| American History Stories, Volume I|
|by Mara L. Pratt|
|Stories of early exploration and founding of American colonies, conflicts over religion, and troubles with the Indians, culminating in the French and Indian War. Ages 8-12 |
 I am going to ask you now to take a long trip with me,
out of the period of discoveries over into the period of the
colonies. You must not imagine that these few men I
have told you about made all the discoveries
in the new America.
There were many more, so many, that I think
you might read
about them every day for a whole year, and then not read
the half. Hundreds and hundreds of men had been sent
over by England, France, Spain, and many other European
countries. These men had
wandered about the country, daring much
and suffering much, sometimes fighting and
 killing the Indians, and sometimes getting killed
Sometimes a band of these men would come over, intending
to build towns and live here together, as they had lived in
their old homes in Europe; but for a long time something
would always happen to prevent their success. Often the men
grew homesick, or they grew lazy; or, worse still, the
Indians who had now good reason to hate the pale-faces, as
they called the white men, would fall upon them and scalp
them and slay them with their tomahawks.
But in spite of all the efforts of the Indians the pale-face
colonies finally succeeded, and in due time there came to
be little towns up and down the sea-coast.
It was as early as 1535 that the French came over to
Florida, and built two forts and
 made a settlement of importance. For some time these
French people lived in their settlement, happy and
prosperous. But one day some Spanish vessels arrived, and
claiming the country because they had first discovered
it, they took possession of the French settlement, and
massacred the people. There they built a fort for themselves,
and made plans for building a town. This they did,
and a successful town it proved; for it still stands—the
old fort and all—at St. Augustine in Florida. And now
people go to visit it, and wander about the old fort, and
up and down the quaint narrow streets, and say, "This is
the oldest town in America!"
It was not until 1607, however, that settlement by the
English began in real earnest. At that time a number of
men, having permission from the English government to
 come to America and found a colony, set sail from
London. They reached the mouth of a
river in Virginia, which they named the James,
in honor of their English king. The town
they began to build they
One of the leading men of this company was John Smith.
He was a very wise and able man, and seemed always to do
the right thing at just the right time.
CAPTAIN JOHN SMITH
The story of his life is as interesting as a novel. If
there were time I would tell you some of his strange
adventures at sea and on the battlefield.
One adventure of his in Jamestown colony will show you
what a brave man he was, and how a little Indian girl
saved his life. John Smith had started up the river on
an exploring expedition. Some Indians had been watching
him, and when Smith left his boat they seized
 it, scalped the men he had left with it, and then ran to
overtake Smith himself.
When he saw them coming he turned and fought them so
furiously that, although there were many of them, they had
much trouble to secure him. They led him to their camp.
Here he entertained them by showing them his compass, and
told them how the needle always turned to the north. This
amused the Indians so much that they allowed him to live
some weeks in peace. They decided at last that he was too
wise, and therefore dangerous to have about; and that the
sooner he was killed the safer it would be for them.
So, when they had held a long council, and had performed
some wonderful war dances around him, they led him forth
to be killed.
Poor Smith could see no way of escape; and, as he used to
tell afterwards, he was more
 frightened than he had been when in his younger days he
was thrown overboard from
a ship or when he fought the Turks.
He was brought out, bound hand and foot, and a savage
had already raised his war-club to dash out his brains, when
just then up rushed little Pocahontas, the daughter of
the great Indian Chief, Powhatan, threw her arms around
John Smith's neck, and begged the chief to spare his life.
Strange to say, the cruel old chief seemed moved by the
child's pleading, and the prisoner was released, and
even allowed to return to Jamestown.
(From an Old Print)
For some time John Smith remained in the little white
settlement, guiding the affairs of the colony. As long as
he was there all went well, for Smith was a very wise man,
and not afraid to work hard with the other men in
making the settlement a pleasant home. At
 last, however, having met with a severe injury, he was
obliged to return for a time to England.
You would suppose that after he was gone the men would
have been wise enough to keep on tilling the ground and
building their houses. But, instead, when John Smith
returned to Jamestown he found the men quarreling
among themselves. They had used up the provisions and
were almost starving. Had Smith not returned just when he
did, I fear they would have given up the colony and gone
back to England. But Smith worked hard to save Jamestown;
and for a time he prevailed upon the men to stop their
foolish quarreling, and to go to work to build up the
colony and protect it from the Indians.
Later he made many voyages along the American coast,
exploring the shores as far as Canada.
 The Indians, however, were never quite
friendly; and after years and years of continual
quarreling with them, the Jamestown colonists determined to
have peace in some way. One of them, Captain Argall, thought
it would be a good plan to steal Pocahontas, and then
send word to the Indians that they would do her no harm so
long as the colony was not troubled. Pocahontas was now a
young woman nearly nineteen years old and was said to be
very beautiful. At any rate, soon after coming to the
colony she won the heart of a young Englishman named
John Rolfe, and he took her to his old home in England.
Pocahontas was received in England with
much honor, and came to be greatly loved by all
who knew her.
It was Rolfe's plan to spend a few months
 in England and then to return to the colony in America, and
make for himself and Pocahontas a home in which they hoped
to live the rest of their lives.
But Pocahontas began to fail in health.
Probably the change from her free forest life to the close
house life of an English city was more than she could bear.
 Day by day Pocahontas grew weaker and at last she died.
BAPTISM OF POCAHONTAS
She left a little baby boy who was as beautiful, it is
said, as his mother had been. John Rolfe took the little
one to America, and there he grew up in the colony. Some of
the good families in Virginia to-day are proud to say
that they are descendants from the little son of
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