The first European who is known to have visited, explored and described the coast of North Carolina was Giovanni da Verrazzano, a Florentine navigator in the service of France. Some writers, it is true, suppose that the Cabots preceded Verrazzano to this region by more than a quarter of a century; but the voyages of the Cabots are involved in so much obscurity, and present so many points for controversy, that it is impossible to ascertain with any degree of certainty just what parts of North America they visited. Verrazzano, on the contrary, left a long and detailed account of his voyage. His purpose, like that of the other explorers of his time, was to find a westward route to Cathay [China]. With a crew of fifty men, well provided with "victuals, weapons, and other ship munition" for an eight-months' voyage, he set sail in the ship Dauphine, January 24, 1524, from a "dishabited rocke by the isle of Madera." After a long and stormy voyage, and when in the thirty-fourth parallel of latitude, he reached a low-lying coast, "a newe land," he declared, "never before scene of any man either ancient or moderne."
Verrazzano's landfall was off the coast of what is now North Carolina near Cape Fear. Turning northward, and occasionally sending his men ashore, he skirted the Atlantic coast as far as Newfoundland; thence he set sail for France, and cast anchor in the harbor of Dieppe early in July. At Dieppe on July 8, 1524, he wrote and dispatched to the king, Francis I, "the earliest description known to exist of the shores of the United States." His observations on the people and the country, all the circumstances considered, are remarkably accurate and enlightening. Although his discoveries led to no settlements, nevertheless they form an important link in the p2chain of evidence that was slowly revealing to Europe the truth about the New World; and as his report was included in Hakluyt's "Divers Voyages," in 1582, it probably was not without influence upon Sir Walter Raleigh in the formulation of his plans for planting English colonies in America.
The marvelous deeds by which Raleigh and his associates — a group of brilliant soldiers, sailors, adventurers, and scholars — laid the foundation of England's vast colonial empire, found their inspiration in loyalty to the Crown and country, love of liberty, and devotion to religion. At various times in English history an attack on any one of these sentiments has been sufficient to call forth the mightiest exertions of the English nation; during the closing years of the sixteenth century all three were attacked at one and the same time by one and the same arrogant power. Philip II of Spain, proclaiming Elizabeth of England an usurper, had laid claim to her throne, and throughout his boundless dominions had levied and equipped mighty fleets and armies for the purpose of establishing the despotism of Castile by overthrowing the liberties of England. The Pope of Rome had commissioned His Most Catholic Majesty to lead a crusade against the national church of England and "to inaugurate on English soil the accursed work of the Inquisition." As one man, without regard to religious convictions or sectarian prejudices, the English people sprang to the defence of the throne, the Constitution, and the Church with an enthusiasm that stirs our blood even to this day.
In this contest with Spain, says an eminent American historian, England was "pitted against the greatest military power that had existed in Europe since the days of Constantine the Great." The source of Spain's power was her colonial possessions whence she drew the treasure that enabled her to fit out and maintain the armaments with which she threatened England's existence as an independent power. "For England the true policy was limited by circumstances. She could send troops across the Channel to help the Dutch in their stubborn resistance [to Spanish rule], but to try to land a force in the Spanish peninsula for aggressive warfare would be sheer madness. The shores of America and the open sea were the proper field of war for England. Her task was to paralyze the giant by cutting off his supplies and in this there was hope of success, for no defensive fleet, however large, could watch all Philip's enormous possessions at once." It was as the storehouse of the enemy's treasure and the source p3of his supplies that America first excited real interest among the English people.1
The man who best understood England's problem was Walter Raleigh. Hawkins, Grenville, Drake, Cavendish, and those other glorious English "sea kings" of the sixteenth century, understood it well enough so far as it involved the ravaging of Spanish coasts and the plundering of Spanish treasure ships. But Raleigh understood that something more permanent was needed to establish the supremacy of England in Europe and America. It was not enough for English statesmanship to destroy the power of Spain; it must at the same time build up the power of England, and as a step toward this end, Raleigh conceived the policy of establishing English colonies in North America. Such colonies would not only offset the Spanish settlements in the West Indies, Mexico, and South America, and serve as bases of operations against them; they would also develop English commerce and afford an outlet for English manufactures. All this the far-seeing mind of Raleigh perceived in his great design. The work of Hawkins and Drake, of Grenville and Cavendish, and their fellow sea-rovers, though of great importance in the accomplishment of England's destiny, was destructive; Raleigh's work was constructive in the highest degree, and entitles him to first place among those who won North America for English-speaking peoples.
