Extract from History of North Carolina
Extract from History of North Carolina
[By Samuel A’Court Ashe.]
References to the Colony, 1591-1709
Whereas as I wrote unto yow in my last that I was goun to Weymouth to speak with a pinnes of mine arrived from Virginia, I found this bearer, Captayne Gilbert, ther also, who went on the same voyage. But myne fell 40 leaugs to the west of it, and this bearer as much to the east; so as neither of them spake with the peopell. But I do sende both the barks away agayne, having saved the charg in sarsephraze woode; but this bearer bringing sume 2200 waight to Hampton, his adventurers have taken away their parts and brought it to London. I do therefore humblie pray yow to deal withe my Lord Admirale for a letter to make seasure of all that which is come to London, either by his Lordship’s octoretye or by the Judge: because I have a patent that all shipps and goods are confiscate that shall trade their without my leve. And whereas Sassaphraze was worth 10s., 12s. and 20s. per pound before Gilbert returned, his cloying of the market, will overthrow all myne and his own also. He is contented to have all stayde: not only for this present; but being to go agayne, others will also go and destroy the trade, which otherwise would yield 8 or 10 for one, in certainty and a return in XX weeks. * * *1
I beseich yow, favor our right: and yow shall see what a prety, honorabell and sallf trade wee will make.
Yours ever to serve yow,
[William Strachey was secretary of the colony of Virginia, and his “Historic of Travaile into Virginia Britannia” was apparently written after the colony had been seated at Jamestown six years — in 1613.]
The men, women and children of the first plantation at Roanoke were by practize and commandment of Powhatan (he himself persuaded thereunto by his priests) miserably slaughtered, without any offense given him, either by the first planted (who twenty and od years had peaceably lyved intermyxed with those Savages and were out of his territory) or by those who nowe are come to inhabit some parte of his desarte lands.2
Southward they [Newport’s exploring party] went to some parts of Chowanook and the Mangoangs, to search there those left by Sir Walter Raleigh, which parts – to the towne of Chesepeak – hath formerly been discovered by Mr. Harriott and Sir Ralph Lane.
The high land is in all likelihoodes, a pleasant tract, and the mould fruitful, especially what may lye to the Southward, where at Peccarecamek and Ochanahoen by the relation of Machumps,3 the people have houses built with stone walls, and one story above another, so taught them by the English who escaped the slaughter at Roanoke, at which time this our Colony, under the conduct of Captain Newport, landed within the Chesepeake Bay, where the people breed up tame turkeys about their houses, and take apes in the mountains, and where at Ritanoc the Weroance Eyanoco preserved seven of the English alive, four men, and two boys and one young mayde (who escaped and fled up the river of Choanook) to beat his copper, etc.4
[Powhatan] seems to command south and north from the Mangoangs and Chowanoaks, bordering upon Roanoke and the old Virginia, a town pallisadode standing at the north end of the bay.5
He doth often send unto us to temporize with us, awaiting perhaps a fit opportunity (inflamed by his furious and bloody priests) to offer us a taste of the same cup which he made our poor countrymen drink of at Roanoke.
[In “The True and Sincere Declaration” made by the governor and councilors of the Jamestown settlement in December, 1609 — they speak of having] intelligence of some of our nation planted by Sir Walter Raleigh, yet alive, within fifty miles of our fort, who can open the womb and bowels of this country; as is testified by two of our Colony sent out to seek them, who (though denied by the savages speech with them) found Crosses and Letters, the Characters and assured Testimonies of Christians, newly cut in the barks of trees.6
[The discovery of these characters recently cut in the barks of trees at that time locates some of Raleigh’s colony within fifty miles of Jamestown in 1608. The narrative continues:]
What he knew of the Dominions, he spared not to acquaint me with, as of certain men cloathed at a place called Ochanahonan, cloathed like me.
[And again:] We had agreed with the King of Paspehegh to conduct two of our men to a place called Panawicke, beyond Roanoke where he reported many men to be apparelled. We landed him at Warraskoyack, where playing the villain and deluding us for rewarde, returned within three or four days after, without going further.
[Smith sent from Warraskoyack, Master Scitlemore and two guides to seek for the Lost Colony of Sir Walter Raleigh.7
Alexander Brown has found and embodied in his work a rude drawing sent by Francis Nelson from Virginia in 1608 to illustrate Smith’s “True Relation,” and the same year sent to Spain from London.8
On this map, on the Chowan, or on the Nottoway, falling into the Chowan River, Ochanahonan is placed: and on the Tar, or upper Pamlico River, “Pakrakanick” is located: and near it is a legend: “Here remayneth 4 men clothed that came from Roanoak to Ochanahonan.” Between the Chowan and the Moratoc (Roanoke River) on this map is a legend: “Here the King of Paspehegh reported our men to be, and wants to go.” And that region is marked “Pananiock.”
On the map, the point Warraskoyack, from which Master Scitlemore and two guides started, and where Smith landed “the King of Paspehegh to conduct two of our men to a place called Panawicke, beyond Roanoke,” is on a stream that probably is intended to represent Nansemond River.9
This map was drawn on the relation of some Indian. The Indians of the James River had no connection with those farther south. Powhatan’s jurisdiction did not extend over the Chowanists or the Mongoaks. The Indian who gave the information on which the drawing was based probably had but little familiarity with the localities, knowing about the rivers but nothing of the coast. He knew that the first river was the Chowan and its tributaries; that the next was the Moratoc, and that farther on there was a third — the Tar. He probably knew nothing of the sounds. He placed the chief town of the Chowan Indians on the northeast side of the Chowan River, and Ochanahonan on the other side. It seems to the author of this work that Ochanahonan is probably the town called by Lane Ohanoak. On DeBry’s map this town is placed above the town of Chowanoak, but in Lane’s narrative it is located below that town.
