Right: Joseph Henry Mills'
daughter Georgia Mills Jessup
(Pamunkey) next to her painting,
"Rainy Night Downtown". This
painting is in the permanent
Contemporary Collection of the
National Museum of Women in
the Arts, Washington, D.C.
PEOPLE: An Ongoing History
We're Still Here
Pamunkey John Miles/Mills: his life and
family in Fairfax County
by Georgia Mills Jessup
John Watson Miles (Mills) was born in Hanover,
King William County, Virginia, in 1847 to Mary
Frances Miles. It was often the custom for
children of Indian women to carry the mother's
surname. Mary Frances was the daughter of the
Pamunkey Indian headman (chief) Isaac Miles
and his wife Nannie Custalow Miles. The
Pamunkeys and the village of the same name
were the main seat of the Powhatan Chiefdom.
King William County land records show Mills land
(and Mills family including John Watson Mills,
age 3 in 1850) near Aylett and Rt. 30 on the
Pamunkey River, a tract of 110 acres called
Pigeon Hill. The land was deeded to Edward
Mills by his uncle Captain Daniel Miles (spelled Mills, Myles, and Miels) a trustee of Delaware Town, or De
La Warr Town, now called West Point. The land was originally owned by Opechancanough, Powhatan's
John Watson Mills was fifteen years old when he had a ringside seat for the War Between the States. He
was on the banks of the Pamunkey River when the U.S.S. Currituck slithered past Pamunkey shores on
May 17,1862; when African and Indian slaves were fleeing north on barges, leaving those who would have
made them servants for life. He saw the bridge that spanned the Pamunkey River go up in flames; blood
brothers being drafted by Confederate troops as Indian scouts and navigators for sixteen bits a day and
hardtack; and Pamunkey hero Terrell Bradby escape the Confederate officer who lined up seven
Pamunkey men in chains and led them up Miles Lane on the reservation to jail for helping the Union
soldiers and fleeing slaves.
Family historians tell the story of grandfather John leaving his home in King William County in the early
1870's in anger, walking all the way from the Aylett district to Fairfax, land of the Dogues [Tauxenents],
Powhatan's last frontier, near the rocks where my brothers and I stood that spring of 1940. He carried his
small, black leather-tooled Bible in his back pocket. John was crafty, independent, and determined,
existing for weeks in snake-infested swamps and woods on a diet of fish, frogs, muskrats, squirrels, roots
and chinquapins. In earlier days he had managed to avoid both Union and Confederate drafts of Virginia
Indians, never allowing himself to be kidnapped into Indian slavery that was widespread in King William
during his youth. Why did he leave his home in Aylett? Why in anger? The answers to these questions still
elude his descendants. One hundred years before John's departure from Aylett there had been a similar
migration. Mary, a daughter of William Aylett of Aylett, Virginia, left that place destined for marriage in
Fairfax County to Thomas, 9th Lord Fairfax, the first of his three wives. Though Mary and John left the
same place, came to the same place and became connected to the same person, their modes of
transportation differed: Mary traveled in a fine carriage with perhaps two footmen; John walked all the way
on his two feet.
Like many Virginia Indians living away from the reservations, John saw many changes in his racial
classification before he died in Fairfax County in 1923 and was buried in the Pleasant Grove churchyard.
Indians were called Indian as long as they remained on reservations. When they left, they were called
fringe Indians, mulatto or mulatta, colored, negro and black. John married Martha Loretta Goings in Fairfax
County July 18, 1876. On the marriage certificate, the bride and groom were designated "Black."
Christopher Mills, John's brother, married, at age 65, in Kng William County in 1908. His marriage record
shows him as Indian. In the words of a Mattaponi philosopher, John and Martha "got called out of their
Exerpt of this article was included on this page with the permission of the author.
(All rights Reserved).
