Louisa County Historical Society

The Native Americans of Louisa County
Contributed by
Michael B. Seaton

I have long been interested in Native American peoples. My father’s grandmother was half-blood Cherokee, and lived in Oklahoma as a result of her family’s “Trail of Tears” experience in the 1830’s and the later Oklahoma land rush of 1893. My father often talked about his grandmother and how beautiful she was, even in her later years. Our family moved to Kansas when I was young and during my youth I did a lot of hunting and fishing and found stone artifacts during my long walks hunting. I still have them. I guess this introduction is a way of saying that I found an early interest in Native Americans that has never been very far out of my mind.

In 1997 I began preparing fields at our Louisa farm for a vineyard. My interest in Native American artifacts was piqued again by the discovery of several arrowheads in the vineyard site. The arrowheads were small and very simple, made mostly from white quartz which is abundant in this area.

After finding these arrowheads I really began to think about the Native American peoples who lived in Virginia and specifically in Louisa County. At our farm there is a strong spring. It would have been a good source of fresh drinking water. Dr. Geoffrey Cooper of Richmond, bought a nearby farm and also began planting a vineyard. I helped him begin the process of preparing his fields for grapevines and discovered numerous stone artifacts behind his winery building, which is also near a spring. Since then, he and his partner, Dr. Jacque Hogg have found hundreds of stone artifacts in their vineyards. Both of our farms are very close to Northeast Creek – a good hunting and fishing area (still is). indian nationsI have included pictures of the White Walnut Vineyards and Cooper Vineyards artifacts along with some description of their types and approximate ages. I also have included photographs of the small but very interesting collection of stone artifacts in the museum.

It is now known that Native American Indians lived in this area for many thousands of years before the European explorers arrived. It is generally accepted that Indian tribes lived in this area for perhaps 12,000 to 14,000 years before the Spanish explorers and (later) the English settlers arrival. It is also widely accepted now that our Native American ancestors crossed over a land bridge from Asia into Alaska and migrated South – eventually populating both the North American and South American continents.

In fact, long before the arrival of European explorers, virtually the entire North American Continent was home to thousands of native tribes living in thousands of villages and towns from coast to coast. There were also nomadic bands, but most lived in villages and towns. They planted crops, domesticated many different animals, and actively traded with other villages and tribes –with many of them traveling over well-worn trading routes extending over hundreds of miles.

Native American Indians of our area and those across the North American Continent spoke many languages, were deeply religious, possessed a keen understanding of nature, and had a highly developed sense of art. It has also been found that they realized the depth of the generations that had gone before them. While recorded history of these people is scant to non-existent, they left behind literally millions of stone artifacts which nature has preserved for thousands of years.

My own thinking about Indian people living in North America began with learning in school about Columbus and August 3, 1492 when he set sail from Spain. I vaguely recalled that Columbus discovered Indians of the North eastern part of this continent and befriended them. I have recently learned that Columbus wrote glowingly about a friendly and gentle people upon his return to Spain. His stories set off something like a Spanish gold rush to this continent. The actions of most of these adventurers were most unfortunate. Acting in the name of the Spanish Crown, and as a result of Columbus’ reports, Spanish adventurers plundered, raided, killed, and kidnapped thousands of these gentle people.

Author Angie Debo, in her epic work, A History of the Indians of the United States, describes the Spanish stampede to this continent as nothing less than a disaster for these friendly and gentle native people. By 1501, the Portuguese explorer Gaspar Corte-Real had kidnapped two shiploads of Indians to be sold as slaves back in his own country. During the next 100 years, thousands of ships would come to the East Coast and capture untold thousands of Indians to be sold into slavery in Europe. In fact, on Columbus’ second voyage to this continent he established a colony on the Island of Cuba and set about subjugating the Indians there. By 1515 the Spanish had established 17 towns on the island and the Native Indian population had shrunk from 250,000 to fewer than 14,000. The “island of Florida” and the rest of the East Coast were given this same plundering treatment at the hands of Spanish “explorers”. It is a miracle that the English explorers who later settled Jamestown in 1607 were not immediately set upon and killed by the Indians

