Location: Shenandoah Valley

Shenandoah Valley

Native Americans of the Shenandoah Valley

An Exclusive to AccessGenealogy: The following series of articles takes a look at the early Native Americans of the Shenandoah Valley region. Who peopled the area before European contact? How did these Native American’s influence the early events of American history? What archeological evidence remains of these people’s? Part one looks at a couple of unusual clues to the identity of early Shenandoah Valley residents. In part two the history of the Shenandoah Valley after the arrival of Europeans is summarized in order to understand why the Native American history has been largely forgotten. Part three explores the pre-European past of the Shenandoah Valley. Part four looks at many of the early European eyewitness accounts of the Shenandoah Valley and it’s peoples. Part five reviews the professional archaeological studies carried out in the Shenandoah Valley in recent years.

The Archaeological Evidence in Shenandoah Valley

Native American artifacts are frequently found in the Seven Bends area of the Shenandoah River between Woodstock and Strasburg, VA.  However, mounds and earthworks are mostly concentrated in the bends near the outlet of Toms Brook at Maurertown, VA.  The mounds were fairly prominent when settlers first arrived, but after 250 years of plowing, they generally can only be found in aerial photographs. Paleo-Indian Period Warren County During the 1990s, the Thunderbird Archaeological District was surveyed and partially excavated. Thunderbird consists of three sites that were occupied or utilized during the Paleo-Indian and Early Archaic Periods. It was the first

Rudes Hill Mound

Eyewitness Accounts to Early Indian Settlements in Shenandoah Valley

According to English maps and books of the late 1500s, Sir Francis Drake landed on the coast of Virginia, near the mouth of the James River in 1577. He named the region Virginia in honor of Queen Elizabeth I then explored the Chesapeake Bay for a few weeks. He then led a part of his fleet’s crewmen on horseback and foot along the James River for 10 days until they reached the summit of a mountain, where they could see a vast valley, covered in grasslands and fields. Drake’s memoir states that this valley was densely populated by agricultural Indians,

Exploration and Settlement of the Shenandoah Valley

The first recorded exploration of the Shenandoah Valley was by German immigrant, Johann Lederer, and several associates in 1670. They went as far west as present day Strasburg, VA, then turned around. His journey came on the heels of a decade of ethnic cleansing by the Rickohockens. Colonel Cadwallader Jones explored the central part of the valley in 1673. Colonial records do not document any more expeditions until 1705, when George Ritter, from Bern, Switzerland, led a party into the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, then decide to settle east of the valley. In 1719, Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord of

The Rickohockens’ Role in Native American Slavery

During the Third Powhatan War (1644-1646) warriors of the Rickohocken tribe, living near the headwaters of the James River, formed an alliance with Powhatan. They massacred all whites that they encountered as they marched down the James Valley. Over 500 white settlers were killed by the Native alliance. The Rickohockens probably would have destroyed the capital in Jamestown had not they run out of arrows. The colonists counter-attacked with firearms and steel weapons. The Rickohockens sued for peace. In order to keep the Rickohockens from attacking the English colonists again, Royal Governor William Berkeley, began making trade contracts with them