The first steps which Raleigh took toward carrying his great scheme into execution were in conjunction with his half-brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert. In November, 1577, some one presented Queen Elizabeth with "A discourse how Her Majesty may annoy the Kinge of Spaine by fitting out a fleet of shippes of war under pretence of Letters Patent, to discover and inhabit strange places, with special proviso, for their safeties whom policy requires to have most annoyed — by which means the doing the contrary shall be imputed to the executor's fault; your Highness's letters patent being a manifest show that it was not your Majesty's pleasure to have it." The writer offered to destroy the great Spanish fleets which went every year to the banks of Newfoundland to catch fish for the Spanish fast days. "If you will let us do this," he continued, "we will next take the West Indies from Spain. You will have the gold and silver mines and the profit of the soil. You will be monarch of the seas and out of danger from every one. I will do it if you will allow me; only you must p4resolve and not delay or dally — the wings of man's life are plumed with the feathers of death." There is no signature to this letter, but the same idea is expressed in several places by Sir Humphrey Gilbert, and historians believe this to be his. At any rate within less than a year Gilbert obtained letters patent for planting an English colony in America, with "special proviso" that there should be no robbing "by sea or by land." In the fall of 1578 Gilbert sailed with a fleet of seven ships, one of which was commanded by Walter Raleigh; but a fight with Spaniards compelled the fleet to put back into Plymouth. Five years later Gilbert sailed again, but this time without Raleigh, "for the Queen's mind had been full of forebodings and she had refused to let him go." The unhappy ending of this voyage is one of the most dramatic episodes in American history.
In 1584 Gilbert's patent was renewed in Raleigh's name. By this patent, dated March 25, 1584, Raleigh was given "free liberty & license * * * to discover, search, finde out, and view such remote, heathen and barbarous lands, contreis, and territories, not actually possessed of any Christian prince, nor inhabited by Christian people." Two provisions of Raleigh's charter deserve especial mention. One declared the colonists "shall and may have all the privileges of free Denizens, and persons native of England, and within our allegiance in such like ample manner and forme, as if they were borne and personally resident within our said Realme of England, any law, customs, or usage to the contrary notwithstanding." The other provision authorized Raleigh, his heirs and assigns to enact such laws as they judged proper for the government of the colony provided only such laws were not inconsistent with the laws of England.
Raleigh was prompt to take advantage of his patent. Within less than a month he had an expedition ready to sail for America under the command of two experienced navigators, Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlow. They sailed from the west coast of England April 27, 1584, "with two barkes well furnished with men and victuals." A voyage of sixty-seven days brought them, July 2, to "shole water, wher," they said, "we smelt so sweet, and so strong a smel, as if we had been in the midst of some delicate garden abounding with all kinde of odoriferous flowers, by which we were assured, that the land could not be farre distant: and keeping good watch, and bearing but slacke saile, the fourth of the same moneth we arrived upon the coast, which we supposed to be a continent and firme lande, and we sayled along the same •a hundred and p6twentie English miles before we could finde any entrance, or river issuing into the Sea. The first that appeared to us, we entred, though not without some difficultie, & cast anker about three harquebuz-shot within the havens mouth, on the left hand of the same; and after thankes given to God for our safe arrival thither, we manned our boats, and went to view the land next adjoining, and to take possession of the same, in the right of the Queenes most excellent Majestie, as rightfull Queene, and Princesse of the same, and after delivered the same over to your [Raleigh's] use, according to her Majesties grant, and letters patent, under her Highnesse great seale." These important proceedings were performed "according to the ceremonies used in such enterprises."
The Arrival of the English in "Virginia" (Roanoke Island)
From the De Bry Engravings of the John White Paintings, 1590
The purpose of Amadas and Barlow was to explore the country and fix upon a site for the first settlement. Immediately after the ceremony of taking possession they "viewed the land" about them, which they found "very sandie and low towards the waters side. * * * We passed from the Sea side towardes the toppes of those hilles next adjoining, being but of meane higth, and from thence wee behelde the Sea on both sides to the North, and to the South, finding no ende any of both wayes." A few days later Barlow, with seven of his crew, "went twentie miles" across the sound, "and the evening following," he said, "wee came to an Island which they [the natives] call Roanoak, distant from the Harbour by which we entered, seven leagues: * * * Beyond this Island there is the maine lande. * * * When we first had sight of this countrey, some thought the first land we saw to bee the continent: but after we entered into the Haven, we saw before us another mighty long Sea: for there lyeth along the coast a tracte of Island, two hundreth miles in length, adjoyning to the Ocean sea: * * * when you entred betweene them * * * then there appeareth another great Sea: * * * and in this inclosed Sea there are above an hundreth Islands of divers bignesses, whereof one is sixteene miles long, at which we were, finding it a most pleasant and fertile ground. * * * Besides this Island there are many, as I have sayd, * * * most beautiful and pleasant to behold."