The Indian account places Pananiock, where White’s colony settled, between the Moratoc and the Chowan rivers, but as the Indian was probably not acquainted with the waters of the sound, and only knew that the Moratoc discharged itself some distance below the Chowan, he inaccurately indicates that both emptied into the ocean. In that he was mistaken; but he probably was correct in locating the settlement north of the Moratoc River. It was between the mouth of the Moratoc and the Chowan that Lane observed the “goodly highlands,” and that location being substantially “fifty miles in the interior” from Roanoke Island, it is there we would expect to find the place of permanent settlement. And it is there that the Indian relation places it.
After the massacre, “four men and two boys and one young mayde” escaped and fled up the river of Chowanoak, and were preserved by the Weroance at Ritanoe. This flight could have been readily made from a point north of the Moratoc River. It is also stated that four men came to Ochanahonan. If there were still other fugitives than those preserved at Ritanoe, their journey through the woods would also indicate that Pananiock was on the north of the Moratoc]
The first discovery and settlement of this country was by the procurement of Sir Walter Raleigh, in conjunction with some public spirited gentlemen of that age, under the protection of Queen Elizabeth; for which reason it was then named Virginia, which begun on that part called Roanoke Island, where the ruins of a fort are to be seen at this day as well as some old English coins which have been lately found, and a brass gun, a powder horn and one small quarter-deck gun made of iron staves, which method of making guns might very probably be made use of in those days for the convenience of infant colonies.10
A further confirmation of this we have from the Hatteras Indians who either then lived on Roanoke Island or much frequented it. These tell us that several of their ancestors were white people and could talk in a book as we do: the truth of which is confirmed by gray eyes being found frequently amongst these Indians and no others.
They value themselves extremely for their affinity to the English and are ready to do them all friendly offices. It is probable that this settlement miscarried for want of timely supplies from England, or through the treachery of the natives: for we may reasonably suppose that the English were forced to cohabit with them for relief and conversation: and that in process of time, they conformed themselves to the manners of their Indian relations; and thus we see how apt human nature is to degenerate.
The Hatteras Indians
[The Hatteras Indians in 1585 were not under the same government as the savages on the mainland. They were a different tribe; and they were so few in numbers and so poor that when Lane was making a counterplot against Pemisapan and pretended that he was going to make a journey to Croatoan, he asked to be furnished with men to hunt for him while there, and with four days’ provisions to last during his stay. No subsistence could be gotten from the Croatoan. A century later, in Lawson’s time, that tribe had but sixteen fighting men, and even if all of these had a strain of English blood in them, their white ancestors might have been but a very small fraction of the English colonists. The tribe was still further reduced during the Indian War of 1711-15, when it adhered to the English. It fingered about its old home, suffering the fate of other small tribes, gradually becoming extinct. In 1763 some of the Hatteras and Mattamuskeet Indians11 were still living on the coast of Hyde, where a reservation had been set apart for them. Because names borne by some of the colonists have been found among a mixed race in Robeson County, now called Croatan, an inference has been drawn that there was some connection between them.12 It is highly improbable that English names would have been preserved among a tribe of savages beyond the second generation, there being no communication except with other savages. If English names had existed among the Hatteras Indians in Lawson’s time, he probably would have mentioned it as additional evidence corroborating his suggestion deduced from some of them having gray eyes, and from their valuing themselves on their affinity to the English. It is also to be observed that nowhere among the Indians were found houses or tilled lands or other evidences of improvement on the customs and manners of the aborigines. When this mixed race was first observed by the early settlers of the upper Cape Fear, about 1735, it is said that they spoke English, cultivated land, lived in substantial houses, and otherwise practiced the arts of civilized life, being in these respects different from any Indian tribe. In 1754 they were described as being on “Drowning Creek, on the head of Little Peedee, fifty families, a mixed crew, a lawless people, possessed the lands without patent or paying quit rents; shot a surveyor for coming to view vacant lands, being enclosed in great swamps.”13 From that time to the present these people have remained in their settlement on Drowning Creek. It is worthy of remark that in 1754 they were not considered Indians, for the military officers of Bladen County particularly reported that there were no Indians in that county. Whatever may have been their origin and the origin of their English names, neither their names nor their English manners and customs could have been perpetuated from the time of the Lost Colony without exciting some remark on the part of explorers, or historians. Apparently that community came into being at a later date. Yet it is to be observed that many persons believe them to be the descendants of the Lost Colony; and the Legislature has officially designated them as “Croatans,” and has treated them as Indians.14]
Lane’s Colony, 1585-86
Lane’s colony. — Arrival at Wokokon — Secotan visited — Aquascogoc burned by Grenville — Disembarkation at Hattorask — Settlement at Roanoke. — Fort Raleigh — Explorations — Manteo friendly — Wanchese hostile — The peril of famine — Lane penetrates the Chowanoak; seizes Skyco; ascends the Moratoc — Food exhausted — The Indian conspiracy — The hostiles gather at Dasamonquepeuc — Lane strikes a blow and secures safety — The arrival of Drake — The departure of the colonists — Arrival of Grenville’s fleet — Fifteen men left to hold possession.
