Appleton's magazine, Volume 10
Alexander Hume Ford - Lost Colony
Article donated by Anne Poole
THE FINDING OF RALEIGH'S LOST COLONY
By ALEXANDER HUME FORD
Our American chronicle has been solved at last. The famous "Lost Colony of Roanoke " has been traced; and its descendants found in an obscure region, where they still retain the ancestral names, cherish traditions that explain many of the gaps in history, and preserve customs brought over by their forefathers, who vanished utterly from the ken of the mother country. I have been among them and talked with them. So far as I can discover, this will be the first article describing them ever published in a general magazine, and these photographs the first ever published anywhere.
The story of the Lost Colony is familiar to every student of American history. It will be remembered that Queen Elizabeth granted to Sir Walter Raleigh a patent "to discover, searche, finde out, and view such remote, heathen, and barbarous lands, countreis, and territories not actually possessed of any Christian prince."
The first expedition landed on Roanoke Island July 4th (old style), 1584, but without making a settlement; a second group gave up in a year, and returned; later, fifteen men left by Sir Richard Grenville to hold the place were either drowned or "massacred. In 1587 the indomitable Raleigh sent out 100 men and seventeen women, with John White as governor. This was the memorable "Lost Colony," which, contrary to Raleigh's counsel, settled on the ill-starred Roanoke Island described as "very sandy and low toward the water side, but so full of grapes as the very beating and surge of the sea overflowed them, of which we found such plenty that in all the world like abundance is not to be found." Thus began the acquaintance of the
Raleigh Colony with the American scuppernong. The three finest native grapes, the Catawba, the Isabella, and the Scuppernong are indigenous to and thrive best near Roanoke, and, strange to say, the most delicious of these, the white scuppernong, which will not bear transportation a day's journey, is interwoven by every tradition with the arrival of the white men on Roanoke Island.
Here was born the first white American grape, as well as the first white American child, Virginia Dare, daughter of Ananias and Eleanor Dare, and granddaughter of Governor White. The scuppernong has spread westward along the trail followed by Virginia Dare and the Lost Colony, and is to-day found most luxuriant where they went.
Here grows the great "mother scuppernong." Report says that it covers an acre.
In August, 1587, the colonists needing supplies and other necessaries, the governor was "through their extreme entreating constrained to return to England." Before he could get back, the great war with Spain broke out. In 1588 Raleigh sent two ships with Governor White, but Spanish war vessels boarded, rifled, and drove them back. It was 1591 before another attempt could be made. This time Governor White reached Roanoke. He describes what happened in phrases of unconscious poetry, giving a strangely vivid picture of the loneliness of the New World and the Lost Colony:
"We let fall our Grapnel neere the shore & sounded with a trumpet a Call, & afterwardes many familiar English tunes of Songs, and called to them friendly; but we had no answere."
The next day they landed, and—we may quote further, without keeping to the quaint old spelling" As we entered up the sandy bank, upon a tree, in the very brow thereof, were curiously carved these fair Roman letters, C. R. O., which letters presently we knew to signify the place where I should find the planters seated, according to a secret token agreed upon between them and me at my last departure from them; 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 cross -J- in this form; but we found no such sign of distress. . . . 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 inclosed with a high palisade of great trees, with curtains and flankers, very fortlike, and one of the chief trees or posts at the right side of the entrance had the bark taken off, and five feet from the ground in fair capital letters was graven CROATOAN without any cross or sign of distress. . . . I greatly joyed that I had safely found a certain token of their safe being at Croatoan, which is the place where Manteo was born, and the savages of the island our friends."
The governor was prepared to sail down the sound to Croatan, but a heavy storm rose, he lost his anchors, and narrowly escaped wreck. The weather'' grew fouler and fouler, our victuals scarce, and our cask and fresh water lost." It was necessary to make sail to St. John to refit. Believing the colonies safe, he set sail for the Indies in search of Spanish prizes, intending to return in springtime.
He never came back. Governor White gave up the search for his daughter, and nothing more is known of him. Raleigh, ruined financially, having spent $200,000 on his colony without a penny of recompense, turned over his grants to the London Company with the advice that they seek to colonize Chesapeake Bay, and later the settlement at Jamestown was made. Raleigh urged the new colonists to seek the old, but both the Croatans and the colonists had totally disappeared.
