In one of the colony’s first political actions, Edward Wingfield was elected president; this, however, proved to be the first of many poor choices made by these settlers. Lexington-Fayette Metro Map Wingfield was not a practical man and could not lead effectively. When Wingfield later returned to England, the settlers elected John Ratcliffe as leader, again a poor choice.
Ratcliffe was more interested in developing his own empire than in developing the settlement. The men did begin work on a fort approximately an acre in size. A palisade encircled the triangular fort, with its longest side facing the river. At each point of the triangle stood a small cannon. The men also built a handful of thatched houses and a small church within the fort’s boundary; these buildings later proved to offer little protection against the harsh winters and rainy summers.
The settlers also began clearing land for planting English wheat. They did not, however, dig wells but drank water straight from the dirty river another problem that came back to haunt the newly established community. Meanwhile, Captain Newport and John Smith led an expedition upriver. Passing several Algonquin villages, they met Chief Powhatan, the infamous father of young Pocahontas who later befriended John Smith and the men of Jamestown. Careful not to offend the chief or his tribe, Newport and Smith offered small gifts, including looking glasses, beads, and little bells. Smith, who became part of the governing council, was one of the few people to recognize the importance of good relations with the native peoples. He learned the local dialects and also mapped and explored the area around the Chesapeake Bay, as well as the Potomac and the Rappahannock Rivers.