Water and English Colonists

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Nick Horton
Mrs. Hepp
1/31/13
5th hour

DBQ #2- Early Jamestown: Why Did So Many Colonists Die?

Jamestown is one of the most well known English settlements in North America. Even though most people know Jamestown as one of the first successful English settlements, it was a catastrophe in the beginning. In the early stages of the Jamestown colony, most of the English colonists died due to absence of fresh water, horrible diseases, and lack of survival skills. When the Colonists planned to settle in America, they never thought that water would be a huge factor in all the deaths. According to “The English Colonies in America” by Brandon Hentze, Ed.D, very little drinking water was readily available because the island was in an estuary where the salt water from the sea mixed with the freshwater from the river producing brackish water. This salty water mix causes dehydration, illness and/or even death. Almost all the colonists drank the water without knowing. Not only was the water brackish, but it was also full of waste from the colonists. The colonists thought that the tide would carry their waste away, which it did, but it also carried it back in. This means they were really drinking brackish water full of waste. The water in Jamestown was not only bad for drinking, but it also killed their crops. Food was already very hard to come by, and having no fresh water to keep crops alive led to starvation for many. Dennis B. Blanton, who wrote “Jamestown’s Environment”, states that quite a few of the colonists tried to dig wells to find fresh water but these wells were very vulnerable to drought and salt water intrusion. Fresh water is an essential part in life and the English colonists simply did not have any.

Disease was also a huge killer in Jamestown. According to Brandon Hentze, Ed.D, Jamestown was swampy and contained a lot of standing water that promoted mosquito growth. The mosquitoes carried a fatal disease called malaria and spread it when the...
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