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Any early American history specialists around?

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Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: I love history, but it's boring in school. Historical fiction brings it alive for me.
Preferred HF: Iron-Age Britain, Roman Britain, Medieval Britain
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Any early American history specialists around?

Post by Rowan » Fri July 12th, 2013, 4:00 pm

While working on an article for my paranormal blog, I had occasion to read the Wikipedia article on John Smith. As I was reading over it, I noted some conflicting information regarding men who were sent to Jamestown to assume governorship. Within the span of two paragraphs, two different men are mentioned as being sent to the colony to serve as governor: Sir Thomas Gates and Thomas West, Lord de la Warr(e). Both bits of information are referenced in a book that I do not have access to. Google Books doesn't have an electronic version, nor does my local library have a hard copy. I think this should be addressed, but I can't seem to untangle this mess alone.

Help? Suggestions?

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Post by annis » Sat July 13th, 2013, 4:57 am

I'm not an early American history specialist :) but as far as I can tell the first and only official Governor of Jamestown from 1609-1618 was Thomas West, Lord de la Warr.

Sir Thomas Gates served as acting governor for a few months before the arrival in Jamestown of the “real deal”, de la Warr, during June 1610. When de la Warr returned to England in March 1611 because of serious health issues, Gates accompanied him and Sir Thomas Dale was sent from England as Lieutenant (or acting) Governor, arriving in Jamestown May the same year.

However when Gates returned from England in August 1611, he took over the position of Lieutenant Governor from Dale. (These two played tag team- when Gates went back to England again in February 1613, Dale resumed the position of deputy Governor).

So it seems that Gates was acting governor at various stages during de la Warr’s tenure, but wasn’t ever the Governor. De la Warr remained the nominal Governor until his death in 1618, although he was absent in England for much of that time.

See timeline.

Jamestown Colony: A Political, Social, and Cultural History (pg 389)
By Frank E. Grizzard (Google book)

John Smith is listed in some places as a Governor of Jamestown, but this wasn’t the case, though he was an elected president of Virginia's governing council at one stage.

A lot of confusion seems to stem from the custom of the time of indiscriminately swapping around the titles "president" and "governor". These early governors and acting governors were appointed by the Virginia Company of London and weren't Crown Governors appointed by England. The first of the Crown Governors was Sir Francis Wyatt, appointed when Virginia became a crown colony in 1624. There's a list of all the various types of colonial Virginian governors here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_co ... f_Virginia
Last edited by annis on Sat July 20th, 2013, 7:35 pm, edited 20 times in total.

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