Norfolk, Virginia

John Farrer's map (1667 version by his daughter), totally omitting the Elizabeth River
Norfolk's fine harbor was not the focal point of early colonial Virginia -
John Farrer totally omitted the Elizabeth River (as shown in this 1667 version by his daughter)
Source: Library of Congress

Before the English sailed into the Chesapeake Bay and named the Elizabeth River, there was a Native American settlement there. The Chesapeakes apparently were not subjugated or allied with Powhatan, though the reports by the leaders in the early days of Jamestown are contradictory.

In 1585, the Roanoke Colony settlers may have visited the Elizabeth River or Nansemond River watersheds. Those colonists then abandoned their attempt to settle permanently on the barrier islands, but leaders of the next effort planned to start anew on the south shore of the Chesapeake Bay.

Of course, that last batch of English colonists had their plans changed. In 1587 their ship captain dumped them back at Roanoke Island again, in order to have more time to attack Spanish ships. (Captains got a share of the profits in any Spanish shipping they could capture.)

There is speculation that the English in "lost colony" ended up, willingly or unwillingly, with Chesapeakes. Powhatan destroyed tribe around time arrived at Jamestown, and claimed to have remainder of Roanoke process, but no independent evidence residue - such as a collection iron tools weapons was even seen.

Powhatan may have "planted" his own town at the original homeland of the Chesapeakes, after destroying them in 1607-08. There was plenty of protein in the brackish waters to support a large town there, and Powhatan knew he had to secure the fringes of his paramount chiefdoom (the area he controlled) while he coped with the intrusion of an alien people in the center of it.

downtown Norfolk in 1873, when modern Boush Street near Town Point was still open water
downtown Norfolk in 1873, when modern Boush Street near Town Point was still open water
(compare to modern vista on GoogleMaps)
Source: Library of Congress, Norfolk & Portsmouth, Virginia 1873

downtown Norfolk in 1891
downtown Norfolk in 1891
(compare to modern vista on GoogleMaps)
Source: Library of Congress, Bird's eye view of Norfolk, Portsmouth and Berkley, Norfolk Co., Va

The Spanish in the Chesapeake Bay

Norfolk Naval Shipyard

Will Norfolk (and the Rest of Hampton Roads) Drown?

Links

tributaries of the Elizabeth River
tributaries of the Elizabeth River
Source: Virginia State Water Control Board, Elizabeth River 205(j) Water Quality Plan (Figure 1)


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