Of Virginia Dare, and lost colonies
0 comment Friday, October 3, 2014 |
Today, August 18, is the birthday of Virginia Dare, who was born in the Roanoke Colony, Virginia, in 1587.
To my great surprise, there is no mention of this today on her namesake website, VDare.com, although the archived articles are no doubt still there.
So, despite having no new VDare piece to which I can link, I will write about Virginia Dare and the 'Lost Colony' as I usually do on this day.
I suspect my regular readers are thoroughly familiar with the story of the Roanoke Colony, or the 'Lost Colony', and the story of little Virginia Dare, but in case there are some readers to whom this story is unfamiliar, I will say that Virginia Dare was the first English child born on this continent.
Virginia Dare's parents, Eleanor and Ananias Dare, were part of the second group of Roanoke colonists, most of the first group having abandoned the colony to return with Sir Francis Drake to England the year before the later colonists came. The colony governor, John White, was the father of Eleanor Dare.
White, who was something of an artist, had sketched the flora and fauna, as well as the Indians of Virginia.
I will quote here from the book 'Wild Shores: America's Beginnings' by Tee Loftin Snell:
On August 18, 1587, White's daughter Eleanor, wife of Ananias Dare, gave birth to a girl, named Virginia, "because," White wrote, "this childe was the first Christian borne in Virginia." A few days later, the colonists pressured the grandfather to return with the ships to England and personally bear to Sir Walter the news that Roanoke's people must have a supply ship immediately.
John White never saw Eleanor or his granddaughter again. As I gently handled his exquisite watercolors at the British Museum in London, I shuddered at the thought of the agonizing three years he spent trying to return to Roanoke.
No ships went there, for Queen Elizabeth, to save her country from vengeful Catholic Philip of Spain, had called all English vessels to her service.
"While the Armada crisis absorbed England's attention, Roanoke's settlers struggled with a life-or-death crisis too," Mrs. Fred Morrison remarked when I visited Roanoke Island, North Carolina. As we walked from the waterfront amphitheater past grassy ramparts outlining the original fort, Mrs. Morrison, producer of Roanoke's summertime musical drama, speculated about the settlers' fate. "Paul Green's play the Lost Colony suggests that the colonists -- Sampson, Butler, Gramme, Dare, we know the names of all the 'lost' people -- soon realized no ship would come in time to save them," Mrs. Morrison said. "So they left Roanoke."
"Possibly they floated their goods and building materials 60 miles south to Manteo's village on present-day Hatteras Island. Certainly the one word they left behind indicates that's what happened."
The word was "Croatoan," pronounced CROY-tuh-WAN by Indians. John White found it in 1590 having arranged for his own passage to America.
Arriving at Roanoke Island after dark on August 17, he and the sailors with him ''espied...ye light of a great fire thorow the woods...When we came right over against it, we...sounded a trumpet a Call, & afterwardes many familiar English tunes of Songs, and called to them friendly, but we had no answere..."
Next morning White and his companions found the fire as "sundry rotten trees burning." Nothing remained of the colony. The houses had been "taken downe" and moved away. On a gate post of "a high palisado of great trees...in fayre Capitall letters was grauen CROATOAN, without any crosse or signe of distress..."
White's captain turned the ship toward Croatoan Island, where, ironically, he had anchored for the night just before reaching the inlet for Roanoke. Weather "fouler and fouler" blew the ship away from the shore. John White watched the disappearing outline of the Outer Banks and beseeched the Almighty "to helpe & comfort his daughter and grandchild whom he believed still lived.
Did they? No one has indisputable evidence.
But the Lumbee Indians in present Robeson County, North Carolina, "have a strong tradition that the Roanoke colonists amalgamated with them," as historian Samuel Eliot Morrison says in The European Discovery of America. Some blue-eyed, fair-haired types, Elizabethan words, and surnames all "bear this out," he adds. The Lumbees, he notes, earlier known as Croatoan or Hatteras Indians, migrated inland about 1650. About 1660, the Reverend Morgan Jones wandered into their midst and to his surprise "conversed in English" with them.
But did all the Hatteras clans go inland? About 1700 John Lawson, exploring North Carolina's coast, wrote that ''gray-eyed'' Hatteras Indians said "several of their ancestors were White people, and could talk in a Book..."
And I heard these intriguing remarks from Sheriff Frank Calhoun, 67, at Manteo on Roanoke Island: "My grandfather, born in 1830, told me that in his Indian village he lived in one of several very old two-story houses of hand-hewn timbers and boards on the mainland across from Roanoke. His blond, blue-eyed mother, Malockie Paine, we believe, was descended from colonist Henry Paine."
As we read the recent news that White Americans will be a minority within a few decades (probably sooner), I have to wonder, as I have wondered in the past: a few hundred years hence, will there be any blond, blue-eyed people on this continent whose ancestry will be a subject of speculation? Or will we of today be tomorrow's 'Lost Colony'?
What happens in the next decade -- or less -- will likely decide our fate.
Update: I see that there is now a James Fulford piece on VDare.com, aptly called 'Virginia Dare -- White Minority!'.

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