William Powell – Living in Jamestown Colony 1609


Captain William Powell (Sr) was born in England in 1577. He was described as a gentleman and he arrived in America on the Third Supply mission of nine ships, which brought additional settlers and some supplies to the surviving colonists at Jamestown Virginia in 1609.

On February 9, 1610, the Acting Governor Captain John Percy sent “Ensign Powell” and Ensign Waller to capture, or kill if necessary, Wochinchopunck, the chief of the Paspahegh and a sub-chief or tributary of the Powhatan. The chief had been harassing and killing colonists. He even had tried to kill Captain John Smith during the previous year but Smith subdued him and took him, prisoner, only to have him later escape. Finding they could not capture the strong Wochinchopunck, Powell killed him with a sword. Lieutenant Puttock, who had been closely following Powell and Waller, killed one of the chief’s men.

Deputy Governor Samuel Argall appointed William Powell as Captain, responsible for the Jamestown defenses and its blockhouses, and further appointed him lieutenant governor in 1617. Powell was a member of the first Virginia House of Burgesses in 1619, representing James City County, Virginia. Powell lived on the “Surry side” of James City County, on the south side of the James River from Jamestown, Virginia.

William Powell married Elizabeth Wells. They had two sons, William Jr and Walter.

In April 1622, soon after the Indian massacre of the inhabitants of Jamestown on March 22, 1622, Captain Powell established or at least secured rights to, property in order to establish a large plantation on the Chickahominy River. Richard Pace, an “Ancient Planter”, had 10 shares in this enterprise but soon ceded them to Captain Powell. William Powell himself was an “Ancient Planter.”

An Indian massacre of at least 347 of the 1,258 Virginia colonists occurred on March 22, 1622. Captain Powell, who was described as the “gunner” of James City County, was one of a few who received early word of the planned massacre and was “instrumental in giving warning to the plantations nearest Jamestown.” Most sources state that the friendly Indian who gave warning of the impending attacks told Richard Pace of the planned attack. Since Powell and Pace lived near each other and were business associates, it appears that Pace warned Powell and that both men proceeded to warn other people in the neighborhood of Jamestown, as stated in William Stith’s 1740 history of the colony.

William Powell was killed leading a party of militia against the Indians. The militias were seeking revenge for the March 22, 1622 massacre. Captain William Powell, as he is identified in the list of Burgesses, may have died in late 1622 or possibly in January 1623. A letter of January 24, 1623, from colonist John Harrison to his brother, Richard Harrison, states that Captain Powell, and others, were dead.

William Powell is my 9th Great Grandfather.

9 thoughts on “William Powell – Living in Jamestown Colony 1609

  1. Interesting story. I live only about 3 miles from Jamestown, in James City County, Virginia. Once things are a bit more open than they are now, let me know if there’s anything I can help you with in the local area. I also have an ancestor who lived in Pace’s Paine, the area (now in Surry County) across the river from Jamestown. My ancestor’s name was John Proctor. The Jamestowne Society does not recognize him as a qualifying member of the Jamestowne Society (because they can’t verify that he had any children), but a bunch of people who think they are his Descendents (including me) are working on establishing more facts about him.

    1. Thank you so much for the offer, I may take you up on itI hope you can prove. I have a lot of ancestors that lived in Jamestowne and the surrounding areas. I hope you can prove that John had children and can link him to you.

  2. Valerie, Powell is my ancestor too. But is there evidence that he had the two sons you list (since some researchers say he had no children). I would like to investigate whether I could prove him for Jamestowne Society, but would need that offspring proof! Do you also happen to know if he has already been proven for JS? Thanks. – Cathy

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