A STORY ABOUT THE LOST COLONY OF ROANOKE             

                                        By D. A. Sharpe

 

 

Our family friend, Dr. John (Jack) S. Burd served for many years as President of Brenau College, a 100+ year old college for women students nestled in that rolling green terrain northeast of Atlanta, Georgia.  Upon my September, 1988 visit to Jack and his lovely wife, Pat, I learned of an interesting bit of history associated with Brenau College

 

There was a unique stone in Dr. Burd's study which he let me examine and feel.  It was the size of a basketball, though a bit flatter.  It weighed about 21 pounds. It appeared to be a crudely inscribed grave marker for Ananias Dare and his daughter, Virginia, indicating their deaths in 1591.   You American History buffs should remember that Virginia Dare is considered the very first European born on the land that we now know as the United States

 

This stone allegedly was found in 1937 on the [1]Chowan River and turned over to an Emory College faculty member, who was the son of the Brenau College President.  The Emory faculty member got some three dozen college authorities across the country to affirm the likelihood of the its being from the lost colony of Roanoke.  

 

Another view was in the Saturday Evening Post article published in 1941.   It's author thoroughly reviewed the evidence, interviewed some of the parties, and eventually debunked the stone's authenticity.  Apparently nothing has been published since to resolve the discrepancies.  The Emory faculty member gave it to his father's college, Brenau, after his investigation.  Other stones reportedly were found later, but their authenticity is even more questionable.  Those stones also are in the archives of Brenau College.   A 1983 report by the Director and State Archeologist at the University of South Carolina also casts strong doubt on the authenticity of the Dare  stone. 

 

Other authorities speak about the lost colony of Roanoke, which was the first English attempt at colonization in the New World.  The first venture was commissioned and financed by the Englishman, Sir Walter Raleigh.  A band of 108 men departed England May 9, 1585, convoyed by Sir Richard Greenville.  They were left at Roanoke Island under Captain Ralph Lane later in 1585. 

 

Roanoke is a name derived from what the Indians called "shell money."   The first eyewitness picture of  Native Americans at play was a drawing by John White, showing  them participating in lacrosse, archery, foot racing and pitching balls at a target on top of a high tree.  [2]

 

John White was a painter and cartographer (art of drawing maps and charts).  Sir Raleigh made White the Governor in charge of the second trip to Roanoke.  White was prolific in his drawings, documenting many features of the Atlantic coast in the Chesapeake Bay regions and south as far as what is now some of Florida[3]

 

Discouraged by the difficulties of living and Indian troubles, all but 15 of these first English colonists, left to return home in 1586 when Sir Francis Drake came by. 

 

Of course, the first colony settled on the North American continent by Europeans is considered to be Lief Ericson's Viking establishment around 1000 A.D. on New Foundland.  That venture did not continue, apparently, and those Vikings returned home after about a dozen years.  Florida and South Carolina had several landings and colony attempts in the 1500's earlier than the Roanoke efforts.  These were primarily Spaniards, but some French Huguenots (Protestants) also established a presence. 

 

The second colony of folk sent by Sir Raleigh left England in 1587.  It was composed of 91 men, 17 women and 9 children.  Their charter was to establish settlement in the territory of what they called Virginia, an area covering from present day Pennsylvania down through South Carolina.  They landed on Roanoke Island July 22, 1587

 

None of the 15 men who remained from the first colony were found alive; only the bones of some of them were found, without any clues as to why they died.  It was recorded that the first Native American convert to Protestant Christianity was Manteo, who was baptized into the Church of England by this Roanoke settlers.  [4]

 

This second colony was led by Gov. John White.  His daughter, Eleanor, was on the voyage with her husband, Ananias Dare.  On August 18, 1587, their daughter was born as the first European recorded as being born in North America.  She was named Virginia after the territory the colony was to establish.  Gov. White sailed back to England for supplies on August 27, leaving most of the colonists there.  News of England's new war with Spain greeted him when he arrived in November.  All sailing vessels were impressed into military service, so Gov. White was unable to return to Roanoke Island until August 15 (or 17), 1590. 

 

No one was at the colony when Gov. White returned.  The only clues were the letters "CRO" carved on one tree and "Croatoan" carved on another.  Croatoan was the name of some Indians with whom the colonists had had mixed relations ... some good ... some hostile experiences.  There had been an agreed upon symbol of distress to use, should they need to leave prior to Gov. White's return.  That was a simple sign of the cross on what ever they wrote.  No such distress sign was on these cited carvings above.   No authenticated source of history has ever determined what really happened to the Lost Colony of Roanoke. 

 

Some sociologists have studied the present day descendants of those Croatoan Indians, conjectures that the presence of English names among them could point to the integration of those early colonists with the Indians.  Other unsubstantiated material points to Eleanor Dare being married to an Indian Chief and her leaving clues along the way in hopes of discovery by her father.  These alleged wanderings went all the way down the Chattahoochee River into North Georgia.  Eleanor's death may have been in 1599.  These are conjectures attributed to Indian fantasies which are oral traditions that have come down through the ages.  However, no verification seems likely. 

 

Dr. Burd had his Archivist send me further materials about the stone, including the Saturday Evening Post article.  I've filed all these for "interest."  Studying things about our country's early history and its people continues to interest me greatly. 

 

Sir Walter Raleigh (sometimes spelled “Ralegh”) was an adventurer seeking wealth around the world as well as an author and a poet, whose life was ended October 29, 1618, executed by the English government.  Much history about him is available. One rather thorough web site about him is here:

 

 

 

 

 

D. A. Sharpe

805 Derting Road East

Aurora, TX 76078-3712

  

817-638-5560

www.dasharpe.com  

 



[1]
The Chowan River is the major North Carolina River, Which feeds into Albemarle Sound.  At the outer portions of the Sound are Roanoke Island and the more widely known Cape Hatteras

 

 

[2]Encyclopedia of American Facts and Dates, Gorton Carruth, Harper & Row, Publishers, New York, , page 5

[3]Webster's American Biographies, Charles Van Doren and Robert McHenry, Merriam-Webster, Inc., Publishers, Springfield, Massachusetts, Page 1125. 

[4]Encyclopedia of American Facts & Dates, Gorton Carruth, Harper & Row, Publishers, New York, 1987,  page 5