The visitors seemed to think they had reached a veritable paradise. Their report glowed with enthusiasm for the new country and its people. The "soile" was "the most plentiful, sweete, fruitfull and wholesome of all the world." There were "above fourteene severall sweete smelling timber trees," while the "underwoods," were mostly of "Bayes and such p7like." They found the same "okes" as grew in Europe "but farre greater and better." In the woods grew "the highest and reddest Cedars of the world." The island was "so full of grapes as the very beating and surge of the Sea overflowed them," and they were "in such plenty * * * both on the sand and on the greene soile on the hills, as in the plaines, as well as on every little shrubbe, as also climing towardes the tops of high Cedars" that in "all the world the like abundance" could not be found. As the men strolled down the coast "such a flock of Cranes (the most part white) arose under" them "with such a cry redoubled by many ecchoes as if an armie of men had showted all together." The island "had many goodly woodes full of Deere, Conies, Hares, and Fowle, * * * in incredible abundance;" while the waters were alive "with the goodliest and best fish in the world." The Indians sent them "divers kindes of fruits, Melons, Walnuts, Cucumbers, Gourdes, Pease, and divers rootes, and fruites very excellent good, and of their Countrey corne, which is very white, faire and well tasted."
The Englishmen were as much delighted with the natives as with their country. They found them "very handsome and goodly people, and in their behaviour as mannerly and civill as any of Europe." The chief of the country, Wingina, who was disabled by a wound received in battle, sent his brother, Granganimeo, to welcome the strangers. Granganimeo "made all signes of joy and welcome, striking on his head and breast and afterwards on ours, to shew wee were all one, smiling and making shewe of the best he could of all love and familiaritie." When the Englishmen visited the natives in their villages they "were entertained with all love and kindnesse, and with as much bountie (after their maner) as they could possibly devise." Thus the visitors were deceived into the belief that their hosts were "most gentle, loving and faithful, voide of all guile and treason, and such as live after the maner of the golden age." Immediately after this bit of rhapsody the report adds: "their warres are very cruel and bloody, whereof, and of their civil dissentions which have happened of late yeares amongst them, the people are marvelously wasted and in some places the countrey left desolate."
The explorers of course did not neglect the opportunity which the friendliness of the natives gave them for trade. They had brought with them the usual trinkets for which the Indians were always ready to trade furs and skins, gold and silver, pearls and coral. "We fell to trading with them," says Barlow, "exchanging some things we had, for Chamoys, p8Buffe, and Deere skinnes." A bright tin dish especially pleased Granganimeo and he gave for it "twentie skinnes, woorth twentie Crownes"; while for a copper kettle he exchanged "fiftie skinnes, woorth fiftie Crownes." Granganimeo's wife, on her visit to the English ships, wore about her forehead "a bande of white Corall"; and "in her ears shee had bracelets of pearles hanging downe to her middle * * * and these were of the bignes of good pease." Some of the women "of the better sort," and "some of the children of the kings brother and other noble men" had copper pendants hanging from their ears. Granganimeo "himself had upon his forehead a broade plate of golde, or copper, for being unpolished we knew not what mettal it should be." He "had great liking of our armour, a sword and divers other things which we had: and offered to lay a great boxe of pearle in gage for them, but we refused it for this time, because we would not make them know, that we esteemed thereof, until we had understoode in what places of the countrey the pearle grew."
Two months were thus spent in exploring the country, visiting the natives, gathering information, and trading. "Then," says Barlow, "contenting ourselves with this service at this time, which we hope hereafter to inlarge, as occasion and assistance shal be given, we resolved to leave the countrey and to apply ourselves to returne to England, which we did accordingly, and arrived safely in the West of England about the middest of September. * * * We brought home also two of the savages, being lustie men, whose names were Wanchese and Manteo." The story of this voyage was heard in England with wonder and delight. Everybody was charmed with this wonderful new country and its "gentle, loving" people. Elizabeth, delighted that her reign had been signalized by so great an event, declared that in honor of her virgin state the new country should be called "Virginia."
