Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Chesapeake Region's First Horses Redux

In sorting through all the material that I've been collecting for this blog, on a search for something entirely different, I came upon an extract I'd made several years ago from the Historic Jamestowne website.

"Featured find #11" describes an artifact, dated to 1610, that was recovered during the excavation of the Jamestowne fort. Labeled a "bridled horse pipe bowl," it looks like this:

The maker of this pipe gave each side of the rim and ear, added a bit of clay to the back of the bowl to suggest a horse's arched neck, and inscribed lines on the front to portray a horse: two bands across the forehead and chin and two down the nose to represent a bridle, with eyes on either side of the head below the upper strap.

The horses brought to Jamestown no later than the arrival of the 3rd Supply in 1609 would almost certainly have been the first horses ever seen by the Powhatan. Gabriel Archer, one of the colonists who traveled to Virginia on The Blessing, recorded that the vessel called in at Plymouth expressly to pick up "six Mares and two Horses [stallions]." John Smith, inventorying the settlement's resources in the fall of that year noted the presence of the six mares but only one of the two horses. By the following spring, all the horses were gone: "as for our Hogs, Hens, Goats, Sheepe, Horse, or what lived, our commanders, officers, and Salvages daily consumed them . . . till all was devoured."

Between the arrival in August 1609 of the surviving ships of the third supply (one was lost at sea and a second shipwrecked on the Bermuda Islands) and the fate of the horses as nourishment for starving settlers, the Powhatan made the acquaintance of these new arrivals in their territory. Smith wrote of the Powhatan reaction to horses that "All things that were able to do them hurt beyond their prevention, they adore with their kinde of divine worship; as the fire, water, lightning, thunder, our ordinance [cannon], peeces [muskets], horses, etc." Because the Powhatan used tobacco for religious purposes, the archaeologists describing the pipe bowl write that "it makes sense that they would use the image of something they feared on a tobacco pipe."

Archer quote from Philip L. Barbour, The Jamestown Voyages under the First Charter, p.278; first Smith quote from Karen Ordahl Kupperman, Captain John Smith: A Select Edition of His Writings, p.130; second Smith quote from Philip L. Barbour, The Complete Works of Captain John Smith (1580-1631), I, p.169.

In 1642, Lion Gardener, at the time an official of Old Saybrook, Connecticut, observed the leader of a Native American group on Long Island explaining to his people the future that he foresaw for them if they did not take action to prevent it.

"For so are we all Indians as the English are and say brother to one another; so we must be one as they are, otherwise we shall be all gone shortly. For you know our fathers had plenty of deer and skins, our plains were full of deer, as also our woods, and of turkeys, and our coves full of fish and fowl. But these English have gotten our land, they with scythes cut down the grass and with axes fell the trees; their cows and horses eat the grass, and their hogs spoil our clam banks, and we shall all be starved."

From The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell.