1) Journey to Jamestown
‘In sixteen hundred seven we sailed the open sea, for glory God and gold, and the Virginia Company, for the New World is like heaven, and we’ll be rich and free, or so we have been told by the Virginia Company, so we have been told by the Virginia Company’
“Ya don’t half like singin’ that song don’t ya Clara?” A smile crossed my face and I looked down bashfully at the teal blue sea when I heard the voice of Verity Bridges at my side. My new friend I saw at my left leaning against the side of the vessel we were on, her flaming red hair tied back loosely and cascaded down her front and back and pink lips were smirking at me in amusement.
“I didn’t sing as much as them fr’m dock in London Verity,” I replied in a quiet voice pushing the peach-pink sleeves of my blouse up my arms so they didn’t get too warm. Verity’s dress was green with red accents and elbow-length sleeves with a dark green skirt and after I spoke she chuckled.
“Will you still sing it when we get to Jamestown to your husband? Or will you find love songs to sing to him?” My other new friend Alice Kett came up at the other side of me, her dark brown and red-tinted hair tied back with a beige bandanna and a sweet smile on her flawless face. Verity scoffed.
“He’ll be workin’ or drinkin’ don’t waste ya time with that,” Verity stated bluntly shifting her weight between her legs lazily. Alice and I looked at each other smiling then sighed softly before looking back out at the sea.
“I may keep the number of folks that know I can sing down to three including me mam,” I replied dragging my fingers in imaginary circles on the wooden side of the boat.
“That is somethin’ that’ll not happen, even if the lord himself ordered it. You mark my words people’ll be linin’ up t’hear ya, Clara Jones.” Verity shook her head at me as I turned back around to look at the buzzing deck. The reason it was so busy though was a saddening one. Many of the other women on the boat had died of a mixture of disease as well as the exhausting trip and was about to be buried at sea. They were not the first that had perished on our trip too sadly. We did not know them very well but like all of us on this trip, she was filled with hope and excitement for a new life in the New World. We were all to be married to men that had paid for transport over the sea to them and had a duty to help them build the New World. Through it all though we had to be there for each other, we were friends now and that is what friends do.
That night there was a terrible storm that was making many women sick and unable to sleep. I sat through the night nearby a wide-eyed blonde woman with a radiant face that was petrified. She was muttering about something that we are going to die but Alice also heard her as she stood swaying about while holding tightly onto the wooden beams. There was another woman next to me that was seasick so I looked away from them to grab a bucket for the young blonde-haired lass.
“Easy there lass,” I cooed rubbing her back. She kept doing that for some time until she stopped to go to sleep looking pale but that she needed to rest. I made sure she got a little bit of water we had been given below deck. Eventually, I went to sleep too but felt ready to go back above deck to get some fresh air when I could with Alice joining me. Verity was already stood up on the top deck, looking out at the ocean with her arms resting on the rail of the ship with a miserable look on her face. Alice, however, was smiling her bonnie smile full of hope and excitement.
“Aren’t you glad, Verity?” Alice began looking out at the ocean also while Verity glance at her sideways thinking she was mad. “Aren’t you grateful that we’re the ones to come to this new world?” She added while the wind blew softly against our hair.
“Hell’s teeth, no!” Verity scoffed then chuckled at her before Alice looked at me.
“What about you Clara?” Alice asked me and I nodded.
“We are lucky us three,” I said as I nodded then took in a big huff of the sea air.
“LAND!” A sailor shouted from the top of the rigging. We looked over in the direction he pointed in while everyone on the lower decks rushed to both sides of the ship looking the same way we were. The three of us looked at each other with smiles across our faces then back out towards the land we had come a long way to get to, Jamestown, Virginia, The New World. Me and my new friends clutched onto each other overjoyed as the ship sailed to the Town’s wharf. There were lots of men there cheering and hollering as the women started coming off the boat. Alice went off with a couple of men, one a tall handsome man with a beard and a younger lad that could be his brother. Verity went to the man that was calling the names of the men to be grooms after the women lining up told him their names. The name of Verity’s husband was called out a few times but no man answered or appeared from the crowd. Verity’s smile dropped, the man shrugged his shoulders then moved on to the next woman, which was me, while Verity stormed away. Poor lass, I thought stepped up to the man to tell him my name.
