Located nearby was the main town of the Paspahegh Indians, tributaries to paramount chief Powhatan. When Jamestown was built in their territory, the Paspahegh consistently resisted the English settlement. In Aug. 1610, George Percy, on orders from Gov. De La Warr (Delaware), destroyed the Paspahegh town and its crops, killing 16 people and capturing the wife and children of chief Wowinchapuncke. On their return to Delaware’s ship, the English threw the children overboard and then shot them in the head, and later executed the chief’s wife-actions that changed the nature of warfare for the Virginia Indians. Wowinchapuncke was killed in a later skirmish near Jamestown. The remaining Paspahegh left the area by 1611.
The Paspahegh natives were an Algonquian-speaking nation that originally resided where the location of Jamestown was founded (Bridenbaugh, 10). They were closely associated with the Powhatan tribe, along with many other native tribes in the area, including the Pamunkey and the Chickahominy. By the time the English had first arrived in the Chesapeake Bay area in 1607, the Paspahegh natives had already taken proactive precautions and moved their village further up the James River to Sandy Point, in hopes of keeping a safe distance from the white intruders (Grizzard and Smith, 163).
Despite the Paspahegh tribes’ attempts to maintain a safe distance from the settlers, on May 26th, 1607, the Paspahegh attacked the settlers and this surprise attack led to a violent skirmish that resulted in about 10 to 12 men wounded, 1 to 2 Englishmen dead, and the capture of the Paspahegh chief, Wowinchapuncke. The Chief escaped, however his wife and children were later captured.
On August 9th, 1610, the Paspahegh tribe was attacked by a siege of over seventy Englishmen whose primary objective from the governor was to destroy the village of the Paspahegh. George Percy led the combatants in killing and decapitating almost twenty natives, along with destroying the tribe’s crops and retaining the tribal queen and her children into custody. While their lives were spared initially, after arriving back at James Fort, the queen and her children were executed (Grizzard and Smith, 165). After this brutal conflict, the Paspahegh natives ceased to be a threat to the colonists.
Bridenbaugh, Carl. Jamestown: 1544-1699. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980.
Feest, Christian F. Indians of North America: The Powhatan Tribes. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1990.
Grizzard, Jr. Frank E. and D. Boyd Smith. Jamestown Colony: A Political, Social, and Cultural History. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2007.
Historical Marker “Paspahegh Indians V-50,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.
“Paspahegh Native with a Colonist,” Charles City County: State Historical Markers, www.charlescity.org (accessed April 29, 2012).
“George Percy,” The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, www.history.org (accessed April 29, 2012).
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