Jamestown Burned! Interview with Eyewitness Thomas Mathews

(L-R) Thomas Mathews, portrayed by Willie Balderson and his bodyguard

Nathaniel Bacon’s 1676 burning of Jamestown was a watershed moment. It symbolized the end of an era, or better stated, the end of eras. The era of Jamestown’s position as colonial capitol, Berkeley’s governorship, Indian peace, and free blacks ended.

The conflict began when Robert Hen, Thomas Mathews’ overseer, was murdered by the Doeg Indians. Matthews, a Northern Neck merchant, witnessed much of the conflagration from start to finish, and penned an account years after the chief players had passed. His account is one of the major primary sources that shed light on this turbulent period.

Each year, on or as close to September 19th as possible, Historic Jamestown reenacts Mathews’ account. Willie Balderson, a spectacular actor with a wide repertoire spanning more than three centuries, transforms into Thomas Matthews, and with the aid of others walks his listeners through a cresset lined path.

Along the path the audience hears from a feisty New Town resident, a runaway slave, and heartbroken Mrs. Drummond as well as musket reports from the battle for Jamestown. It is a captivating performance that brings Bacon’s Rebellion to life before one’s eyes and leaves a deep impression not to be forgotten.

Mr. Mathews was so kind as to sit down and tell me what he had witnessed in this special interview. I trust you’ll be as impressed as I was.







All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The featured image is of reenactors staging the Burning of Jamestown.

Music used for this episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” available on iTunes, and “Summer” selections from Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, RV 315  movements I – Allegro non molto and III – Presto performed by Sarah Chang and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra also available on iTunes.


Virginia’s Native History – Interview with Dr. Ashley Spivey

Tsenacommacah, that’s what 17th Century English Virginia was called before the English named the land for Queen Elizabeth I. It loosely means “densely inhabited land.” By 17th Century standards the land was pretty well inhabited, and it was inhabited by the many tribes comprising the Powhatan Confederation. That Confederation greatly influenced 17th Century English settlements throughout the century and beyond as some of the Tribes in that alliance still dwell in Virginia today. That being the case, I wanted to bring to light Native Virginian’s fascinating lives and society. And I believe no one could better illustrate their lives and society than Ashley Spivey, herself a Pamunkey Tribe member.

Dr. Ashley Spivey joins me in this episode to discuss Indigenous Virginian history, the changes they felt, and the concerns facing modern Virginian tribes today. She brings to this discussion a spectacular wealth of information that has been forged through her upbringing, impressive academic credentials, and solid history and foundation work throughout Virginia’s landscape. Tune in, you’ll be glad you did!



  1. Custalow, Linwood “Littlebear”. The True Story of Pocahontas. Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 2007.
  2. Gallivan, Martin D. James River Chiefdoms: The Rise of Social Inequality in the Chesapeake (Our Sustainable Future). University of Nebraska Press, 2003.
  3. Gallivan, Martin D. The Powhatan Landscape: An Archaeological History of the Algonquian Chesapeake (Society and Ecology in Island and Coastal Archaeology). Gainsville, FL: University of Florida Press, 2016.
  4. Gleach, Frederic. Powhatan’s World and Colonial Virginia: A Conflict of Cultures (Studies in the Anthropology of North American Indians). Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2000.
  5. Lutz, Lara; Gallivan, Martin D.; Turner III, E. Randolph; Brown, David A.; Harpole, Thane; and Moretti-Langholz, Danielle. Virginia Indians at Werowocomoco. Richmond, VA: Virginia Department of Historic Resources, 2015.
  6. Rountree, Helen C. The Powhatan Indians of Virginia: Their Traditional Culture (The Civilization of the American Indian Series). Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1989.
  7. Rountree, Helen C. and Turner III, E Randolph. Before and After Jamestown: Virginia’s Powhatans and Their Predecessors (Native Peoples, Cultures, and Places of the Southeastern United States). Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press, 2002.
  8. Rountree, Helen C. Pocahontas’s People: The Powhatan Indians of Virginia Through Four Centuries (The Civilization of the American Indian Series). Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990.
  9. Rountree, Helen C. Pocahontas, Powhatan, Opechancanough: Three Indian Lives Changed by Jamestown. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 2006.
  10. Spivey, Ashley. “Knowing the River, Working the Land, and Digging for Clay: Pamunkey Indian Subsistence Practices and the MarketEconomy 1800-1900” College of William & Mary, Dissertations, Theses, and Masters Projects.Paper 1516639670, 2017.
  11. Waugaman, Sandra F. and Moretti-Langholz, Danielle. We’re Still Here: Contemporary Virginia Indians Tell Their Stories. Palari Pub, 2000.




All photography used on this site is owned and copyrighted by the author unless otherwise noted. The featured image is Dr. Ashley Spivey taken on the Pamunkey Reservation.

Music used for this episode – Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers,”Carry Me Back to Old Virginia” available on iTunes, and “Uranus, The Magician” from the Planets Orchestral Suite Op. 32 by Gustav Holst performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Colin Davis, also available on iTunes.

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



  1. Billings, Warren M.; Selby, John E.; and Tate, Thad W. Colonial Virginia: A History. White Plains, NY: KTO Press. 1986.
  2. Craven, Wesley Frank. White, Red, and Black: The Seventeenth Century Virginian. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 1977.
  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.
  5. Dabney, Virginius. Virginia: The New Dominion, A History from 1607 to the Present. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 1971.
  6. Hatch, Charles. The First Seventeen Years: Virginia 1607-1624. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 1991.
  7. Horn, James. A Land as God Made It: Jamestown and the Birth of America. New York: Basic Books, 2005.
  8. Hume, Ivor Noel. Here Lies Virginia. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1963.
  9. Kelso, William M. Jamestown: The Buried Truth. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 2006.
  10. Kupperman, Karen Ordhal. The Jamestown Project. Cambridge, MA: The Belknapp Press of Harvard University Press, 2007.
  11. Mapp, Alfred J. Virginia Experiment: The Old Dominion’s Role in the Making of America, 1607-1781Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, Inc., 2006.
  12. Price, David A. Love and Hate in Jamestown: John Smith, Pocahontas, and the Start of a New NationNew York: Vintage, 2003.
  13. Rothbard, Murray N. Conceived in Liberty. Auburn, AL: Ludwig Von Mises Institute, 1999.
  14. Smith, John. The Generall History of Virginia. 1624.
  15. Strachey, William. Collected Works on the Internet Archive.
  16. Tyler, Lyon Gardiner. The Cradle of the Republic: Jamestown and the James River. Richmond, VA: The Hermitage Press, 1906.
  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.