Aug 9, 2009

History and Design of the Pamunkey Chapter Jacket Patch

In July of 1971 Pamunkey Chapter of Kecoughtan Lodge 463 issued their first emblem, a 6" round, solid embroidered jacket patch. This multicolored patch with its Indian themed design has long been sought after and prized by OA collectors for its beauty and scarcity.

Even though I was a member of Pamunkey Chapter and have had this patch in my personal collection for over thirty years, it was only when I sought to learn more about it in July of 2009 that I discovered its fascinating history and the special significance of its design.

Pamunkey Chapter was formed during the summer of 1970 when Peninsula Council, BSA reorganized its district geography. The Eastern and Central Districts, served by Allogagan and Pamlico Chapters respectively, combined to form Hampton District, and a corresponding chapter was created by Kecoughtan 463, the Councilʼs Order of the Arrow Lodge, to serve it. The new chapter was named for the Pamunkey Indians.

Historians believe the Pamunkey were the most powerful of the tribes in the great Powhatan paramount chiefdom, which consisted of approximately 35 tribes with an estimated population of 10,000 led by of Chief Powhatan, father of Pocahontas. His territory encompassed the entire coastal plain from south of the James River to near Washington, DC. Powhatan was living among the Pamunkey when English colonists first arrived in Virginia in 1607.

Today the Pamunkey Indians live on a reservation of 1,200 acres located on the Pamunkey River, adjacent to King William County, Virginia. Recognized since 1677 as a sovereign nation, the Pamunkey continue to hunt, fish, and make pottery on their ancestral land.

The August 1970 edition of the Lodge newsletter, the Kecoughtan Kryer, announced the election of officers and appointment of an advisor in the Chapter Chatter section, where Chapter Chief Mike Barroso wrote:
Future plans for our chapter include the endorsement of the plan to build the dining hall at Camp Chickahominy, to get our own chapter patch, and to have a chapter camporee at the Pamunkey reservation near West Point.
Soon after the chapter was formed its Advisor, Dr. Ron Godby, approached Tecumseh Deerfoot Cook, Chief of the Pamunkey Indians, and sought permission to use their tribal seal in a design he envisioned for a chapter patch. Born in 1899, Cook served as Chief of the Pamunkey for over 40 years, and lived to age 103. According to Andy Hess, who was treasurer of the chapter at the time, "the Tribal Council had a meeting and voted to allow us to use their seal."

Chief Tecumseh Deerfoot Cook
Photo by Helen C. Rountree, November, 1969. From Pocahontas's People - The Powhatan Indians of Virginia Through Four Centuries. Photo used with permission.

Once approval had been granted the seal had to be adapted for the chapter patch. Hess remembers the process of color selection:
There never was a set color pattern (from the Pamunkey Indians) when we got permission from them to use their seal for our patch. When I was Chapter Chief, we had several Chapter Executive Committee meetings where we all practiced coloring copies of the seal to get the final result. By the way, this was done at Dr. Godbyʼs dental office. We were looking for a lot of different colors to make it pleasing to the eye! The center of the patch is from their seal. They had no color scheme on their seal. The outside of their seal had their Tribe information where we put our lodge info.
To the layman the Pamunkey Chapter J1 appears to be a round patch segmented into quarters, with an assortment of familiar Indian symbols representing various things found in nature, along with colorful pottery.

However, after reviewing the Pamunkeyʼs explanation of their tribal seal, the symbols in the design take on new meaning. For example, the zigzag horizontal line across the center represents the Pamunkey River, which they describe as "the lifeblood of the Pamunkey people ... the center of our very existence."