This article was published in its entirety in the
The Historical Society of Fairfax County, Virginia,
Volume 23, 1991-1992
Joseph Henry Mills (Pamunkey) [son of John Watson
Keziah Powhatan's Legacy
Henrietta Carter Boston [Left] was descended from
Keziah Powhatan, the Tauxenent (Dogue) Indian
leader of Northern Virginia, whose acts of bravery
continue to inspire her many descendants. Henrietta
was well-known and respected in her community as a
healer and midwife. She passed down her indigenous
knowledge of plants used in healing practices to her
sons and daughters, who in turn, passed on their
knowledge to their heirs. Henrietta's granddaughter,
Keziah Boston, has continued her family's legacy of
indigenous skills and knowledge with her own family.
The descendants of Keziah Powhatan still bear her
surname, as well as the names Boston, Payne,
Grayson, Auld, Carter, Johnson, and Wanzer.
Since Washington, D.C. was part of the northern
boundary of Powhatan's territory of "Attan Akamik", it
was customary for Powhatan tribal people to travel
"up north" to Washington, D.C., as well as Northern
Virginia to meet and marry with their fellow Powhatan
Confederacy tribal members. Pamunkey, Mattaponi
and Rappahannock Indians intermarried with the
descendants of the Tauxenent Indians of Northern
Virginia. The early "Federal City" which later became
Washington, D.C. originally included parts of
Keziah Powhatan's descendants from the Boston
family joined John Miles/Mills in his walk across Chain
Bridge to help build the Smithsonian Institution. They
also built steps in Georgetown with stone that they
cut in the same quarries that their ancestors had
worked in many years before them. The Virginia
Indians stood on hills and looked down on the site
where the National Museum of the American Indian
was to be built on the banks of the Tiber Creek (as
shown in historic artwork that predated the museum).
Henrietta Carter Boston (Tauxenent)
Helen Boston (Tauxenent) -(L) Earlier photo, taken in
front of the family's Fairfax County, Virginia log cabin.
(R) Later photo. (Daughter of Henrietta Carter Boston).
Native Americans in the Eastern Woodlands,
accustomed to longhouses, adopted the early Dutch log
(Below) Early photograph of Georgia Mills Boston
(Pamunkey) and her in-laws Mr. & Mrs. William Harvey
Boston (Tauxenent) in front of the same log cabin. The
Boston family was recorded as “separate from both the
white and black communities”. Their inherited Tauxenent
land holdings included Tysons Corner, the Madeira
School, the CIA headquarters and other locales in Fairfax
County, Virginia. Virginia Indian warriors were reputed to
be tall by Early English standards, a trait exhibited in this
photograph by Mr. Boston.
John Watson Miles/Mills (Pamunkey)
of Indigenous Arts and Culture
Left: Joseph Henry Mills' great-grandson Kiros Auld (Pamunkey/Tauxenent),
representing Washington, D.C.'s Native Americans at President Bill Clinton's first
inauguration in 1989.
Below: 2012 photograph of Kiros's son
Naat'aani Opican (Navajo/Pamunkey/Tauxenent)
Copyrighted 2007 by Auld/Powhatan
HONORING A PAMUNKEY ARTIST:
Georgia Milla Jessup (1926-2016)
Left: Georgia Mills Jessup in her Washington, DC
Right: Entering the Spirit World of the "Shaman", a
contemporary collage painting by Ms. Jessup, with
incorporated materials from her ancestor, a
Pamunkey chief's medicine bag. (See "We're Still
Here" above).The painting visually combines
symbolism from her family's history and aesthetics
as a proud Eastern Woodland Native American.
She also worked with her cousin, the late
Pamunkey Chief, William Swift Eagle Miles on his
official visits to DC, and with his wife Ann, a tribal
and family genealogist. The artist was from a large
family of "Hidden Indians" of the Nation's Capital.
Although most Native families in DC were from the
historic Powhatan Confederacy, some were from a
multitude of other Amerindian nations, local,
national and international.
A retired District of Columbia Public Schools Art
Administrator, Ms. Jessup was the most
accomplished contemporary visual artist of her
tribe with an undergraduate degree from Howard
University (BFA, Paintig) and a MFA degree in
Ceramics (Catholic University). She was an
innovator whose ceramics built on the traditional
craft of her historic tribe. On trips to the Pamunkey
Reservation in King William County, Virginia, she
also quietly shared both pottery supplies and
knowledge with some tribal potters.