The Virginia Company’s Fall – Part 2, Opechancanough’s 1622 Massacre

No one saw this coming. Not in England or in Virginia. The English and Powhatan Tribes had been living quite peacefully together for almost a decade by 1622, but after both Pocahontas and Powhatan’s deaths a few years prior, Opechancanough had nothing standing in his way to stop him from enacting his murderous plan.

Opechancanough was not yet completely in control of the Powhatan tribes, but his authority was second to none. Opitchapam might have been the supreme Werowance, but everyone, English and Indian alike, knew who was in charge.

Diplomatic ties all went through Opechancanough, and those actions seemed to ensure that all was well in Virginia, but all wasn’t well, and when one of the Powhatan’s most iconic warriors, Nemattanew, or Jack of the Feather, was killed in March 1622 the mood changed. But the English completely missed the warning, and for that, they would suffer.

Opechancanough had tussled with the likes of John Smith, and now he surprised the English with a well-planned raid in 1622



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  3. Craven, Wesley Frank. The Southern Colonies in the Seventeenth Century: 1607-1689. LSU Press, 1949
  4. Craven, Wesley Frank. The Virginia Company of London: 1606-1624Williamsburg, VA: Jamestown 350th Anniversary, 1957.
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  6. Hatch, Charles. The First Seventeen Years: Virginia 1607-1624. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 1991.
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  8. Hume, Ivor Noel. Here Lies Virginia. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1963.
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  10. Kupperman, Karen Ordhal. The Jamestown Project. Cambridge, MA: The Belknapp Press of Harvard University Press, 2007.
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  14. Smith, John. The Generall History of Virginia. 1624.
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  17. Wallenstein, Peter. Cradle of America: Four Centuries of Virginia History. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2007.
  18. Williams, Tony. The Jamestown Experiment: The Remarkable Story of The Enterprising Colony and the Unexpected Results that Shaped America. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2011.
  19. Wolfe, Brendan. “Virginia Company of London.” Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 10 Nov. 2016.
  20. Wooley, Benjamin. Savage Kingdom: The True Story of Jamestown, 1607, and the Settlement of America. New York: Harper and Collins, 2007.

Additional Links:

  1. Wolstenholme Towne by Colonial Williamsburg
  2. The Powhatan Attack by Virtual Virginia
Wolstenholme Town at Martin’s Hundred was among the hardest hit plantations on March 22, 1622




All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author. The Featured Image is of the Matthias Merian 1628 woodcut which depicts the 1622 Raid. The Opechancanough/John Smith encounter is from Smith’s own 1624 General History of Virginia. The final picture illustrates the destruction at Wolstenholme Towne.

Music used for this episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” available on iTunes, and “Trouble With Home” by Friendly Savages (ironically) also available on iTunes.