Sunday, September 4, 2016

Troubles & Cannibalism in the New World by Katherine Pym


Jamestown House c. 1630


I’ve decided one of the reasons it took so long to get the original settlers off the ground and their colonies successful was due to their origins. Merchants wanted money and power and they felt they could get it by banding together to outfit a fleet of ships and send men to the North America. Their money would establish these settlements. Their money would insure the men in these new settlements would give a great return for the merchants’ investments.

There were several merchant companies that ranged up and down the East Coast of North America. Given grants by their monarch, they considered the land theirs from Florida to Newfoundland to do with as they pleased. The colonists were ‘employees’ of these companies. They had to obey what the merchant companies dictated. With the spoils, these merchants in turn, were to give wealth and power to their monarch.

Men came first, then women. They used the tools and supplies provided by the merchant company to build, to trap furs as payment to the merchants. If the colonists found the passage to the Northwest and the Pacific, if they found gold or silver, these, too, were to be given to the merchants.   

Merchant companies did not provide well for the extremes that pervaded this new land; i.e., harsh winters, unyielding soil, wild beasts and the original peoples who could turn violent.

It seemed little thought was given to establishing long term settlements. To do this, one must have tools and the know-how to use these tools to build new tools and implement them into the task at hand. They must have livestock, not for eating but for breeding. When the herd could provide, then the colonists could eat. They must learn the type of seeds that would grow in their soil, their climate.

Settlers relied on the merchants returning each spring/early summer with clothing, food, more implements, powder and shot for their guns. If the governments changed during this time, or the merchant company disbanded, if it took years to obtain more money, sometimes merchants did not return, or if they did, it was years later. This put the colonists at great risk.

Many died of starvation. In the latest archeological digs, signs of cannibalism have been discerned.

Take Jamestown.

George Percy, of early Jamestown, wrote how badly life was. He sadly mentioned people were so hungry, they dug up corpses and ate them.

Capt. John Smith wrote: “One amongst the rest did kill his wife, powdered (salted) her, and had eaten part of her before it was known, for which he was executed, as he well deserved... Now whether she was better roasted, boiled or carbonado’d (barbecued), I know not, but of such a dish as powdered wife I never heard of.”

In the spring of 2013, archeologists revealed they had located the first evidence of cannibalism with the discovery of a 14 year old (Jamestown circa 1609-10). Found in a refuse pile, her remains showed she had recently died.

Someone, or several, cleaved at her body and head. She was dismembered and her flesh removed. Knife tips gouged away at her skull and chin as if to cut away her tongue or throat tissue. “Her brain, tongue, cheeks and leg muscles were eaten, with the brain likely eaten first, because it decomposes so quickly after death.

The clumsy attempts to cut away flesh shows whoever had done this had never butchered an animal for food. This was done by people desperate enough to eat another human being after she was dead.

The skull was restructured, so you can see what she looked like. Due to copyright issues I’m not sure if I can share this young girl’s picture.

Please see:

For the whole article:

And another:

Other sources:
Coleman, R.V., The First Frontier. Castle Books, NJ, 2005
Kirke, Henry, The First English Conquest of Canada, London SE, 1908

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