Nature Wisdom

Lessons from a Jamestown Ancestor

With Pat Tuholske, Naturalist
As the sky wheel turns, this is the beginning of the season to remember those who have gone on before us. I can feel my ancestors walking beside me guiding me in important decisions. They are a living influence in my life as their knowledge spirals up from the past into the present. Making their wisdom known just when it is needed most, all I have to do is pay attention.

Our personal identity is woven together with the lineage of men and women who have lived before us. They dwell here in the present in our skin, DNA, breath and bones. Our ancestors are the reason we are here. We exist because of them and embody a heritage that continues to live through us.

The popularity of genealogy is a testament to a way of honoring and celebrating our ancestors. Genealogy is the second most popular hobby after gardening. I have several cousins that are excellent researchers and have shared their findings with me. Among the Civil War veterans and Revolutionary War patriots, there is a Jamestown ancestor who’s story I carry with me. His narrative, “The Death of Thomas Godby”, is available online in the historical records of colonial Virginia.

Thomas Godby, a distant ancestor on my mother’s side, was born in England and set sail for Jamestown VA June 8, 1609 as a young man. Encountering severe storms a few weeks into the voyage, the captain deliberately ran the ship aground offshore of the Bermuda Islands on July 28, 1609. The castaways set to work constructing two smaller ships from the wreckage. On May 10, 1610, after six deaths, three mutinies and one execution, the ships set sail arriving finally at Jamestown on May 23, 1610. When Thomas Godby reached the colony, there were only 60 settlers left of the original 500 who had come from England since 1607.

My ancestor blended in with the population doing his part to ensure survival of the struggling community. Not much is known about him until his death on February 8, 1628 at the hands of his neighbor William Bentley. During a drunken disagreement, Bentley struck Godby in the head knocking him to the floor kicking him repeatedly. Witnesses pulled Bentley off and Godby died from his injuries during the night.

Bentley was indicted for killing Godby but pleaded not guilty. Bentley demanded his Clergy. At the time, a literate person could claim “benefit of clergy” and, after reading from the Bible as proof, be freed from any punishment. Bentley soon became a politician gaining a seat in the Virginia House of Burgesses. So… my ancestor survived shipwreck, mutinies, near starvation, attacks by natives and was killed in a drunken brawl by a crooked politician-to-be.

We each have such stories in our lineage. What strikes me most is not his senseless death but Thomas Godby’s ability to survive shipwreck and then thrive as a member of the community as an “Ancient Planter” of Virginia for nearly three decades.

How often are we “shipwrecked”… complaining, whining, becoming paralyzed with our circumstance? We all have Godby’s type of resilience in our genes and can draw on our bloodline to get beyond hardship and dread.

The ancestral mind is an influential resource for solutions to troubles, healing of wounds, and life guidance. From deep in time, insights and impressions resonate from the old ones. All of us have a Thomas Godby in our lineage who can transmit knowledge and become a living reality.

The ancestors are dynamic and real. They offer love and support and want a better world for us all. May it be so for us as we become the next wave of ancestors.

Check out Pat Tuholske’s “Nature Chronicles” for musings on the Human-Nature relationship at pattuholske.com. See her Wild Wreaths, Wheels and Twig Art woven from Ozark native plants at willowrainherbalgoods.com.