Stingray Point

Stingray Point

 

 

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Every time we’ve been out in the car (almost daily for one thing or another) we have driven past the Stingray Point tourist sign along the main road in Deltaville

 

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Our final drive along the main road

 

For our final trip out in the boatyard car, we only had one quick stop at the charity shop, dropping stuff from our final sort out; so with forty minutes of our hour left we drove the two miles up the road to find Stingray Point. John Smith is a name we grow up with, whether it be from the Disney film, the beer or reading about the man and his adventures.

 

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Stingray Point is a small community on the Chesapeake Bay, it is populated by fewer than 250 full time residents; during summer tourists and boaters flock to the area for recreation and to holiday. Most of the houses are cottages and weekend homes, there is also the big Stingray Point Marina, one of the many marinas in the area. Stingray Point gets its name from the 17th century when Captain John Smith was stung on the point by a stingray while fishing. Smith was seriously injured by the sting, and even gave orders to his men as to the disposal of his body. However, he was saved when Native Americans provided a cure, found at a nearby, now known as Antipoison Creek. When we arrived we thought we must be in the wrong place – nothing – no sign, plaque, statue – nothing. When we returned the car we asked Tedward as to whether we missed something, he told us we had gone to the right place and “no, there’s nothing there”.

 

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Captain John Smith (c. January 1580 – 21st of June 1631) Admiral of New England was an English soldier, explorer and author. He was knighted for his services to Sigismund Bathory, Prince of Transylvania and friend Mózes Székely. He is remembered for his role in establishing the first permanent English settlement in North America at Jamestown, Virginia and his brief association with the Virginia Indian girl Pocahontas during an altercation with the Powhatan Confederacy and her father, Chief Powhatan. He was a leader of the Virginia Colony (based at Jamestown) between September 1608 and August 1609, and led an exploration along the rivers of Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay. His books and maps may have been as important as his deeds, as they encouraged more Englishmen and women to follow the trail he had blazed and to colonize the New World. He gave the name New England to that region and encouraged people with the comment, "Here every man may be master and owner of his owne labour and land...If he have nothing but his hands, he may...by industrie quickly grow rich."

 

Early adventures: John Smith was baptised on the 6th of January 1580 at Willoughby near Alford, Lincolnshire, where his parents rented a farm from Lord Willoughby. He claimed he was descended from the ancient Smith family of Cuerdley Lancashire and was educated at King Edward VI Grammar School, Louth, from 1592–1595. After his father died, Smith left home aged 16 and set off to sea. He served as a mercenary in the army of King Henry IV of France against the Spaniards, fought for Dutch independence from the Spanish King Phillip II, then set off for the Mediterranean Sea. There he engaged in both trade and piracy and later fought against the Ottoman Turks in the Long War. Smith was promoted to captain while fighting for the Austrian Habsburgs in Hungary, in the campaign of Michael the Brave in 1600 and 1601. After the death of Michael the Brave, he fought for Radu Şerban in Wallachia against Ottoman vassal Leremia Movilă.

He is reputed to have defeated, killed and beheaded Turkish commanders in three duels, for which he was knighted by the Transylvanian Prince Sigismund Báthory and given a horse and coat of Arms showing three Turks' heads. However, in 1602 he was wounded in a skirmish with the Tatars, captured and sold as a slave. As Smith describes it: "we all sold for slaves, like beasts in a market." Smith claimed his master, a Turkish nobleman, sent him as a gift to his Greek mistress in Constantinople, who fell in love with Smith. He then was taken to Crimea, from where he escaped from the Ottoman lands into Muscovy then on to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Smith then traveled through Europe and Northern Africa, returning to England during 1604.

 

Virginia Colony Voyage: In 1606 Smith became involved with plans to colonise Virginia for profit by the Virginia Company of London, which had been granted a charter from King James I of England. The expedition set sail in three small ships, the Discovery, the Susan Constant and the Godspeed, on the 20th of December 1606. His page was a 12-year-old boy named Samuel Collier.

John Smith was apparently a troublemaker on the voyage, and Captain Christopher Newport (in charge of the three ships) had planned to execute him upon arrival in Virginia. However, upon first landing at what is now Cape Henry on the 26th of April 1607, sealed orders from the Virginia Company were opened. They designated Smith to be one of the leaders of the new colony, forcing Newport to spare him.

 

Site: The search for a suitable site ended on the 14th of May 1607, when Captain Edward Maria Wingfield, president of the council, chose the Jamestown site as the location for the colony. Harsh weather, lack of water and attacks from the Powhatan nation almost destroyed the colony.

 

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Encounter with Pocahontas' tribe: In December 1607, while seeking food along the Chickahominy River, Smith was captured and taken to meet the chief of the Powhatans at Werowocomoco, the main village of the Powhatan Confederacy. The village was on the north shore of the York River about 15 miles due north of Jamestown and 25 miles downstream from where the river forms from the Pamunkey River and the Mattaponi River at West Point, Virginia. Although he feared for his life, Smith was eventually released without harm and later attributed this in part to the chief's daughter, Pocahontas, who according to Smith, threw herself across his body: "at the minute of my execution, she hazarded (risked) the beating out of her own brains to save mine; and not only that, but so prevailed with her father, that I was safely conducted to Jamestown".

