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Highway marker to recognize Indian village on Urbanna Creek

by Larry S. Chowning

The Virginia Department of Transportation will soon install a road marker on Route 227 near Rosegill denoting that John Smith’s mystery Indian town of “Opiscopank” was once located on the banks of Urbanna Creek.

In 1608, Smith and a group of Englishmen explored the Chesapeake Bay. Smith went back to England in 1609, and he drew his famous map of the Bay in 1610. The map designated locations of Indian towns. 

Smith showed on the map that there were two Indian villages in Middlesex—Piankatank on the southern border of the county living along the Piankatank River, and Opiscopank on Urbanna Creek.

“It is a mystery village,” said Deanna Beacham of the Virginia Council on Indians. “They were never mentioned again in any writing found from that time period. We know nothing about them but they are significant because they are mentioned on John Smith’s map.”

Forty years later on June 16, 1649, Captain Ralph Wormeley patented 3,200 acres of Rosegill and the grant speaks of two Nimcock Indian towns. “Captain Ralph Wormeley, 3,200 acs., . . . on the S. side of Rappahannock Riv. about 10 mile up the river, including the Indians Townes of old & new Nimcock.”

“It was the first and only time Nimcock was written down during that time period,” said Beacham. 

VDOT has ordered the marker and Beacham said she wants to let the county and town officials know about it. “I want to make sure that Middlesex County and the Town of Urbanna have a chance to be involved in or organize a dedication ceremony if they wish. This is important. We know Urbanna Creek is part of John Smith’s history and it is something to celebrate.”

The header on the marker will state, “Opiscopank—Smith’s Mystery Town.” The rest of the marker will read “While the Rosegill Plantation later became well known, historical records are silent on what became of the Nimcock Indians who lived at the former Opiscopank. Archaeological research found evidence of Middle to Late Woodland Indians habitation at several locations on the former Rosegill Plantation.”

Woodland Indians lived in the area from 500 BC to 1500 AD.

posted 02.09.2011

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