Who Was William Powell?

Colonizing the Americas wasn’t an easy task just asked the residents of Pennsylvania. You couldn’t bring everything over with you. You had to build settlements when you finished your journey overseas, and you had to find food on your own. If the members of the community weren’t up to the task and didn’t pull their own weight, then the community couldn’t thrive and sometimes didn’t survive at all. William Powell was known as somewhat as a gentleman by those around him, and he was a landowner and militia officer who was to play a major role in the new world in Virginia. He would become a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1619 and provide representation for James City County in Virginia before his death.

Powell made quite the splash during his time as one of the earliest Virginian colonists. Historians are not sure whether he was born in 1577 or 1585, as there were men born in the same years that bore the same name. What we do know is that he was born in England, and he travelled to Virginia with the Third Supply mission that was comprised of nine ships in 1609. This particular mission was important, as it would help resupply the surviving colonists in Jamestown who were in an increasingly precarious position.

It wasn’t long before Powell was put to work for the greater good.

The Acting Governor Captain at the time–John Percy–gave Powell the charge to capture or kill a chief of the Paspahegh, Wochinchopunck. The band of Native Americans was seemingly responsible for the killing of several colonists after having previously escaped custody. Powell failed to capture the man, and instead decided to put him to the sword. At this point Powell was made a captain. He was placed in a position of power in the small community, and allowed to take charge of the town defenses.

Friendly Native Americans provided a man named Richard Pace with advance warning of an imminent attack on the colony, and Pace went on to tell Powell. Subsequently, Powell was able to warn nearby plantations. Although this action probably helped minimize casualties and is that which Powell is best known for conducting, the attack was still a catastrophic slaughter. Around 350 of only 1,258 Virginia colonists were killed on the day of the attack, March 22, 1622.

The exact time of Powell’s death is also unknown, but historians agree it was either late 1622 or very early the next year. Not long after the Virginia massacre, the then Captain William Powell was killed during a raid while attempting to achieve vengeance against the Native Americans responsible for decimating their community.