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TRUE or FALSE: Middlesex County was once part of an Indian Reservation?

By Rob Warner (Donald Robert Warner) Deer Chase on the Piankatank (Storemont)

Well, this author thinks it is true, but please read on and make up your own mind.

My story begins long before Middlesex was part of America, back in the early days of Jamestown and the English Colony of Virginia. Most Virginians know that the Powhatan Indians led by Chief or Warroance “Opechancanough” massacred 350 English Colonists on March 22, 1622. Not so many Virginia Historians know Opechancanough did this again in 1644 and killed 500 colonists the second time. That time Opechancanough was captured and killed.

Then in October, 1646, a peace Treaty was signed with the new Powhatan Indian Chief “Necotowance.”

As part of the treaty all land North of the York River was given to the Indians. This only lasted a few days, and Jamestown changed this to all land North of the Piankatank River which is approximately half the original amount. This area, which was part of  “Greater Virginia” was then named the “Chicacoan Indian District “ (Indian Reservation?).

Officially, no Europeans were to settle in this area. The Chicacoan Indian District was named for the Chicacoan Indians who lived around the Coan River, (part of the Potomac Basin, Heathville today) but it did include several other tribes or parts of tribes who moved there.

Were the Indians satisfied? I think yes, but like most Jamestown “Deals” was short lived.

Then in 1648 Jamestown backed out of the treaty as they did many times when dealing with the Indians. This had only lasted two years, then Jamestown reduced the Chicacoan Indian District to about 4000 acres, in an area in what is now Lancaster County with no water, river or bay, access (very bad deal).

Over the next twenty years the Indians lost most of this 4000-acre area to encroaching English Settlers, in spite of many battles in the English Courts.

What else happened in 1648?

In 1648 Jamestown declared the Chicacoan Indian District was now Northumberland County and of course included the 4000 acres of Indian land.

This was truly a gigantic county, the largest in Virginia.

But colonists were so anxious to settle that it was quickly settled by Europeans.

It was also quickly divided into more normal sized counties, as follows.

One important note first is the Northumberland County Seat was Coan Hall the home of John Mottrom on the Coan River which is a great distance from Jamestown. It is over 55 miles away while all the other counties were less than 40 miles.

Now back to the counties formed from Northumberland: 1651 – Lancaster, 1653 – Westmoreland, 1656 – Rappahannock from Lancaster, 1664 – Stafford from Westmoreland, 1668- Middlesex from Lancaster, 1692 – Essex and Richmond formed from Old Rappahannock, and other counties west and north.

Now, if you Google American Indian Reservations you will find in Wikipedia that the first Indian Reservation was formed on  August 29, 1758. It was called The Brotherton Indian Reservation and was 3284 acres in southern New Jersey. Now this is about 20 years before America was formed, but nowhere near as old as the Chicacoan Indian District (Reservation) date of 1646, 102 years older. Also, in 1658 Virginia (Jamestown General Assembly ) formed the Mattaponi Indian Reservation and the Pamunkey Indian Reservation. Both these were reaffirmed in 1677, and still exist today.

I think Virginia had “The First Indian Reservation in America,” The Chicacoan Indian District, formed in 1636.

Today we must promote ourselves to keep the records straight.

My proposal or plan is for some of our local county school system history classes and teachers  research this and correct the history books, including Wikipedia.

Chicacoan in 1636, or Mattaponi, or Pamunkey in 1658. All are older than New Jersey 1758, or New England 1666.  As Virginians we should promote our history to give the rest of the country our facts.  Perhaps Virginia Tourism could also help. Perhaps you could help!

Note: Rob Warner is a member of Museums of Middlesex, and Northumberland Historical Society.

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