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Employee Spotlight – David Young Sr.

A Senior Technician who has worked at our Fredericksburg office since August 2004, David Young spends most of his daytime hours on field work. But his passionate interest in history and how he’s spent much of his free time for the past 30 years is pretty interesting tale – one that led to him writing a fascinating story: An English Seed.

How did David become so intensely interested in Jamestown? “I went to my mother’s house to take her to dinner. She wasn’t quite ready, so I picked up an issue of National Geographic magazine she had lying on a table and thumbed through it. One of the articles announced that a lost Virginia town had just been discovered: Carter’s Grove, founded in 1619. I started reading, and I was hooked.”

Although based on facts and very thoroughly researched, David’s book is historical fiction. “Sticking strictly to the facts can get in the way of telling a good story,” says David. “By combining characters and certain events, the pacing of the story could be maintained, while remaining true to the history of the community.”

“Because this story is not as well known as the events in Plymouth, it took countless hours of research in bookstores, libraries, and original source documents like John Smith’s written history of Jamestown,” says David. Smiling, he added, “Of course, Smith was a shameless self-promoter, so I had to use other resources to get the facts.”

The story of Jamestown begins with a group of men who sought wealth through their own efforts. “At first, they looked for gold, silver and wood, as well as a water route to China. When those first efforts didn’t pan out, they looked for other options. They even tried raising silkworms to produce silk, but that didn’t work out, either.” Although tobacco eventually became an economic mainstay for the colony, that happened through trial and error. “The first tobacco variety they grew was so foul and bitter that no one liked it. Somehow – it’s suspected now they did it through nefarious means – they obtained seeds from the Spanish, whose tobacco was a much better quality. They had their first cash crop.”

The thing that surprised David most about Jamestown? “I was really amazed at how long the colony barely held on, yet still managed to survive: a total of 17 years. About four or five of those years were good, but it’s mostly a story of endurance. Hundreds died of starvation and disease. They lived on the edge of complete failure for an incredibly long time. Many colonists died simply because the colony was so poorly managed by John Smith.”

“Things changed radically when Sir Thomas Dale became Lord Marshall of Jamestown. He brought order and discipline to a colony that had, up until that time, had precious little. His basic rule: if you didn’t work, you didn’t eat, even for those who became too sick to work. He was incredibly driven to succeed, and I found that one of the most interesting facets of the story. After 30 years of research, I still can’t say what his real motivations may have been. People read that part of the story, and they can’t decide whether they like him because of his success, or dislike him because he was so harsh.”

One of the things Dale did was to develop rules and laws that included more than 300 capital crimes, the punishments for which were meted out swiftly and mercilessly. A prime example is the law against profanity. “First offense for profanity was a whipping. The second time you were caught, they’d drive a dagger through your tongue.” And the third infraction? “You’d be executed. I know it’s violent by today’s standards, but the laws Sir Dale developed were just a reflection of the times. It was a harsh world, and only the toughest survived.”

An English Seed; ISBN-10: 1434973972; ISBN-13: 978-1434973979

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