I first heard the tradition of the present existence of Raleigh's Lost Colony here at Manteo, named after the old chief who went to England and was made "Lord of the Island of Roanoke and Dasamonguepec"—the first of all American titles. He returned to be baptized only a few days before little Virginia Dare was
bom. If Governor White had sailed down Pamlico Sound, doubtless he would have found
his Lost Colony. It was southward and up the Cape Fear River to its head waters, where all tradition still locates Raleigh's Lost Colony and the descendants of Virginia Dare. She being a granddaughter of the first American governor was more truly aristocratic than even Pocahontas, who was not baptized until Virginia had attained womanhood. And perhaps she married a young brave of Roanoke long before the daughter of Powhatan wed an English gentleman—finally to fill an unmarked grave in Britain as the English girl Virginia fills an unknown grave in America— Pocahontas to give among her descendants a great general (Baden Powell) to the English of to-day, and Virginia Dare a governor of North Carolina in our own
times. When the English settled at Jamestown in 1607, it was still further corroborated that the Lost Colony had intermarried among the Indians—although those that had gone northward among Powhatan's people were cruelly massacred, at the instigation of Powhatan, about the time of the arrival of the white men at Jamestown. Only seven of them, four men, two boys, and a young maid, had been preserved from the slaughter, by a friendly chief, and from these was descended a tribe of Indians found in the vicinity of Roanoke Island a century later, and then known as Hatteras Indians; they had gray eyes and claimed to have white
ancestors. Again, in 1607, Captains Newport and John Smith found at an Indian village below the falls (at Richmond) a lad of about ten years of age with yellow hair and white skin, who, it has been assumed, was the offspring of some representative of the ill-fated Roanoke Colony. Captain Francis Nelson, who left Virginia in 1608, took back to London a chart on which he marked at one inland place: "Here remaineth four men clothed, that came from Roanoke to Ocanhawan (which information Powhatan confirmed). At Peccarecmek and Ochanahoen (on the Neuse) the people have houses built with stone walls, the one story above the other, so taught them by the English who escaped the slaughter at Roanoke."
At this time there was a well-authenticated story of a part of the Lost Colony living in what is now Sampson County, North Carolina. In 1609 word was received in London that "some of our nation sent to Roanoke by Sir Walter Raleigh are yet alive within fifty miles of our fort (Jamestown). Two of our colonists sent out to seek them (although denied by the savages speech with them) found crosses and letters and characters, assured testimonials of Christians, newly wrote on the barks of the trees." The early Virginians did not know then that they were most probably in touch only with a few straggling groups of the Lost Colony, although, even in 1608, it was believed that farther south a large body of their unfortunate countrymen might still be found.
In 1660 the Rev. Morgan Jones, of Virginia, was captured by the Tuscarora Indians living in North Carolina along the Neuse River. After some time in captivity he returned to civilization to make the solemn statement that he found a tribe settled on the Pantego River, near Cape Atros (Hatteras), known to their neighbors as the white Indians on account of their light color; he tells that they spoke British, in which language he preached to them three times a week.
From now on, all traces of the Lost Colony are to be found in North Carolina west and south of Roanoke. An old Indian trail led from the fishing and hunting grounds at Roanoke Island to the head waters of the Cape Fear River at Fayetteville. Along this trail Indian settlements still exist, and where it ends in Robeson County is the largest Indian settlement east of the Mississippi River. Along this trail have congregated the traditions of the Lost Colony for 300 years.
We hear no more of the "white"-Indians from 1660 until 1709. In the mean time they had moved to Robeson County, where the French Huguenots of South Carolina found them in that year—long settled in the country, intelligent farmers who had built everywhere magnificent roads. In 1729 English settlers penetrated to Robeson County, where they found light Indians on Lumber River who spoke English, tilled the soil, owned slaves, and held land in common. They claimed to be descendants of English who came over the sea in great swan boats, and in 1732 King George II gave land grants to Henry Berry and James Lowrey, the two leading men of the tribe. Henry Berry claimed lineal descent from the Henry Berry of the Raleigh Colony, and James Lowrey married Priscilla Berry, sister of Henry
Berry. In 1711 the Indians of Robeson County had aided the whites against the Tuscaroras, in the great Indian War; from Mattamuskeet they brought back Indian slaves who had traditions of the time when the Croatans and the Mattamuskeets lived together, and knew of the white blood in the other tribe. In fact,
they claimed that many of their people had also married among the descendants of the English in the Croatan tribe.
Lawson, who wrote the first history of North Carolina, in 1709, speaks of "the Hatteras Indians who lived on Roanoack Island, or much frequented it. These tell us that several of their ancestors were white people and could talk in a book as we do, the truth of which is confirmed by gray eyes being frequently found among these Indians and no others. They value themselves extremely for their affinity to the English, and are ready to do them all friendly office. It is probable that this settlement [of Raleigh's] miscarried for want of timely supplies from England, or through the treachery of the natives, for we may reasonably suppose that the English were forced to cohabit with them for relief and conservation, and that in process of time they conformed themselves to the manners of their Indian relations."
As Professor Weeks, of Trinity College, North Carolina, observes in a paper on this subject: "It is impossible for the story told by Lawson to be a tradition not founded on the truth, for he wrote within 120 years of the original settlements at Roanoke, and he may have talked with men whose grandfathers had been among the original colonists."
In the War of the Revolution, the Robeson County Indians bearing English names inclined to be Tories, in the belief that they were English, and we find many names familiar in the list of Raleigh's colonists on the side of the British; but in 1812 these were all on the side of the American forces, even to the Dares, who claimed descent from Virginia Dare, "the White Doe" born at Roanoke. Many of these Indians bearing English names received pensions from the government for their services.
In 1835 the ungrateful North Carolinians disfranchised their Indian allies who, at that time, owned schools and churches. It was now a crime to teach a dark person to read or write; hence, only the traditions of the old, old chroniclers survived. It was not until 1868 that the Robeson County Indians were restored to full rights of citizenship, after their glorious defense of the Confederacy.
During this war, one of the chiefs, in defending one of his men accused of crime, said in a public speech: "We have always been friends to the white man. We were free people before the white man came to our land. Our tribe was always free. They lived at
Roanoke in Virginia. When the English came to Roanoke our tribe treated them kindly; one of our tribe went to England and saw the great country. We took the English to live with us. There is white man's blood in our veins as well as Indian. We took the white man's language and religion. We fought with the white men, yet white men treat us as negroes."
And so in all the centuries their tradition that they are the descendants of Raleigh's Lost Colony will not down, and even the State recognizes their claim. Their traditions state that they came from Croatan, south of Roanoke, that their leading man was made Lord of Roanoke, by name Mayno (Manteo), a name still common among them.
I started to follow the trail, and throughout tidewater North Carolina met everywhere the tradition that the "Raleigh Colony Indians" had gone either across the mainland, or by water to the great hunting grounds near the hills. Besides the water pathway, there was a direct well-kept trail from the Roanoke region to the present site of Fayetteville, where all the great pathways of the Southern Indians met. From South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia, the remnants of the various tribes
that receded before the scourging Iroquois and the white man, followed the diverging trails to the great settlement just beyond Fayetteville, that extended to the South Carolina State line. In this area there still live some 5,000 red men, descendants, perhaps, of almost every Indian tribe that populated the Southern seaboard and mountains. Among these people are the traditions of Raleigh's Lost Colony, and hundreds of men, women, and children bearing the very names of the Roanoke colonists and still earnestly believing that they are descended from the English men and women whom their Chief Mayno (Manteo) adopted into his tribe.
It was as an explorer that I retraced the old Indian trail across country and at last arrived among these strange people.
In Green County, yet farther westward, may be found to this day Croatan Indians who still use the old Saxon crossbow, which, their tradition narrates, the Roanoke colonists taught them to make and use to bring down their quarry silently.
Sampson County, between Green and Robeson, is richer still in Indian legends: it was here that a large number of the lost colonists were reported to John Smith in 1608,
and there were, up to half a century ago, old men and women of the Croatans, hereabout, who recalled hearing that the Dares, the Coopers, and the Harveys of Raleigh's Colony who had intermarried in their tribe were the pioneers of migration westward, and brought a part of the tribe here. And to this day the Harveys, the Dares, and Coopers are to be found among the Croatans to the farthest end of the trail. To the Harveys, by the way, was born the second English child in America.
