Thursday, April 7, 2016

Keziah Arroyah "Fire Woman Warrior" and Mr. Bryant, is this junky genealogy?

One of my genealogy heroes is Robert Charles Anderson of the Great Migration series. I have great faith in his, and his team's, research practices, and frankly his work has shot holes in some of my family trees. Frustrating as it is to find out I'm wrong, I would much rather have a well written and proofed tree than one based on shaky evidence. Even worse is to have one based on no evidence at all.

My mantra, when doing research is, WWRT, this acronym stands for What Would Robert Think. Anderson's genealogy proof standards are very high. It may look like a rose, smell like a rose, have thorns like a rose, but if it doesn't come with three original documents with primary evidence, it's just a thorny good smelling weed. Now, not every one cares if their genealogy is a little weedy, and if that makes you happy, great. Others, myself included, prefer our roses to come with some provenance, my goal is to weed my genealogy garden and just leave the roses. So, that being said, here is why I think Keziah Arroyah is a weed!

Keziah Arroyah
Let me say at the outset that I don't have a dog in this fight. I am coming at this from a fairly neutral zone. Native American genealogy is hard, and it's a good way to hone genealogy research skills. So, for me this is excellent practice. This doesn't mean that I don't take this deadly seriously, well not deadly but but pretty darn seriously. And just because your genealogy is hard doesn't mean that you can lower your standards of proof. If I'm being honest I  would say that I am harder on this genealogy then on my own. So, that being said, here we go.

a bit of background 
Researching genealogy can be difficult and the further back in time you go, the more you need to understand the historical context in which your ancestors lived. Keziah Arroyah is said to have been born in 17th century Colonial Virginia; a tumultuous time for the fledgling colony begun in 1607. In March of 1622 the Powhatan Indians, lead by Opechancanough, brother of Powhatan, attached the English colonist.  In all, 347 men, women and children were killed, about 1/3 of the colony. [1]

John Smith
The attack, while a great setback to the colony, was the impetus to abandon any plans to convert the Indians and live in peace with them. The colonial leaders took the opportunity afforded them to "dispossess and exterminate the Indians". [2] Sir Francis Wyatt, the Governor, said "Our first work is expulsion of the Savages to gain the free range of the country for the increase of cattle and swine". He went on to say, "it is infinitely better to have no heathen among us, who at best were thornes in our side, then to be at peace and league with them." [3] John Smith, home safe in England said, "it is just cause to destroy them by all means possible." [4]

Limited warfare continued between the English and the Powhatans through the spring of 1632. The English regarded the Natives as "our irreconcilable enemies." The colonial government ordered them not to speak or parley with Indians on plantations or in the woods.[5] In 1632 the settlers were limited in the contact allowed with the Indians, trade was allowed only with approved Englishmen who could be trusted by the government. Throughout the 1640's Indian captives were sold either as slaves or servants. [6]

1585 engraving of a warrior
By 1643 the English were expanding beyond the James and York Rivers and were claiming land along the Potomac. In 1644, in the dying days of the Powhatan confederation, Opechancanough, a old old man, launched one final concerted attack on the Colony. While a large number of colonist were killed the percentage was much less than in the 1622 attack. The English were there to stay. [7]

In June of 1666 the English Governor ordered the Rappahannock County Militia to attack and exterminate the Indians within reach with permission to sell captive women and children into servitude. In July the English declared war on the Doeg, formerly called the Tauxenents, and attacked their upriver towns along the Potomac. This attack included the remnants of the Patawomeck tribe. The Patawomeck tribe was not mentioned again in Colonial records. [8]

By 1669 only two thousand Tidewater Indians remained alive, down from a population of twenty four thousand in 1607. The Natives had lost almost all of their lands and were confined to small reservations surrounded by burgeoning colonial plantations. Virginia laws invited any colonist to shoot and kill Natives who ventured onto their land. By 1670 there were an estimated forty one thousand English men, women and children living in Virginia. [9]

This was the world of Keziah Arroyah.

