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King George County – Tall Skeleton in Armor

Skeleton in Armor. 

Congress by acclamation. SKELETON IN ARMOR. Uncanny Relic of Colonial Days Found in Virginia.

WASHINGTON, July 30 – There is an uncanny relic of colonial barbarity on exhibition at Colonial Beach, Va., a summer resort about sixty-five miles down the Potomac, which may soon be added to the curiosities of the National Museum. It is in a tent in front of Wood’s Hotel, presided over by William Henry Harrison Cawood, the discoverer and owner of the horrible-looking object.

The relic in question is a human skeleton, encased in an iron armor or frame. The metal is nearly eaten away with the rust of ages, and most of the bones have fallen from the rude casement. The skull and leg bones remain in the cage, however, and it would require the services of a blacksmith to remove them.

Mr. Cawood was a road overseer in King George county, Virginia, several months ago, and while engaged with a gang of laborers in repairing a roadway in that historical old bailiwick, the skeleton in armor was unearthed. The workmen were cutting for dirt with hoes in an old field to fill up a hole in the highway when one of them struck an iron substance a short distance beneath the surface. When unearthed, it proved to be the rusted armor, or cage, containing the skeleton of a man who in life was over six feet in height.

As soon as the air came in contact with the skeleton, some of the bones fell away. The skull, however, remained firm in the crown piece. Near the cage, were found four plain brass buttons, the size of a half-dollar. This led some people to believe that the skeleton was that of an English or Spanish officer of colonial days, who was welded into the iron frame, hung on a gibbet or tree, and allowed to starve to death in public.

Another theory is that it was a pirate, who, with his rakish craft, infested the waters of the lower Potomac and Chesapeake Bay, and preyed upon incoming merchantmen. Others believe that the skeleton was that of an Indian chief named Passpatawasie, who massacred and robbed the early settlers. His blood-thirsty disposition earned him the nickname “the fierce chief.”

Old settlers in King George County believe Cawood’s find was the remains of the outraged “fierce chief.” They say the settlers seized the red man, and while alive, had blacksmiths build about him the roughly constructed frame or cage. He was then hanged to the limb of a tree or gibbet and allowed to perish.

The records of all the counties in the northern neck of Virginia have been searched back into the sixteen hundreds to see if anything could be learned of this terrible instrument of torture, but nothing could be found that would throw any light upon it. King George was taken from Northumberland County, which is the oldest-organized bailiwick in the northern neck of Virginia. The counties of Richmond, King George, Lancaster, and Northumberland, all of them lie between the Potomac and the Rappahannock rivers. They have been under both Spanish and English rule. The records of all of them were searched back to 1600 without avail.


The discovery of the “Skeleton in Armor” is a remarkable historical relic that sheds light on the cruel and barbaric practices of colonial times. The fact that the skeleton was encased in an iron armor or frame indicates that the person met a violent end. The skeleton’s condition is a testament to the rust and corrosion of ages, which adds to the mystery surrounding the skeleton’s origins.

The skeleton’s discovery in Virginia adds to the state’s rich historical legacy, which has been the birthplace of numerous important events and figures in American history. The artifact’s location at a summer resort in Colonial Beach, Virginia, presents an opportunity for visitors to learn about the state’s rich history and the impact of colonialism.

The discovery of the four brass buttons near the skeleton’s cage suggests that the person may have been an English or Spanish officer of colonial times. Another theory is that the skeleton belonged to a pirate who infested the waters of the lower Potomac and Chesapeake Bay. There are also suggestions that the skeleton could have belonged to an Indian chief named Passpatawasie, who was known for his violent nature and the massacre of early settlers.

Despite numerous searches of the historical records of the northern neck of Virginia, no concrete evidence has been found to confirm any of these theories. However, the discovery of this skeleton serves as a reminder of the brutal practices of the past, and the importance of preserving historical artifacts to better understand our shared history. The National Museum should consider adding this relic to its collection to ensure that future generations can learn from it.

In conclusion, the discovery of the “Skeleton in Armor” is a valuable and important addition to Virginia’s historical legacy, shedding light on the violent and barbaric practices of colonial times. The artifact’s significance is heightened by the mystery surrounding its origins, adding to its historical value. The importance of preserving such historical artifacts cannot be overstated, as they provide insight into our past and help us to better understand our shared history.

  1. Indianapolis Journal,Indianapolis, Marion County, 31 July 1896

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