Thursday, May 10, 2012

Roanoke Island--the Lost Colony

Now for today's history lesson...I have always mixed up in my head Jamestown, Roanoke Island and Plymouth Rock.  Who came first? How far apart? What do we know about those early years and settlers? Well, I am finally starting to learn my American History--just a few years late.

Actually, in 1513, St. Augustine preceded the others as the first successful European settlement in the new world    It was Ponce De Leon, that adventurer from Spain ,  who came looking for the Fountain of Youth that started it all.

Then, 71 years later in 1584, Sir Walter Raleigh decided to try and make some money from this new land so he sent a group of settlers to Roanoke Island in North Carolina.  My head started to hurt when I learned that North Carolina was actually Virginia at that time (named for the Virgin Queen).  How am I supposed to keep history straight if history keeps changing its place names? On top of that, the first settlers only lasted one year when, hungry and discouraged, they sailed back home to England.

So then Raleigh sent a second bunch of panty-waists who couldn't seem to catch a fish or grow any corn and they also turned tail and ran back home the following year.
The third bunch arrived in 1587 and, before the winter was out these colonists found themselves very low on supplies. So they chose John White, who happened to be the grandfather of Virginia Dare, to go back to England and replenish their supplies.

When Mr. White arrived in England he discovered that the Virgin Queen was at war with Spain and had seized all the ships for the duration of the war.  So poor Mr. White had to wait for 3 years for the war to end before he could return to the colonies.   I tried to imagine what it was like for those settlers to be waiting all that time, alone, hungry and scared in this strange new land.  A bit like being stranded on the moon.

And when John White arrived back he found only deserted, crumbling houses, an earthen embankment (seen here) that he thought might have been used as protection against Indian raids, and the word 'CROATOAN' carved into a post.

The Croatoan were an indian tribe that lived some miles south on what is now Hatteras Island.  John White looked for his family but storms finally drove him back to England. The lost colonists along with John White's daughter and granddaughter, were never found.
 These pictures were drawn by an artist who came with the first group of colonists in 1584.  Two Indians from the tribe, Manteo and Wanchese, went to England with the Europeans when they sailed back home.  The only two towns on Roanoke Island are named for these two indians --explorers in reverse.

Their structures looked very substantial.   Too bad the colonists couldn't seem to build as well.

The town of Manteo on Roanoke Island is small and delightful, and located right on the bay just a mile or two from the original settlement.

I was parked at the library and using the library's WiFi when a policeman came up to the RV to check on me.  He let me know that the downtown area had free WiFi and nobody would bother me if I parked there for a few days--so I did.  What great hospitality!  And not such a bad view either.

Off in the distance are the Outer Banks--a natural protection from the storms off the Atlantic.  The island is heavily wooded and the climate is mild due to the warm Gulf Stream.    I would have thought this place would be ideal for starting a settlement --but I guess not.
      Another 20 years would elapse from Roanoke Island to Jamestown settlement  and it would be 13 years after that before an Englishman steps a foot on Plymouth Rock.  In my head the settlements all happened close together but there is over 100 years between St. Augustine and Plymouth Rock--Just about the same amount of time between the Wright Brothers and the first Space Station. 

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