Richard of Jamestown - James Otis

Fear of Famine in a Land of Plenty

However, I must set this much down as counting in our favor: when we landed in this country we had three pigs, and a cock and six hens, all of which we turned loose in the wilderness to shift for themselves, giving shelter to such as came back to us when winter was near at hand.

[Illustration] from Richard of Jamestown by James Otis

Within two years we had of pigs more than sixty, in addition to many which were yet running wild in the forest. Of hens and cocks we had upward of five hundred, the greater number being kept in pens to the end that we might profit by their eggs.

I have heard Master Hunt declare more than once, that had we followed Captain Smith's advice, giving all our labor to the raising of crops, our storehouse would have been too small for the food on hand, and we might have held ourselves free from the whims of the savages, having corn to sell, rather than spending near to half our time trying to buy.

As Master Hunt said again and again when talking over the situation with Captain Smith, it seemed strange even to us who were there, that we could be looking forward to a famine, when in the sea and on the land was food in abundance to feed half the people in all this wide world.

To show how readily one might get himself a dinner, if so be his taste were not too nice, I have seen Captain Smith, when told what we had in the larder for the next meal, go to the river with only his naked sword, and there spear fish enough with the weapon to provide us with as much as could be eaten in a full day. But yet some of our gentlemen claimed that it was not good for their blood to eat this food of the sea; others declared that oysters, when partaken of regularly, were as poisonous as the sweet potatoes which we bought of the Indians.

Thus it was that day by day did we who were in the land of plenty, overrun with that which would serve as food, fear that another time of famine was nigh.


Front Matter

Who I am
Left Alone in the World
An Idle Boy
Captain Smith Comes to London
Meeting Captain Smith
Captain Smith Speaks to Me
Plans of the London Company
The Vessels of the Fleet
How I Earned my Passage
When the Fleet Set Sail
The Voyage Delayed
Nathaniel's Story
We Make Sail Again
The First Island
Captain Smith Accused
Captain Smith a Prisoner
I Attend My Master
Several Islands Visited
A Variety of Wild Game
The Tempest
The New Country Sighted
The Leader Not Known
Arrival at Chesapeake Bay
An Attack by the Savages
Reading the Company's Orders
Captain Smith on the Council
Smith Remains Aboard
Exploring the Country
People Land from the Ships
Captain Smith Proven Innocent
We Who were Left Behind
Baking Bread without Ovens
Unequal Division of Labor
Building a Home of Logs
Keeping House
Lack of Cleanliness
Cave Homes
The Golden Fever
Ducks and Oysters
Roasting Oysters
Leaning to Cook
The Sweet Potato Root
A Touch of Homesickness
Master Hunt's Preaching
Neglecting the Future
Surprised by Savages
Strengthening the Fort
Sickness and Death
Smith Gains Authority
Disagreeable Discipline
Signs of Rebellion
Second Proclamation
Building a Fortified Village
Trapping Turkeys
A Crude Kind of Chimney
Cooking a Turkey
Candles or Rushlights
The Visit of Pocahontas
Captain Kendall's Plot
Death of Captain Kendall
Captain Smith's Expedition
An Exciting Adventure
Taken Before Powhatan
Pocahontas Begs for Smith
Captain Smith's Return
A New Church
Captain Newport's Return
A Worthless Cargo
Condition of the Colony
Captain Newport's Return
Gazing at the Women
Hunt Brings Great News
Captain Newport's Instructions
The Story of Roanoke
The Crowning of Powhatan
Preparing for the Future
Stealing Company Goods
What the Thieving Led To
Fear of Famine
The Unhealthful Location
Gathering Oysters
Sturgeon for Food
Turpentine and Tar
Making Clapboards
Providing for Children
Dreams of the Future
A Plague of Rats
Treachery During Smith's Absence
Captain Smith's Speech
The New Laws
The Accident
Captain Smith's Departure
The "Starving Time"
Our Courage Gives Out
Abandoning Jamestown
Lord De la Warr's Arrival
The Young Planters