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Who is it that adorns the cupola tower above the former P. Lorillard Co. building on South Prince Street?

If you drive south out of Lancaster City along Prince Street, you may have noticed this unusual weathervane. Called “The Chief” and visible from several blocks away, it depicts a Native American with his bow drawn being trailed by a small dog.

“The Chief” weathervane at 251 South Prince Street.

Legend holds that the man is, in fact, Powhatan—the father of Pocahontas.

At least according to J. Nevin Schroder Jr, it is. If anyone knows, it would be him. His family once owned the P. Lorillard Company building sitting beneath the weathervane.

It was Schroder’s grandfather who was the president of the cotton mill housed in the building during the mid-1800s. During the Civil War, uniforms for Union soldiers were produced there. Schroder suggested those uniforms even contained cotton smuggled in from behind Southern lines.

Powhatan

Powhatan, whose proper name was Wahunsenacawh, was the leader of the Powhatan. They were an alliance of Algonquian-speaking people living in Tsenacommacah, in the Tidewater region of Virginia at the time English settlers landed at Jamestown in 1607. Powhatan lived approximately between 1547 and 1618.

Powhatan_john_smith_map
Powhatan, detail of map published by John Smith (1612)

Powhatan, alternately called “King” or “Chief” Powhatan by the English, led the main political and military power facing the early colonists, was probably the older brother of Opchanacanough. Opchanacanough led attacks against the English in 1622 and 1644.

School District of Lancaster

Today the School District of Lancaster has their offices in the building. Established in 1836, the School District of Lancaster is the second oldest district in the Commonwealth. The School District of Lancaster serves a diverse population of approximately 11,500 students: 59.2% Hispanic, 17.9% African American, 14.4% Caucasian, 8.85% Asian/other.

The current vane is an exact replica of the original, which fell victim to the very weather it indicated sometime before 1962.

Where To Find It

You can go see the weathervane for yourself at 251 South Prince Street, Lancaster. It sits atop the cupola of the School District of Lancaster offices.

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