All surviving contemporaneous sources report that several Indians alerted colonists to the imminent danger in 1622, but surviving documents from that year do not name any of them. English and colonial writers described the informants as men or boys, presumably from one of the Powhatan tribes and sometimes referred to as converts to Christianity. The assigned motive for informing was usually a feeling of friendship or gratitude toward a particular colonist. In the first and only official publication about the uprising, A Declaration of the State of the Colony and Affaires in Virginia (1622), Edward Waterhouse, the secretary of the Virginia Company of London, summarized what was then known and wrote that the attack might have achieved the Indians' purpose of "utter extirpation, which God of his mercy (by the meanes of some of themselves converted to Christianitie) prevented."
The only extant document to name any informant is a seventeenth-century transcription in the Library of Congress of a letter, dated April 4, 1623, that the governor and Council sent to the Virginia Company about routine business and to inform the company officers of steps taken to keep the peace during the winter and spring following the 1622 uprising. Negotiations for the release of some captives had been carried on by two Indians, "one of which Called (Chauco) who had lived much amo[ng]st the English, and by revealinge that pl[ot] To divers uppon the day of Massacre, saved theire lives." The letter does not indicate that Chauco had converted to Christianity or had lived with Pace, and it does not state which colonist or colonists he had warned. Another seventeenth-century transcription of the same letter, this one dated April 3, 1623, is in the British Public Record Office. It does not include the two words, "Called (Chauco)." The original letter does not survive.
The first historian to give a name to Pace's informant and Perry's Indian boy was William Stith, who in his History of the First Discovery and Settlement of Virginia (1747) repeated the essence of Waterhouse's account of the uprising. Perhaps having access to other documents since lost or perhaps misreading the April 4, 1623, transcription, Stith wrote that "Chanco" was responsible for saving "James-Town, and all such Plantations, as could possibly get Intelligence in time." Subsequent generations of writers, including many historians, uncritically repeated and embellished Stith's version, and in some instances conflated all the references to the informants and the boy who traveled to London in 1624.
March 21, 1622 - Chauco is one of several Virginia Indians who saves the lives of some English colonists by warning of Opechancanough's plans to attack their settlements the next day.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Fausz, J. F., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Chauco (fl. 1622–1623). (2013, August 21). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Chauco_fl_1622-1623.
- MLA Citation:
Fausz, J. Frederick and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Chauco (fl. 1622–1623)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 21 Aug. 2013. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: May 26, 2010 | Last modified: August 21, 2013