NIU Libraries Digitization Projects
Lincoln/Net Prairie Fire Illinois During the Civil War Illinois During the Gilded Age Mark Twain's Mississippi Back to Digitization Projects Contact Us
BACK

Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html


Next section

Chapter I. — Virginia is Successfully Colonized. Jamestown is Founded in the Central Part of the Powhatanic Confederacy.

1600.

ENGLISH history, at the opening of the seventeenth century, records two great events — the death of Queen Elizabeth, which occurred in 1603, and the immediate and peaceable accession of James I. to the throne. During the same year which witnessed this change, Raleigh, the true friend of Virginia, and of American colonization, was tried for the crime of high treason, and unjustly condemned to death, though his execution did not take place until fifteen years afterwards. In 1590 Virginia had been abandoned; but, although not entirely forgotten, the attempts made to ascertain the fate of the colonists left at Hatteras, were feeble, and proved to be altogether futile. The Indian tribes may be supposed to have achieved a triumph in driving the English from their shores; but the state of discord and anarchy in which they lived, the feeble nature of the ties existing between them as tribes, and their absolute want of any stable government, was not calculated to fit them for successful resistance to the power of civilized nations. More than twelve years elapsed before the project of establishing a colony on these shores, which had been the scene of the former ineffectual struggles for colonial existence, was again broached. The most important efforts, made by the proprietors of the Virginia company, comprised the voyages of Bartholomew Gosnold, in 1602, in which he discovered Cape Cod, Martha's

-- 96 --

Vineyard, and Elizabeth island; and that of Captain Pring and Mr. Saltern, in 1603, who followed nearly the same track as that pursued by Gosnold. Two years subsequently George Weymouth visited a part of the eastern coast, in latitude 41° 20', and it is conjectured, from his descriptions, that he entered either Narragansett Bay, or the Connecticut river. On every side were found tribes of the Algonquin lineage, speaking their language, and having identical manners and customs. They were mild, affable, and fond of traffic, but opposed to white men, as well as to their maxims, and very treacherous. Nothing, however, more conclusively settles the question of their nationality than their language. They obeyed chiefs who were called sagamores, and they had also a higher class of rulers, denominated Bashabas.

Captain Gosnold made such favorable reports of the beauty and fertility of the countries he had visited, and of its many advantages, that renewed interest was imparted to the subject of colonization. After some years spent in advocating the plan of a colony, Gosnold induced several gentlemen to engage in it, among whom were John Smith, Edward Maria Wingfield, and the Rev. Robert Hunt. A charter was procured from King James, bearing date the 10th of April, 1606, in which Sir Thomas Gates, Sir George Somers, and Richard Hackluyt, &c., were constituted the recipients of the necessary authority. Two ships were provided, and placed under the command of Christopher Newport, who sailed from England on the 19th of December. After a long and tedious voyage, which was rendered more disagreeable by violent dissensions among those on board, the ships arrived off the coast on the 26th of April, 1607, at the entrance to Chesapeake Bay, the right cape of which was named Henry, and the left, Charles.

How the Indian tribes would receive the new colony, then a point of deep interest, was not long involved in doubt, for thirty men having landed on Cape Henry to recreate themselves, were attacked by Indians of the Chesapeake tribe, who wounded two of them. This might have been regarded as an indication that the colony was destined to be founded by the aid of the sword; and such, literally, has been its history. After passing the capes of the Chesapeake, the magnificent beauty of the surrounding country, the great fertility of its soil, and its numerous fruits and productions, were found to surpass every anticipation. A contemporary historian, in speaking of it, says: "Heaven and earth seems never to have agreed better to frame a place for man's accommodation and delightful habitation, were it fully cultivated and inhabited by an industrious people." [80] The vessels entered the waters of the noble Powhatan river, to which the name of James was given, and the voyagers, after making diligent search for a location for the colony, at length selected a small peninsula on the north shore of the river, about forty miles from the ocean. The town which was here founded, was called Jamestown.

-- 97 --

The English were now surrounded by an almost innumerable host of wild men, who implicitly obeyed the behest of their forest monarch. They were the proprietors of a country abounding in game, fish, fowl, and every provision of nature for the sustenance of man, and cultivated a fertile soil, from which they gathered abundant crops of corn. No part of America abounds in more magnificent scenery than may be here found along the rivers, or in the beautiful grouping of mountains, forests, and plains. Powhatan had raised himself to this kingly eminence by his bravery, energy, and wisdom in council. In addition to his claim to the dignity by hereditary right, he also derived a title by the conquest of the surrounding tribes; and his position had been greatly strengthened by the practice of polygamy, which surrounded the chief with a numerous kindred, both lineal and collateral. At the time of the settlement of Virginia, Powhatan was about sixty years of age, and though the era of his personal prowess had passed away, he still wielded undiminished sway as the reigning chief, both in his lodge, and at the council fire. His head was then somewhat hoary, which, together with his stature, carriage, and countenance, gave him an air of savage majesty. The confederacy, of which he was the ruler, comprised thirty tribes, numbering about 24,000 souls. It was then estimated that there were 5000 persons residing within sixty miles of Jamestown, of whom 1500 were warriors. The whole of these tribes not only had no relish for, but detested civilization in all its forms, and despised labour, arts, letters, and Christianity. The conduct of Powhatan, as well as that of his stalwart chiefs and followers, presents an instance of that Indian duplicity, which conceals the reality of hatred under the most mild, docile, dignified, and respectful bearing. It soon, however, became evident that the calmness of the Indians too much resembled the lull of the tempest. The policy of the Wingina, on the sandy coast of Albemarle Sound, which developed itself a few years later, was the same as that which governed Powhatan. The milder tone and language of Granganameo, as also the affection evinced by Manteo, were but secondary forms of character, which, subsequently, often appeared in Indians of various tribes. Surrounded by thirty tribes, and 5000 warriors, how long could the colonists have reasonably expected to remain unmolested? When the first ship returned to England, it left but 100 men in Virginia. The dissensions which soon originated among them, were aggravated by sickness, improvidence, and the exhaustion of their supply of provisions. The Indians, who at first appeared to be friendly, now assumed a hostile attitude, and attacked the town. No more corn being delivered, speedy ruin impended; and, had it not been for John Smith, who stepped forward in this emergency, utter destruction to the colony must have resulted.

