Popham Colony

From Academic Kids

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The site of the 1607 Popham Colony in present-day Maine is shown by "Po" on the map. The Jamestown Settlement is shown by "J"

The Popham Colony was a short-lived England colonial settlement in North America that was founded in 1607 and located in the present-day state of Maine along the Kennebec River. Founded in the same year as its more successful rival, the Jamestown Settlement, it was the first English colony in the region that would eventually become known as New England. The colony was abandoned after only one year and the site of the colony was lost until its rediscovery in 1994.

Popham was the attempt at settlement by the Plymouth Company, one of two groups of the Virginia Company that were chartered in 1606 by James I in order to settle "Virginia", which was then the name applied to the entire northeast coast of North America. The Plymouth Company was granted the rights to the coast between 38 to 45 N, whereas the rival London Company was granted the coast between 34 and 41N. The overlapping area between 38 and 41 was to go to the first company proven strong enough to colonize it.

The Popham Colony was located on headland of the Kennebec (then called the Sagadahoc River) named Sabino. About 100 colonists left Plymouth on May 31, 1607 in two ships. Colony leader, George Popham sailed in the Gift of God and second-in-command Ralegh Gilbert sailed in the Mary and John. Popham was the nephew of the financial backer of the colony, Sir John Popham while Gilbert was the nephew of Sir Walter Raleigh.

The major construction of the colonists was a star-shaped fort called Fort St. George, begun in August of 1607. It included ditches and ramparts and contained nine cannon that ranged in size from demi-culverin to falcon. On 8 October, 1607, colonist John Hunt drew a map of the colony showing 18 buildings including the admiral's house, a chapel, a storehouse and guardhouse. It is not known if all the buildings were completed. Hunt's map was discovered in 1888 in the Spanish national archives, possibly brought to Spain by a spy, and is the only known plan of the original layout of any early English colony.

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Popham_colony.jpg
Image:Popham colony.jpg


John Hunt's map of Popham Colony

Half of the colonists returned to Great Britain in the fall of 1607. Popham died in the early 1608, possibly the only colonist to die - a contrast to Jamestown which lost half its population that year. Raleigh Gilbert became colony president on 5 February, 1608 at age 25.

The colonists completed one major project the building of a 30-ton ship, a pinnace they named Virginia. When a supply ship came and told Gilbert that he had inherited a title and estate, he decided to return to England. The 45 remaining colonists also left, sailing home in the Virginia. (The Virginia would make at least one more Atlantic crossing, going to Jamestown the next year.)

The colony had lasted almost exactly one year.

The site of the colony was discovered in 1994 by Jeffrey Brain of the Peabody Essex Museum. Larger excavations began in 1997 and have uncovered the Admiral's house, the storehouse and a liquor storage building. Parts of the fort probably including the chapel and graveyard lie on private property not open for digging.

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