Our Past

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.

23 Responses to Our Past

  1. Dolores Dragan says:

    My grandparents came from Czechoslovakia along with many others from their country and settled in Woodford Va in 1902. Their farm was on the Mattaponi River and the land was in the corridor of the civil war. They cleared the land and found many artifacts left by the soldiers that most likely camped there. Across the Mattaponi my mother (as a child) found numerous arrowheads and artifacts. I would like to know which tribe settled there. There was an adjoining farm which did have slaves during the civil war…..my mother had the opportunity to meet a former slave who traveled farm to farm cooking molasses. He told stories of what he saw as a child slave. His last name was Chew, and I believe I ddound him, his family, and his last owner. I treasure these memories and am obsessed with finding out about the land. That was so dear to me.


    Is there a person named Everett Adams?
    My grandparents knew someone by the name Blackfoot.
    My mom used to know some Mataponi guys, they had names like vegetables like “cabbage” etc.
    My grandparents knew Chief Custalow…I’m not sure if I spelled name correctly.
    Hope this helps.
    Joanie Robbins

    • Brenda says:

      Chief Custalow was a member of the Mattaponi Indian Tribe. While we’re very close, the Upper Mattaponi is a separate entity.

  3. Kathy Efaw says:

    Have been researching only a few months my husbands family. We were told that his fathers mother was 1/2 Blackfoot and her father was full blood Blackfoot. Her fathers last name was Adams. This is exciting. He maybe from the Upper group.

  4. Lisa M. Jones says:

    My great grandmother names was Ollie Lee Nelson. I am trying to find out what tribe she belonged to. She was married to George Jeter. they had 14 children. I need the information to complete my family tree on my grandfather Watts Jeter. I know tha my great- grandmother was 100% native american. Any information will be greatly appreciated.

  5. Margaret Davis says:

    My Native Ancestors Costello/Costelow/Costalo I would like to hear from others of this surname and their connections.

    • bbell says:

      Hi Margaret. I’m not an expert, but most of the Custalows I know were members of the Mattaponi. While the two tribes are very close (my mother was Mattaponi and my father was Upper Mattaponi), it is a different tribe. You might want to check the other site at http://www.mattaponitribe.com/.

  6. Margaret Davis says:

    My fourth greatgrandmother was Mary Martha Mataponi (Kee Est Ta Kee) whose father was said to be Tomocoma Powhatan. It was said that the Powhatan and Mataponi tribes merged. I am searching for information or where this might be.

    • bbell says:

      You might want to check out some of the books by Helen Roundtree. She’s done years of research on the Virginia tribes.

  7. Barb CJ says:

    Peace & Blessings,

    Some of my ancestors were Greens, Reeds & Madisons. They lived in Mattaponi country & attended Powwow there several years ago. When is Mattaponi Powwow & Is it possible for me to locate my relatives there?

    Thank You in advance for your reply.

    In Loving Light,


    • bbell says:

      Pow-wow information is on the Pow-Wow page.

      • Barb Cooke-James says:

        Thank you for the powwow information. Please advise me regarding the best way to learn more about my Native American relatives: Greens & Madisons. I can be reached at . Thank you

        Added by moderator:

        If anyone has information that may be of interest to Barb, please reply to this comment and I’ll try to connect you.

  8. Jeremiah Bradley says:

    I most recently found out that my great grandfather was full blooded Native American Indian of the Mattaponi tribe his name was Vollie Smith he married and Australia smith I just wanted to know if there was evidence backing this up if so I would love to find out more information

    • bbell says:

      While close friends, the Mattaponi and Upper Mattaponi are two different tribes, each with its own reservation. If you’re referring to the former, you might want to contact the Mattaponi Reservation. It looks like their web site is under construction, but the fan site seems to be active.

  9. Netanya says:

    Hi im doing some research on my ancestory and I was told that my 4x great grandmother was mataponi indian and her name was Sally but she was disowned for marrying a black man but thats all we know. Does her name ring a bell to anyone. I really want to know more about my families past.

  10. Dr. Ja A. Jahannes says:

    My grandmother was Cali Waverly Jeter. Her father was Waverly Jeter. I believe the Jetter clan lived in and around Sparta Virginia and Bowling Green. They are mixed Native American, African American and white. Derek Jeter is a cousin. I want to know if there are good books about this family connection. Ja

  11. Rachel Shumate says:

    I am doing a project on the upper mattaponi and I need some help with the research paper and topics. If anyone can give me some help let me know by replying. It would really help. Thanks!

  12. Marcelus Wilkinson says:

    OOOOOOOHHHHHHH so thats why my grampas last name is adams…its crazy how the whole tribes sirname stayed the same for many years.

    • Kelly Chappelle says:

      Dear Hon. Ken Adams,
      My name is Kelly Chappelle, my Adams, Lewis, and Nikicta relations lived in Virginia and were members of the Mataponi Tribes. I would like to submit my application and genealogy documentation to your tribe for membership.
      I need to know how to get an application form. Please email me the necessary contact information.
      Thank you for your help.
      With highest regards.
      Your cousin,
      Kelly Chappelle

  13. Mark G. Glass says:

    I was told by my uncle Dennis Gwathmey that my Great Grandmother was indian, her name was Netti Gwathmey Her children were John Gwathmey(deceased),my Grandfather, Harden Gwathmey (his Brother), Roscoe Gwathmey (brother) Ginter Gwathmey (Brother)and Elizabeth Gwathmey/McAllister. All of which lived or live in King William County. Also, my Great Grandmother used to live right next to my cousins the VESSELS, Ida (momma Ida) and husband Robert (poppa robert). My question is does any recognize any of these names? I was also told I might be from the Cuspilo Tribe but havent found any info. Please help?

    • Steffanie Thurston-F says:

      You seem to have a lot of information to go on. I am not familiar with a tribe named Cuspilo but Custalow is a common and very prestigious name of the Mattaponi tribe in King William County, VA. King William also has the distinction of having the oldest courthouse in VA and maybe the U.S. that was still in service when I graduated King William H.S. in 1988. They should have records of some or all of your family and you could check the records that the tribe itself has collected. Find a number for the Mattaponi Museum or Sharon Indian School. I know there is a Pow-Wow that happens at the end of May. Good Luck.

    • Rachel Shumate says:

      I’ve seen those names before. Let me ask my friend and I’ll get back to you. :)

    • Sherry says:


      I know of a Gwathmey family who resides in Caroline County, VA., near King and Queen County. Kermit Gwathmey and Francis Gwathmey. They had about 6 children. The family still resides in the area. They should be in the Yellow Pages.

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