By RICH FOLEY
Back when I was in second grade, my teacher used to brag about how one of her ancestors came to America on the Mayflower. I’m sure I heard her story at least a dozen times. Too bad she’s not still with us. I now have a story or two of my own that might shut her up, or maybe even send her running for cover.
My sister has been working on our genealogy the past few years and finally came up with a shocker. She went back ten generations, finding Thomas and Martha Foley (who had a son named Richard). It’s Martha’s roots that none of us were expecting.
Martha’s mother was Keziah Arroyah, a Patawomeck (or Potomac) Indian. Keziah’s father was Chief Wahanganoche, her grandfather Japasaw. Japasaw’s brother was Chief Powhatan, who was father of Pocahontas.
Who hasn’t heard the tale of Pocahontas saving the life of John Smith? The story may or may not be true, but when you’re talking famous Native Americans of the 17th century, that’s about as good as it gets.
I think that makes me Pocahontas’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great nephew. Or is it cousin? I’ll have to look into that, I never was any good at figuring out family relationships.
Either way, I think that story trumps my old teacher’s Mayflower anecdote. My ancestors were here for hundreds, if not thousands of years before hers. And, after doing some online research, I discovered that other descendants still live in Virginia.
Living descendants of the Patawomeck tribe reorganized a decade or so ago, and according to the article I read, were asking for official recognition from the state of Virginia. Among those pressing the case were current chief Robert “Two Eagles” Green and entertainer Wayne Newton, another tribal member.
That’s one of the interesting things about genealogy—you never know who you might end up related to. I found a list of famous descendants of Pocahontas and along with several “famous” people I never heard of, there were a few I wish I’d known about earlier.
One was Edith Wilson, second wife of President Woodrow Wilson. Some historians credit her with being our first woman president, claiming that she pretty much ran the country for an extended period after her husband’s stroke.
That happened 40 years before I was born, but also on the list was Nancy Reagan, who I could have asked for a White House tour if I’d known we were related during the Reagan administration. At least it’s not too late to hit up Wayne Newton for a tour of Las Vegas.
After discovering my connection to Pocahontas, it dawned on me why I was always wanting to visit the Illinois town of the same name whenever I made a trip to Missouri. Situated about 40 miles northeast of St. Louis, it made a convenient final stop before taking on the big city traffic. Now I’ve got another connection.
I suppose it’s time to start thinking about an Indian name. “Two Eagles” and “Dances with Wolves” are already taken, unfortunately. Those under consideration include “Writes Weird Columns,” “Collects Snuggle Bears” and the early favorite, “One Brick Shy.”
After I get the name thing settled, I’m thinking I should follow the lead of many other Native Americans and start my own casino. I’m pretty sure there isn’t a big enough parcel of land in the Fayette area for my needs, so I’m going to have to approach the State of Ohio with another idea.
How about putting a riverboat casino on Harrison Lake? To me, the park seems under-utilized during the week and a casino should help to draw a crowd as well as provide employment in the Fayette area. Since I can now prove Native American ancestry, can anyone stop me?
The biggest problem might be finding a riverboat with a small enough draft to ply the placid waters of Harrison Lake without hitting the bottom. That, and the ability to turn on a dime. The captain will have to be skilled at making a bootleg turn.
Once the riverboat problem is solved, all I have to do is call Wayne Newton, whom I’m sure will help a fellow Patawomeck with the casino details. I’ll even let him perform in the showroom if he wants.
For the grand opening, I’m going to invite my old favorite Neil Young to play. After all, he sang a song about Pocahontas on his “Rust Never Sleeps” album. I’m sure he’d be willing to help one of her relatives.
All these plans sound like fun, don’t they? Wherever she is today, I’d bet my second grade teacher is jealous.