We had 10 people take the tour of the Patawomeck Museum on Nov. 8 on a beautiful fall afternoon. The purpose was to learn more about their culture and the presence in the local communities, mainly Stafford County though there was a presence around Port Royal. This is a part of the Sacred Ground Ministry
Brad Hatch, a member of the tribe and tribal council, was our guide. Two parts of the tour were inside the Duff Green home and out in the village.
The history of the Tribe pre-dates the 1300’s in Stafford County, originally between Aquia Creek and Upper Machodoc Creek. (Their history goes back 15,000 years) They were an agrarian people, who cultivated varieties of maize. They also relied on hunting, fishing, and gathering resources from their environment
The Patawomeck Indian Tribe of Virginia is one of Virginia’s eleven state-recognized Native American tribe. There are about 2,500 members according to Brad Hatch, our guide
They were loosely allied with the Powhatan Confederacy along with more than 32 tribes. Their language was Algonquin which dominated the eastern seaboard. The Patawomeck was instrumental in sustaining the Jamestown Colony and continues to impact Stafford County today positively
When the English settlers were starving at James town in the early 17th century and Chief Powhatan cut off ties to them, the Patawomeck were the only tribe that continued to trade food and keep them from starving, the chiefs said.
Likewise, when Pocahontas was kidnapped, she was in Stafford County, among the Patawomeck tribe at the time.
The relations were not always good. In 1612, the English poisoned some tribal members
After settlers began moving into their area in the 1650s, pressures mounted in competition over resources and differing ideas of how to use land. Violent disputes followed. In 1662, Colonel Giles Brent took their leader Wahanganoche prisoner. After an extensive trial in Williamsburg, Wahanganoche was found not guilty and released. He was murdered by Giles conspirators in 1663 while returning home from the trial. In October 1665, the colonial government forced the tribe to sell their remaining land to the colony for a few matchcoats
In 1666 after continued conflicts, the English colonists declared war against several tribes in the Northern Neck, including the Patawomeck.
One of their prize possessions silver badge issued to Patawomeck Chief Wahanganoche by the English in 1662. The silver medal allowed the chief, noted on the badge as “Ye King of Patawomeck,” safe travel through English settlements.
It was lost and found in a archeological excavation in 1832 near at Camden farm on the Rappahannock River. It may indicate that the survivors merged with the Portobacco tribe, as did remnants of several other tribes
Gradually these people went to Port Royal (1650) where there was land along the Rappahannock for the Indians including the Rappahannock (1680’s), Dogue, and Machodoc
The Patawomeck gradually coalesced back in Stafford in the 1820’s.
Stafford Property on Route 17
The land can be traced back to John Newton in the late 17th century.
The English settled here in the 1750’s and it was called Little Falls. Hugh Morson, a Naval Surgeon in the Civil War bought it and lived there until the 1870’s.( He lived from 1811 to 1877 and is buried in the Bernard-Robb Family Cemetery in Port Royal.)
The original home built in the 19th century was destroyed. The current structure stands on the original foundation and is dated 1915. The outdoor Village and gardens sit on 17 scenic acres fronting the river. The tribe itself has constructed the structures or obtained them from Stafford County
The Duff Green estate donated the home and property in this century. The Patawomeck leased the property from 2019.
Green owned the property from 1943 until his death In 2006. The house needed much work – inside paint, plumbing, electrical and floor refinishing. The tribe did much of the work themselves. Stafford County added a new winding road, parking lot, and a new roof.
The museum fixtures were donated (Virginia Museum of History and Culture) or acquired by grant.
There are two main rooms, the first details history from 15000 to 1660, and the second from 1660 to the present.
Brad Hatch cited four themes of the tribe’s history – community, persistence, landscape, and adaptation
Also on the grounds is a 90-foot Ginko Tree the largest one in Virginia. There are also chestnut trees which are also Asian in origin. The trade developed in the 19th century United States for food, fodder, and horticulture
The tribe’s goal is to convert the grounds to depict the way of life in Stafford by creating an Indian village similar to Jamestown. The Stafford village will include local Patawomeck tribal members tanning hides and making rope, fishing nets, canoes, arrowheads, bows, baskets, and pottery. It is a gradual process. The village opened in July, 2023
The village includes several longhouses, lean-tos, and wooden mortars for grinding corn.
The village was not lived in constantly and mostly in small numbers. During many parts of the year, it was fairly empty. Most commoners lived along the rivers and creeks and would come to the village several times a year and pay tribute, normally in fish. The village was used for sleeping. The Indians lived most of their lives outside
There are 3 long houses. Most were covered by poplar bark (small one to the right) or mats (larger middle one). The mats would have to be replaced one or more times a year and the poplar bark once.
The smaller one would accommodate a small extended family. There would be benches on the side and a hole in the middle for smoke from a fire in the middle. The poplar tree would be cut and while green, the Indians take the bark off. It would be put in a frame and bent. The ends would be shaped in an oval or gable-shaped. Generally, there would be horizontal beams tied with cordage to the sides.
The larger one has a fire pit. There are also nets displayed. The Indians originally made them by hand but shifted to the English way which involved using drills. They also created rope using rope walks from the English. Rather than spinning the rope by hand, workers would lay the strands down a long area and turn a crank that would twist the fiber strands into a usable rope.
Outside there is a dugout canoe. Actually, one poplar tree was responsible for two of these canoes. They also used pine for the dugout.
The inside would be burned out. They would take smoldering logs set along the middle and burn down the logs. It would take several times to do this.