Kinsearching August 26, 2007




Marleta Childs
P. O. Box 6825
LUBBOCK, TX 79493-6825

     Originally published in 1957 to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the founding of the first permanent English colony in America, the reprinting of Ben C. McCary's INDIANS IN SEVENTEENTH CENTURY VIRGINIA is appropriate for celebrating Jamestown's 400th anniversary in 2007. To help researchers understand the indigenous people who inhabited the area, McCary presents a comprehensive summary of the life and culture of the tribes known to reside in Virginia in the 1600s.

     At the time of English settlement, Virginia's tribes belonged to three linguistic groups: Algonquian, Iroquoian, and Siouan. According to estimates, the Indian population for the entire state totaled 18,000. The largest group is believed to have been the Algonquian. Often collectively called Powhatan Indians because their principal chief was Pocahontas's father Powhatan (an official name; his personal name was Wahunsonacock), they were actually a confederation of more than thirty tribes which included the Accomac, Appomattoc, Chickahominy, Kecoughtan, Mattaponi, Nansemond, Pamunkey, and Rappahannock.

     After a brief description of the main tribes in Virginia, the author focuses on their social organization, especially of the Algonquians. Among the topics discussed are village structure, houses, hair and clothes, cradles, food and its preparation, hunting and fishing methods, tobacco cultivation, ornamentation, tools, household utensils, weapons, division of labor, methods of warfare, musical instruments, games, marriage and burial customs, medical treatments, punishments for crimes, trade, festivals and ceremonies, means of communication, and religious beliefs.

     On the subject of tobacco, for instance, McCary states that it was offered to visitors as a sign of friendship. Its primary usage, however, was for religious purposes. Believing that tobacco pleased their gods, the Indians offered it to them on altars. When the weather was bad, they threw it on stormy waters to appease the spirits.

     Because the early English pioneers primarily dealt with the Powhatan confederation, information is more readily available about that group. Due to this fact, McCary's volume mainly concerns the Algonquians. As much as possible, however, he presents data on Indians of Iroquoian (Cherokee, Nottoway, and Meherrin) and Siouan (Manahoac, Monacan, and Saponi, for example) stock.

     To illustrate the narrative, McCary reproduces detailed drawings made by John White, member of the ill-fated Roanoke Colony. Also supporting the text are an essay pertaining to Virginia prehistory and a partially annotated bibliography. Anyone who wishes to read a brief introduction to the culture of the indigenous inhabitants encountered by the first English settlers in North America will enjoy INDIANS IN SEVENTEENTH CENTURY VIRGINIA.

     The paperback has 93 pages. To the book's price of $14.50, buyers should add the cost for postage and handling charges. For U. S. postal mail, the cost is $4 for one book and $2.00 for each additional copy; for UPS, the cost is $6 for one copy and $2.50 for each additional book. The volume (item order #9237) may be purchased by check, MasterCard, or Visa from Clearfield Company, 3600 Clipper Mill Rd., Suite 260, Baltimore, Maryland 21211 (for phone orders, call toll free 1-800-296-6687; fax 1-410-752-8492; website

     Just as numerous people have traveled to or plan to visit Virginia during the 400th anniversary celebration of the establishment of Jamestown, many people went to that state for the 300th anniversary commemoration. Miscellaneous items from THE TEXAS STOCKMAN JOURNAL, published in Fort Worth, TX, give insight into American lifestyles and events 100 years ago.

     Many festivities, of course, occurred in observance of Virginia's special commemoration. Perhaps due to wishful thinking, unsubstantiated reports circulated about certain events, such as Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show. An example comes from page 13 of the 5 June 1907 (vol. 27, no. 2) issue of THE TEXAS STOCKMAN JOURNAL.

     " The rumor that Buffalo Bill's show will go to the Jamestown exposition to show how people were robbed by wild west bandits is positively untrue."


     Railroad advertisements to attract customers wishing to attend the Jamestown Tri-Centennial Exposition held in Norfolk, VA, appears in several issues of THE TEXAS STOCKMAN JOURNAL. An example can be found on page 7 of the 12 June 1907 (vol. 27, no. 3) issue.

     Special rates from Fort Worth to Norfolk, VA, and return via the M K and T (Missouri, Kansas & Texas) Railway:

Class A - $53.60
Class B - $48.95
Class C - $68.60
Class D - $57.20

     For information regarding selling dates, limits, etc., customers were to call or address T. T. MCDONALD, C. P. & T. A., 906 Main St., Fort Worth.


     As one would expect, peanut sandwiches have long been popular. A century ago many travelers probably began their journey with homemade snacks or picnic meals. The following recipe appears on page 6 of the 26 June 1907 (vol. 27, no. 5) issue of THE TEXAS STOCKMAN JOURNAL:

     "By mixing peanut butter with milk and olive oil, delicious sandwiches are made."

Kinsearching Home Page