I am a little off track here with this story, though I thought this part of the early European settlement history of our area needed to be told. Native Indians of our area, the Monacan and Souian, were probably aware of the plundering being done by European explorers. Indians traded extensively with each other and traveled far and wide up and down the East Coast. Their “network” of contacts must have told them what was happening with the early explorers and even some of the settlers. According to accounts, the coastal Indians were alternately hostile and hospitable. The Coastal Indians were to eventually attack the Jamestown settlers. Partly as a result of the attack, but mostly as a result of their own failure to plant crops and provide food for themselves, the settlers only barely survived. Captain John Smith, according to accounts, spent most of his time alternately chasing the Indians and then begging them for corn instead of preparing the settlers for the coming winter. Unfortunately, for everyone, the worst was yet to come.

The Indian Chief, Powhatan, had pulled together an alliance of the Coastal Native Tribes in the Tidewater. His efforts did not include the Monacan tribes of Louisa County. The Monacan tribes were separate and Powhatan considered them to be distinctly different from Tidewater Indians and even quite hostile to his tribes. Pattie Cooke, editor and author of Louisa County History, wrote about Captain John Smith being advised by Chief Powhatan to not journey to “Monanacah”. Powhatan’s son explained that the “Monanacah” were an enemy who “comes at the fall of the leaf to invade our country”. John Smith’s account is the earliest recorded commentary about Louisa’s Indians.

Powhatan died in 1618 and was succeeded by his warlike brother, Opechancanough. In 1622, his tribes killed 347 English settlers, – possibly in retaliation for the English kidnapping of Powhatan’s daughter, Pocahontas. Pocahontas had been taken to England, just as thousands of Indians had been kidnapped and sold into slavery during the previous hundred years. Although her captivity was relatively benign, it was still kidnapping. Even her later marriage to John Rolfe did not change what had happened to her and the feeling of rage among the Indians.

Twenty two years later, in 1644, Opechancanough again attacked settlers in the Tidewater area, killing more than 300. His cause was in vain, however, since the English settlers now numbered more than 8,000. Among the surviving English settlers, I have learned, was my own first ancestor in Virginia. John Seaton, age 19, had arrived from London at Jamestown on August 7, 1635, on a sailing ship called The Globe.

But I digress. This pattern of the English Crown sending settlers with land grants and adventurous explorers to subjugate, kidnap, and attempt to convert Indians to Christianity would persist for many years after the 1644 attack. During the next hundred years the settlers pushed nearly all Native Peoples out of Louisa County.

I found it interesting that Thomas Jefferson had a keen interest in Native People of our area. In 1801 he published a description of his investigations of a mound near Monticello. Jefferson's efforts may have been the first organized Native American peoples site excavations conducted in North America. Jefferson concluded that the mound and its artifacts were the ancient work of ancestors of the Indians living in his time. His views were not generally accepted until 100 years later.

The first photograph on the next page contains artifacts found at White Walnut Farm in one of our fields as we were preparing the ground for our vineyard. I now call the site “Arrowhead Vineyard”. These artifacts all appear to be broken or have nicks in them, no doubt due to many years of the ground being plowed.

The lower right hand corner of the photograph shows a nearly intact point that is most readily identifiable. This point is classified as a “Guilford – Round Base” in the 6th edition of The Overstreet Identification Guide. According to the Guide, this small point (about an inch and a half long) comes from the Middle Archaic period of between 6,500 and 5,000 years ago. This point is made from milky quartz as are all of the points in the picture except for the dark one above it. Milky quartz is quite abundant in Louisa County but very difficult to work because of numerous internal fractures and cracks caused by extreme heat when the rock was formed. The fact that this material was made into useful tools at all is a tribute to the skill and abilities of the people who lived here and made them.

The dark point above the milky quartz point is made of silicified slate and is not completely finished. This material is also plentiful in Louisa County. This point is very likely much older than the milky quartz point. The slate point is also an inch and a half long and probably belongs to the “Bolen Bevel” classification. This point comes from the Early Archaic period of 10,000 to 7,000 years ago. This makes it easily the oldest point in my small collection.

The next photograph is part of the collection found at Cooper Vineyards behind the winery building. These artifacts are also all made of milky quartz and all date to the same periods mentioned above. In addition to the stone points in the photograph, Dr. Cooper also found a stone axe very near a spring on his property.

These artifacts from the Cooper Vineyards collection include three of the “Guilford Round Base” types from 6,500 to 5,000 years old. The three points in the second row from the right are very good examples of this period. The first row at the right also contains examples of another type not found on my property. The top right two points in the first row are likely from the Early Archaic period of 9,000 to 7,000 years ago. These points would probably be assigned to the “Kirk Bifurcated” classification and are also made of milky quartz. The other points in the photograph are pieces of artifacts from similar classifications and about the same time periods.

The photographs that follow were taken of the Louisa County Historical Society Museum’s Native American Artifacts Collection. The Museum is indebted to Quintus Massie for donating most of this collection to the citizens of Louisa County. Quintus found these artifacts at White Farm on White Creek, North of Louisa and West of Goldmine Creek. Not in these photographs are a few other items found on Louisa County farms and donated to the Museum. For example, a stone axe found behind slave quarters on “Ionia” was donated by Mr. D.F. Hanger. Another stone axe was donated by Mr. Charles W. Wood and it comes from near the South Anna River. And, there are two large rocks in the Museum donated by Mary F. Rosson that were found in the Mid-1800s by Jabez Massie on what is now Panamint Farm.

Although quite small by most museum standards, this collection is important to Louisa County’s ancient history. It is important to point out, however, that although small, the Museum collection contains a very, very old Native American artifact. In the first Museum photograph the dark, two-colored stone point in the center is called a “Clovis” point. It dates from the early Paleo Period of 14,000 to 9,000 years ago. Close examination of this point shows it is of the un-fluted type. The flaking marks are parallel and distinctively of this type. This un-fluted Clovis point is very rare and it is of great interest that it was found in Louisa County.

The Clovis point comes from the oldest humans known to inhabit the Northern Hemisphere. This culture is believed to have developed this type of tool after early man crossed the Bering Straits to come to this continent 50,000 years ago. Current thinking by archeologists is that the Clovis culture originated in Florida, since numerous examples of Clovis artifacts are found there. Clovis points of this period and type are also found all over the United States.

This first museum photograph also contains a large ( nearly 5 inch ) light colored point which probably tipped a spear. There are two large points of this type in the museum’s collection which I have not been able to classify. It is possible that these large points were trade items that were made elsewhere and ended up in the county as a result of distant travel or travelers.

The next museum photograph also contains a very interesting set of points of widely differing ages. The distinctly triangular points in the upper right and lower left-hand corners are of the “Hillsboro” classification and are quite young – 300 to 200 years ago. The points are in nearly perfect condition and also made of milky quartz. On the other extreme, the light colored point in the lower center of the photograph is a “Kirk Corner Notched” and is between 9,000 and 6,000 years old. The center of the photograph contains a stone tool of, as yet, undetermined use. The tool has two holes about an eighth of an inch in diameter and has notches on each end.

I could go on, and on about the various classifications, type, and age of artifacts in the Louisa County Historical Society’s Museum collection. There are many more which have been identified and classified but, you can see there is more than meets the eye in this small but important collection. I will be putting some identifying tags and guides together so visitors can see for themselves how interesting this collection really is. This article was written as a very modest contribution to understanding Louisa County’s rich Native American heritage. I wish to encourage readers to donate or loan to the museum any artifacts they may have of Louisa County origin. These artifacts will be included in an expanded display of the County’s ancient stone tool history.

Native Americans         Native Peoples Timeline    

See our Facebook page
Louisa County Historical Society • P.O. Box 1172 • Louisa, Virginia 23093 • 540-967-5975