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How a local historian plans to tell the mysterious story of Pocahontas

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Sifting through the past can be a challenge especially if you’re telling the tale of one of the most mysterious figures in Virginia history.

John Pagano is penning what he hopes will be the definitive history about Pocahontas’ relationship with the English.

“There is not a lot,” says Pagano. “I wasn’t in the room with her and she didn’t leave a journal or diary. The one name they want to hear and seem to know is Pocahontas.”

Pocahontas’ true story is blurred with threads of fiction.

John Pagano

“Unfortunately, the only things that people know of Pocahontas is myth. It is made up,” says Pagano. “There is a lot of mystery. There are plenty of things about her that we’ll never know the answer to.”

Pagano has been considering this book for six years, but the list of source materials are slim.

“There are a million other things I could write, books articles whatever it could be but this is the one I’m working on,” says Pagano.

To find inspiration Pagano doesn’t need to look far. Just feet from his modern office John can literally follow in the footsteps of the Native American princess.

John Pagano

“I handle this topic every day,” he said. “She walked around here for sure. She is a part of our history that brings us stories that links most of us.”

As the supervisor of Historical Interpretations at Henricus living history museum in Chesterfield the New York native immerses himself in the world of Pocahontas.

Pagano says Pocahontas still generates plenty of questions four centuries after she lived.

“A lot of times that discussion that comes about helps people rethink the past,” he said.

A few weeks ago Pagano, along with a delegation from Henrico and Chesterfield and Virginia’s tribal leaders traveled to Gravesend, England.

“Found out in February I was going I said I need to see that place. So I went. Perfect.”

The city along the Thames River is where Pocahontas died and was buried on March 21, 1617.

“There is some of our Virginia Indian delegation there.”

John Pagano

“If you’re buried under that chancel in the church they think a lot of you,” said Pagano. “She is still there today. It hits you. Especially being from Virginia.”

The storyteller says the visit across the pond is inspiring him to finish the book.

“Again parts of her we’re never going to know and I think we should know and that encourages us to keep looking,” he said.

For this historian, Pocahontas will always hold a special place.

“What we’re going to do with her is we’re going to keep looking for the next 400 years,” Pagano added.

John Pagano says Pocahontas is never far from his thoughts whether he is living in the 21st or 17th centuries.

If you know of someone who I should feature in my "I Have a Story" segment email me at gmcquade@wtvr.com.