The First Colony
Hastening to lay the foundations of a regal domain and with an eager anticipation of rich returns from his commercial dealings. Sir Walter now prepared a second expedition, which was to transport a hundred colonists for settlement in Virginia. Provisions were collected for a year’s subsistence, by which time a new supply was to be furnished. The colonists were to be under the authority of Ralph Lane, as governor, who was chosen for this important post because he had already given the world assurance of his bravery, capacity, and resourcefulness. Among the enterprising men of that day he ranked high for energy, courage and versatile powers. Barlow, who, years before, had served with Raleigh in Flanders, was again to be with the party, and was to remain in Virginia as admiral; while Cavendish, afterward famous as a bold and skillful navigator, Thomas Hariot, highly distinguished as a mathematician and scientist, and John White, whose maps and admirable sketches, made in Virginia, are still extant, and who was deeply interested in the work of colonization, were likewise members of the company. At length, the preparations being completed, a fleet of seven vessels, all small, however, and capable of entering the inlets of the Virginia sounds, under the command of Sir Richard Grenville, a kinsman of Sir Walter Raleigh, and famous for his skill and bravery, set sail from Plymouth on April 9, 1585. After various adventures that caused delay, the fleet passed the Cape Fear on June 23d, and two days later came to anchor at Wokokon, now known as Ocracoke, southwest of Cape Hatteras. One of the vessels, under Captain Raymond, had, however, preceded the others, and having reached the vicinity twenty days earlier, had disembarked thirty-two men at Croatoan, a part of the sandbanks nearer the cape, that island also being called the “Admiral’s Island,” and Cape Hatteras itself was known as Cape Amadas.
Exploration on the Mainland
Some ten days were spent in examining the vicinity, and then, on July 11th, a considerable party embarked in four large boats, and taking provisions for eight days, passed over to the mainland, bordering on Pamlico Sound. They visited the Indian town of Pomeiok, and the great lake, Paquipe, and the town of Aquascogoc, and then Secotan, and explored the rivers of that region. During the expedition an Indian at Aquascogoc stole a silver cup from Sir Richard Grenville, and not restoring it, according to promise, Sir Richard went back from Secotan to that town for the purpose of regaining it; but the Indians had fled. So Sir Richard, to punish the theft, burned and spoiled their corn, which set those savages at enmity with the English.
Having gained some familiarity with those southern parts, the admiral weighed anchor, and turning the cape, reached Hattorask Inlet, having previously advised King Wingina at Roanoke Island of their coming. The colonists were accompanied by Manteo and Wanchese. The former had been strengthened in his friendship for the English, but the latter, whether because of apprehensions of their great power, which he had beheld in England, or because he belonged to that tribe on the Pamlico whose corn Sir Richard had destroyed, displayed an unfriendly disposition toward them. Arriving at Hattorask, the settlers disembarked on August 17th, and landed on Roanoke Island. Who now can enter fully into the feelings of those first adventurers, who in that summer time made their lodgment in the New World! The unknown country, the placid waters of the great sound, the delightful atmosphere and brilliant sunshine, and their difficult intercourse with the untutored savages who gathered around them — with their strange color, manners, and customs — and themselves so far removed from their distant homes — must have been constant subjects of reflection, mingling pleasure and apprehension, gratifying their spirit of adventure, and fostering hopes of personal reward, but ever startling them, with the extreme novelty of their situation. A week after the landing Grenville took his departure, leaving the colonists established on Roanoke Island.
Fort Raleigh on Roanoke Island
Lane at once began the erection of dwelling houses at a convenient point on the northern end of the island, and constructed a fort there, which he called Fort Raleigh; and from there excursions were made in every direction to get a better acquaintance with the country and its products. To the southward they went eighty miles to Secotan, that lay near the mouth of the Neuse; to the north they reached the Chesipeans, some fifteen miles inland from the head of Currituck Sound, and temporarily a small number of the English established themselves in that region. From these Indians, as well as from information derived from those on the Chowan, Lane learned that there was a larger and better harbor not far distant to the northward. On the west they penetrated to Chowanoak, a large Indian town on the Chowan River, and in that region they found an Indian sovereign, or Weroance, who ruled about eight hundred warriors, having subject to him eighteen towns. These towns, however, never consisted of more than thirty houses, and generally of only ten or twelve. The houses were made with small poles fastened at the top, the sides being covered with bark, and usually about twenty feet long, although some were forty and fifty feet, and were divided into separate rooms.
In these explorations the colonists ascended the various rivers emptying into the sound, and became familiar with the adjacent country. Hariot devoted himself to the study of the natural history of the region and wrote a valuable account of the animals, the vegetables, the plants, and the trees found there, and White made many sketches that are still preserved in the British Museum.
Famine Threatens the Colonists
Among the savages, Ensinore, the old father of Wingina and Granganimeo, and Manteo were friendly with the white strangers; but the other chieftains were not favorable to them, although their bearing was not openly hostile. Granganimeo unfortunately died shortly after the arrival of the colonists, and upon that event Wingina, the king, according to some usage, took the name of Pemisapan, and as time passed he began to intrigue against the English, in which he was joined by Wanchese, Terraquine, Osacan, and other head men of the Indians. Relying on an additional supply of provisions by Easter, the colonists had been improvident, and by spring had exhausted their stock, and the planting time of vegetables and corn had hardly come when they found themselves without food. Their reliance now, temporarily at least, was on the corn of the Indians, and that was difficult to obtain. Their situation had become one of peril, especially as the Indians were reluctant to supply them. Pemisapan, understanding their difficulties, and at heart their enemy, now warily devised a plan for their destruction. He instilled into the Chowanists and into the Mangoaks, a strong and warlike tribe inhabiting the region on the Moratoc, or Roanoke River, that the English were their enemies; and then he informed Lane that the Mangoaks had much corn and that there were rich mines of gold and copper and other minerals in their country, and that they possessed stores of pearls and precious stones. This appealed strongly to Lane’s cupidity, and he eventually determined to visit them, and applied to Pemisapan for guides, and three Indians besides Manteo were assigned to accompany him. So in March Lane set out on his expedition, taking the pinnace and two smaller boats, with some 50 or 60 men. He visited all the towns on the water’s edge, and was especially pleased with some high land seen before reaching Chowanoak, subject to that king, where there was a goodly cornfield and a town called Ohanoak. Arriving at Chowanoak, he found a considerable assemblage there, the King Menatonon and his people being under apprehension that the English were enemies to them. Although Lane as a precautionary measure seized the person of the king and his young son, Skyco, he, nevertheless, was able to disarm their fears, and during a sojourn of two days with them obtained considerable information concerning the Mongoaks and their country, and also learned that by ascending the Chowan two days in a boat he would be within a four days’ journey, by land, of a king’s country that lay upon the sea. Obtaining some corn from Menatonon, and keeping Skyco as a hostage for further kindness, he sent the young Indian prince in the pinnace to the fort, and with the remaining boats and forty men pushed on up the Moratoc. His progress was slow, and he observed the difference between the strong current of that river and the sluggish waters of the great estuaries of the broad sound of Weapomeiok, as the country north of Albemarle Sound was then called.