Explanation of the Pamunkey Tribal Seal (click to enlarge)

The July 1971 Kecoughtan Kryer Chapter Chatter reports for Pamunkey Chapter:
The beautiful new Chapter patch is now available to Chapter members at $3.50 each. Ordeal members are allowed to buy one, whereas Brotherhood members may buy another, and Vigil Honor members a third. The 5 elected Lodge officers and their advisors may buy one each.
A second order was placed in late 1973, according to the Pamunkey Chapter news in the December 1973 Kryer. The March 1974 Kryer includes the following news for Pamunkey Chapter:
Chief Mike Kinzie reports that Chapter backpatches have been received and will be on sale at the Spring Ordeal and possibly at the Pamunkey Fellowship on April 19-21.
The Sixth Edition of the Blue Book: Standard Order of the Arrow Insignia Catalog published in 2006 included a revision to Kecoughtan Lodge patch listings which added a variety of this patch that had not appeared in any of the earlier editions dating back to 1998:

The Pamunkey Chapter J1 patch is now cataloged as having two varieties: J1a with a BRN (brown) deer, and J1b with a DBR (dark brown) deer.

Bill Topkis, Editor in Chief of the Blue Book Sixth Edition, graciously provided a comparative photograph of the patches that were used to document this variation. As you can see below, the J1a with the brown deer is on the right, the J1b with the darker brown deer on the left. The same difference in the shade of brown is also evident in the horizontal line representing earth in the center of the patch.

According to Andy Hess, who was Pamunkey Chapter Chief when the patches were ordered, the color change was never intended nor noticed, and he does not believe that it merits the addition of a variety listing in the Blue Book:
There was no intended design difference. There seems to be just minor variations in the brown color. I don’t think it is significant enough to warrant an inclusion of the second patch in the Blue Book to make it another “collectors item”. It sure was not intended to be another different collectible patch. We never noticed a difference when we compared the different orders when the second batch arrived. My patch that I have is the one on the left with the brighter brown thread. There are always minor color differences in threads between different loom runs.
Sam Fairchild, a noted collector, Blue Book editor, and Lodge Chief of Kecoughtan Lodge in 1971 when the patch was originally issued, concurs:
There are two slight color variations on the Pamunkey deer - Andy Hess ordered the patches twice. They are so slight in my view as not to warrant a and b designations, but that is entirely subjective.
In 1985 the Chapter ordered a slightly revised version of the patch with a rolled (instead of cut) edge and computer designed pattern with sharper details. This patch is listed in the Blue Book as the Pamunkey Chapter J2.

The same design was used for the first jacket patch issued by Pamunkey Chapter of Wahunsenakah Lodge 333, the Lodge formed by the merger of Kecoughtan 463 and Chanco 483 in 1996. Wahunsenakah is the Algonquin name for Chief Powhatan. The name and number were changed to reflect the new Lodge identity. Blue Book lists it under Lodge 333 as Pamunkey J1. A 3” round pocket patch with the identical design was also issued, listed as Pamunkey R1.

I hope this article has given you a new appreciation for these emblems of Pamunkey Chapter inspired by and honoring the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, and that like me you are motivated to learn more about their history and culture. See the bibliography for some excellent resources.
Please help me by sending any additions or corrections to: Glenn Chase,


Pamunkey Chapter History

A Story of Forty Years of Brotherhood, Kecoughtan Lodge 463

Insignia and Memorabilia of Kecoughtan Lodge 463, Ron and Jeff Godby
Scouting Collectors Quarterly, Vol. 14, No. 4, December 1990

Virginia's Indian heirs cling to sliver of native soil, by Joanne Kimberlin
The Virginian Pilot, June 10, 2009

Kecoughtan Kryer Archives

Pamunkey Indian Tribe Home Page

Pocahontas's People: The Powhatan Indians of Virginia Through Four Centuries by Helen C. Rountree Civilization/dp/0806128496

The Pamunkey Links

Blue Book: Standard Order of the Arrow Insignia Catalog, Sixth Edition, 2006, published by the American Scouting Historical Society
Bill Topkis, Editor in Chief

Input from: Norm Effinger, Sam Fairchild, Jeff Godby, Andy Hess, Bill Topkis, July 2009

1 comment:

  1. The last activity patch issued by Kecoughtan Lodge honored Pamunkey Chief Tecumseh Deerfoot Cook. The patch was for the 1995 Christmas Banquet.