The Jamestown Massacre

The year 1622 saw what many consider to be “the most brilliantly conceived, planned, and executed uprising against white aggression in the history of the American Indians.” It was orchestrated by Opecancanough, chief of the Powhatans, who, while openly professing love and affection for the settlers of Jamestown, was, for almost a decade, secretly plotting for the indiscriminate massacre of every man, woman and child in the colony.

On March 21, 1622, the Indians came to the plantation homes bringing food gifts to share. But on March 22, 1622, while socializing with the settlers, an Indian war whoop signaled the commencement of the hostilities. As one, the Indians fell upon the colonists, quickly moving from the plantation homes into the fields and towards the main settlement, attacking the unsuspecting colonists without mercy nor regard to age or sex. Those who perished, died within an hour of the first blow. And yet, despite the well conceived surprise attack, 893 souls of the 1240 settlers survived – all because of the actions of two men.

The night before the planned assault, two Indian brothers who had embraced Christianity and were in the employ of two different colonist families, were discussing the impending raid. They had instructions to strike down their patrons at noon the next day as the main attack was beginning. One of the brothers, Chanco, lived in the plantation home of Richard Pace who had always treated him as a son, educating him alongside his own son George. When his Indian brother left for his own house, Chanco woke Pace and warned him what was about to happen. 

Pace acted quickly. He secured his family and as many neighbors there was time to reach and then rowed the three miles across the James River to warn the inhabitants of Jamestown. Defensive measures were taken and as the Indians approached the main settlement, they were quickly repelled. 

Richard Pace was the 10th great grandfather of my daughter-in-law. His actions saved the lives of the 893 surviving colonists. Among them was one of my ancestors, William Cantrell.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website. And please take a look at our TEDxEustis talk and let us know what you think.

More Than A Disney Princess

Disney movies sometimes get it wrong… at least when it comes to history.

Upon learning that Pocahontas was occupying a place within my family tree, I looked into her life to try and separate fact from fantasy. She was, by all accounts, a remarkable woman who led a tragic life.

She was born to Chief Powhatan, who ruled over 30 Algonquian-speaking tribes around the tidewaters of Virginia. Her mother apparently died at childbirth. She was given the name Amonute but known by her people as Matoaka. She was a precocious child so her father began referring to her as ‘Pocahontas’ which meant “playful one.” She was 10 years old when Captain John Smith was brought into her camp. Romanticized versions of their story have largely been discredited. What is true is that Smith was granted by Powhatan the title of werowance (chief) of his tribe (Jamestown) which granted him access to the other tribes for the purposes of trade and support.

While in their camp, Smith and Pocahontas would teach each other elements of their respective languages to help bridge the gap between their two peoples. When Smith was released to return to his people, Pocahontas and others would often visit Jamestown, bringing gifts and food to the struggling colonists. The young girl’s inclusion in these trips was most likely intended to be a symbol of a peaceful intent. 

But the peace between the two cultures began to deteriorate as the colonists’ continual insistence for food and land (often accompanied with threats of violence) began to wear on Powhatan’s patience. Unfortunately for Pocahontas, who by now had married a member of her tribe and had a child, she became a pawn in the growing hostilities. Abducted by Captain Samuel Argall, she was held hostage to elicit concessions from her father. She was indoctrinated into the “English world”, being forced to learn the language, dress, customs and religion of her captors. She eventually was baptized, taking the name Rebecca, and traveled to England to help raise money for the colony, which by then had discovered that tobacco could be a sustainable crop. She died during the return voyage at the young age of 21.

Princess Pocahontas Matoaka Rebecca Powhatan was the mother-in-law of my sister-in-law’s 9th great grandfather.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotape, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.