People of the Divided Place

THE POCHICK was a name used by what historian Helen Rountree has dubbed the “traditional Nansemond,” who unlike the community at Western Branch, centered on the Bass family, continued to live a traditional life into the 18th century. In her work, she paints a picture of a group mostly severed from its origins, and gradually absorbed into the Nottoway in Southampton County, Virginia, by the end of the 18th century.

There are elements of truth in this, but the historical record paints a rather different picture.

First of all, Rountree is the source of the “Christianized Nansemond” versus “Traditional Nansemond” concept. There is no historical document that speaks of two separate Nansemond communities. What we do know, is that there were various bands of people calling themselves Nansemond living across a rather wide expanse of territory.

There was a Nansemond Indian Town just south of the border in Hertford County, North Carolina. This was later sold, and some Nansemond moved north, adjacent to the Nottoway in the 1740s. In the 1780s, they sold their town to go and live among the Nottoway.

But there were also Nansemond still living at Western Branch, and apparently at communities at Indian Creek in Saint Bride’s Parish in Norfolk and adjacent Indian Creek Canton in Princess Anne County, Virginia, and perhaps down on the Currituck Banks at the Poteskeet Town, in modern day Powells Point.


There was also continuous movement between these sites, so that Butler Turner, an Indian man from Western Branch moved down to Saint Bride’s, where he married Euphan Collins, an Indian woman. William Collins, from Western Branch, moved to Winton, near the old Nansemond Indian Town, where he married Jane Bizzell. David Bizzell, meantime, was living among the Basses and Collinses at Western Branch in the 1760s. And Nathan Bissell later claimed to be an Indian in Norfolk, as did members of the Bass and Weaver families.

This was all one community, moving between sites, and intermarrying over the course of several centuries. The genealogies of the Turners and Rogers at the Nottoway Reservation are well known. So there was no severing really, of the Pochick Nansemond from the Christian Nansemond community, and “the Pochick” never really absorbed, assimilated, or vanished. However, today, almost no one uses this term because of the state and federal recognized community names. The Meherrin, reorganized in the 1970s, have adopted an Iroquoian outlook, the Nansemond have maintained their tribal association centered on Bass descendants, and efforts to resurrect the Chowanoke and Yeopim are ongoing.

While it’s hard to tell the origins of the name Pochick, there is a Pochick Avenue in Nantucket, and it has been translated as “where it divides in two.” Pochick in Nantucket refers to a place where the tide divides in two, the so-called Pochick Rip off shore. But it could also mean the same in Pachaug, Connecticut, or Patchogue, Long Island, which are translated the same way, sometimes referring to the division of rivers, or a bend in a river. From Trumbull’s Natick Dictionary:

pohshe, pâhshe, it halves, divides in two, is severed; a half, a part of, some of (as opposed to wame, the whole of), p 11 Ex. 24, 6; 37, 1; Deut. 12, 7; Luke 19, 8; p p Rev. 8, 1; 11, 9,11. See po~. (Cf. Sansk. paksha, a side, half (a month). Zend. pas, y~-pAs/t, one half (Engl. piece). Tamul pag-ir, to divide; F<M, a part. )

See the Cree word pôsko, to cut, tear, break apart, halve. So that pohshe-oke (Pochick) and pohshe-ki (Poteskeet) might mean the same thing. “People of the Divided Place.”

2 thoughts on “People of the Divided Place

  1. Interestingly, you dont mention the freed blacks that lived amongst the whites and often inter married. But I understand this may not be a factor within your research.

  2. Hi Kim. I had read an interesting book by John Strong on the Indians of Eastern Long Island that influenced me heavily. In it, he noted that both Europeans and Africans were more or less displaced peoples. Unless they came as a group from a single location, any kind of kinship system was broken by the time they reached the Americas. However, Native Americans retained kinship systems, regardless of bringing in European or African partners. So that these people might have married into these kinship systems, and that’s why you see movement between indigenous communities.

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