David Ives Bushnell: Excerpt from
Evidence of Indian Occupation in Albemarle County, Virginia

Coming of the Colonists

It is not known when a European first entered the region now embraced within the bounds of Albemarle County, but the earliest patents for the land in parts of Albemarle "on the far side of the mountains called Chestnut," were taken out June 16, 1727. Within the next few years, several large grants were secured in the southern section of the county, bordering on the left bank of the James and extending some miles up the valley of the Rockfish, including the extensive soapstone quarries which had been worked by the native tribes. And during the year 1735 Thomas Moorman was granted 650 acres extending from the branches of Meadow Creek to the South Fork of the Rivanna "including the Indian Grave low grounds,"4 so designated by reason of the large burial mound which was then standing on the low ground a short distance from the right, or south bank of the stream. Some years later the mound was carefully examined and described by Jefferson in his "Notes on the State of Virginia."

A few Indians may have been living in Albemarle County two centuries ago, but nothing definite is known concerning them. However, it is within reason to believe that small scattered groups, one or more families, would have been encountered throughout the surrounding country, all of which they had, so short a time before, claimed and occupied.

About this time Indians are known to have been living on the banks of the Rapidan, some miles below Orange Court House, as is revealed in an order made by the County Court in 1730. This is in part: "William Bohannon came into court and made oath that about twenty-six Sapony Indians that inhabit Colonel Spotswood's land in Fox's neck go about and do a great deal of mischief by firing the woods, more especially on the 17th day of April last whereby several farrows of pigs were burnt in their beds, and that he verily believes that one of the Indians shot at him the same day...."5 Fox's Neck, mentioned in the order of the court, is a narrow spur of land, nearly a mile in length and bordered by the left bank of the Rapidan, immediately up the stream from Germanna bridge, the site of the settlement of Germanna. The Indians may have been some who had formerly lived at Fort Christanna. The fort was abandoned by the Colony in 1718, but the "Sapponey Indian Town" nearby was recognized as late as 1728 as belonging to the Saponi and allied tribes, and white settlers were not permitted to acquire the land. It is not know when the Indians were finally dispersed, but it is believed that not all left at the same time; they probably drifted away in small groups to seek new homes elsewhere. Not long after this a party of Indians visited the burial mound, "the Indian Grave," on the low ground of the Rivanna and, as related by Jefferson, "staid about it some time, with expressions which were construed to be those of sorrow." The mound, long since destroyed, is believed to have been the burial place belonging to the Saponi village, Monasukapanough, which occupied the level ground on both sides of the Rivanna, as described in "The Five Monacan Towns", but which must again be mentioned. Although the mound may have disappeared by the beginning of the last century, it had been remembered as was clearly indicated on the map of the State of Virginia that accompanied the 1801 edition of Jefferson's Notes. A small section of the map is reproduced in figure I. The "Indian Grave" is placed near the right bank of the Rivanna, a little west of north of Charlottesville, on the site of the ancient settlement. A view looking northward from the cliffs south of the right bank of the river, over a section of the village site, is shown in plate I. The course of the Rivanna is indicated by the line of trees beyond the cultivated field on the extreme right in the picture. The mound stood within this cultivated area, but its exact position is not known. The rising ground in the distance is on the left bank of the Rivanna and was occupied by part of the native village.

Some years ago the owner of the land, while plowing the low ground bordering the right bank of the stream, encountered a single burial, and although very near the surface, the bones were in a good state of preservation. Associated with the remains was a small soapstone pipe, figure 2, but no other object was noticed. The burial had been made in the stratum of sand and clay that had been deposited on the site after the abandonment of the village and should, therefore, be attributed to some of the wandering parties of Indians who visited the spot during the early part of the eighteenth century or even later.


4. Woods, Rev. Edgar, Albemarle County in Virginia. Charlottesville, 1901.
5. Scott, W. W., A history of Orange County, Virginia. Richmond, 1907.