Beyond Sampson County is Cumberland, in the direct pathway of the Lost Colony and the Croatan Indians. Here, near Fayetteville, on a creek emptying into the Cape Fear River, may be seen to this day the remains of the "Indian Stone House," which was still standing in 1832, and which tradition says the Roanoke colonists taught
(heir Indian allies to build. Old water mills for grinding maize and a well-constructed dam were found here by the first whites who entered the region. And then the Indians acted as millers.
A walk of a very few miles along the old Indian road brings you into Robeson County, where live 3,500 Croatan Indians who claim descent from the lost colonists.
The last tradition among the Croatans of Robeson County dates back but a year. One of their delegates, a descendant of one of the lost colonists, was sent to Washington to invite the President to visit the tribe at the great gathering at Roanoke Island this summer. The President set aside five minutes for the reception, but kept the Croatan guest for an hour plying him with questions and seeking to learn all he could about the descendants of the Lost Colony. He did not invite the red man to luncheon.
But why plod through traditions longer? I was among these people, face to face, here at Red Springs in Robeson County, where
ro. ooo Indians had often encamped at a time; I had but to hxik out of the window of my hotel to see the Croatans by the hundred, following each other in single file up and down the main street of the little village, for young
Oil) DIEL, THE CESTESARIAN, AM) HIS GRANDCHILDREN
Descendants of Henry Berry of Raleigh's Lost Colony.
one time disfranchising them and placing them on a level with the negro; and they have never forgiven the insult. The children I found even less communicative than their elders. The Croatans make their own liquor, keep their own secrets, and ignore the Federal authorities. Every Croatan grows the scuppernong.
It is in their traditions that the white men taught them the art of distilling wine from the "mother" vine at Roanoke, and when the
The whites of Red Springs looked at me almost scornfully for talking with the Indians. " But they are the descendants of Raleigh's Lost Colony," I explained to one in excuse. "Oh, yes, that's what they say!" "Don't you ever go among them?" "What, me?—no, siree; they don't like white men to go into their settlement. They tell a man to keep away once; and after that— they shoot.""You ought to see Hamilton McMillan," suggested one of the village storekeepers; "he knows more about the Croatan Indians than they know about themselves."
I found him to be a scholarly old gentleman, ia college graduate, and prominent lawyer who was once a State senator. He had located at Red Springs in his younger days to study the strange red people near by who claimed to be descendants of the famous Lost Colony. Mr. McMillan is one of the few white men who have taken the pains to investigate the traditions and legends of the Croatans, and it is due to his research that the proof of their claims was made so clear to the State Legislature that North Carolina to-day officially recognizes these people as the descendants of Raleigh's Colony. For a quarter of a century, Mr. McMillan has been the best loved man among the Croatans. The one thing they could never forget was the fact that he had secured for them separate schools from the negroes; for, rather than let their young attend negro schools, they had permitted them to grow up in pride and ignorance. Mr. McMillan gladly consented to take me visiting among the Croatans; so, bright and early one Sunday morning, we made our first excursion into the most forgotten part of these United States, and among the most neglected of all the red men in America.
We started out toward the old Indian trail, that still traverses the State of North Carolina from the mountains to the Roanoke country. Here in Robeson County it is still known as "the great Lowrey road," because two hundred years ago the famous Indian
chief, Henry Lowrey, put it in its present magnificent shape.
The Croatans are still the best natural road makers in America. Road building is a mania with them, and has been ever since the lost colonists taught them the art. They are always at work on theif roads, voluntarily and without pay.
The first house we stopped at was that of Jim Diel, whose wife is a great-granddaughter of the famous old Indian road builder. These Lowreys have given a senator from Mississippi, Hon. Hiram R. Revels, born in North
Carolina. Governor Lowrey Swain, of North Carolina, was also of the tribe. Some of them have gone to other States and are men of fortune; one, in Florida, is a millionaire, a leader in society and business.
Jim Diel was out when we arrived, so his wife and niece received us.
