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Monday, October 11, 2010

The Lost Colony

Most folklore in America is handed down from generations who lived elsewhere. The Grimm Brothers, Hans Christian Andersen and beloved story tellers we know from years gone by, usually hailed from across the Atlantic.

One genuine mystery is a story belonging solely to America.

In 1587 John White settled a British colony with 117 people off the coast of North Carolina on Roanoke island. Two years earlier, Sir Walter Raleigh set up a colony here, with intention of having a strong hold against Spain.

Ralph Lane was made leader of the colony, the military man led successful campaigns against the Irish back home, and used the same tactics toward the Indians. Despite an alliance, Lane decided to kidnap the chief's son in order to gain information about Indian military capacity in the area. The Indians reacted to this act of aggression by refusing further aid to the colonists. Once they had to depend on themselves for survival, the colonists began to starve. Had it not been for the arrival of Sir Francis Drake, they all would have died. The first colony was a failure, and Drake took them back home.

Raleigh was undaunted, his next choice as leader of a second colony was John White, an artist respected by Raleigh. White went to work to repair the damage Lane caused with the Indians.
He went with groups of ambassadors to mend the friendship lost between colonists and Tribe.
His efforts were successful with the Croatoan (who called themselves Pamlico). He befriended a Christian Indian called Manteo, who worked as a bridge between the two peoples to promote peaceful relations between them.
Manteo even went to England with White when his ship left for supplies. The new alliance pleased White. He knew the survival of the colony would be ensured with the help of the Indians.

In August, White's Daughter Eleanor gave birth to the first white baby born in the new world. She was named Virginia Dare. This gave White more incentive to assure the success of the colony and peace among island inhabitants.

Not all Indians were willing to trust the colonists after Raleigh's occupation. Colonist George Howe was found murdered in July.
White wrote "his head was smashed to pieces" Clearly, anger among Indians toward colonists still existed which frightened many. White spoke with tribal leaders promising the villagers had no intention of taking over Indian territory. They only wanted peaceful coexistence. Once he felt peace was established, he left for England.

White left instructions, before he left, if the village had to relocate due to distress; they were to carve a cross in a tree as a signal.

In 1590 Governor John White returned to the New World to discover the colony he governed emptied. There was no sign of any resident, nor clue left behind as to their whereabouts. There were no carvings of crosses, which meant the colonists were not in distress.

Only the word CROATOAN was found carved in a tree.

What did it mean?

He searched the village. Buildings were torn down or in disrepair. There were no graves or sign of war, there were no bodies littering the grounds. The colonists were simply gone.

White attempted to go to the people of Croatoan to find the missing villagers, but storms kept him from traveling,until brokenhearted, he went back to England where the colony was declared "lost."

White never wavered in his belief the colonists survived, and with them, his daughter and grand daughter. He knew in his heart the Indians took care of them.

What is well known is, 50 years later, descendants of the Croatoans began to reappear. Many bore European features and spoke English.

Did the protectors of the colonists have to go "underground" for a time to protect all concerned from hostile forces?

A search for The lost settlers still goes on today with DNA testing of tribal people in the Roanoke area. This search will prove White's faith to be justified.

Stephen King was inspired by this mystery when he wrote " A Perfect Storm"

The Croatoan virus is a prominent story line in "Supernatural" a TV show on CW.

the fun of history is the mystery, the use of tradition and culture to fill in the blanks.

Enjoy it.


Cathie Dunn said...

What an intriguing story. This type of history provides great inspirations for a historical fiction writer.

I wonder what the outcome of those tests reveal.

Thank you for sharing. :-)

Jen Childers said...

glad you enjoyed it.
I'm sure DNA will reveal ancestors of the colony

Maybe we should put artists, instead of politicians, in the UN.
more talk, less gunfire.
crazy enough to work?