Raleigh lost no time in preparing a colony for "Virginia." The queen conferred upon him the honor of knighthood as a reward for his gift of "Virginia" to the Crown. He was wealthy and famous, high in the favor of his sovereign, and men were anxious to enlist in his service. He found no difficulty, therefore, in securing a colony led by picked men. For governor he selected Ralph Lane. Lane, who had already seen considerable service, was then on duty for the Crown in Ireland, but the queen ordered a substitute to be appointed in his government of Kerry and Clanmorris, "in consideration of his ready undertaking the voyage to Virginia p9for Sir Walter Raleigh at Her Majesty's command."2 Others who were members of Lane's colony were "the wonderful Suffolk boy," Thomas Cavendish, aged twenty-two years, who, before he reached his twenty-ninth year rivaled the exploits of Sir Francis Drake in the Pacific and circumnavigated the globe; Philip Amadas, one of the commanders in the first expedition to Roanoke, and now "admiral" of "Virginia"; John White, the artist of the expedition, sent by Raleigh to make paintings of the country and its people, afterward governor of the "Lost Colony";a and Thomas Hariot, the historian and scientist of the colony, "a mathematician of great distinction, who materially advanced the science of Algebra, and was honored by Descartes, who imposed some of Hariot's work upon the French as his own."3 To none who bore a part in the efforts to plant a colony on Roanoke Island, save Raleigh alone, do we owe more than to White and Hariot. The work of "these two earnest and true men" — the splendid pictures of the one and the scholarly narrative of the other — preserve for us the most valuable information that we have of Raleigh's colonial enterprises. Two others who sailed in Lane's expedition were Wanchese and Manteo, the two "lustie" natives who had accompanied Amadas and Barlow to England. The fleet was under the command of the famous Sir Richard Grenville, whose heroic death in the most wonderful sea fight in all history is nobly commemorated by Tennyson in one of the most stirring ballads in our language.
The colony was composed of 108 men. "With marvelous energy, enterprise, and skill Raleigh collected and fitted out in an incredibly short time a fleet of seven ships well stocked and well manned to transport his 'first colonie' into the wilds of America. * * * Never before did a finer fleet leave the shores of England, and never since was one more honestly or hopefully dispatched. There were the 'Tyger,' and the 'Roe Buck,' of 140 tons each, the 'Dorothea,' a small bark, and two pinnaces, hardly big enough to bear distinct names, yet small enough to cross dangerous bars and enter unknown bays and rivers."4 The fleet sailed from Plymouth April 9, 1585, followed the usual route by way of the Canaries and the West Indies, reached "the maine of Florida" June 20, and p10three days later narrowly escaped wreck "on a breach called the Cape of Feare." June 26 brought them to Wocokon, part of the North Carolina banks, on the modern map called Ocracoke. The next month was spent in exploring the coast and making the acquaintance of the natives. In the course of these explorations an Indian stole a silver cup from one of the visitors, whereupon the Englishmen "burned and spoiled their corn," and thus sowed seeds of hostility that were soon to ripen into a harvest of blood and slaughter. July 27 the fleet reached Hatteras "and there rested." A month later, lacking two days, Grenville weighed anchor for England, leaving at Roanoke the first English colony that had landed on the shores of America.
Lane's first work was to build a fort and "sundry necessary and decent dwelling houses." From this "new Fort in Virginia," September 3, 1585, he wrote to his friend Richard Hakluyt of London, the first letter, of which we have record, written in the English language from the New World. Lane fairly bubbled over with enthusiasm for the new country, which, he declared, was "the goodliest soyle under the cope of heaven." In fact, he thought "if Virginia had but horses and kine in some reasonable proportion, * * * being inhabited with English, no realme in Christendom were comparable to it." To his exaggerated estimate of the riches of the country, we may trace the failure of Lane's colony. Three things only, he declared, were indispensable to make Virginia desirable for colonization by the English, viz., the finding of a better harbor than that at Roanoke; the discovery of a passage to the South Sea; and gold. Accordingly those energies which he ought to have devoted to the clearing of the forest, the erection of houses, and the tilling of the soil, he exhausted in premature explorations and a vain search for precious metals. In the prosecution of these undertakings the colonists consumed all of their provisions and before the close of their first winter in "Virginia" found themselves reduced to dependence upon the liberality of the savages for food. This, of course, soon proved a precarious and treacherous source of supplies.
During the winter Lane's relations with the Indians seemed to be all that could be desired. Two of the most powerful chiefs sent in their submission and the Indians on Roanoke Island built weirs for the white men and planted enough corn to feed them a year. But appearances were deceiving. Familiarity bred contempt, and the awe with which the red men at first regarded the whites rapidly disappeared p12when familiarity proved them to be but common men. No longer to be welcomed as gods, they must be expelled as intruders, and around their council fires painted warriors considered how this object might be most easily accomplished. Their leaders in these plants were Wingina and Wanchese. It was the former's brother Granganimeo, it will be recalled, who had welcomed Amadas and Barlow to the New World; the latter with Manteo had accompanied them on their return to Europe. Granganimeo and Manteo became the fast friends, Wingina and Wanchese the steadfast enemies of the English. Soon after Lane's arrival Granganimeo died, whereupon Wingina, in accordance with some savage custom, changed his name to Pemisapan and began to plot the destruction of the invaders. His plot, which came to a head in the spring of 1586, was shrewdly laid. It embraced all the tribes north of Albemarle Sound, numbering about 1,500 warriors. They agreed to supply no food to the English, and to destroy their weirs, thus compelling them to scatter in search of food. After setting a day for the general attack, Pemisapan, in order to avoid Lane's daily demand for food, withdrew to Dasamonguepeuk on the mainland.
