Links to hunger during the Gold Rush –
Klooster, Wim. 2016. The Dutch Moment: War, Trade, and Settlement in the Seventeenth-Century Atlantic World. Cornell Univ. Press. 419 pp. Accounts of hunger on exploratory ships and on land.
Stark Account of Hunger in Colonial Jamestown, VA
Early inhabitants of the Jamestown, VA settlement experienced starvation. First-hand accounts are stark; early crises were caused by inadequate supplies from Britain, harsh weather and failed attempts at farming.
Thanks to The Virginia Company Archives, Magdelene College, Cambridge, United Kingdom for making these important records, many drawn from the Ferrar Family Papers Collection, available for online study (https://www.amdigital.co.uk/primary-sources/virginia-company-archives). And, thanks also to Abbie Weinberg, Research and Reference Librarian, and other staff members of The Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC, USA for facilitating access to these records (https://www.folger.edu/).
What was called A Briefe declation [sic] of the Plantation of Virginia duringe the first twelve yeares, when S[i]r Thomas Smith was Governor of the [Virginia] Company [of London], and downe to this p[re]sent time: by the auncient Planters now remaining alive in Virginia (FP 532) was written in 1623-24. The following two excerpts graphically describe the first hardship years of settlement.
Paragraph 2 - The first Plantation in Virginia consisted of one hundredth persons so slenderly provided for, that before they had remained half a yeare in this new Colony they fell into extreme want, not having anything lefte to susteine them, save a little ill condic[i]oned barley w[hi]ch ground to meale, and pottage made thereof, one smale ladleful was allowed each p[er]son for a meale, w[I]thout bread or ought else what soev[er], so that had not God by his great providence moved the Indians (then our utter enemies) to bringe us relief, we had all utterly by famine perished: how unable so smale a Company of people so poorely sent over, were to make way for such as should follow, may safely be judged.
From paragraph 5 – The second supply was the Shipp called Mary Margrett w[hi]ch arrived here nyne months after about the time of Michaelmas, in her sixty persons most gentlemen…so meanely likewise were these furnished forth for victuals, that in lesse than two months after theire arrival; want compelled us to employ o[u]r time abroad in trading w[i]th the Indians for Corn, whereby though for a time we partly relieved o[u]r necessities yett in May followinge we were forced (leaveinge a smale guard of gentlemen and some others about the President att James Towne) to disperse the whole Colony some amongst the Salvadges but most to the Oyster banks where they lived uppon Oysters for the space of nyne weeks, wi[i]th the allowance only of a pinte of Indian Corne to each man for a weeke, and that allowance of Corne continued to them, but two weeks of the nyne w[hi]ch kind of feedinge caused all o[u]r skins to peele of from head to foote, as if wee had beene flead…