Posts Tagged ‘Native Americans’

Indian School at the College of William and Mary W-229

Thursday, March 15th, 2012


Using funds from the estate of British scientist Robert Boyle, the College of William & Mary established a school to educate young Indian men in 1697, just four years after the college’s founding. To encourage enrollment, in 1711 Lt. Gov. Alexander Spotswood began remitting tributes for area tribes who sent students. Students from tribes outside Virginia also enrolled. The Brafferton was constructed in 1723 to house the school, which provided education in reading and writing English, arithmetic and religion. The American Revolution caused British financial support to cease in 1776, and soon the school closed.

Further Research

Brafferton Building, College of William and Mary Campus

Upon Sir Robert Boyle’s death in 1691, funds from his estate were used to purchase Brafferton Manor in Yorkshire, which was then used to donate money from its revenue to support the newly formed College of William and Mary. There were two other buildings put up on the college grounds in addition to their center ground. The Brafferton Manor was then converted into a building to educate the local Native American populace in 1723 (Dickon and Nichol, 11-13). It would remain an active until the Revolutionary War, where funds had been cut and the school was closed down (Lancaster, 15).

Alexander Spotswood

The school had been made up of a mix of both Indian boys and white children from Williamsburg and the outlying tribes around the town. They would be taught reading, writing, and arithmetic (W&M Quarterly, Vol. IV, 73). The Native Americans would also be taught to spread the word of God and to aid in converting the other Native Americans around Williamsburg (History of the College of William and Mary, Vol. 258, 29). In the Civil War, both Confederate and Union forces used the Brafferton. Those who were at the college at the time had primarily joined the Confederate forces, and the Brafferton became a makeshift hospital and barracks. It was then taken over by Union troops in 1862 and would be held as a Union fort up to 1865 (Dickon and Nichol, 22).

In 1915, the Brafferton was used as college dormitories (Lancaster, 15) but it is currently being used as the offices of the president and the provost of the College of William and Mary (The College of William and Mary).

Further Reading

The College of William and Mary. “The Brafferton”. William and Mary. (Accessed April 12, 2012).

Dickon, Chris. The College of William and Mary. New York: Arcadia Publishing, 2007.

Lancaster, Robert A. Jr. Historic Virginia Homes and Churches. Philadelphia: JB Lippencott Company, 1915.

Randolph, JW, and English. The History of the College of William and Mary. Richmond: Main Street, 1874.

Tyler, Lyon G, edit. The William and Mary Quarterly, Volume XIV. Richmond: Whittet and Shepperson, Publishers, 1906.

Photo Credits

“Alexander Spotswood,” Encyclopedia Virginia, accessed May 2, 2012).

“Brafferton House,” The College of William and Mary, (accessed May 2, 2012).

Historical Marker “Indian School at the College of William and Mary W-229,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

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Department of Historic Resources link not available

First Williamsburg Gaol Inmates: not erected

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012


On May 3, 1704, two Chickahominy Indians called Coscohunk and James Mush were accused of burning the house of another Chickahominy, Tom Perry. They were held in the new Williamsburg Gaol overnight and released into the custody of the Chickahominy tribe. In September, about forty Nanzattico Indians, accused of complicity in an assault on a family of English colonists in Richmond County, were sent to the Gaol. They remained there until May 1705, when the Virginia Council ordered those 12 or older to be transported to Antigua and sold into slavery. Their children were kept as house servants to Council members.

Further Research

The Public Gaol

The Williamsburg Gaol was erected in 1701. It was a brick prison with the dimensions of thirty by twenty feet with two stories, and was used for both prisoners and the jailer with his family. In addition to the interior rooms, there was also a courtyard, which was enclosed by walls so as to prevent escape during the prisoners’ recreation time. It was known “as a strong, sweet Prison” and would be used into the period of the Civil War and beyond then (Tyler 1907, 221).

Some of the first official prisoners to be held in this prison were two Chickahominy Indians by the name of Coscohunk and James Mush. According to an official report by the House of Burgesses, they were accused of burning down the cabin of Tom Perry, splitting his canoe, and threatening to go to the Seneca tribe to join with them and bring down the English (McIlwaine 1918, 401). This was supposedly out of retaliation for Tom Perry having supposedly burnt down the home of Drammaco, a chief member of the Chickahominy tribe, unveiling a large amount of tension between members of the tribe in regard to selling parts of their reservation. This case was not looked into any further by King William Court at a later date, but was unable to be finished due to the courthouse being burnt down in 1885 (Roundtree 1990, 116).

Another set of reputable prisoners, were the associates of the infamous pirate

This was Virginia's chief prison which housed debtors and criminals and served as the jail for the General Court in the nearby Captiol. Here Blackbeard's pirates, captured in 1718, were confined until the day of their hanging. Leg irons, an exercise yard, food slots, and criminal cells with primitive sanitation have been restored to their early appearance.

Blackbeard. They were all executed in 1718. The Lieutenant of Detroit, Henry Hamilton, also spent time in the Williamsburg Gaol, as General George Rogers Clark captured him in the late 1770s. (Tyler 1907, 221). He was arrested due to the belief that he had purchased pioneer scalps from the Indians, and was kept in manacles and chains for his time in the gaol (The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation). These standards were not unusual for offenders who were held, though. Prisoners were generally kept in their rooms without a source of heat, had a general area designated for sanitation in their cells, and the more serious offenders were kept in shackles, irons and chains while they waited for their court proceedings (Beney 1997, 127).

Further Reading

Beney, Peter. The Majesty of Colonial Williamsburg. Greta: Pelican Publishing Company, 1997.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. “Public Gaol.” (accessed 16 February, 2012).

McIlwaine, H.R. editor. Legislative Journals of the Council of Colonial Virginia Volume I. Richmond: E. Waddy Compay, 1918.

Roundtree, Helen C. Pocahantas’s People: The Powhatan Indians of Virginia through Four Centuries. Oklahoma City: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990.

Tyler, Lyon Gardiner. Williamsburg, the Old Colonial Capital. Richmond: Whittet and Shepperson Publishers and Printers, 1907.

Photo Credits

“The Public Gaol,” Williamsburg, Virginia, (accessed May 2, 2012).

“The Public Gaol Plaque,” Williamsburg, Virginia, (accessed May 2, 2012).

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Department of Historic Resources link not available