Term Paper: Lost Colony Roanoke

Pages: 5 (1659 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Native Americans  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … English men, women and children and an Indian Chief named Manteo settled in the newly established "Citti of Raleigh" on Roanoke Island on North Carolina's Coast. They were to develop the first English colony in the New World. Three years later, after the conclusion of the Spanish Armada, the English returned to the Island. There, they found the place completely deserted, pillaged, and surrounded with high trees in a fort-like fashion. They found the single word "Croatoan" in capital letters carved into one of the surrounding cliffs and the letters "CRO" carved into a nearby tree. Never again any one knowingly see a settler from the "Citti of Raleigh" again. They had literally disappeared. Historians and anthropologists now have a few possibilities on what happened to this virgin colony (First English Settlement website).

English explorers Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe were the first to visit the island. In 1584, Sir Walter Raleigh had sent them to investigate the sounds and estuaries for a settlement location. Amadas and Barlowe returned to England a year later with two Natives, Manteo and Wanchese, and wrote glowing reports of Roanoke Island. Despite the passing of more than 350 years, their description of the countryside is still mostly applicable. They found it "very sandie and low toward the waters side, but so full of grapes {scuppernongs } as the very beating and surge of the Sea overflowed them, of which we found such plentie, as well there as in all places else, both on the sand and on the greene soil on the hils, as in the plaines, as well on every little shrubbe, as also climing towards the tops of high Cedars, that I thinke in all the world the like abundance is not to be found." (Kupperman 15)

As a result of this good news, Queen Elizabeth granted Raleigh a patent to all the lands he could occupy and named the new land Virginia in honor of the Virgin Queen. The following year Raleigh sent a party of 100 soldiers, craftsmen and scholars to Roanoke.

Captain Ralph Lane and his party arrived too late for planting, and supplies were dwindling rapidly. Lane alienated the Roanoke Indians and murdered their chief, Wingina, over a stolen cup. In 1586, when Sir Francis Drake stopped at the island after a plundering expedition, Lane and his men decided to leave. They left behind a fort, the remains of which can still be seen at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site today (First English Settlement website).

Raleigh recruited 117 English people for a more permanent settlement and appointed artist John White governor of the new Cittie of Raleigh. Among those on the ship coming over was a scientist named Thomas Hariot, who set up the New World's first science laboratory. White made detailed maps and drawings of the Indians and his new surroundings. Also present were White's pregnant daughter Eleanor Dare and son-in-law Eleanor and Annanias Dare. They soon had a daughter named Virginia, who became the first English child born on American soil. Although concerned about the safety of his family, White decided he had to return to England for supplies (First English Settlement website).

The colonists' houses were not inside the fort, since it was too small to enclose them. These cottages must have been at least a story and a half or two stories high, because there is reference to the "neather roomes of them." The roofs were thatched, as we learn from Ralph Lane's statement that the Indians by night "would have beset my house, and put fire in the reedes that the same was covered with." The chimneys and the foundations may have been of brick, because Darby Glande later testified that "as soon as they had disembarked they began to make brick and fabric for a fort and houses." Pieces of brick were also reported found at the fort site as late as 1860, and recent archeological work at the fort turned up a few brickbats, possibly of the Elizabethan period (Kupperman 122).

Before White left, the settlers had agreed to leave a message if they had to move. They would write where they could be found or, if going under duress, carve a Maltese cross above their destination. When arriving at the settlement, White hoped he would locate the colony at Croatoan Island, the home of Chief Manteo's people south of Roanoke on present-day Hatteras Island. Rough weather prevented a trip to Croatoan Island, and White and the others were forced back to England rather than winter in the Caribbean as they first planned. White died without ever returning to the New World to look for his family (First English Settlement website).

Over the past 400 years, a number of theories have been suggested about the disappearance of the Roanoke colonists. One belief is that the colonists tried to board a small boat that had been left for their use and were lost at sea. However, the vessel was very small and could not have carried them all.

Or it could be possible that an Indian tribe had slaughtered them all. On the one hand, this appears unlikely since the colonists were heavily armed because of fear of the natives. Also a massacre would most likely have left traces, but White saw no such evidence upon his arrival. On the other hand, if the attack had taken place shortly after White's departure, there would have been three years for the signs of violence to disappear.

The question remains about the carving of the word "Croatoan." Was this an attempt to name the murderers, or to let White know where they had gone? The present-day Croatoan and Lumbee tribal members insist the colony survived by gradual assimilation. They say that many of the Indians now have gray eyes and white features and use some words with 16th century English roots. The Lumbees especially argue that surnames of the colonists are common among them. Those opposing this theory say that all of these factors could have resulted from later contact with Europeans. A little more than one hundred people could not have had that great of an effect on the gene pool and language (Kupperman 141).

Recently, another theory has gained some credibility. This combines the two thoughts noted above into one possible scenario. The colonists did in fact move to Croatoan Island or the general area. Here they split into different factions. The majority of them moved once again to the Chesapeake Bay area. The smaller group stayed with the Croatoans and gradually merged with that tribe and the Lumbees.

The larger group in the Chesapeake Bay area prospered until the early years of the 17th century. They were then massacred, probably by Powhatan, famous in history as the father of Pocahontas. Supposedly, Powhatan confessed this to John Smith of Jamestown after they became friends. According to Smith, this occurred because Powhatan was afraid that the Roanoke survivors would link up with the Jamestown colonists. The two groups together, especially with the Roanokes' 20-year experience, would be too skilled and powerful for him to control. However, it is not believed that Smith was not the most reliable witness. Many of his adventures in the New World are now dismissed by scholars as no more than his fantasies. Finally, two other theories say the colonists were killed by Spanish troops who came up from Florida or that all of them died from disease, but these ideas appear quite farfetched.

Due to the advancements of genetic testing, a research study may be conducted in the future to compare the Y-chromosome of the local Indians with men of English descent who also have the surnames of the colonists. It there had been any assimilation of the colonists, the same Y-chromosome would be found in… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Lost Colony Roanoke.  (2005, November 3).  Retrieved June 16, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/lost-colony-roanoke/507586

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"Lost Colony Roanoke."  Essaytown.com.  November 3, 2005.  Accessed June 16, 2019.