Everything around the house showed signs of careless prosperity. In the back yard an extensive scuppernong yielded enough grapes annually for a hundred gallons of fiery wine. We had passed through a typical negro settlement on our way to "Scuffletown," as the Indian settlement is commonly called by the Indians themselves, in memory of one "Scoville" who led them to battle a century or more ago. What a contrast between the negro and the Indian. Shiftlessness was written everywhere about the negro possessions. On the other hand, an Indian house could be detected from afar. Everything in repair, outhouses kept up, all the necessities for making life in the country comfortable; beehives, stables, wells, corn cribs, cider presses all in active use. As the fringe of Scuffletown is left behind, the negro disappears completely.
We met Jim Diel down the Lowrey road, and great was his concern that he had not been at home to meet us. He was a magnificent specimen of Indianhood, almost a full blood; proud of his descent from the early English colonist, firm in his belief that the only white blood in the tribe entered through the Lost Colony. He spoke in a high, almost falsetto voice, peculiar to all these descendants of Raleigh's Lost Colony, who still use the old Saxon English.
It was with regret that we parted from Jim —although at every home where we stopped the door was opened to us, as we knew it would be. Often when I knocked alone, the door was opened grudgingly, and I saw that the white stranger was unwelcome, but invariably there carrfe forth from within that high rich falsetto—"Walk in, mon; sit thee by my fire and warm."The speech of the Croatans, by the way, is unlike that of either the whites or blacks around them. It shows traces of the language of 300 years ago. "Man'' is pronounced
"mon "; "father" is called "fayther" (there were many Irish names among the Roanoke colonists); "measurement" is called "mension"; their plural for hose is "hosen," for house, "housen," etc.
Professor Weeks in his paper states that the strongest evidence of all is furnished by the family names. The 117 Roanoke settlers had 95 different surnames: of these 4r "or more than 43 per cent are reproduced by a tribe living hundreds of miles from Roanoke Island and after a lapse of 300 years—and the traditions of every family bearing the name of one of the lost colonists point to Roanoke Island as the home of their ancestors." 'At the outer edge of the settlement we found many of the poorer and most illiterate of the tribe; some of these had completely lost caste by marrying among or associating with mulattoes. In fact those who have neglected to observe the color line are compelled to wor^ ship by themselves. They have a church on the Great Lowrey road where the aristocracy of Scuffletown is never seen. Since 1887 the State has made marriages between the Croatans and negroes null and void.
At last we reached the homes of those who still treasure the old traditions. At the spacious log mansion of one of the old chroniclers who has lived a full century on the Great Lowrey road, we were made welcome. The ancient chronicler, grandfather of "Jim" Diel, totters now as he walks, but he remembers still the War of 1812, although many events since rest dimly upon his enfeebled brain. The things of his childhood are easiest for him to recall, and so it is that he remembers still many of the old traditions that link the Croatans with the colony of whites that Raleigh sent to Roanoke.
MONUMENT MARKING THE SPOT WHERE VIRGINIA DARE WAS BORN
The small stones outline the fort built in 1587.
A daughter of this old sage married the present lord of the log mansion, a Lowrey, a white-haired man of eighty years now. Some time ago he followed the old Indian trail out through the gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains and across country to the Indian territory where many of the friends of his youth had migrated. In Lincoln County, North Carolina, he found descendants of the Dares who were still remembered by his father, though they had left Robeson County after the War of 1812, in which, according to the State records of North Carolina, the men of the family fought bravely against the English.
The last of the Dares eke out an humble living now in the iron mines near Crouse, in western North Carolina; they have almost forgotten that they came from Robeson County, and the story of the "White Doe of Roanoke " is seldom told among them now. But the two white-haired veterans of the Great
Lowrey road in Robeson County know it well.