In 1860 Boston businessman and historian Charles Deane was the first scholar to question specific details of Smith's writings. Smith's version of events is the only source and skepticism has increasingly been expressed about its veracity. One reason for such doubt is that, despite having published two earlier books about Virginia, Smith's earliest-surviving account of his rescue by Pocahontas dates from 1616, nearly 10 years later, in a letter entreating Queen Anne to treat Pocahontas with dignity. The time gap in publishing his story raises the possibility that Smith may have exaggerated or invented the event to enhance Pocahontas's image. However, in a recent book, Professor J. A. Leo Lemay of the University of Delaware points out that Smith's earlier writing was primarily geographical and ethnographic in nature and did not dwell on his personal experiences; hence there was no reason for him to write down the story until this point.

Henry Brooks Adams, the pre-eminent Harvard historian of the second half of the 19th century, attempted to debunk Smith’s claims of heroism. He said that Smith’s recounting of the story of Pocahontas had been progressively embellished, made up of “falsehoods of an effrontery seldom equaled in modern times.” Although there is consensus among historians that Smith tended to exaggerate, his account does seem to be consistent with the basic facts of his life. Adams' attack on Smith, an attempt to deface one of the icons of Southern history, was motivated by political considerations in the wake of the Civil War. Adams had been influenced to write his fusillade against Smith by John G. Palfrey who was promoting New England colonisation, as opposed to southern settlement, as the founding of America. The accuracy of Smith’s accounts has continued to be a subject of debate over the centuries.

Some experts have suggested that although Smith believed he had been rescued, he had in fact been involved in a ritual intended to symbolize his death and rebirth as a member of the tribe. In Love and Hate in Jamestown, David A. Price notes that this is only guesswork, since little is known of Powhatan rituals, and there is no evidence for any similar rituals among other Native American tribes in North America.

In True Travels (1630), Smith told a similar story of having been rescued by the intervention of a young girl after having been captured in 1602 by Turks in Hungary. Karen Kupperman suggests that he "presented those remembered events from decades earlier" when telling the story of Pocahontas.

Whatever really happened, the encounter initiated a friendly relationship between the natives and Smith and the colonists at Jamestown. As the colonists expanded further, some of the tribes felt that their lands were threatened, and conflicts arose again.

In 1608, Pocahontas is said to have saved Smith a second time. Smith and some other colonists were invited to Werowocomoco by Chief Powhatan on friendly terms, but Pocahontas came to the hut where the English were staying and warned them that Powhatan was planning to kill them. Due to this warning, the English stayed on their guard and the attack never came.

Also in 1608, Polish craftsmen were brought to the colony to help it develop. Smith wrote that two Poles rescued him when he was attacked by a Native American.

 

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Smith's leadership of Jamestown: Later, Smith left Jamestown to explore the Chesapeake Bay region and search for badly needed food, covering an estimated 3,000 miles. In his absence, Smith left his friend Matthew Scrivener, a young gentleman adventurer from Sibton, Suffolk, who was related by marriage to the Wingfield family, as governor in his place. Scrivener was not to be a leader of the people. Smith was elected president of the local council in September 1608 and instituted a policy of discipline. He encouraged farming with an admonition taken from the New Testament (II Thessalonians 3:10): "He who does not work, will not eat."

The settlement grew under his leadership. During this period Smith took the chief of the neighbouring tribe hostage and, according to Smith, he did "take this murdering Opechancanough...by the long lock of his head; and with my pistol at his breast, I led him (out of his house) amongst his greatest forces, and before we parted made him (agree to) fill our bark with twenty tons of corn." A year later, full-scale war broke out between the Powhatans and the Virginia colonists. Smith was seriously injured by a gunpowder burn after a rogue spark landed in his powder keg. He returned to England for treatment in October 1609. He never returned to Virginia. He was succeeded as governor by an aristocratic adventurer, George Percy.

In 1614, Smith returned to the Americas in a voyage to the coasts of Maine and Massachusetts Bay. He named the region "New England". He made two attempts in 1614 and 1615 to return to the same coast. First a storm dismasted his ship. In the second attempt, he was captured by French pirates off the Azores. Smith escaped after weeks of captivity and made his way back to England, where he published an account of his two voyages as A Description of New England. He never left England again. He died in the year 1631 in London at the age of 51.

 

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He was buried in the church of St. Sepulchre-without-Newgate, the largest Parish Church in the City of London, where there is a handsome window designed by Francis Skeat and installed in 1968.

 

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Rightly or wrongly we will always think of John Smith with Pocahontas

 

 

 

ALL IN ALL A GOOD YARN – SHAME ABOUT STINGRAY POINT