“Clara Jones,” I said then smiled clutching onto my bag of clothes and few things for sewing I had feeling my heart swell up with pure excitement. Please God let the lad I am to marry be kind and also present. The man sighed then handed me a letter I took with one hand holding my things in my other hand. “Ey?” I questioned taking it.
“Alexander Miller was killed in an accident two days ago. That letter will explain more,” The man told me, and if it weren’t for Verity coming to my side I would have collapsed.
“Christ Clara, there now c’mon,” She told me while I clutched the letter, crumpling it slightly as Verity walked me to one side to comfort me. I looked at the letter than at her shaking my head. I was unable to read it now. I came all this way on this journey to Jamestown for nothing.
“Will I be sent back t’England?!” I frantically asked her.
“Clara? Verity?” The caring but firm voice of Lady Yeardley called both of our names making us see her and her husband Lord Yeardley. “What is it that troubles you?” She asked us with a worried frown on her aged and gentle face.
“Clara’s husband is dead m’lady,” Verity told her while tears stung my eyes.
“Who was it you were promised to Clara?” Lord Yeardley questioned.
“A-Alexander Miller sir,” I replied sniffing a little. “I got given this too,” I added holding the letter out to him that had my name on it.
“The carpenter and lumberjack,” He commented opening the letter. “You should read it, Clara,” He told me handing me the open letter now. I nodded whipping my tears away with the back of my hands before I took a deep breath in and out to prepare myself. I opened the letter then began to read it.
If you are reading this letter this, it means that I have not recovered from the accident I had involving my labour and am now in heaven with God. It was a tree I had been working on for some time that fell quicker than expected and crushed both my legs robbing me of being able to walk.
You are probably fretting over possibly being sent back to England with a broken heart and soul. But I like many of the other men in Jamestown have worked for their right to be free men and have their share of Virginia.
I have no one to leave my share of land and home near the gates of Jamestown to by law as we are unable to be married, but as I am the owner of my small home we were supposed to start our family in and not owned by The Virginia Company I am leaving my home to you.
Secretary Farlow agreed to make this official and Recorder Castel made note of it. All you need is for the new Governor Yeardley to pass it and I pray he will do so you can start a family with another man that will be a loving husband to you.
Please have a good life with lots of children and help build Jamestown Clara. I hope we meet one day in heaven. And please do not mourn me for too long Clara, the Lord can take us in the most unexpected of times.
Yours sincerely, Alexander.” I read through the letter then looked at the Governor. He had a thoughtful frown looking down at the letter then over towards where two well-dressed noblemen, one short with a fashionable hat and cape, the other taller with sandy blonde hair.
“George?” Lady Yeardley said bringing him back from his thoughts. Lady Yeardley had been good to me and my friends when we had our doubts about if we ever would reach Jamestown and she reminded us we are on God’s mission so had to keep our faith. Lord Yeardley had been like a father-figure to us all as well, me especially since my father had abandoned my mother when I was a babe. Perhaps he would allow me to stay in Alexander’s house until I settled then and, like he wished, let me start a family there.
“Do not fret young Clara,” He began smiling at me. “I will take this letter and bring up this issue when dealing with Governance. For now, I trust that Verity will offer you shelter?” The Governor asked looking at Verity who nodded, even though she was yet to meet her husband and know where it was she would be calling home in the town. He smiled at Verity then once again took his wife’s hand. “Please excuse us ladies, my wife is most weary and I must escort her to our home.” He said before I thanked him then bowed my head watching them walk away. I then let out a huge sigh of relief thanking God and me lucky stars.
“You are a lucky one ain’t you Clara,” Verity huffed then began walking where all the other folks of Jamestown both old and new began to walk. I followed her sniffing a few times to pull myself together. I was in The New World now I had to make the best of it even if things hadn’t started grand for me. I would somehow though, I was a Whitby lass and a Yorkshire lass so I wasn’t about to give up easily.