They both recall how, twenty-five years ago when Hamilton McMillan first came among them, he mentioned one day the name Virginia Dare in the councils of their people. The old chroniclers remained silent or shook their heads; but when Mr. McMillan pronounced it Darr, "Ah's" came from many an old throat, and soon the chroniclers were busy narrating traditions of the little white fawn by the name of Darr, who was born far off in Roanoke, Va., and when she grew up married one of their young braves; how her people were skilled and brave and fighters. But, alas! years before they had gone westward along the great trail—no one in the tribe knew whither. While the old chroniclers talked, the Indian women in the gathering bent back and forth moaning in rhythm, as they do to-day when tales of the old times are told.There are those to-day among the Croatans who, if you ask of Virginia Dare, shake their heads or remain silent, but say Virginia Darr, and there will be an eager "Yes, yes—we know Virginia Darr, she is our mother way back." A few there are still who remember the old, old traditions they heard in bygone days from the real chroniclers who have passed away, that told how the baby white girl was taken with the white men and women from the Island of Roanoke and grew to womanhood on the banks of the Burnt Lake (Mattamuskeet).The mystery of the disappearance of the colonists is solved plainly and simply by the traditions of these Indians. According to one legend, at that time only a marsh separated Roanoke Island from the mainland, and when the good hunting was over, and the tribe homesick for the hills, their white brothers—unable to wrest a living from the wilds alone—asked that they might go with their red brothers and remain with them until they received their supplies from the good queen, whom Chief Manteo had once gone over the sea to meet. So the white men left signs on the trees, and there being too many women and children to take in the canoes, a march was begun overland.A long, long stop of many years was made at a lake which the Indians called in their tongue Burnt Lake, and which modern science says was created by a great fire that ate down through the dry swamp. Here the Croatans rested, and here the white people expected that the messengers from over the sea would follow. But time passed and no one came—perhaps those who came and read the word Croatoan carved on the trees did not know of the great road from Roanoke to the Hill Country, and turned their eyes to the spot then known to the English as Croatan on the sand bank near Hatteras. There was no one left to tell of the great trail—perhaps all the English-speaking Indians migrated with the tribe.We followed the Great Lowrey road for miles. Every here and there we stopped at a neatly built log house or a frame dwelling erected by the Croatans, for they never go outside for any necessity. The State has supplied a Normal School, but the Croatans built it and built it well.
The Normal School is the pride of every one of the 3,500 Croatans in Robeson County. When Thanksgiving and closing days come, around the school is a scene of wild activity; the entire tribe camps and picnics without, while within there are elocutionary efforts; without there is feasting and foot racing and elocutionary narratives of the past glories of the Croatans.
At a little log house that spread out in wings and outhouses like a veritable village, we caught one of the old men at work at a pinestump mortar beating with wooden pestle the >< urn into meal for the daily food.
It was not only the numerous Sampsons— the richest of the Croatans (and claiming descent from the John Sampsons, father and sonof Roanoke)—who grew their own tobacco. Every Indian in Robeson County is as ambitious to have his own little tobacco patch as were his ancestors from whose front yards on Roanoke Island the first colonists secured and carried back to Sir Walter Raleigh seed from the tobacco plant, grains from the ripe maize, and potatoes from the soil, three Indian names that have gone around the globe from Roanoke Island, and three commodities still grown by the Croatans, who alone of all the Indians in the world still plant, as they did 300 years ago, their private patches of the weed that helped to make Raleigh's name remembered the world around.The Ethnological- Bureau at Washington itself is authority for the statement that the Croatans have been absolutely passed over and neglected by the white men in search of historical and scientific data relating to the -American Indian.
A modern poem tells of a young Indian swain who fell in love with Virginia Dare, and being rejected, used sorcery to change her into a white doe, and of a rival who shot the white doe with an enchanted silver arrow, when she at once, instead of, as he expected, turning again into a maiden, died upon the spot and from her blood sprang the "mother " scuppernong, with its pale grape and white "blood." But as we know that the "mother " vine antedates the arrival of the colonists, this tradition may be dismissed in its entirety as of modern invention. Certain it is, however, that the great scuppernong vine did play a part in the story of Virginia Dare; its seeds still grow vines that bear red grapes, and the white men who liked the "white blood" of the "mother" vine, took slips with them wherever they went. The Lost Colony might have been found long ago by merely following the white scuppernong across the State.
I had tasted of the fruit of the vine at the spot where Virginia Dare was born; I drank her last health from an ancient vine in far-off Robeson County that her hands—who knows? —may have planted. It is certain that the vines that bear the white grapes in distant Robeson County are descended only from the "mother" vine at Roanoke; it seems certain, too, that the pale-faced Indians at the end of the trail are also the distant offspring of those fair-faced foreigners who joined with the native Americans at Roanoke when both bade farewell together to the "mother" vine, to carry white blood into the regions of the west, there to mingle with the red.
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