Exploration and Starvation
The Mongoaks proved hostile, and when he had ascended the river two days, having progressed about thirty miles, they made an attack that was, however, easily repulsed. Then penetrating into the country, Lane found that the savages withdrew before him, removing all their corn and leaving nothing on which his men could subsist. His provisions being nearly out, he left it to the men to determine whether they should return or proceed; but they had two large mastiff’s with them, and the men, declaring that the dogs prepared with sassafras would be good for two days’ food, would not then abandon the expedition; and so they pushed on farther, but without any favorable result. At length, in danger of starvation, and their strength failing, they turned down stream, and in one day reached an island at the mouth of the river.
Their provisions now were entirely exhausted; but here, because of a heavy wind raising great billows in the sound, they were constrained to remain the whole of the next day. It was Easter eve; and Lane says they truly kept the fast. But Easter morn brought them new hope, and the storm ceasing, they entered the sound, and by four o’clock reached the Indian town of Chepanum (apparently on Durant’s Neck, between Little and Perquimans rivers), which they found deserted; but fortunately there were fish in the weirs that furnished timely food; “for some of our company of the light-horsemen were far spent,” those sailors who managed the canoes or light boats since called gigs being facetiously designated as “light-horsemen.”
The next morning, refreshed and strengthened, they resumed their journey and returned to Roanoke in safety.
The Indians Become Hostile
In their absence, Pemisapan had stirred up the neighboring Indians to enmity against the remaining colonists, and hoping that his devices for the destruction of Lane’s party had succeeded, he sought to strengthen the resolution of his followers by declaring that Lane and his party had either died of starvation or had been cut off by the Mongoaks. Ensinore, who had urged more friendly counsels, had unfortunately died toward the end of March, and there was now no influence to counteract Pemisapan’s hostility; and urged by him, the Indians would no longer render any assistance in the way of obtaining either fish or other food, and the situation of the colony was becoming extremely critical. The protracted absence of Lane’s party added to their despondency, while it gave color to the report of their destruction. Such was the deplorable condition on the island when Lane’s reappearance, contrary to the prophecies of his enemies, together with the accounts given by the Indians who had accompanied him of the ease with which he had overcome those Mongoaks who had fought him, caused a reaction in favor of the whites, and the Indians once more began to set weirs for them and aided them in planting corn, the planting season having now arrived. Still, until relief should come from England, or the crops just planted should mature, the colonists had to rely on such supplies as they could gather for themselves. In this extremity resort was had to the oyster beds found in the sound; and the better to subsist, the men were divided into small companies, and located at different points. Captain Stafford and twenty others were sent to Croatoan, where, while getting oysters, they could watch for the approach of the expected vessels bearing relief; at Hattorask a dozen more were stationed for the same purpose, while every week companies of fifteen or twenty were sent to the mainland to hunt for food. Thus they managed to exist through the month of May, waiting and watching in vain for the promised supplies from home.
In the meantime, Pemisapan, while preserving a friendly guise, began to plot anew against them, and instigated the hostile Indians to take the whites at a disadvantage, falling upon them while scattered and cutting them off in detail. To carry out this scheme he proposed to hold a great assembly of Indians, to last a month, by way of solemnizing the death of his father, Ensinore. This meeting was to be held on the mainland, at Desamonguepeuk, opposite Roanoke Island; and besides seven hundred neighboring warriors, it was to be attended by an equal number of the Mangoaks and Chesipeans, who were to come and lie secretly in the woods until the signal fires should give them the order to rise. As a part of the same plan, it was arranged that Terraquine, one of Pemisapan’s chieftains, with twenty men, should set fire to the thatched root of Lane’s house, and when he should come out, they were to murder him. Another leader and squad were to deal with Hariot the same way; and, similarly, all of the principal men of the colony were to be surprised and overcome. Toward the end of May the neighboring Indians began to assemble on Roanoke Island, the night of June 10th being the time appointed for the others to meet and carry into effect the murderous plot.
Skyco, being the son of a king, on reaching the island had been taken by Pemisapan to reside with his own family, and as the young prince was held a prisoner and was deemed hostile to the English, the plot became known to him ; but Lane had treated him with kindness and consideration, and the young boy in gratitude revealed to him all the details of the conspiracy. Confronted with such an emergency, Lane’s strength of character and resolution promptly displayed itself. Had he been a weaker man, not so resourceful, the colonists would probably have fallen victims to Indian strategy.