Indian Warriors of Roanoke
From the De Bry Engravings of the John White Paintings
Pemisapan had planned well. Famine soon threatened the colony and Lane was about to walk into his enemy's cunning trap, when the whole plot was revealed to him. In this emergency he acted with enterprise and courage. Sending word to Pemisapan at Dasamonguepeuk that his fleet had arrived at Croatan from England — "Though I in truth," he confesses, "neither heard nor hoped for so good adventure" — he said that on his way to meet it he would stop by Dasamonguepeuk for supplies. Pemisapan was completely deceived. Lane marched upon his camp where he found the savage chief with several of his warriors awaiting him. At the signal agreed upon — the slogan "Christ our victory" — the Englishmen fell upon the savages "and immediately," as Lane reports, "those his chiefe men and himselfe had by the mercy of God for our deliverance, that which they had purposed for us." Pemisapan and several of his warriors were killed, the rest scattered, and the conspiracy fell to pieces. The Englishman adopted the strategy of the savage and beat him at his own game.
A few days after this victory, Sir Francis Drake in command of a fleet of twenty-three sail arrived off the coast. He was a welcome visitor for, says Lane, he made "a most bountiful and honorable offer for the supply of our necessities to the performance of the action we were entered into; p13and that not only of victuals, munitions, and clothing, but also of barks, pinnesses, and boats; they also by him to be victualled, manned and furnished to my contentation." But while preparations were being made to carry these generous measures into execution, "there arose such an unwonted storme, and continued foure dayes that had like to have driven all on shore, if the Lord had not held his holy hand over them." The vessels of Drake's fleet were "in great danger to be driven from their ankoring upon the coast. For we brake many cables and lost many ankors. And some of our fleet which had lost all, (of which number was the ship appointed for Master Lane and his company) was driven to put to sea in great danger, in avoyding the coast, and could never see us againe untill we met in England. Many also of our small pinnaces and boates were lost in this storm." As a result of this experience, Lane, after consultation with Drake, decided to embark his colony for England. Then Drake, says Lane, "in the name of the Almighty, weying his ankers (having bestowed us among his fleet) for the reliefe of whom hee had in that storme sustained more perill of wrake then [than] in all his former most honourable actions against the Spanyards, with praises unto God for all, set saile the nineteenth of June, 1586, and arrived in Portsmouth the seven and twentieth of July the same yeere."
Lane and his colonists found no precious metals in "Virginia," but they introduced to the English people three articles that have brought more gold and silver into the coffers of English-speaking peoples than the Spaniards took from the mines of Mexico and Peru. These were "uppowoc," "pagatour," and "openauk," articles first described for the English people by Hariot. Though now masquerading under other names we have no difficulty in recognizing in "uppowoc" our tobacco, in "pagatour" our Indian corn, and in "openauk" our Irish potato. Everybody knows that the first man of rank to introduce the use of tobacco to the English people was Sir Walter Raleigh. He also introduced the cultivation of the potato into England and Ireland. No greater service was ever rendered the Irish people. So important to their welfare has the potato become that, though not native to the Emerald Isle, it is best known as the Irish potato.
Shortly before Lane's embarkation for England a ship fitted out by Raleigh "at his owne charge" and "fraighted with all maner of things in a most plentifull manner, for the supply and reliefe of his colony then remaining in Virginia," sailed from England for Roanoke Island. This vessel p14reached Hatteras immediately after the departure of the English colony, "out of this paradise of the world," but finding no settlers, returned to England. Two weeks later Sir Richard Grenville arrived with three ships. After diligent search for Lane's people he too turned his prow homeward; but "unwilling to loose the possession of the countrey which Englishmen had so long held, after good deliberation, he determined to leave some men behinde to reteine possession of the Countrey, whereupon he landed fifteene men in the Isle of Roanoke, furnished plentifully with all maner of provisions for two yeeres, and so departed for England."
