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The Chesapeake, Mortality Rate
indentures, English settlers, bad water, single men, colony
Chesapeake tobacco growers needed able–bodied servants. Most of those imported to Virginia and Maryland were young, poor, single men. Disease, bad water, and hostile native peoples produced a horrific death rate. In 1618 there were 700 English settlers in Virginia. The reorganized Virginia Company sent 3,000 more before 1622. A headcount that year found only about 1,200 still alive. Still, surviving planters continued to import servants. Some servants lived long enough to end their indentures, but many others died. In addition, there were too few women in the Chesapeake to enable surviving men to build families and produce new Virginians. More than two-thirds of men never married, and the white population of Virginia did not begin to sustain itself until at least the 1680s. Before that, the colony survived only by importing new people to replace those who died.
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