Note: "The descendants of the Patawomeke Tribe in Stafford have always been proud of their Indian heritage and have passed down thier descent from Chief Japasaw for many generations. They have lived in the same area in and around Passapatanzy (8 miles North of Fredericksburg, VA, now on the border of Stafford and King George counties), the seat of Japasaw and his son, Wahanganoche, "King of Patomeck", since the early 1600's. footnote 8. "A Brief Outline of Recorded History of the Patawomeck Tribe" William L. Deyo, 2000.
Chief Japasaw was a brother to Chief Powhatan, the first Indian leader met by the Jamestown colonists. Powhatan was the father of Pocahontas. Pocahontas's mother was from the Patawomeck Tribe, one of the tribes in the Powhatan Confederacy.
When the English colonists settled Jamestown in 1607, the Patawomeck Tribe was a very large tribe of the Powhatan Federation. They quickly made friends with the English colonists and eventually even became their allies, refusing to help the leader of the Powhatan Federation, Chief Opechancanough, younger brother of Powhatan, who tried to obliterate the English in the great massacres of 1622 and 1644. Without the help of the Patawomeck Tribe, the settlement of Jamestown would almost certainly have failed to survive. The Patawomecks supplied the Jamestown settlement with corn and other food when they were starving.
In 1607, the Patawomeck Tribe was settled in the areas we now know as Stafford and King George Counties. The English pronounced the name of the tribe as �Potomac,� from which the Potomac River derived its name. Their chief, called the �Great King of Potomac� by the English, appears to have married the sister of the Great Chief Powhatan. The Great King�s next younger brother, I-Oppassus, or �Japasaw,� as the English called him, was the Lesser Chief of the Tribe. Japasaw was known as �Chief Passapatanzy,� as that was where he made his home. The famous Indian princess Pocahontas, daughter of Powhatan, was visiting Japasaw�s family at the time that she was taken captive by the English, who had hoped to use her as a bargaining chip to force her father to release the English captives that he had.
Pocahontas had many family ties to the Patawomecks. Her mother has long been thought by historians to have been a member of the Patawomeck Tribe. Also, one of Japasaw�s two wives was a sister of Pocahontas, and the first husband of Pocahontas was Kocoum, the younger brother of Japasaw.
The rule of the Patawomeck Tribe eventually fell to Japasaw�s son, Wahanganoche, sometimes called �Whipsewasin� by the English. Those were very troubled times for the Patawomecks, as several influential colonists tried to take away the land of the chief by making false accusations against the tribe for the murders of certain colonists. Chief Wahanganoche was taken prisoner by the English and was forced to stand trial in Williamsburg. The chief was acquitted of any wrong doing, much to the dismay of the greedy colonists who wanted his land. In 1663, on his way home from Williamsburg, Chief Wahanganoche lost his life. From implications in a letter written by Col. John Catlett, it appears that the chief was ambushed and murdered in Caroline County near the Camden Plantation. It is ironic that his silver badge, given to him in Williamsburg by authority of the King of England, for safe passage over English territory, was found 200 years later at Camden, where it had apparently been lost as a result of the chief�s murder.
Shortly after the death of the chief, in 1666, the English launched a full-scale massacre against the Patawomecks and other area Virginia Indian tribes. Most of the men of the Patawomeck Tribe were killed, and the women and children were placed in servitude. Two of the chief�s sons made it across the river to Maryland but were captured by an enemy tribe and were turned over to the English. A few of the Patawomeck children, who were orphaned by the 1666 massacre, were taken in by area colonists.
Chief Wahanganoche was very shrewd in allowing a number of his daughters to marry well-to-do English colonists in the area. He must have been careful to instruct them to pass on the Indian ways to their children. It is because of the children of those daughters and some of the orphan children of 1666, who also married English colonists, that the Patawomeck Indians and their culture survived. The descendants of these Patawomeck children intermarried with each other, and many of their descendants have continued to marry cousins of Patawomeck descent to keep the blood strong. They passed on the Indian ways of agriculture and of hunting and fishing that have been used up to the present day in Stafford County. Some of the current tribal members are still able to construct the intricate eel baskets just like their Patawomeck ancestors did more than 400 years ago.
The descendants of the Patawomeck Tribe banded together in the 1700s in the White Oak area of Stafford, which was in King George County until the county boundaries changed in the late 1770s. This was in walking distance from the Passapatanzy area, where many of the descendants still live today.
--Written by Bill Deyo, Patawomeck Tribal Historian
As mentioned above, the compiler believes that the Lesser King of Patawomeck, Japasaw, died
in or by the early spring of 1622. When Pocahontas and John Rolfe visited England in 1616,
Pocahontas took a number of her relatives and friends with her. The records of the Virginia
Company reveal that two of these Indians were daughters of �no lesse than petie kinges.� Their
names were Mary and Elizabeth. In 1621, the Virginia Company sent them to the Somers
Islands [Bermuda]. One died during the voyage, but the other, thought to have been the one
named �Elizabeth,� was married there in the early spring of 1622 to a well-to-do Englishman at
the home of Governor Nathaniel Butler, the ancestral uncle of many of the Butlers of Stafford
County. Governor Butler encouraged the Indian maiden to write a letter to her brother in
Virginia, who, by her father�s late death, had succeeded to his command. If her father was a
Lesser King/Chief, and she was a relative of Pocahontas, who had close ties of kinship to the
Patawomeck Tribe, it is very likely that he was Japasaw, Lesser King/Chief of the Patawomecks.
Her brother would have been none other than our ancestor, Wahanganoche, who would have
succeeded his father as Lesser Chief. As the Great King of Patawomeck was still alive,
Wahanganoche would not have inherited that position until after his death, which likely occurred
on 22 May 1623 at the famous Poison Plot, in which Dr. John Pott prepared a poison punch that
killed over 200 Indians at Patawomeck, including many chiefs. Wahanganoche is believed to
have also been the young King of Patawomeck when Father Andrew White visited in March of
1634. Since he was still under age at that time, he had a guardian named Archihu, who was his
uncle. Since Archihu had not inherited the kingship, he was evidently an uncle by marriage to a
deceased sister of Wahanganoche mother of the royal blood. Wahanganoche was still probably a
boy in his late teens by 1634 but would soon take over sole responsibility of the Patawomeck
Tribe as an adult king. There were probably several others who would have been in line for the
position of the Great King at the time he inherited it, but it is likely that most of the adults died
from Dr. Pott�s poison punch.
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