A relic is more than just some old thing.
Relics are something of great value; something with meaning which help us to remember and better understand our history.
A relic may be only a tiny fragment of a whole. Perhaps a sliver of “The One True Cross” or a bit of bone from a saint.
Relics often border on the mythological.
We take them as tangible evidence that a story we’ve heard is real. That is why relics such as the Grail and Solomon’s Ring are sought in myth and legend; and perhaps in the present as well.
These relics are more replica than relic. They are reconstructions of the ships used by the 1607 settlers in Virginia for their crossing from England.
The largest, The Susan Constant, returned to England in June of 1607, about a month after depositing the settlers on Jamestown Island. The medium ship, The Godspeed, returned with her.
The smallest ship, The Discovery was left behind for use by the settlers in exploring the coastal water. It brought over only 21 people.
The other 123 traveled on the larger ships. Once they returned with the crews, there was no way the 104 colonists could change their minds and return home. They were now Virginians, for better or worse, and had to make their lives here at Jamestown.
We know that a few of the original colonists did eventually return to England. Captain John Smith, badly injured in 1609, made the return voyage to recuperate from his injuries.
But he returned years later to explore and map the coast further to the north. He also published the first map of Virginia in 1612.
Ships provided the tenuous thread between the colonists on the edge of this vast and alien continent, and all of the familiarity and security of “home.”
They also brought regular infusions of new settlers to replace those who starved, died from disease, or were killed in violent struggles with the native people of Virginia.
Ships brought food, manufactured goods, weapons, tools, and books. Ships carried back letters, documents, histories and maps so those in Europe could learn about life in Virginia.
And replicas of these relics sit moored at the dock near Jamestown Island today.
Staffed by interpreters in Colonial costume, they are open each day for visitors to explore.
And they serve as a vivid reminder of the hardships endured by our pioneering ancestors, those first colonists who claimed this land more than 400 years ago, and made it their home.
Words and Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014