James Towne dead, the island gradually fell into fewer hands until it became, as it is to-day, the property of a single owner; simply a plantation like any other. And yet, how unlike! Even were every vestige of that pioneer settlement gone forever, memory would hold this island a place apart. But all is not gone. Despite decay and the greedy river, there yet remains to us a handful of ruins of vanished James Towne. Despite a nation’s shameful neglect, time has spared to her some relics of the community that gave her birth—a few broken tombs and the crumbling, tower of the old village church. Every year come many of our people to look upon these ancient ruins and to pause in the midst of hurried lives to recall again their story.
[Illustration: An excursion day at Jamestown island.]
GOOD-BYE TO OLD JAMES TOWNE
Two or three times we ran the houseboat around in front of the island. On one occasion we took the notion to stop at places of interest along the way. Upon coming out from Back River, we spent some time poking about in the water for the old-time isthmus. We were not successful at first and almost feared that, after raising it for our own selfish purposes some days before, we had let it go down again in the wrong place.
This troubled us the more because we had hoped to settle a vexed question as to how wide an isthmus had once connected the island with the mainland. Nautica insisted that the width had been ten paces because a woman, Mrs. An. Cotton, who once lived near James Towne, had said so. But the Commodore pointed out that we had never seen Mrs. Cotton, and that we did not know whether she was a tall woman or a little dumpy woman; and so could not have the slightest idea of how far ten paces would carry her. On his part, he pinned his faith to the statement of Strachey, a man who had lived in James Towne and who had said that the isthmus was no broader than “a man will quaite a tileshard.” But this Nautica refused to accept as satisfactory because we did not know what a “tileshard” was nor how far a man would “quaite” one. So we were naturally anxious to see which of us was right.
[Illustration: Gadabout looking for the lost isthmus.]
[Illustration: A visit to the “Lone cypress.”]
After a while we found traces of the isthmus. And the matter turned out just as most disputes will, if both parties patiently wait until the facts are all in—that is, both sides were right. The soundings showed the isthmus to shelve off so gradually at the sides that we found we could put the stakes, marking its edges, almost any distance apart. So, the width across the isthmus could very well be ten of Mrs. Cotton’s paces, no matter what sort of a woman she was; and it could just as well be the distance that “a man will quaite a tileshard,” be a tileshard what it may.