Norfolk: Historic Southern Port

By Thomas J. Wertenbaker; Marvin W. Schlegel | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
Colonial Days and Colonial Ways

Colonial Virginia was almost entirely a rural province. From the days of the Virginia Company, when John Rolfe, celebrated as the husband of Pocahontas, discovered a satisfactory method of curing the native tobacco, the cultivation of that plant absorbed the attention of the people. From Old Point to Henrico, and from Nansemond to the Potomac, the country was dotted with fields green with the fragrant Sweetscented and Orinoco. The planters shipped their crops to Great Britain, where a part was consumed, and the rest distributed over the continent of Europe. In return they received manufactured goods-- clothing, household utensils, furniture, guns, farm implements. This traffic would have necessitated one or more ocean ports, had not the many great rivers, deep creeks, and inlets made it possible for the seagoing vessels of the day to penetrate to all parts of the settled area. Every important planter had his own wharf, from which he shipped his tobacco and received his annual consignment of European goods. "No country is better watered," wrote the Reverend Hugh Jones, in 1722, "for the conveniency of which most houses are built near some landing place; so that anything may be delivered to a gentleman there from London, Bristol, etc., with [very little] trouble and cost."1 There was no need for ports then, until the expansion of the settlements beyond deep water brought into existence the Fall Line towns.

This system, so convenient for the planter, was viewed with disfavor by the British government. Early in the seventeenth century, Governor Francis Wyatt was instructed "to draw tradesmen and handi-

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1
Hugh Jones, The Present State of Virginia ( New York, reprint by Sabine, 1865), p. 34.

-3-

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