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John Smith of Jamestown

John Smith (1580-1631) was an English soldier and sailor, now chiefly remembered for his brief association with the Native American princess, Pocahontas.

Smith was born in Lincolnshire. Before he was thirteen years old, his father died, and he ran off to sea. He served as a mercenary in the army of King Henry IV of France against the Spaniards and later fought against the Turks.

While sailing in the Mediterranean, he was cast like Jonah to the whales by a company of pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land, but he swam ashore in time to accomplish wonderful feats-at-arms in Hungary. He becaume a cupbearer to a Tartar prince, then a slave of slaves on the Black Sea. At last, escaping from bondage, he returned to England just in time to sail for America in a ship of the London Company.

A man of such renown as captain Smith was not to be ignored. The company made him a member of the Colonial Council. The other members of the council became jealous of him, however, and he was shamefully ignored at Jamestown, until death stared the whole colony in the face. Then it was that Captain John Smith earned the name of the "Father of Virginia."

He established trade with the Indians, built houses, and set the idle to work cutting a cargo of wainscot and clapboards to be exchanged in England for food. By his own industry and courage he inspired all with new hope. He led an expedition in search of the Pacific Ocean, was seized by the Indians, and had many adventures during his captivity. He showed the ignorant natives his pocket compass, and explained, as well as he could, that the earth was round, and that the sun "did chase right about the earth continually." He whittled dolls for the pappooses, and made himself so popular that he went about for several weeks clad in racoon skins as a badge of royalty; but for all that he was doomed to death until rescued by the gentle Pocahontas, daughter of the chief, Powhatan[?]. He returned to the colony laden with corn just in time to prevent the survivors from sailing away to Europe. Smith continued to explore the coast, always looking for a passage to India, and kept the colony busy until more settlers came, under Captain Newport.

source: History of the United States, by Alma Holman Burton, Copyright 1899.

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