Frank G. Speck's Photographs, 1914-1942

Chief Otho Nelson

Frank Speck took an immediate interest in the Rappahannock tribe, Virginia's largest tribe at the time. In 1925, he published a monograph, The Rappahannock Indians of Virginia, in which he meticulously described everything from Rappahannock professions (farmer, fisherman, lumberman) to their hair ("in many it is wavy, in some fine and straight").

As befit the time in which he wrote, perhaps, Speck made special note of his impressions of the Rappahannock' racial makeup: "The observer is not at all impressed by any indication of racial homogeneity among the members of the band as a whole." The Rappahannocks responded with this story from an old-timer: "A great leader in the wars against the Indians," the English captain Carey Nelson, "had long ago happened upon three Indian girls in the forest. He adopted and raised them, and even married the most beautiful of the three." "It was the Creator's plan," Speck was told, "that the man who drove the Indians out and killed them off should have been the means of bringing them back."

Above, crossbow ready and aimed, is Rappahannock chief Otho Smoot Nelson (1881–1967).

Chief Otho Nelson

Chief Otho Nelson by Frank G. Speck (1942)