When we were preparing the ground for the first vineyard site, after clearing the land, burning the stumps and debris and countouring the ground a bit, we were walking the site with our viticulture consultant, Paul Mierzejewski. Paul looked down and spotted a small arrrowhead. We don’t know which tribe may have produced it, but in honor of the find we call that vineyard Arrowhead.
It goes without saying that Virginia’s first people have been here since time immemorial. Today there are 11 organized tribes and two small reservations in the Commonwealth. According to the website supported by the Virginia Department of Education called Virginia’s First People, Federal Census figures show that there are about 15,000 people of Indian ancestry living in Virginia.
The two Virginia reservations are located in Prince William County and date from the 1600s; these are inhabited by the Pamunkey and the Mattaponi. Nine other groups are officially recognized as Indian tribes by the Commonwealth: the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) in Southampton County; the Chickahominy in Charles City County; the Chickahominy Indian Tribe — Eastern Division in New Kent County; the Monacan Indian Tribe in Amherst County; the Nansemond Indian Tribal Association in the City of Chesapeake; the Nottoway Indian Tribe of Virginia in Southampton County; the Patawomeck Tribe in Stafford County; the Rappahannock Indian Tribe in Essex, Caroline, and King & Queen Counties; and the Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe in King William County.
Which tribe might have made our arrowhead? We know that historically the area around Charlotte County was inhabited by the Saponi Indians, who were known to have had a village on the Staunton River on Otter Creek, southwest of Lynchburg in the 1670s. Other tribes that lived in the area and were closely related to them were the Occoneechi, the Tutelo and the Nahyssans. The Saponi and the Occaneechi were the tribes were wrongly attacked by Nathaniel Bacon the younger in retaliation for raids carried out in 1676 by the Doeg tribe. Decimated by the attacks, the Saponi relocated to three islands near Clarksville with the Tutelo and Nahyssans. Those islands now lie under Buggs Island Lake, and archaeological digs were conducted in the years prior the filling of the reservoir in an effort to preserve as many artifacts as possible.
Where can you learn more about our Native American predecessors? There are several sites quite close to Annefield. Start with a visit to the South Boston-Halifax County Museum of Fine Arts & History. The American Indian Gallery exhibits an extensive collection of Native American artifacts that were excavated by local collectors from 1966 to 1970 from several sites near Nelson Island, which is now underwater on the Halifax County side of Buggs Island Lake. The collection of mostly 17th century obtjects was donated to the museum by Mr and Mrs John H. Wells, and includes numerous stone tools, bone fish hooks, gorgets, awls, and pottery, though these artifacts are believed to be of Susquehannock origin rather than Occaneechi.
Making your way to the northeast from South Boston, the next stop is the Randolph Depot, which is part of the Staunton River Battlefield State Park. At the time of the battle in 1863, it was known as Roanoke Station, and the depot was burned by the Union Army as they left the area. The present depot dates from 1910. For a time it served as a transfer point for freight traveling up the river by bateau, which was off-loaded and transferred to rail cars. After being rolocated (then returned), the depot re-opened on 31 May 2002 as the Roanoke Visitor Center, where it houses an archealogical exhibit of Native American artifacts excavated from Staunton River Battlefield by the Longwood University Archaeological Field School.
This takes you closest to Annefield, so stop in for a visit. Continue on to Chase City, home to the MacCallum More Museum & Gardens. The artifact collection there was collected by Arthur Roberston, and includes tools and weapons dating from 9,500 BC to about 1600. The exhibit includes a life-size replica of Mr Robertson’s log cabin, where he housed his collection. The exhibits include Mr Robertson’s journals, which provides information on where many of the artifacts were found, mostly in Mecklenburg and Halifax Counties.
Continue south to Clarksville for the Springfield Rosseechee Museum, which is home to the legendary artifact collection of the late Judge John W. Tisdale (Judge Tisdale was a Mecklenburg County court judge for more than 40 years and the longest-tenured mayor in Clarksville town history, and was a devoted historian — the bridge over Buggs Island Lake is named for him). This collection includes more than 20,000 stone artifacts, from Folsom points to 17th-century Indian relics.
The last stop is the Occoneechee State Park Visitor Center & Museum, which features a park with 18.1 miles of trails that allow the guest to experience the history of the Occoneechee Indians and plantation life in the 1800s. Facilities at the park include cabins, campsites, equestrian camping, picnic shelters, an amphitheater, a playground, boat ramps, and a private concession offering fishing and pontoon boat rentals as well as snacks. The visitor center and museum introduce visitors to Native American culture and the indigenous Occoneechee people. Visitors can learn about the “The Occoneechi Story” through an exhibit in the park’s visitor center. The story begins in 10,000 to 8,000 BC with the Paleo-Indian era, and continues through European contact and beyond. A timeline, artifacts, and a reproduction of an Occaneechi style dwelling, or ati, bring the story alive. Indeed, the Occaneechi people survive as a small community in Alamance County, North Carolina. Now known as The Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation, they work to preserve and promote their history and culture, and pursue economic development projects.
An excellent guide to the Native American peoples of Virginia is available online, The Virginia Indian Heritage Trail. Another excellent place to learn more is this website, Virginia’s First People: Past and Present.
South Boston-Halifax County Museum of Fine Arts & History, 1540 Wilborn Avenue, South Boston, Virginia 24592 (434) 572.9200
Randolph Depot, 1035 Fort Hill Trail, Randolph, Virgina 23962 (434) 454.4312
MacCallum More Museum & Gardens, 603 Hudgins Street, Chase City, Virgina 23924 (434) 372.0502
Springfield Rosseechee Museum, 289 Tisdale Lane, Clarksville, Virginia 23927 (434) 374.8216
Occoneechee State Park Visitor Center & Museum, 1192 Occoneechee Park Road, Clarksville, VA 23927 (434) 374.2210