Captain Bartholomew Gosnold (Gosnoll)

The first settlers at Jamestown knew how important Captain Bartholomew Gosnold was to the venture.  But Gosnold has been largely forgotten to history. He was a successful mariner and privateer. He was born in 1571 and hailed from Otley Hall in Suffolk. In 1602 he led the brief colonization of the Elizabeth Isles, and he explored and named Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard. Gosnold’s experiences along the New England coast informed his views on organizing and establishing the Virginia colony. For the 1607 adventure, Gosnold commanded the second largest ship (the Godspeed) and was among those chosen by the Virginia Company to sit on the council that governed the settlement locally.

Gosnold’s contributions to the establishment of the colony have been minimalized because he died on August 22, 1607, a few months after the first settlers landed at Jamestown. George Percy described how the colonists gave Gosnold an honorable burial with a gun salute “with many volleys of small shot.” Captain John Smith named Gosnold the “prime mover” of the founding Jamestown.

Gosnold’s legacy remained obscure until 2002, when the Jamestown Rediscovery Project recovered the probable final resting place for the colony’s “prime mover.” The burial was found just outside James Fort’s western corner, and there were several indications it contained a high status individual. The grave shaft contained metal portions of a captain’s leading staff, and dark staining left from the wooden staff measured five and a half feet. Another indicator of status: the nail pattern left after the deterioration of the wooden coffin suggested it was gable-lidded. Forensic analysis by the Smithsonian Institute determined that the skeleton belonged to a European male about five and a half feet tall who died in his mid- to late-thirties. Gosnold died at age 36.

Gosnold was “a worthy and religious gentleman . . . upon whose life stood a great part of the good success and fortune of our government and colony.”
– President Edward Maria Wingfield