Raleigh was not to be deterred from his great work by a single failure. The next year, 1587, "intending to persevere in the planting of his Countrey of Virginia," he sent out a new colony "under the charge of John White, whom hee appointed Governor, and also appointed unto him twelve assistants, unto whom he gave a Charter, and incorporated them by the name of Governor and Assistants of the Citie of Raleigh in Virginia." This colony contained seventeen women and nine children. Ten of the men, it may be inferred from their names, were accompanied by their wives and children. They were, therefore, going to "Virginia" to seek permanent homes. Three vessels, the Admiral, 120 tons, a fly-boat, and a pinnace, sailed from Portsmouth April 26, 1587, bearing this little colony to its mysterious fate. Following advice he had received from Lane, Raleigh ordered the fleet only to touch at Roanoke in order to bring off the men left by Grenville, and then to proceed to the Chesapeake Bay where he intended the settlement to be made. This order was not obeyed because the commander of the fleet, Simon Ferdinando, turned out to be a treacherous villain. Upon reaching Hatteras, the governor with forty men embarked in the pinnace for Roanoke Island, and as they left the ship Ferdinando sent an order to the sailors in the pinnace "charging them not to bring any of the planters backe againe," but to leave them in the Island, "except the Governour, & two or three such as he approved, saying that the Summer was farre spent, wherefore hee would land the planters in no other place." From this decision there was no appeal this side of England and White was forced against his will to land his colony on Roanoke Island. This landing occurred "in the place where our fifteene men were left, but we found none of them, nor any signe that they had bene there, saving onely wee found the bones of one of those fifteene, which the Savages had slaine long before." Passing to the north end of the island p15they found the houses and the ruins of the fort built by Lane. The houses were in good condition but the outer rooms "were overgrown with Melons of divers sorts, and Deere within them, feeding on those Melons." The work of repairing these houses and the building of new ones was undertaken without delay, and thus was begun the second attempt to found an English colony in America.
Two incidents in the life of this colony will always have a romantic interest. One was the baptism of Manteo who, in accordance with Raleigh's instructions, was christened Lord of Roanoke and Dasamonguepeuk "in reward of his faithful service." This ceremony occurred on August 13, 1587, and is the first instance on record of a Christian service by English Protestants within the boundaries of the United States. A few days later occurred the second such service in connection with the most interesting incident in the life of the little colony. On the 18th of August, Eleanor Dare, daughter of Governor White and wife of Ananias Dare, gave birth to a daughter, who was baptised on the following Sunday, "and because this child was the first Christian borne in Virginia, shee was named Virginia." More people perhaps know the story of Virginia Dare than of any other baby that ever lived in the America, though the last ever heard of her was when she was but nine days old. The State of North Carolina has commemorated her birth by embracing the very spot whereon she was born into a county called Dare.
Virginia Dare was but a few days old when occurred the last recorded event in the life of the settlement. It was necessary for somebody to return to England for supplies. Two of the governor's assistants were expected to go, but when the time came they refused to make the trip. Then "the whole company both of the Assistants and planters came to the Governour, and with one voice requested him to returne himselfe into England, for the better and sooner obtaining of supplies, and other necessaries for them." At first he would not listen to their entreaties, alleging that many of the colonists had been induced to come by his persuasion, and that if he left them he would be accused of deserting the colony. Besides they "intended to remove •50 miles further up into the maine presently," and he must remain to superintend this removal. But the next day "not onely the Assistants but divers others, as well women as men," renewed their request and offered to sign a statement "under their hands and seals" that his return was made at their earnest entreaties. This statement was duly executed and White "being at p16the last through their extreme intreating constrayned to returne into England," set sail from Roanoke August 27th. From that day to this the fate of Virginia Dare and the Roanoke settlers has been a mystery.
Upon his arrival in England, White found the whole country astir over the approach of the Spanish Armada called "Invincible." Every English vessel and every English sailor was in demand for the defence of the kingdom. There was no busier man in all England than Sir Walter Raleigh, yet he found time to listen to White's story and to prepare a small expedition for the relief of his colony; but at the very last moment orders came forbidding it to sail. Raleigh's influence, however, was deservedly great, and, in April, 1588, he secured permission for two small vessels to go to Roanoke. They set sail but were driven back by Spanish war vessels. It was then too late to give any further attention to the handful of settlers across the Atlantic; the great "Invincible Armada" was bearing down on England's coast and every man's first duty was at his post to defend his home and fireside. Finally the great battle was fought and the Spaniards were driven crushed and shattered from the English Channel. "God blew with his winds and they were scattered."
