Virginia map showing Werowocomoco, the capital of the Powhatan Chiefdom where Captain John Smith met Pocahontas

Werowocomoco to Become National Park

It’s official: Werowocomoco will become a national park. Specifically, it will become part of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail once it is opened to the public.

Werowocomoco was the capital of the Powhatan Chiefdom in the early 1600s during the time when the English were first colonizing what would later become Virginia. Many of you will remember the familiar story of Captain John Smith and Pocahontas, much of which took place in Werowocomoco. The ruins of the town are located on the bank of the York River in Gloucester County.

This news was announced earlier today in a press release from Governor McAuliffe’s office in conjunction with an official announcement by the U.S. Department of the Interior at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. Despite today’s press release, the property was actually acquired earlier this year. The Daily Press reports that the National Park Service purchased the property on June 15, 2016 for $7.1 million. The property encompasses approximately 264 acres.

The planning and design process for the new national park will begin in earnest by early 2017, according to the National Park Service website. The Daily Press reports that developing the site will take years, partly because of the necessary precautions that must be taken when disturbing an archeological site of this significance.

The site of Werowocomoco had been lost for many years until its rediscovery was announced in 2003. The Gloucester-Mathews Gazette-Journal reports that the former owners had begun to notice a large number of pottery shards and arrowheads lying on the surface of the property. Fortunately, one of the owners happened to be a volunteer at a local archeological dig and brought the artifacts to the attention of local archeologists.

Interest in preserving the site grew steadily in the following years. According to Governor McAuliffe’s press release, the site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006, and a portion of the property was protected by a conservation easement in 2013. Federal funding for including the site in the National Park System was proposed as early as 2014, according to Richmond Times-Dispatch article written at the time.

Although Werowocomoco is best known for its association with the Powhatan, today seven Indian tribes in Virginia are known to have cultural and ancestral links to the site.

The inclusion of Werowocomoco in the National Park System will clearly be of great importance. I for one am very curious to see how it will be developed. As always, stay tuned for more updates.

Published by

Derrick P. Fellows

Derrick P. Fellows is an attorney with Hawthorne & Hawthorne, P.C. in Victoria, Virginia. Follow him on Twitter at @dpfellows.