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The Lost Colony Research Group

Genealogy ~ DNA ~ Archaeology




July 2011


Following the Croatoan

In 2010 when the North Carolina Society of Historians awarded the Lost Colony Research Group the prestigious Malcolm Fowler Award, their question was why we weren't following the Croatoan.  Little did they know, we are and have been for some time.  Records that touch upon the Hatteras have been scattered throughout many different types of records in many locations.  Altogether, there aren't many. 

The Colonists left us one very clear message, in duplicate.  When they left Fort Raleigh on Roanoke Island, they disassembled the houses and left in an orderly manner.  In doing so, they also left two messages, "Cro" and "Croatoan", carved into a fort post and into a tree, in order to tell John White on his return trip where they would be found.  They also left him another message, by omission.  He had agreed with them that if they were in distress, they would carve a cross, the cross formee, along with any message, and there were no crosses.  They were not in peril when they left.  White tell us also that, prior to his departure in 1587, there had been discussion of plans to move "50 miles into the main", but his records are mute on any further location(s).  The Chesapeake area has been speculated, but that doesn't match with the 50 mile criteria.

John White tells us in his journal in 1590 that he was greatly relieved that the colonists had joined their friends, the Croatoan, the tribe of Manteo, on Hatteras Island.  And with that, they disappear from the English records.  John White was blown back to England in a hurricane, never able to return.  Subsequent expeditions were sporadic and had even less success in determining whether the colonists survived or not. 

White and Harriot created a map in 1585 that showed in red the various locations of the Indian towns that were discovered during their explorations.  The depiction of the Outer Banks was somewhat distorted, and of course the geography has changed between 1585 and 2010 as a result of various storms, but in essence, White showed the entire island he called Croatoan as inhabited by Indians, as shown below.  The outlet at the top of Croatoan is now closed so that Cape Hatteras today connects the two islands of Croatoan and Paquiwoc. 

C:\Users\restes\Pictures\My Scans\White 1585 20001.jpg


Although White was unable to visit Croatoan during his 1590 rescue trip, he reported that the colonists' houses on Roanoke Island were removed, not torn down, destroyed or burned, and there was no evidence that the colonists had left under duress.  When White discovered the "Croatoan" and another "Cro" carving, and no crosses, he knew that the colonists had left a message containing their location, as they had also agreed to do prior to his departure.  White commented in his journal that he was “greatly joyed that I had safely found a certain token of their safe being at Croatoan which is the place where Manteo was born”, “the island of our friends.”  


The 1590 deBry map (North is at right), taken from various maps drawn during the 1584-1587 voyages shows three Indian villages, one at Buxton and one in the general location of Frisco and third one slightly further south.


Later maps indicate three main Indian villages on what is now Hatteras Island, one in or near Avon, formerly Kinnekeet, 3 miles north of Buxton, one at Buxton and one at Frisco, where Brigands' Bay is currently located.  The Brigands' Bay location was the last location to have an active Indian village, into the 1800s, based on deeds and other local history.

Jamestown reported that there were a few survivors, but that most colonists were dead.  The Powhatan claim to have massacred them, but then a few pockets of some colonists who were reported to be slaves were also reported.  None were found and it's unclear how actively they were actually sought, although at least three separate reports were received regarding colonist locations.












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