It was March, 1590, before White finally sailed for Roanoke. Unfortunately he did not command the vessel in which he sailed but embarked as a passenger in a ship engaged in the West Indian trade. He arrived at Hatteras in the afternoon of August 15th. "At our first coming to anker on this shore," he wrote, "we saw a great smoke rise in the Ile Roanoke neere the place where I left our Colony in the yeere 1587, which smoake put us in good hope that some of the Colony were there expecting my returne out of England." The sea was rough and the crew experienced great difficulty in reaching Roanoke Island. On one of the attempts seven men were drowned. The last attempt was made with two boats manned by nineteen men. The experience of this party can best be given in White's own language. Says he: "before we could get to the place, where our planters were left, it was so exceeding darke, that we overshot the place •a quarter of a mile; there we espied towards the North end of the Iland ye light of a great fire thorow the woods, to which we presently rowed: when we came right over against it, we let fall our Grapnel neere the shore, & sounded with a trumpet Call, & afterwards many familiar English tunes of Songs, and called to them friendly; but we had no answer, we therefore landed at day breake, and coming to the fire, we found the grasse & p17sundry rotten trees burning about the place. From hence we went thorow the woods to that part of the Island directly over against Dasamonguepeuk, & thence we returned by the water side, round about the North point of the Island, untill we came to the place where I left our Colony in the yeere 1586 . In all this way we saw in the sand the print of the Savages feet of 2 of 3 sorts troaden ye night, and as we entered up the sandy banke upon a tree, in the very browe thereof were curiously carved three faire Romane letters C R O: which letters presently we knew to signifie the place, where I should find the planters seated, according to a secret token agreed upon between them & me at my last departure from them, which was, that in any wayes they should not fail to write or carve on the trees or posts of the dores the name of the place where they should be seated; for at my coming away they were prepared to remove from Roanoke •50 miles into the maine. Therefore at my departure from them in An. 1587 I willed them, that if they should happen to be distressed in any of those places, that then they should carve over the letters or name, a Crosse X in this forme, but we found no such sign of distresse. And having well considered of this, we passed toward the place where they were left in sundry houses, but we found the houses taken down, and the place very strongly enclosed with a high palisado of great trees, with cortynes and flankers very Fortlike, and one of the chiefe trees or postes at the right side of the entrance had the barke taken off, and 5 foot from the ground in fayre Capitall letters was graven CROATOAN without any crosse or signe of distress; this done, we entered into the palisado, where we found many bares of Iron, two piggies of lead, foure yron fowlers, Iron sacker-shotte, and such like heavie things, throwen here and there, almost over-grown with grasse and weedes. * * * Presently Captaine Cooke and I went to the place, which was in the ende of an olde trench, made two yeeres past by Captain Amadas: where wee found five Chests, that had bene carefully hidden of the Planters, and of the same chests three were my owne, and about the place many of my things spoyled and broken, and my books torne from the covers, the frames of some of my pictures and Mappes rotten and spoyled with rayne, and my armour almost eaten through with rust; * * * but although it much grieved me to see such spoyle of my goods, yet on the other hand I greatly joyed that I had safely found a certaine token of their safe being at Croatoan, which is the place where Manteo was borne, and the Savages of the Iland our friends."
p18 Preparations were made to proceed to Croatan "with as much speede" as possible, for the sky was threatening and promised a "foul and stormie night." The sailors embarked "with much danger and labour." During the night a fierce storm swept the sound and the next day "the weather grew to be fouler and fouler." The winds lashed the sea into a fury, cables snapt as though made of twine, three anchors were cast away and the vessels escaped wreck on the sand bars by a hair's breadth. Food ran low and fresh water gave out. Captain Cooke now refused to continue the search and determined to go to St. Johns, or some other island to the southward for fresh water and to continue in the West Indies during that winter "with hope to make 2 rich voyages of one." Governor White, much against his wishes, was compelled to acquiesce in this arrangement, but at his "earnest petitions" Captain Cooke agreed to return in the spring and renew the search for the colonists. It is well known that this was not done, for the voyage to the West Indies was unfortunate, the plans of the adventurers went awry, and they were compelled to return to England without going by way of Croatan. Thus was lost the last chance of learning definitely the fate of the "Lost Colony."5
p19 The departure of White did not end the search for the colonists. Other expeditions were sent out without success. As late as 1602 such an expedition sailed under the command of Samuel Mace. By the time Mace returned with his repetition of the sad story of failure, Raleigh had been attainted and his proprietorship to "Virginia" had escheated to the Crown. His efforts had cost him a large fortune amounting, it is estimated, to not less than a million dollars of our money. But, though his financial resources were exhausted, his spirit was as determined as ever, and he never despaired of seeing an English colony planted in "Virginia." "I shall yet live to see it an English nation," he wrote just before his fall. To the realization of this prophecy no man contributed more than he. Among those who subscribed funds for the founding of the Jamestown colony were ten of those who constituted the incorporators of the "Citie of Raleigh in Virginia" in 1587. In these men we have the connecting link between the Roanoke settlements and Jamestown. Therefore, although he himself never set foot on "Virginia soil," Raleigh will always be esteemed the true parent of North American colonization. An idea like his has life in it, though the plant may not spring up at once. When it rises above the surface the sower can claim it. Had the particular region of the New World not eventually become a permanent English settlement, he would still have earned the merit of authorship of the English colonizing movement. As Humbolt has said, "without him, and without Cabot, North America might never have grown into a home of the English tongue."6 This was p20Raleigh's greatest service to England and to the world. "Baffled in his efforts to plant the English race upon this continent, he yet called into existence a spirit of enterprise which first gave Virginia, and then North America, to that race, and which led Great Britain, from this beginning, to dot the map of the world with her colonies." Such are the results that have sprung from the efforts of Raleigh, Lane, and White to plant an English colony on the shores of North Carolina. That judgment, therefore, is correct which declares that, looking back upon the events of the last three centuries, "We can hail the Roanoke settlement as the beginning of English colonization in America."7
