John Pory

John Pory was born in England about 1570 and died in Virginia before 1635. He was educated at Cambridge, and in 1612 was a resident of Paris. During 1619-21 he was Secretary of the Virginia colony, and he was elected Speaker of the first representative assembly that was ever held in this country, which convened in Jamestown on 30 July, 1619.

He visited Plymouth, Massachusetts, shortly after its settlement by the Pilgrims from Leyden, but in 1623 returned to Virginia as one of the commissioners of the Privy Council, and died in Virginia. He published an account of his trip to Plymouth that provides great insight into that early colonial settlement still in use by scholars today.

He assisted Richard Hakluyt (noted writer and historian) in his geographical work, and was considered a man of great learning. His account of excursions among the Indians is given in Smith's "Generall Historie," and he translated and published "A Geographical Historie of Africa by John Leo, a More, borne in Granada and brought up in Barbarie" (London, 1600).

Less than two years after the first "new" visit to Roanoke (North Carolina) by his friend Marmaduke Rayner, the secretary of the Virginia government, John Pory, led an expedition to the south. His is the first such trek from Jamestown of which more than a bare mention survives. News of Pory's discoveries was relayed quickly to London. He went to the Chowan River region in February, and in London on April 18, 1622, obviously before news of the horrible massacre of March 22 had been received, the Rev. Patrick Copland preached a sermon of thanksgiving "for the happie sucess of the affayres in Virginia this last yeare." In pointing to the many good things which had taken place in the colony recently, he said:

Maister Pory deserves good incouragement for his paineful Discoveries to the Southward, as far as the Choanoack, who although he hath trod on a little good ground, hath past through great forests of Pynes 15. or 16. myle broad and above 60. mile long, which will serve well for Masts for Shipping, and for pitch and tarre, when we shall come to extend our plantations to those borders. On the other side of the River there is a fruitfull Countrie blessed with aboundance of Corne, reaped twise a yeere: above which is the Copper Mines, by all of all places generally affirmed. Hee hath also met with a great deale of silke grasse which growes there...."

There, in the spring of 1622, mention was made of the prospect of pushing the James River settlements southward into the Chowan River region. Pory's report suggested that settlements there would succeed. He found the Indians to be friendly and their king "desirous to make a league" with the English colonists in Virginia. He took back with him a bit of copper which the natives gave him and which was reported to have been mined not far away. Tests at Jamestown showed that it was good metal, and it was sent home for further tests. If tall pines and their promise to release England from her dependence upon Sweden for naval stores and two harvests of grain in one year were not enough, a productive copper mine would certainly inspire further efforts to settle Englishmen there.

Click Here to read one of John Pory's letters of 1619 to Sir Dudley Carleton. 


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