Pemisapan had gone over to the mainland, ostensibly to see about his growing corn crops, but really to attend to collecting the hostile Indians. Lane, realizing that safety could only be secured by the death of this wily foe and of his coadjutors, resolved on an immediate stroke. He sent him word to return to the island, for having heard of the arrival of his fleet at Croatoan, he himself proposed to go there ; and he wished Pemisapan to detail some of his men to fish and hunt for him at Croatoan, and he also wanted to purchase four days’ supply of corn to take with him. Pemisapan, however, did not fall into the trap; but while promising to come, postponed doing so from day to day, waiting for the assembling of the hostile Indians. At length, on the last of May, all of Pemisapan’s own people having begun to congregate on the island. Lane determined to wait no longer. So that night he ordered “the master of the light-horsemen,” as he termed his chief boatman, with a few others to gather up at sunset all the canoes in the island, so as to prevent any information being conveyed to the mainland. As the “light-horsemen” were performing this duty, they saw a canoe departing from the island, and in seizing it two of the savages were killed. This aroused the Indians who were present, and they at once took themselves to their bows and the Englishmen to their muskets. Some few of the savages were killed in the encounter and the others fled down the island. At dawn the next morning, with the “light-horsemen” and a canoe carrying twenty-five others, with the “colonel of the Chesipeans,” and “the sergeant major,” Lane hastened to the mainland, and sent word to Pemisapan that he was coming to visit him, as he was about to depart for Croatoan, and wished to complain of the conduct of Osacan, who the night before had tried to convey away the prisoner Skyco, whom he had there handcuffed. The Indian king, ignorant of what had happened on the island, and not suspecting any hostile purpose, received Lane and his attendants, who, coming up, found him surrounded by seven or eight of his principal Weroances, together with many other warriors.
As soon as they met. Lane gave the agreed signal, “Christ, our Victory,” and immediately the colonel of the Chesipeans, the sergeant major, and their company opened fire, and Pemisapan and his chief men were slain and the others dispersed. A blow so sudden and terrible paralyzed the Indians; the plot was abandoned and the danger averted.
Drake Arrives and the Colonists Return to England
A week later, on June 8th, the colony was thrown into an ecstasy of excitement by the hasty arrival of a messenger from Stafford, who reported seeing off Croatoan a fleet consisting of more than twenty vessels; but war had the year before broken out between Spain and England, and it was not at first known whether the ships belonged to friends or foes. The next day, however, Stafford himself came, having walked twenty miles by land, bringing a letter, proffering food and assistance, from Sir Francis Drake, then at Hattorask, who had just returned from sacking Santo Domingo, Cartagena and St. Augustine. With a joyful heart, Lane hastened to the fleet “riding at his bad harbor”; and Drake proposed to leave him a sufficient supply of provisions and a small vessel that could pass the inlet and lie within the sound. But before the necessary arrangements were completed a terrific storm came up that lasted three days, and the vessel which was to have been left was blown to sea and did not return; and much damage was done to the other ships of the fleet, and many pinnaces and smaller boats were entirely lost. After the storm had abated, Drake offered to leave another vessel, but he then had none that could enter the harbor; so the ship, if left, would have had to remain on the perilous coast. As an alternative proposition Drake offered to take the colonists aboard and transport them to England. After consideration, it was deemed best to accept this last offer, and the different companies into which the colony had been broken being again collected, they embarked on June 19th and safely reached Portsmouth on July 27th. Thus, after a nine months’ residence, ended the first attempt to plant a colony on Roanoke Island.
In the meantime, a bark bearing advice that a new fleet was coming had been dispatched from England, and somewhat later Sir Richard Grenville sailed with three vessels freighted with supplies and bringing other colonists. The first bark arrived immediately after the departure of Lane, and finding the settlement abandoned, returned to England; but when Sir Richard came, a fortnight later, he remained three weeks searching for the settlers and making explorations; and then putting fifteen men in the fort, with an ample supply of provisions, he sailed away on a cruise against the Spaniards.
White’s Colony, 1587-91
Raleigh’s embarrassments — Conveys an interest in Virginia to Thomas Smith, John White, and associates — The Citie of Raleigh in Virginia — White’s colony departs — Howe murdered — White despoils the fields of the hostiles — Baptism of Manteo — Birth and christening of Virginia Dare — White returns to England — The Armada — White’s first attempt to return to Virginia — Raleigh makes further conveyance of his interest — White sails in February, 1591 — Finds colony removed — Mace’s voyage — Elizabeth dies — Raleigh arrested for treason — The settlement at Jamestown — Fate of the Lost Colony
The unexpected return of Lane’s colonists greatly disappointed Raleigh. His efforts at exploration and colonization had involved great expenditures. He had already disbursed forty thousand pounds in the enterprise, a sum approximating in this age half a million dollars, and that at a period when there was no great accumulation of wealth in England. He had now been at court some years and was a member of Parliament; and his fine powers and accomplishments, his versatility of genius and varied learning, commended him to the high favor of the queen, who gave substantial evidence of her inclination to push his fortunes. In 1584 she had bestowed on him a grant of twelve thousand acres of forfeited land in Munster, Ireland, which he attempted to colonize with English tenants and where he employed a large force in cutting timber for market, which, however, did not turn out a profitable enterprise. Also, beginning in the same year, he received annually for five years profitable grants allowing him to export quantities of broadcloth from England — a sort of monopoly; and he likewise obtained a lucrative monopoly in the grant of the “farm of wines,” vesting in him the power of selling licenses for the vending of wine and, in some measure, of regulating the price of that commodity throughout the kingdom. Some months after Lane’s return, on the attainder of Anthony Babbington, the queen was also pleased to bestow on Raleigh all of the estates that had come to the Crown by the attainder, which gave him rich manors and broad acres in five counties of England. In July, 1585, when the war broke out with Spain, he was created Lord Warden of the Stannaries (Cornwall and Devon) and Vice- Admiral of Cornwall and Devon; and two years later he was appointed captain of the Queen’s Guard, the office of a courtier, to succeed Hatton, who was to become Lord Chancellor. But neither his out-lays in Ireland nor his expenditures for Virginia had yielded him any return, while his living at court, where he indulged in magnificent display, involved large expenses.
