertakings.

This request seems to have gone unheeded, for there is little more of record concerning the Virginia frontier before 1641. At that time, Cavaliers

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1
C. W. Alvord and Lee Bidgood, First Explorations of the Trans-Allegheny ( Cleveland, 1912), p. 28.

-26-

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