Gosnold History

Captain Bartholomew Gosnold was an early adventurer to the New World, landing at Cape Cod in 1602, some years before the Pilgrims (and responsible for its name, as well as that of the more playful Martha’s Vineyard, after his daughter). He was one of the founders of the first permanent colonial settlement in Jamestown, Virginia where he died in 1607 less then four months after the settlement was started.

For those interested in a bit more history, the following piece about Bartholomew is from the Gosnold family history by…

Bartholomew Gosnold

Birth: 1572 in England
Father: Anthony Gosnold
Mother: Dorothy Bacon
Married: Mary Golding, the granddaughter of Sir Andrew Judd, the Lord Mayor of London.
Children: Paul Gosnold (1605 – ? )

Occupation: Navigator

Bartholomew was an early explorer and settler of the “New World”. He is credited with the naming of Cape Cod, in Massachusetts, which he visited in 1602 and was on the Council of the Jamestown colony, the first permanent colonial settlement in North America.

Death: 22 August 1607, in Jamestown, Virginia, USA

Bartholomew was trained as a lawyer, attending Cambridge University and studied law at Middle Temple where there is a record of him in 1592. This life did not excite him, apparently, and he became entranced with the idea of exploring the New World. Bartholomew’s first trip to the New World was an unsuccessful attempt to found a colony in Virginia, with Sir Walter Raleigh.

Upon his return to England, however, he began an effort to start a colony further north, in what later became known as New England. Funded by Sir Walter Raleigh and the Earl of Southampton, Bartholomew sailed from Falmouth on 26 March 1602 in command of the Concord. His group consisted only of the one ship and a total of twenty colonists and twelve sailors. The Concord sailed to the Azores, and from there took a direct westerly route, unusual for the time when it was more common to sail much further south. The ship made the crossing in about seven weeks, sighting land at Cape Elizabeth in Maine (lat 43 degrees). Batholomew sailed south in search of a suitable settlement and anchored just east of York Harbour on 14 May 1602. The next day he sailed further south and discovered the promontory which he named Cape Cod, rather prosaically, after the large number of cod the caught in the area. Batholomew and four others went ashore there, becoming the first Englishmen to set foot in New England.

Sailing south around the cape, they found “many fair islands”, naming one that was abundant in grapes and other fruit Martha’s Vineyard (after his daughter?) and another Elizabeth’s Island after the Queen. This island is now called Cuttyhunk Island. The colonists remained on the island for three weeks, going so far as to build a fort. Gosnold’s first impressions were good, but the group became disillusioned by the hostility of the Indians and a scarcity of provisions, and numbering as few as twelve by some accounts, they abandoned the colony, stocked up the ship with cargo of “sassafras, cedar, furs, skins, and other commodities as were thought convenient” and returned to England, arriving in Exmouth on 23 July 1602. The small town of Gosnold in the Elizabeth Islands of Massachustess is named for Batholomew, and a 70 foot high monument to the explorer stands on the beach.

Bartholomew still had the colonist spirit, however, and spent the next few years promoting a larger colonist expedition. In 1606, the Virginia Company was formed with funding from merchants both in London and the west of England. The London merchants, with Sir Thomas Smythe front and center, were tasked with a colony south of the Hudson, while the westerners were to colonize north of the Hudson (then known as Northern Virginia). A charter to settle Virginia was obtained from King James I on 10 April 1606, the affairs of the colony to be governed by a council whose names were sealed, to be opened only on arrival in Virginia, so as to preserve naval command during the voyage. Christopher Newport was in overall command of the three colony ships, while Bartholomew captained one of them, the God Speed, and was overall second-in-command. Other leaders of the expedition were Edward Maria Wingfield, Capt. John Smith, and Captain John Ratcliffe who commanded the third ship.

In all, one hundred and five settlers set sail on 19 December 1606. Of the ninety-three whose names are known, fifty-nine were listed as “gentlemen”, which explains why the colony initially had difficulty getting any work done! The voyage took much longer than usual – a storm held them up just off the coast of Kent for nearly six weeks, and then they took the southern route, more familiar to Christopher Newport, with stops at the Canaries, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Nevis, the Virgin Islands (Tortola) and Mona (near Puerto Rico).

Finally, on 26 April 1607, the fleet reached the Chesapeake Bay and the mouth of a river they named the James after the king. The settlers chose a spot about fifty miles up the river and formed the settlement of Jamestown. There they opened the council list, on which Bartholomew’s name was found, and elected Edward Maria Wingfield as their president. As an aside, Bartholomew’s uncle had married Ursula Naunton, whose mother was Elizabeth Wingfield – Edward Wingfield’s great-aunt!

Gosnold was popular in the colony, and before returning to England, Captain Newport asked President Wingfield “how he thought himself settled in government” to which Wingfield answered “that no disturbance could endanger him or the colony, but it must be wrought either by Captain Gosnold, or Master Archer; for the one was strong with friends and followers, and could if he would; and the other was troubled with an ambitious spirit, and would if he could”.

After completing some brief explorations, (and failing to find the gold he was hoping for) Newport loaded his ships with wood as cargo and returned to England on 22 June. The colonists had not prepared well and depended largely on corn obtained by trade with the Indians This supply dried up in the summer (prior to the corn harvest), provisions fell short which combined with the swampy island the colonists had settled on, led to a deadly sickness breaking out. Of the 105 colonists, fifty died by the end of the first summer. Among these was Bartholomew, who died 22 August 1607. At his burial all the ordinance in the fort was fired in his honour “with many volleys of small shot” being recorded by another colonist, George Percy.