who was she
William Strachey, a member of the Virginia Company in the very early days, wrote about life at Jamestown. He mentioned that Pocahontas married a private Captain named Kocoum in 1610. This much is documented. According to the some researchers a child was born from this union; a daughter named Ka Okee. Ka Okee married Thomas Pettus in 1631 and they had two daughters, one  named Christian and the other unknown. The Anglo-Indian unknown daughter married Wahanganoche, a Patawomeck Indian who was the werowance of the tribe. Unknown female and Wahanganoche are said to be the parents of Keziah Arroyah. Keziah married an English man named _____Bryant, some say his forename was Richard. [10]

what's with that name?
The name Keziah is a old testament biblical name. Keziah was one of the three daughters of Job. The name is said to mean sweet smelling. This seems a highly unusual name for a Patawomeck Indian to give his daughter, even if his wife was a christian. If Keziah was an odd choice, what can we say about Arroyah. The name is alternately spelled Arroyo. This is a Spanish word which means a gully. Top this with the moniker "Fire Woman Warrior" and you have a helluva name. I have no clue where the fire woman comes from....

actually I have an idea about that
I found this statement on the website of the Powhatan Museum; it goes like this:
'Keziah Powhatan, the Tauxenent (Dogue) Indian leader of Northern Virginia, whose acts of bravery continue to inspire her many descendant."[11]
This is from a second website called American Indian Heritage:
"Their most famous ancestor was Keziah Powhatan, leader of the Tauxenent Indian band who burned the county courthouse in the 1700s." [12]
Another quote from the same website:
Keziah Powhatan was the leader of a Northern Virginia Indian band of Tauxenents (Dogues) whose "hostile actions" led to the removal of the first  Fairfax County courthouse.[13]
Ah, now we're getting somewhere! This article is about a Native American artist, Rose Powhatan and her exhibit. One of her pieces is a totem in honor of her ancestor, Keziah Powhatan. The piece is called "Fire Woman Warrior."[14] Her ancestor Keziah Powhatan was the leader of her people  in 1752. I don't know if Keziah was called Fire Woman Warrior in her day or if it was just the name of the art piece.

The English/American version of the 1752 move of the courthouse is a bit different than Ms. Powhatan's. Their version is that when the Fairfax County courthouse was built in 1742 it was located near Tyson's Corner, a site for the execution of criminals, in the western portion of the county. In 1749 the colonial government chartered the town of Alexandria, located on the coast. It quickly became a highly successful port for the exporting of tobacco. When the courthouse needed replacing in 1752 the wealthy merchants of Alexandria offered to build a new courthouse at their own cost, in order to alleviate travel to the Tyson's Corner area.[15]

While King Charles II was in exile in France waiting out Oliver Cromwell, he gave out gifts of land to his loyal followers. He gave the land between the Potomac River and the Rappahannock River to seven of his friends. The Fairfax family had control of much of this land by 1690. In 1742 William Fairfax had the county created and named for his family. In 1745 the English Privy Council confirmed their proprietary ownership of the land. The land remained in the family until 1779 when it was confiscated by the state of Virginia. [16]

what have we learned
Despite the historical discrepancies in the story of Keziah Powhatan, leader of the Doeg Tribe in 1752, clearly she was not the Keziah Arroyah born the previous century. Keziah Arroyah was not the "Fire Woman Warrior."

let's add in some names and dates 
I am a visual person, so I made up this table of Keziah's purported ancestry to make it easier to see what is what. Below is a screenshot from my computer.

I started with Pocahontas and Kocoum. I used the color blue to designate documented people; people whose names can be found in contemporary records or writings. The purple shading indicates people for whom there is no known contemporary documentation (that I can find). The only two known dates are the year Pocahontas died in England and the year Richard Bryant died in 1704. Everything else is a guesstimate. The 1635 marriage date for Ka Okee was found on wikitree. I supposed she could have been married as early as 1628. But Keziah Arroyah would have had to have been born by 1635 to be the mother of Richard Bryant in 1651. No matter how you do the math, she could not possibly have been born before 1655, there are two many generations to between Pocahontas and Keziah, even if the women all married at fourteen, it's just not possible.

if not possible, is it plausible?
According to Anthropologist Helen Rountree, who has studied the Powhatan Indians for decades, very few Native/English marriages took place. Why was this? According to historian Alden Vaughan, Jacobean Englishmen were so culturally myopic that they would not consider marriage to a "savage." A pamphlet written in 1624 said that the native women were "neither handsome nor wholesome" and that intermarriage would not be profitable nor convenient as they have no such breeding as our women have." [17] These are harsh words.

