North America's First Noel

Captain John Smith and the first Christmas

’Twas the second winter since the English first settled. Resources were sparse, and Captain John Smith needed to nourish his men. In a negotiation through messengers, Smith made a deal with Chief Powhatan—he would build him an English-style house and trade grindstone, 50 metal swords, copper and beads in exchange for corn.

During the first day of their journey to make the trade, Smith led 46 men down 22 miles of the James River and rested their heads in Warraskoyack village near modern-day Smithfield. Awakened by Mother Nature’s roaring Nor’easter, Smith ordered a bundle of his men to remain in the village and search for Roanoke’s Lost Colony.

The remaining men joined Smith and rode down the river to Kecoughtan village, six miles from present-day Hampton. Chief Pochins and his tribe welcomed the settlers, and they had a celebration during the English’s Twelfth Night days. A grand week of merriment occurred with delicious food, good company and cozy lodging, otherwise known as North America’s first recorded evidence of Christmas.