1 Fiske: Old Virginia and Her Neighbours, Vol. I, pp11 and 22.
2 William Wirt Henry: Sir Walter Raleigh, in Winsor's Narrative and Critical History of America, Vol. III, p111.
4 Stevens: Thomas Hariot and His Associates, p50.
5 A discussion of the fate of the "Lost Colony" would be foreign to the purpose of this book. Those who wish to pursue this phase of the subject will find exhaustive treatments of it in "Sir Walter Raleigh's Lost Colony," by Hamilton McMillan, A. M., Advance Presses, Wilson, N. C., 1888; in "The Lost Colony of Roanoke," by Stephen B. Weeks, Ph. D., The Knickerbocker Press, New York, 1891; and in "Virginia Dare," by S. A. Ashe, in the "Biographical History of North Carolina," Vol. IV, pp8‑18, Charles L. Van Noppen, Publisher, Greensboro, N. C., 1906.
The theory advanced in these interesting discussions is that the colonists despairing of the return of White, moved to Croatan, intermarried with the Croatan Indians, and became the ancestors of the present tribe of Croatans in North Carolina. In support of this theory, appeal is made to White's narrative, above quoted; to John Smith's narrative; to a pamphlet entitled "A True and Sincere Discourse of the Purpose and Ende of the Plantation begun in Virginia," published in 1610; to Strachey's "History of Travaile in Virginia Britannia," written sometime between 1612 and 1616, but not published until 1849; to John Lawson's "History of Carolina," published in 1709; and finally to the traditions, character, disposition, language and family names of the North Carolina Croatans of the present day.
Doctor Weeks thus summarizes the arguments in support of this theory: "Smith and Strachey heard that the colonists of 1587 were still alive about 1607. They were then living on the peninsula of Dasamonguepeuk, whence they travelled toward the region of the Chowan and Roanoke rivers. From this point they travelled toward the southwest, and settled on the upper waters of the Neuse. John Lederer heard of them in this direction in 1670 and remarked on their beards, which were never worn by full-blooded Indians. Rev. John Blair heard of them in 1704. John Lawson met some of the Croatan Indians about 1709, and was told that their ancestors were white men. White settlers came into the middle section of North Carolina as early as 1715, and found the ancestors of the present tribe of Croatan Indians tilling the soil, holding slaves, and speaking English. The Croatans of today claim descent from the Lost Colony. Their habits, disposition, and mental characteristics show traces both of savage and civilized ancestry. Their language is the English of three hundred years ago, and their names are in many cases the same as those borne by the original colonists. No other theory of their origin has been advanced, and it is confidently believed that the one here proposed is logically and historically the best, supported as it is, both by external and internal evidence. If this theory is rejected, then the critic must explain in some other way the origin of a people which, after the lapse of three hundred years, show the characteristics, speak the language, and possess the family names of the second English colony planted in the western world." — "The Lost Colony of Roanoke," pp38‑39.
6 Stebbing: Sir Walter Ralegh, p48.
7 Henry: "Sir Walter Raleigh," in Winsor's Narrative and Critical History of America, Vol. III, p105.
a At the time Connor wrote, the identity of John White, the artist, with John White, the subsequent governor, was just an assumption, challenged by some; proof of their identity was published only in 1935: "An Effort to identify John White", American Historical Review, XLI.87‑91.
Images with borders lead to more information.
The thicker the border, the more information. (Details here.)
Connor et al.
History of NC
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY
if its URL has a total of one *asterisk.
If the URL has two **asterisks,
the item is copyright someone else, and used by permission or fair use.
If the URL has none the item is © Bill Thayer.
See my copyright page for details and contact information.
Page updated: 18 Oct 11