The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Powhatan

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The American Cyclopædia
Powhatan
Edition of 1879. See also Chief Powhatan on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

POWHATAN, an American Indian sachem, born about 1550, died in Virginia in April, 1618. His original name was Wahunsonacock, the name Powhatan being that of his early residence near the falls of the James river, on the present site of Richmond. He raised himself from the rank of a chieftain to the command of 30 tribes, which numbered about 8,000 souls. His dominions included the country between the rivers James and Patuxent, and in the interior as far as the falls of the chief rivers. After the extension of his power, he resided principally at Werowocomoco, on York river, in the present county of Gloucester. When the first expedition under Newport and Smith visited him at Powhatan, he treated them with hospitality. Subsequently Smith, according to his own story, was taken prisoner, and was about to be despatched when Powhatan, through the intervention of his daughter Pocahontas, spared his life, and ultimately sent him to Jamestown with strong protestations of regard. Recent investigations have thrown discredit upon this tale. When Newport subsequently returned to Virginia from England, he brought several presents, one of which was a crown, and the ceremony of coronation was performed a few days later. For the honor shown him, Powhatan gave Newport his mantle and old shoes. Captain Smith afterward made an unsuccessful attempt to capture the “emperor” in order to obtain a supply of corn; and in revenge Powhatan prepared to attack the English by night, but was foiled by the watchfulness of Pocahontas. The quarrels between Powhatan and the English did not cease until the marriage of his daughter with Rolfe, after which he was their firm friend.