The Citie of Raleigh in Virginia
Such were his circumstances when Lane’s colony returned to England in the fall of 1586. But unwilling to abandon the enterprise and still hoping for profit from establishing a trade in Virginia, he now determined to associate merchants with him who would share the profits and the expenses. At that time some of the wealthy merchants of London were looking with eager eyes for new avenues of trade and commerce. Chief among these was Thomas Smith, whose subsequent enterprises led to his receiving knighthood at the hands of his appreciative sovereign; and of their number was Richard Hakluyt, to whom posterity is indebted for the collection and publication of many narratives of exploration and discovery in that interesting period. To Smith and eighteen other merchants who risked their money in the enterprise Raleigh granted free trade forever with his colony in Virginia, and to thirteen others he assigned the right of governing the colony. Of these John White, who had been in all the previous expeditions to Virginia, was constituted the governor, and the other twelve, who also were to accompany the colony, were nominated his assistants; among them Ananias Dare and Dionysius Harvie, who carried their wives with them, and the former of whom was White’s son-in-law. These thirteen Raleigh, by patent, under the powers contained in his own charter, on January 7, 1587, erected into a corporation under the name of ”The Governor and Assistants of the Citie of Raleigh in Virginia”; and the nineteen merchants were made members, “free of the corporation.”
A Permanent Settlement Attempted
These preliminaries being arranged, a new colony was collected, consisting of one hundred and twenty-one persons, of whom seven-teen were women, twelve apparently being wives accompanying their husbands, and nine being children. On April 26, 1587, three vessels bearing the colonists left Portsmouth for Plymouth; and on May 8th finally took their departure from that port for Hattorask, where, after many adventures, two of them arrived on July 22d, and a few days later the other. Raleigh had given written directions that after taking in the fifteen men left by Grenville the vessels were to proceed to Chesapeake Bay, where a new settlement was to be made, and such was the purpose of Governor White. But when White with a part of his men had left the ship to visit Roanoke Island for the purpose of taking off the fifteen men, Ferdinando, the admiral, influenced the sailors to say that they could not be received back into the ship, thus constraining all the colonists to disembark. At sunset White’s boat reached the island, but the only trace he could find of the men left by Grenville was the bones of one that lay unburied where he had been slain. The fort had been razed down, but the cottages were still standing, some of the outer planks, however, being torn off. Forced to remain there, White set the men at once to work to repair the buildings and to construct others. The colonists had hardly gotten established in their new homes, when George Howe, one of the assistants, having strayed off two miles from the fort catching crabs on the shore opposite the mainland, was set upon by some savages, receiving sixteen wounds from arrows, and was slain. This was an evidence of hostility that White at once sought to allay. He sent Stafford with twenty men, accompanied by Manteo, who along with another Indian, Towaye, had gone to England and had now returned to Croatoan, where Manteo’s mother and kindred were; and from these friendly Indians it was learned that some savages from the mainland had taken the men left by Grenville unawares, had killed some of them, set fire to the house where they had taken refuge, and driven them from the island; they taking their boat and going to an island near Hattorask, after which they had never been seen. They also said that it was a remnant of Wingina’s men dwelling at Dasamonquepeuc who had slain Howe. To establish more amicable relations with these hostile Indians, the Croatoans were requested to go over to their towns and proffer them the friendship of the English, who promised to forgive and forget all past offences; and it was agreed that this embassy was to return with the answer within seven days. At the end of the time, no answers being received, White deemed it best to strike a blow to show that the colonists were to be dreaded. At night, accompanied by Stafford and twenty-four men and Manteo, he crossed over to Dasamonquepeuc and secreted his force near the Indian town; and early in the morning he opened fire on some Indians discovered there. Unfortunately, these were not the hostiles, who, fearing punishment for the murder of Howe had fled, leaving their corn standing in the fields; but they were some of the Croatoans who had gone there to gather the corn. White, disappointed in his revenge, despoiled the fields and returned home. The colony being now settled, on August 13th a ceremony was performed at Roanoke that gave expression to the gratitude of Raleigh and the colony for the faithful and friendly services of Manteo.
By command of Sir Walter, the rite of baptism was administered to Manteo, and there was conferred on him the order of Knighthood; and he was created Lord of Roanoke and Dasamonguepeuk. And five days later another interesting event occurred, the birth of the first English child born in America. On August 18, 1587, Eleanor Dare, wife of Ananias Dare and a daughter of the governor gave birth to a daughter, who the next Sunday was christened Virginia, because she was the first Christian born in the new country. A few days later, also, was born to Dionysius Harvie and his wife, Margery, a child, whose name, however, has not been preserved.
The Colonists to Remove into the Interior
It was now discovered that certain other particular supplies were needed, as this was intended to be a permanent settlement; and there was consultation as to who should return with the fleet to obtain them. It was finally determined that White himself would answer the purpose best, and he agreed to go with the vessels back to Eng-land. But before his departure it was resolved that the colony should remove to some point about fifty miles in the interior; and it was agreed that they would, on departing from the island, leave some sign indicating their location; and if in distress, a cross would be the sign. It is probable that this point, fifty miles in the interior, where the colony was to locate, was the highland near Ohanoak, where there were goodly cornfields and pleasant surroundings.
