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Kiskiack (or Chisiack or Chiskiack) was a Native American tribal group of the Powhatan Confederacy. The name means "Wide Land" or "Bread Place" in the native language, one of the Virginia Algonquian languages. It was also the name of their village on the Virginia Peninsula. Later English colonists adopted the name for their own village in that area. The site is now occupied by the US Naval Weapons Station Yorktown in York County, Virginia.[1] The settlement was 11 miles (18 km) from Werowocomoco, capital of the Powhatan Confederacy.


In the mid-16th and early 17th century, the Algonquian-speaking Kiskiack tribe, of the large Powhatan Confederacy, was located near the south bank of the York River on the Virginia Peninsula. The village was a few miles west of what became present-day Yorktown. The Kiskiack had built permanent villages, made up of numerous long-houses or yihakans, in which related families would live, with both private and communal space.

The Kiskiack were one of the original six tribes of the Powhatan Confederacy. Beginning with the arrival of the English colonists at Jamestown in 1607, they were generally one of the most hostile toward the English encroachments.[citation needed] They were reluctant to give away their goods simply at the request of parties sent from Jamestown to collect corn and other foodstuffs during the first few years after English settlement. But, they were one of the few tribes to be relatively friendly to the English in the First Anglo-Powhatan War.

Kiskiack was only about 15 miles (24 km) from Jamestown, but it was across the Peninsula and along the York River. This area did not receive as many English colonists as did the waterfront along the James River. Their settlements kept advancing to the west. In 1612, John Smith estimated the Kiskiack population included about 40-50 warriors. William Strachey recorded the name of their weroance as Ottahotin.

The Kiskiack took part in the Indian Massacre of 1622, when they helped kill colonists. The next year the colonists retaliated against them and other nearby tribes, killing about 200 men by giving them poison at a supposed friendly meeting. Some time before 1627, the Kiskiack left their village to migrate west; the English colonists occupied the site in 1629 and retained the name for some time.

By 1649 the Kiskiack had settled along the Piankatank River, when the English "granted" their weroance Ossakican (or Wassatickon) a reservation of 5,000 acres (20 km2). In 1651, the Kiskiack exchanged this land for another 5,000-acre (20 km2) tract farther upriver. Soon the English began to encroach on the reservation in Gloucester County as well. In 1669 the Kiskiack had only 15 bowmen. They last appeared in historical records during Bacon's Rebellion. They seem then to have merged with other groups, probably the Pamunkey, Chickahominy, or Rappahannock.[2]

English settlement and the palisade[edit]

At a meeting held at Jamestown on October 8, 1630, Sir John Harvey, the Governor, and his Council,

"for the securing and taking in a tract of land called the forest, bordering upon the cheife residence of ye Pamunkey King, the most dangerous head of ye Indyan enemy," did "after much consultation thereof had, decree and sett down several proportions of land for such commanders, and 50 acres (200,000 m2) per poll for all other persons who ye first yeare and five and 20 acres (81,000 m2) who the second yeare, should adventure or be adventured to seate and inhabit on the southern side of Pamunkey River, now called York, and formerly known by the Indyan name of Chiskiack, as a reward and encouragement for their undertaking." [3]

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Under this order, colonists built houses on both sides of King's Creek. New ones were added along the south side of York River. The colony decided to fortify the area. In 1634, they erected a palisade across the Peninsula from Martin's Hundred to Kiskiack to protect the lower (eastern) area from Indian attacks. Middle Plantation, near the center of the palisade, was the first inland settlement, established by an Act of Assembly of the House of Burgesses in 1632. In 1699 Middle Plantation was renamed Williamsburg after being designated the capital of the Colony.

The former site of Kiskiack is now occupied by the U.S. Naval Weapons Station Yorktown. The original Algonquian name, often mispronounced by the Anglos-Americans, was the origin of "Cheesecake Road" and "Cheesecake Cemetery", also located on Navy lands in the same area.

The southern end of Cheesecake Road left the federal property and crossed State Route 143 (Merrimack Trail), and the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, and connected with U.S. Route 60 (Pocahontas Trail) near the western edge of Grove and the James City County-York County border. It was split by the construction of Interstate 64 in the late 1960s.

Kiskiack House[edit]

Kiskiack, Naval Mine Depot, State Route 238 vicinity, Yorktown vicinity (York County, Virginia).jpg
Kiskiack, HABS Photo
Kiskiack is located in Virginia
Location NE of jct. of VA 238 and 168, near Lackey, Virginia
Coordinates 37°14′28″N 76°33′51″W / 37.24111°N 76.56417°W / 37.24111; -76.56417Coordinates: 37°14′28″N 76°33′51″W / 37.24111°N 76.56417°W / 37.24111; -76.56417
Area 0 acres (0 ha)
NRHP Reference #


VLR # 099-0012
Significant dates
Added to NRHP November 12, 1969
Designated VLR September 9, 1969[5]

"Kiskiack" is the name of an early 17th-century brick building, originally a private residence, which still stands at the Naval Weapons Station Yorktown. This brick structure, the oldest building owned by the U.S. Navy, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The home was built by Dr. Henry Harry Lee, who married Marah Adkins Fulgate. (Lee's descendants called the property Kiskiak.) Marah's father was the minister who officiated at the 17th-century marriage of Pocahontas and John Rolfe. Years later, Barbara Blunt Brooks of Richmond, Virginia donated one of Dr. Lee's hand-crafted tables to the Naval Weapons Museum. This table is one of two identical tables known to have been made by Lee; the location of the other is unknown.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "'Kiskiack' was an Indian tribe", Daily Press
  2. ^ Helen Rountree, Pocahontas's People, p. 116-17
  3. ^ "Old Capital", James City, VA History, Rootsweb, US GenWeb
  4. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13. 
  5. ^ "Virginia Landmarks Register". Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Retrieved 5 June 2013. 
  6. ^ Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission Staff (August 1969). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Kiskiack". Virginia Department of Historic Resources.  and Accompanying photo

External links[edit]