We do not here propose to enter into a detail of that remarkable instance of heroism, displayed by Pocahontas, when she offered her life as a ransom for that of the intrepid captive, and thus unwittingly placed herself in the position of guardian angel of the colony. The narrative is familiar to all, and history nowhere records a stronger case of spontaneous sympathy, elicited under parallel circumstances. But the redemption

-- 98 --

of the life of Smith was the salvation of the colony; and from this period we may date the exercise of that influence, which at first induced Powhatan to assume a neutral position, and then a friendly one. But this influence, although it enabled the colony to pass through its incipient trials, was soon withdrawn. Pocahontas lived only eight years (1616) after the foundation of Jamestown, and Powhatan but ten (1618). At the age of seventy, his mortal remains were laid beside those of his fathers, and nothing remained of him, who was once the terror of the coast-tribes and the colonists, but his name. Properly estimated, Powhatan was not a great man. Bravery, energy, and prudence, he evidently possessed; and, among the tribes, he had enjoyed a high name, was treated with much respect, and was obeyed as a prince.

But, there was one of his brothers who possessed a more comprehensive mind, more firmness of character, and greater power of combination, and was equally courageous and active. This was Opechanganough, who captured Smith on the hill sources of the Chickihominy. Opechanganough was six feet high, had a large frame, and possessed great physical power and activity. He was a most unflinching enemy of the colony, and, if we may rely upon descriptions, after his capture, he had a head whose anatomy would have honored Solon, with a countenance as grave, severe, and inflexible as that of Hiokato. [81] Pometakom or Osagwatha were not more inflexibly bent on preventing the progress of the Saxon race. While Powhatan lived, Opechanganough was under his influence, but the former was no sooner dead than he plotted the destruction of the colony. Secresy, however, being his policy, his plans were carefully concealed for several years after the decease of his distinguished brother; nor were they ever revealed until the night preceding the very day on which the massacre took place, on the 22d of March, 1622. Four years had elapsed after the death of Powhatan, before Opechanganough could consummate the plot. It was preceded by a striking incident. Among the warriors who had attracted the notice of their brethren, was Nemattanow, who deemed himself invulnerable. He had been engaged in many battles, but, having escaped without a wound, his vanity was inflated by the knowledge, that the Indians regarded him as a person who could not be killed. Owing to some peculiarity of his head-dress, he was known as Jack of the Feather. This man called on a trader, named Morgan, and, coveting some of the goods belonging to the latter, Nemattanow desired his company to a place where, he stated, a good traffic could be conducted. While journeying together through the woods, the Indian murdered Morgan, and, within a few days thereafter, re-appeared at Morgan's store, wearing the cap of the deceased. Two stout and fearless lads, who had charge of the store, asking him for tidings of their master, Jack replied that he was dead. Thereupon they seized him, with the intention of conveying him before a magistrate, but the Indian captive struggled and made such resistance, after being placed in the boat, which was used as

-- 99 --

the means of conveyance, that the boys shot him. He was not immediately killed, but, knowing the close of his career to be near at hand, he begged they would not tell his tribesmen that he was killed by an English bullet, and desired them to conceal his body by interring it in an English burial-ground.

Opechanganough affected to be much grieved at the death of this man; but he was really gratified that he was out of the way, and made use of the circumstance as a cloak to cover his own deception. He had previously attempted to convene a large assemblage of Indians, under the pretence of doing honor to the remains of Powhatan; but his design had been frustrated. In order the more effectually to accomplish his object, he resolved to observe and enforce strict secresy among his followers, and to make no manifestation of hostility until the time chosen for a general attack. He counselled the Indians, in every part of the country, to fly to arms on an appointed day, and at the same hour, when they were to spare no one with an English face, neither man, woman, nor child. At the time designated the Indians suddenly rose, and perpetrated the most cruel and sanguinary massacre. Three hundred and forty seven men, women, and children, fell during one morning, and six of the colonial council were numbered with the slain. One of the first victims was Mr. George Thorp, the benefactor, teacher, counsellor, and friend of the natives. He had left England with the hope of effecting their conversion to Christianity, and he had, on all occasions, been their most kind, undeviating friend. He had built a house for the chief, and was about to found a college for the instruction of Indian youth. The slaughter would have been still greater, had not an Indian convert, named Chanco, chanced to sleep the previous night with a friend, and revealed to him the plot, by which incident the people of Jamestown and its environs, being immediately apprized of it, were able to take the necessary precautions for their own security.

-- 100 --

Next section


Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html
Powered by PhiloLogic