At length, the fleet being ready to sail, on August 27th, after a month’s sojourn with the colony, White embarked and departed for England. On the return voyage he met with many perilous adventures, but finally, about the middle of October, made land at Smerwick, on the west coast of Ireland, and in November reached Hampton. With him came to England still another Indian, who, accepting Christianity, was baptized at Bideford Church; but a year later died, and was interred there. When the colonists receded from White’s view, as he left the shores of Virginia, they passed from the domain of history, and all we know is that misfortune and distress overtook them; and that they miserably perished, their sad fate being one of those deplorable sacrifices that have always attended the accomplishment of great human purposes.
Conditions in England on White’s Arrival
On White’s arrival, in November, 1587, seeking aid for the colony, doubtless the merchants and others who had ventured their means with Raleigh in this last attempt at colonization and trade in Virginia, were willing to respond; but there were rumors of the preparation in Spain of a great Armada to invade England, and an order had been issued forbidding the departure of any vessel from any English port. In that period of excitement and alarm, the necessities of the distant colonists were of less moment than the pressing matters at home. Still Raleigh, exerting his personal influence, obtained a license for two small vessels to sail, and on April 25, 1588, White departed with them from Bideford for Virginia. The captains, how-ever, were more intent on a gainful voyage than on the relief of the colonists, and betook themselves to the hazardous business of making prizes. At length one of them, meeting with two ships of war, was after a bloody fight overcome and rifled, despoiled and disabled, and she returned to England within a month; and three weeks later, the other, equally badly served, came home without having completed the voyage. Soon afterward, the great Armada appeared, and Raleigh was among those who made havoc of the Spanish galleons in the “morris dance of death,” that, beginning in the straits, lasted around the north of Scotland and on the coast of Ireland.
Immediately on his return he was challenged to mortal combat by the queen’s favorite, the handsome boy, Essex, and for a time retired to Ireland in seclusion. But soon all his powers and resources were employed in distressing Spanish commerce and in taking rich prizes, while England was again and again threatened with Spanish invasion. In the following March, 1589, because, perhaps, both of his public employments and of the greater facilities of the merchants to care for the colonists, he transferred his rights in Virginia by an assignment or lease to Thomas Smith, White and others, and relinquished his interest in the colony. What particular efforts these merchants made to relieve the planters are not recorded; but White afterward mentioned “having at sundry times been chargeable and troublesome to Sir Walter for the supplies and relief of the planters in Virginia.” Because of the inhibition of the sailing of merchant ships from England, no opportunity presented for White to return to Virginia until early in 1591. He then ascertained that John Watts of London, merchant, was about to send three vessels to the West Indies; but when they were ready to depart, a general stay was again commanded of all ships throughout England. Taking advantage of this circumstance. White applied to Sir Walter to obtain a special license for these vessels to sail, on condition that they would transport a convenient number of passengers with their furniture and necessaries to Virginia. The license was obtained by Raleigh, but the condition was not observed; and the only passenger they would take was White himself, and no provisions for the relief of the colonists.
White Sails for Roanoke
Leaving Plymouth on March 20, 1591, they sailed for the West Indies and sought to make prizes, and had some desperate encounters. Eventually, on August 3d, they reached Wokokon, but were driven off by a storm. On Monday, the 9th, however, the weather being fair, they returned and anchored and went on shore, obtaining a supply of fresh water and catching great stores of fish. On the morning of the 12th they departed, and toward night dropped anchor at the north end of Croatoan. The next morning they sounded the inlet there, and then, on August 15th, came to anchor at Hattorask, seeing a great smoke on Roanoke Island. The next morning, after directing signal guns to be fired, to warn the colonists of their presence, they entered the inlet; but observing a great smoke toward the southwest, they landed and proceeded to it, only to meet with disappointment. Returning to their vessels, the morning following they set off again; but on passing the bar one of the boats was upset, and seven of the crew, including the captain, the mate and the surgeon, were drowned, and the remaining men protested against proceeding further. Distressing, indeed, was the situation of White and unpropitious the outlook of a journey begun with such a calamity. But at length the men reluctantly yielded and the boats proceeded to the island, arriving after night, anchoring off the shore and sounding a trumpet call and familiar tunes to evoke a response. But all in vain. No answer came, although in the distance a firelight was seen. At break of day they landed and hastened to the fire, finding no sign of the English. Then pressing across the island, they skirted along its western shore until they came to the north point near where the settlement had been. There on the shore they found a tree on which had been cut the Roman letters C. R. O. With despondent hearts they proceeded to the place of settlement, and saw that the houses had been taken down and the place strongly enclosed with a high palisade of great trees, very like a fort; and on a tree was cut the word “Croatoan,” but without the cross or sign of distress. The boats were gone; the pieces of light ordnance had been taken away, only some of the heavier pieces remaining, and the fort was all grown up with grass and weeds, as if long since deserted. A trench in which White had buried his boxes had been opened and his maps and property scattered, and his armor lay on the ground, almost eaten through with rust. It was a scene of desolation. There was still a hope, yet it must have been but faint, that the colonists could be found at Croatoan. White had just sailed along that island and had anchored at its northern end and had beheld no sign of the presence of any English there. Returning to the inlet, it was, however, determined to go again to that island. But after they had weighed anchor, the design was relinquished; and one vessel returned to England and the other steered for the West Indies. From that time onward the English who settled in Virginia were known as Raleigh’s Lost Colony. They were not forgotten, but were never discovered.
