Posts Tagged ‘Opechancanough’

Martin’s Hundred W-51

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012


This plantation was allocated to the London-based Society of Martin’s Hundred by 1618 and was later assigned 21,500 acres. It was initially settled in 1620 around Wolstenholme Town, its administrative center, located near the James River. Archaeologists discovered the town site in 1977. They also located the graves of several people who died during the 22 March 1622 Indian attacks on English settlements coordinated by Chief Opechancanough, when 78 colonists here – half the plantation’s population – were reported killed. These attacks were in response to English expansion into Indian lands. The area was soon resettled but the Society of Matrin’s Hundred’s town was never rebuilt.

Further Research

Fort at Wolstenholme Towne

In 1622, a massacre of 78 colonists occurred at the plantation of Martin’s Hundred by the Powhatan Indians (Klingelhofer and Henry, 98). This was known as the Powhatan Uprising of March 22, 1622. In total, the Powhatan tribe had killed 347 colonists all throughout Virginia, along the James River. In addition to this, twenty women were taken as captives from the Martin’s Hundred plantation and held by the Powhatan Indians (Fausz).

Artist's rendering of Wolstenholme Towne Site in 1620


The colonists had launched attacks of their own in retaliation throughout the summer and the fall of that year. The attacks were so strong that the Powhatan Indians requested negotiations, while using the captured women as their bargaining tool. To show that this was serious, the wife of the late Thomas Boyse, who represented Martin’s Hundred at Virginia’s first legislature, was sent back to the hands of the colonists (Fausz).

"The Archaeology of Martin's Hundred" book


Evidence of the location of Martin’s Hundred came in 1977, when archaeologists tested the ground around a 17th century tombstone in James City County. The tombstone was made for Samuel Pond, buried in 1694 at the age of 48 ( Klingelhofer and Henry, 98-100). Other archaeological finds that confirm the location of Martin’s Hundred Parish come from trace amounts of window glass in the topsoil, corroded nail fragments, and bottles with the dimensions of “Squat bottles” ( Klingelhofer and Henry, 103).

Replica of Wolstenholme Town Fort

After the Powhatan’s effort towards good will, the colonists continued to focus on the destruction of the Indians. They were still considered to be hostile. In May of 1623, the leaders of both the Powhatans and the colonists met to discuss a truce. Upon the closing remarks after speeches from both parties, the colonists attempted to poison the leaders and the 200 other Indians who accompanied the leaders to the meeting. Many Indians fell sick, while 50 others were just shot by the colonists. Opechancanough, their leader, had managed to escape however. The women were then held for a bit longer, ranging from being returned in 1624 as seven of the women had been returned, or 1630, where one of the women had been returned. Those who did not arrive were considered to have been killed in 1622 during either the raids or other causes (Fausz).

Further Reading

Brown, Alexander. The Genesis of the United States: A Narrative of the Movement in England, 1605-1616. Cambridge: Houghton Mifflin, 1890.

Fausz, J. Frederick. “Powhatan Uprising of 1622.” American History. (Accessed March 14, 2012).

Klingelhofer, Eric and Henry, William. “Excavations at Martin’s Hundred Church, James City County, Virginia: Techniques for Testing a 17th Century Church Site.” Historical Archaeology 19 no. 1 (1985): 98-103.

Photo Credits

“The Archaeology of Martin’s Hundred,” Amazon, (accessed May 2, 2012).

“Artist’s rendering of Wolstenholme Towne Site in 1620,” National Geographic Image Collection, (accessed May 2, 2012).

“Fort at Wolstenholme Towne,” The Williamsburg Foundation, (accessed May 2, 2012).

Historical Marker “Martin’s Hundred W-51,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.

“Replica of Wolstenholme Towne Forte,” Martin’s Hundred, (accessed May 2, 2012).


View on Google Maps

Department of Historic Resources