Henricus, a sweet and ‘healthie’ site

11/19/2010  | 
historic field trip

America’s early existence grew slowly, but with direction along the shores of the James River, from the founding of several new English-built communities in 1600s Virginia Territory of North America. The first successful one was Jamestown in 1607; another one was Henricus, built in 1611 at a “sweet and healthie site” 80 miles upriver from Jamestown, just below the water falls of modern-day Richmond. Along this fertile Eastern Woodlands river more than 30 communities of the Powhatan Chiefdom (under the leadership of Chief Powhatan) hunted, gathered and farmed this land. Henricus, named for the eldest son, Henry — of King James I of England. Sir Thomas Dale intended for this “citie” to eventually replace Jamestown as the new “principal seat of the County.”

Many of what we call today the beginnings of the “American way of life” began at, or near this site. Originally developed as a military fortification, it soon became the site for many American “firsts”: property ownership by the common man, the first English hospital (Mt. Malady), chartering of the first college in the New World, the English home of Pocahontas and the establishment of tobacco as the first cash crop in the New World.

Henricus became the “jumping off” spot for other nearby settlements such as Bermuda Hundred, Upper Hundred, Sheffield Place and the Falling Creek Ironworks. But the Indian uprising of 1622, led by Chief Opechancanough (Powhatan’s younger brother and successor) destroyed the town of Henricus. However, some of the other nearby settlements and settlers survived and remained. Located in such a key location on the James River, other settlers eventually came to the area, and wars — the Revolutionary and the Civil Wars — and the growing importance of river commerce, led to the area being changed in both minor and major ways. New plantations and towns sprang up, as did enhanced transportation hubs; work, begun under Sir Thomas Dale in the 17th century and continued during and after the Civil War, eventually led to the changing of the course of the James River.

Today, Dutch Gap Nature Preserve protects this area’s native wildlife and houses Henricus Historical Park. The Park, founded in the 1980s, under a partnership of the Counties of Chesterfield and Henricus and the Henricus Foundation stands on more than 40 acres with 11 Colonial period buildings and sites — militia buildings and parade field, crop and tobacco fields, tobacco barn and husbandry buildings, trade buildings (forge and carpentry shop) and Mt. Malady and the Ordinary. Rocke Hall, the re-created building that probably housed Pocahontas as she learned English traditions and converted to Christianity. The re-created Virginia Indian site of Arrohateck as three longhouses and many other community structures. In 2011, it will commemorate the 400th anniversary of its founding as the second successful English settlement in North America.

The living history site of Henricus and Arrohatec today look forward to the building of several more historic-type buildings, to traveling exhibitions, to archaeological work to find the original sites and to a full year — The Year of Henricus (September 2010–October 2011) — of commemorative programs and events celebrating 400 years of local, Virginia and American history of all the peoples who lived in this area. Through partnerships with the Virginia Indian Council, universities and other historical museums and living history sites, we have begun a year of educational and public programming and offerings.

School programs, designed around the State of Virginia’s Standard of Learning Guidelines for History and Social Studies, Science and Math, provides programming for grades Pre-K–12. The cultures, the technology, government, and economics are all a part of the hands-on, interactive offerings both onsite at Henricus and Outreach at requesting schools and organizations. While most of our programs happen in the re-created villages of Henricus and Arrohatec, we also provide programming indoors in our very large Education Center. Resources for teachers include Teacher Institutes, open houses, traveling exhibitions, orientation films and new programs Pre-K–12 have been designed for public, private and home school students.

For the general public, the Year Of Henricus activities include two-day, full-site public events: Colledge of Henricus: First Chartered University in English North America (March 26–27, 2011), Mount Malady, England’s First Hospital in North America (May 7–8, 2011) and John Rolfe’s Tobacco: Virginia’s First Successful Profitable Export (July 2 –24, 2011). The Year’s culminating event to its 400th Anniversary — and start of its next 400 years — will be Publick Days: The 400th Anniversary of the Founding of Henricus (Sept. 17–18, 2011). Free to the public, this will feature more than 100 Virginia Indian and colonial re-enactors, activities and the upriver and landing at the Henricus Dock, The Jamestown Foundation’s 17th century ocean-sailing ship, the Godspeed. On Sept. 19–20th, the entire site and the Godspeed will be made available to school groups, with pre-registration and a fee, for specialized programs and tours.

Offerings are enhanced throughout this year for students from a wide range of school districts. All programs follow the State of Virginia’s Standard of Learning Guidelines for multi-curricular programming, with especial interest in history and the social sciences. Teacher Enhancement resources (teacher institutes, open houses, workshops and In-services are offered). Adult programs, student camps and youth sleep-over camps are also available.

For further information, access our website, http://henricus.org.

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