Raleigh’s Efforts to Relieve the Colony
Greater enterprises now absorbed Raleigh, who had become one of the most heroic of that splendid company of heroes who brought luster to the Elizabethan Age; but still, between 1587 and 1602, it is said that he sent out no less than five expeditions to seek his unfortunate company in Virginia. In 1602 he bought a ship, hired a crew, placed it under the command of Samuel Mace, who had twice before sailed for Virginia, and in March sent it forth to search for the colonists. Mace struck Virginia forty leagues southwest of Hatteras, and spent a month trading with the Indians as he scoured along the coast; but without going to Croatoan or Hattorask, he returned to Weymouth in August. Raleigh hastened there to meet him, and found in the same harbor another vessel likewise just arrived from Virginia, but which had missed Roanoke also, by forty leagues to the northward. He, however, proposed to send them both away again, having saved the cost in the sassafras they brought, which he claimed because of his ownership of the land under his patent, no one having the right, he asserted, to trade in Virginia except by his license. The next year Richard Hakluyt, one of the grantees in the charter of the City of Raleigh, formally applied to Sir Walter for permission to sail to northern Virginia; but in the spring of that year, 1603, Elizabeth died, and before the summer had passed Raleigh was arrested for treason.
Jamestown Settled — The Roanoke Colony Disappears
In the meantime the spirit of enterprise which had been stimulated by Raleigh’s efforts at colonization had grown, and Thomas Smith and a few other London merchants, in 1599, had laid the foundations of the East India Company, whose great success led, in 1606, to the formation of another corporation, called the Virginia Company, with two divisions, at the head of one division being Thomas Smith, now knighted, and other London merchants and gentlemen who had been associated with Raleigh in his enterprise; and on December 19, 1606, Christopher Newport set sail with one hundred and forty-three immigrants and, on May 13th, settled Jamestown. The next year Newport was directed to make an expedition to find Raleigh’s Lost Colony.
The Fate of White’s Colonists
The colonists, warned by previous mishaps, certainly brought with them sufficient supplies to last until a crop would mature in the fall of 1588, and they did not neglect to begin their planting operations.
On his return White found no sign of any planting on Roanoke Island; nor was there evidence of any conflict with the savages — no graves, no butchery. The dwellings had been taken down and removed, and the light ordnance had been carried away. The growth of weeds indicated that two seasons had passed since the removal, and apparently the spot had not been revisited by the colonists in many months.
On his departure for England, the avowed intention was for the colonists to settle fifty miles in the interior; and when he coasted along Croatoan leisurely he observed no sign of their presence on the shore. Instead of establishing themselves on that barren sandbank, exposed to the attacks of the Spaniards, with no inviting streams, nor fertile fields, nor shady forests, they looked westward for a secure and agreeable location for their permanent settlement. Fifty miles would have brought them to the “goodly highlands, on the left hand between Muscamunge and Chowanoak,” where the Indians already had fertile cornfields; and there, according to Indian statements of different sources, they appear to have seated themselves on what are now the pleasant bluffs of Bertie County.
Several vessels were at different times dispatched to search for them; but none of these entered the great sounds. At length, after Jamestown was settled, Newport in 1608 was specially directed to make an exploration to discover them. An expedition by water did not proceed far and was without result. A searching party by land penetrated to the territory of the Chowanists and Mangoaks, but did not find the colonists.
Smith in his “True Relation” (1608) repeats information derived from the king of the Paspehegh Indians, who resided above James-town, to the effect that there were men apparelled like himself at Ochanahonan, which seems to have been on the Nottoway; and that there were many at Panawicke, a region apparently between the Chowan and Roanoke rivers. Five years later, William Strachey, the secretary of the Jamestown colony, gave some account of the missing colonists derived from Machumps, a friendly Indian of considerable intelligence, who had been to England and who came freely and often to Jamestown. At Peccarecamek and Ochanahonan, the Indians had houses built with stone walls, one story above another, having been taught by the English who escaped the slaughter at the time of the landing at Jamestown. And at Ritanoe there were preserved seven of the colonists, four men, two boys and a young maid, who having escaped, fled up the Chowan.
For more than twenty years the colonists were reported to have lived peaceably with the Indians and to have intermixed with them in their locality, beyond the territory of Powhatan; and then on the arrival of the colonists at Jamestown, Powhatan, persuaded by his bloody priests, procured their slaughter, he being present on the occasion. Some escaped; but none ever had communication with the Jamestown settlers.
Peccarecamek was apparently on the upper Pamlico, or Tar River; and perhaps a trace of English blood might be found in the aggressiveness and fierceness of the Indians of that region a century later.
Traces of the Colonists
If others were reserved on the sandbanks, as they might well have been, escaping in their pinnace through the waters of the sound, a trace of them possibly came down to posterity through their inter-mixture with the Hatteras Indians. That small tribe had always been friendly with the whites; and as late as 1709, grey eyes were found among them and they cherished a friendship with the English because of their affinity, according to their own traditions. Yet there were other opportunities for an admixture of the races. Thirty-two men of Captain Raymond’s company were among them twenty days before the arrival of Lane’s colony, and the following summer Captain Stafford and twenty men were with them until Drake came in June, and doubtless others were stationed there the next year to keep watch for the expected return of White, until all hope had expired. Other than these possible traces no memorial has ever been discovered of the existence of the Lost Colony, whose mournful fate, involved in mystery, has ever been a fruitful theme of song and story.
Letter of Sir Walter Raleigh to Sir Robert Cecil. Aug. 21, 1602 Edwards’ Life of Raleigh, II, 25L ↩
1613. William Strachey’s Travaile into Virginia, 85. ↩
An Indian of Powhatan’s tribe who had been to England. ↩
Strachey, 26. ↩
Strachey, 48. ↩
Brown’s Genesis, I, 349. ↩
Smith’s True Relation ↩
Brown’s Genesis, I, 184. February, 1608. ↩
December, 1608. ↩
Lawson’s History of North Carolina, 108. ↩
C. R., VI, 995. ↩
C. R., V, 161. ↩
The subject of the connection of these Croatans with the colonists has been ably discussed by Mr. Hamilton McMillan and by Dr. Stephen B. Weeks, who maintain that view with much plausibility. ↩
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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history.Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.
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