After the 1622 Indian assault on the colony, the emerging English policy was one of "unrestrained enmity and almost total separation that reflected a persistent but often repressed contempt for the natives. [18] For the next decade the English waged total war on the Indians, irregardless of their tribe. The military leaders resorted to such "dishonorable" means as serving poisoned alcohol to a group of Indian Chiefs at a meeting purported to be a peace talk. The policy of the London Company was to root and and destroy the Indian population. Edward Waterhouse, writing on behalf of the Company expressed it's views on Indians by saying they were justly compelled to use the Indians as servants and drudges. They were fit to work in mines or be sent to Bermuda to work on plantations. A 1622 pamphlet produced by the Crown claimed that the natives were brutish, ignorant and natural born slaves. [18] The Englishman, noble, learned, wise and virtuous, had a natural born right to govern and command the native population. [19]

It is obvious that the English settlers had a low opinion of the Native population. The Natives were not the compliant, submissive people that the English had hoped to find. The Powhatans had an equally low opinion of the English. They thought they were lazy, smelly, duplicitous, and dangerous. They did not want to convert to Christianity, they did not want to live like the English. They wanted to live their lives as they had always done, retaining their religious and cultural identity. This raises, in my mind, some serious questions about this ancestry.

1. How would the daughter of Pocahontas, a full blooded Indian, living with her kin, meet and marry an Englishman in 1635. Why would Opechancanough allow such a marriage to occur?

2. Why would Thomas Pettus marry the grand niece of his colony's mortal enemy. What would have been the reaction of his English neighbors?

3, If Thomas Pettus did marry and have children, why would he allow his daughter to marry, not only an enemy but the Chief of a tribe which the English were trying to exterminate. Why would he subject her to a life on the run, never knowing when the English would attack?

4. In order to marry an Englishman, the Indian woman would have to have been baptized as a Christian. Their children too, would be Christian. Would Thomas allow his Christian daughter to revert to what he would consider a pagan lifestyle?

5. By the 1660s the Native population had been decimated. Most of the survivors were living in small reservations. The English goal was complete subjugation or annihilation. How would Richard Bryant have met a daughter of Wahanganoche? Why would he have wanted to marry her?

supposed children of keziah and bryant
According to the wikitree profile for Keziah Arroyah, she and Richard Bryant had four children. Richard Jr. who is well documented and three others; Silent, Martha, and Thomas Powhatan. Martha Bryant married Thomas Foley and William Burton. She, like Richard, was born in the 1650's and therefore cannot be the daughter of Keziah. Thomas, who was never know as Powhatan, married a woman named Eleanor, Thomas' age also rules him out as Keziah's child. Silent married a woman named Lucy Doniphan but there is no document that proves their existence.

my conclusion
It is my belief that Keziah Arroyah as described on the web and on wikitree did not exist. She was not the wife or (Richard) Bryant and not the mother of his children. This is a simple matter of math. There is no way possible for her to be the great granddaughter of Pocahontas. I am convinced that this genealogy is pure fiction.

This ancestral tree is not the product of genealogy. It does not meet the requirements of the genealogy proof standard. 


[1] Alan Taylor, American Colonies: The Settling of North America, (New York : Penguin, 2002).

[2] Taylor, American Colonies, 2002.

[3] Helen C. Rountree, Pocahontas' People: The Powhatan People of Virginia Through Four Centuries, (Norman, Oklahoma : University of Oklahoma Press, 1990) 94-97.

[4] Rountree, Pocahontas' People, 94-97.

[5] Rountree, Pocahontas' People, 81.

[6] Rountree, Pocahontas' People. 94-97

[7] Rountree, Pocahontas' People. 94-97

[8] Rountree, Pocahontas' People. 94-97

[9] Taylor, American Colonies, 2002.

[10] wikitree contributors, "Keziah Arroyah "Fire Woman Warrior" Powhatan (c. 1635-1690), wikitree ( : accessed 6 April 2016).

[11] Auld/Powhatan, "Powhatan Gallery," Powhatan Museum of Indigenous Arts and Culture ( : accessed 5 April 2016).

[12] Phoebe Mills Farris "American Indian Heritage & StoryCorps 2011: One Woman's Family Story," NMAI ( : accessed 5 April 2016).

[13] Auld/Powhatan, "Powhatan Gallery," Powhatan Museum of Indigenous Arts and Culture ( : accessed 5 April 2016).

[14] Auld/Powhatan, "Powhatan Gallery."

[15] Charles A. Grymes, "The Migrating Courthouse," Virginia Places ( : accessed 5 April 2016).

[16] Donald M. Sweig, "A Brief History of Fairfax County," Fairfax County ( : accessed 6 April 2016).

[17] Alden T. Vaughan, "Explusion of the Salvages: English Policy and the Virginia Massacre of 1622," William and Mary Quarterly, third series, vol. 35, no. 1 (January 1978) 72. digital images, JSTOR ( : accessed 6 April 2016).

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