Henry Spelman (c. 1595 - 1622)

Henry Spelman, son of Erasmus Spelman, the brother of Henry Spelman,, historian and treasurer of the Guiana Company and member of the Council for New England. He came to Jamestown on the ship Unity in 1609. He was about fourteen years of age. Shortly after arrival, John Smith took him on an expedition to the falls of the James, near present day Richmond. Here he was "sold" to Taux-Powhatan, Chief Powhatan's son, in exchange for the site where Smith had planned to build a town. After about a week, Spelman returned to the ship that had brought him there and sailed to Jamestown. Shortly thereafter he along with Thomas Savage returned to live with Chief Powhatan where food was ample compared to Jamestown Fort. After six months, the Chief of the Patawomacks visited Powhatan. His kindness to Spelman, Savage, and Samuel, a Dutchman, enticed them to flee with the Patawomacks. Savage, fearing Powhatan's revenge, deserted and returned to tell Powhatan what had happened. When Powhatan's men came to take back the boys, the Patawomacks subdued them but not before Samuel was killed. Spelman lived with his protectors for a year until 1610. In March 1611, he returned to England but afterwards went back to Virginia to serve as an interpreter in 1616. By now he knew most of the Indian chieftans and spoke Algonquian. But in 1619 he ran into trouble when he told Chief Opechancanough that a better governor than Yeardley was coming to Jamestown. The House of Burgesses tried him for his behavior and ended his job as interpreter. He was trading with the Potomac Indians in March 1622, when Opechancanough launched his attack on English settlers up and down the James River, killing 347 colonists. A year later, The Anacostia Indians killed and beheaded Spelman near present day Washington, D.C., He left an account of what he learned about the Indians during the sixteen months he lived with them. It was not published until 1872, and although the account has stylistic problems and some inaccuracies, it remains a valuable source on Algonquian life and culture.


Brown, Alexander. The Genesis of the United States. 1964

Haile, Edward Wright. Jamestown Narratives. Eyewitness Accounts of the Virginia Colony. The First Decade: 1607-1617. 1998.

Sams, Conway Whittle. The Forest Primeval. An Account, Based on Original Documents of the Indians in that Portion of the Continent in which was Estabvlished the First English Colony in America. 1916.

Shifflett, Crandall. Virtual Jamestown. First Hand Accounts."Henry Spelman, Relation of Virginia," http://etext.virginia.edu/etcbin/ot2www-jamestown?specfile=/web/data/subjects/jamestown/persnarr.o2w&act=surround&offset=2568484&tag=Henry+Spelman.+Relation+of+Virginia&query=, accessed 11/12/2014.


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