The Godspeed arrived at Henricus Historical Park under full sail and was greeted by welcoming canon blasts to open Publik Days, adding another event to the celebration of the park’s 400 year anniversary. What began as a dream nearly 30 years ago for a handful of folks who envisioned a re-creation of the first settlement in Chesterfield County came to fruition as nearly 4,000 attended the signature annual event - Publick Days.
Although Henricus had been celebrating with events all year long, the large turnout on Saturday and Sunday’s activities in September was welcome. Visitors were transported back in time through encounters with more than 100 period-dressed historical interpreters portraying 17th-century life in the re-created English and Virginia Indian settlements.
Activities included living history re-enactments, English and Virginia Indian weapons demonstrations, craftsmen and blacksmiths, medicinal demonstrations and Virginia Indian and colonial songs and dance. On the bluff overlooking the James River, food and craft vendors and re-enactments of military history from 1781 to 1917 took visitors back 150 years ago to the Civil War and World War I. A brief walk down to the dock below the bluff allowed visitors to step aboard the Godspeed for a tour of the main deck.
Publick Days, in its 25th year, celebrates the establishment of the second successful English settlement in the “New World.” In September 1611, Sir Thomas Dale, along with soldiers, tradesmen and farmers, ventured from Jamestown to create the Citie of Henricus. Leaders of Henricus developed the first English hospital; chartered the first college in North America; established tobacco as the first cash crop in Virginia and created a place where Pocahontas lived for a time and met John Rolfe.
Those like Pauline Mitchell and the former Lt. Governor John Hager, who saw the promise of the Henricus site years ago, and a couple of hundred patrons, were in attendance Friday evening to welcome the arrival of the Godspeed, a re-creation of one of the three ships that in 1607 transported America’s first permanent English colonists to Virginia.
“This is just wonderful,” said Mitchell about the celebration. Mitchell was one of the first members of the foundation and continues to be an active board member. Mitchell and the Lt. Governor were trying to remember the exact year when they both stood on the bluff kicking-off the foundation’s campaign to re-create the site. “It was 1984 or 1985” said Mitchell.
“Four hundred years ago the Citie of Henricus was founded and went on to become an essential cultural landmark in the heritage of the United States of America,” said Charles Lewis Grant, acting executive director. “As a living history museum, our mission is to educate the public about the significant historic milestones which took place at Henricus.”
Throughout the year, general park admission is free for Patrons, $8 for adults and $6 for children aged 3-12. Henricus Historical Park is located on 32 acres along the scenic and historic James River and is surrounded by the 810-acre Dutch Gap Conservation Area, located in the Bermuda District at 251 Henricus Park Rd. For more information, visit www.henricus.org.