In 1608, Captain John Smith identified the village of Passaunkack at the location of the present day Upper Mattaponi. In 1676, the August Hermann Map shows several Indian houses along the Upper Mattaponi River directly at the location of the Upper Mattaponi people, identifying the region as Indian land.
The oldest surviving King William County records dated 1885 list non-reservated Indians bearing the surname Adams living in a settlement known as Adamstown. The name most likely originated with James Adams who served as an official interpreter between the British and Indians living in this area between 1702 to 1727.
The Adamstown band became officially known as the Upper Mattaponi Indian Tribe in 1921.