“He sould me to him for a towne”; an excerpt from “Relation of Virginia, 1609” by Henry Spelman (1613)


In this excerpt of “Relation of Virginia, 1609,” probably written in 1613 but not published until 1872, the English colonist Henry Spelman describes sailing from England to Jamestown in 1609, when he was just fourteen years old, and how he came to live first with Powhatan‘s son Parahunt (referred to as “littel Powhatan”) just prior to the start of the First Anglo-Powhatan War (1609–1614). Spelman later lived with Powhatan himself, but when the mamanatowick used Spelman to lure a company of Englishmen led by John Ratcliffe into an ambush, Spelman fled to the Patawomeck Indians. In his account, Spelman also mentions John Smith, Thomas Savage, Sir Thomas Gates, Sir George Somers, and Samuel Argall.


Beinge in displeasuer of my frendes, and desirous to see other cuntryes, After three moneths sayle we cum with prosperus winds in sight of Virginia wher A storme sodenly arisinge seavered our fleete, (which was of x sayle) every shipp, from other, puttinge us all in great daunger for vii or viii dayes togither. But the storme then ceasing our shippe called the unitye cam the next morning saffly to an anker at Cape Henry, the daye of October 1609, Wher we found thre other of our fleete, and about a senight after thre more cam thether also. The residew Amongst which was Sir Thomas Gates and Sir George Summers Knights wear not hard of many monthes after our arivall.

From Cape Henry we sayled up the River of Powahtan & with in 4 or 5 dayes arived at James toune, wher we weare joyfully welcomed by our cuntrymen beinge at that time about 80 persons under the goverment of Capt Smith, The Præsidant. Havinge heare unladed our goods & bestowed sum senight or fortnight in vieinge of the cuntry, I was caried By Capt Smith our Presidant to the Fales, to the litell Powhatan wher unknowne to me he sould me to him for a towne caled Powhatan and leavinge me with him the litle Powhatann, He made knowne to Capt weste how he had bought a toune for them to dwell in desireing that captaine West would come & settle himself there, but captaine Weste having bestowed cost to begine a toune in another place misliked it: and unkindnesse thereuppon ariseing betweene them Capt Smith at that time repliede litell but afterward conspired with the Pohawtan to kill Capt weste, which Plott tooke but smale effect, for in the meane time Capt Smith was Aprehended, and sent abord for England, my self havenge binn now about vii or viii dayes with the litell Powhatan who though he made very much of me giving me such thinges as he had to winn me to live with him. Yet I desired to see our english and therfore made signes unto him to give me leave to goe to our ship to feach such thinges as I leafte behind me, which he agreed unto and settinge himselfe doune, he clapt his hand on the ground in token he would stay ther till I returned. But I staying sumwhat to long, at my cumminge to the place wher I leaft him I found him departed wheruppon I went backe to our shipp beinge still in the Fales and sayled with them to James toune. wher not beinge long ther, Before one Thomas Savage with 4 or 5 Indians cam from the great Powhatan with venison to Capt: Percye who now was president. After the delivery therof and that he must returne he was loith to goe with out sum of his cuntrymen went with him, wher uppon I was apoynted to goe, which I the more willinglie did, by Reason that vitals were scarse with us, cariinge with me sum copper and a hatchet which I had gotten. Cumminge to the Great Powetan I presented to him such thinges as I had which he took, usinge me very kindly, And After I had bin with him about 3 weekes he sent me backe to our English bidding me to tell them, that if they would bring ther ship, and sum copper, he would fraught hir backe with corne, which I having reported to our English and returning ther answer to the Kinge, He before ther cumminge layd plots to take them, which in sum sort he affected, for xxvi or vii they killed which cam towards land in ther long boate, and shott many arrows into the shipp, which our men perseyving and fearinge the worst, wayed anker and returned. Now whil this busines was in action the Powhatan sends me and one Samwell a Dutchman To a toune about xvi miles of, caled Yawtanoone willinge us ther to stay for him, At his cumminge thether we understood how althinges had passed by Thomas Savage, as before is related, the Kinge in shew made still much of us yet his mind was much declined from us which made us feare the worst, and having now bin with him about 24 or 25 weekes, it happned that the Kinge of Patomeck cam to visitt the great Powetan, wher beinge a while with him, he shewed such kindnes to Savage Samuell and my self as we determined to goe away with him, when the daye of his departure was cum, we did as we agreed and havenge gone a mile or tow on that way, Savage fayned sum excuss of stay & unknowne to us went backe to the Powetan and acquaynted him with our departing with the Patowomeck. The Powetan presenly sends after us comandinge our returne: which we refuseing went still on our way: and thos that weare sent, went still on with us. till one of them finding oportunity on a sunden strooke Samuell with an axe and killed him, which I seinge ran a way from a monge the cumpany, they after me, the Kinge and his men after them, who overtake them heald them, till I shifted for my self and got to the Patomeckes cuntry, With this King Patomecke I lived a year and more at a towne of his called Pasptanzie, untill such time as an worthy gentleman named Capt: Argall arived at a toune called Nacottawtanke, but by our english cald Camocacocke, wher he understood that ther was an english boy named Harry, He desiringe to here further of me cam up the river which the Kinge of Patomeck hearringe sent me to him and I goinge backe agayne brought the kinge to the shipe, wher capt: Argoll gave the Kinge copper for me, which he received Thus was I sett at libertye and brought into England.

Colonist Henry Spelman describes life in Virginia in 1609 in "Relation of Virginia, 1609."
APA Citation:
Spelman, Henry. “He sould me to him for a towne”; an excerpt from “Relation of Virginia, 1609” by Henry Spelman (1613). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
Spelman, Henry. "“He sould me to him for a towne”; an excerpt from “Relation of Virginia, 1609” by Henry Spelman (1613)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 29 May. 2024
Last updated: 2020, December 07
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