Sir Walter Raleigh’s Lost Colony

Written by Hamilton McMillan, A. M.

Printed in 1888 by Advance Presses, Wilson, North Carolina

historical sketch of the attempts made by sir walter Raleigh to establish a
colony in Virginia with the traditions of an indian tribe in north Carolina
indicating the fate of the colony of Englishmen left on Roanoke island in 1587

Chapter I

     In 1583, “Elizabeth, by the Grace of God, of England, France and Ireland, Queen, defender of the faith” granted to Sir Walter Raleigh, his heirs and assigns forever, letters patent “to discover, search, find and view such remote heathen and barbarous lands, countries and territories, not actually possessed of any Christian Prince, nor inhabited by Christian people as to him, his heirs and assigns, to every or any of them shall seem good, and the same to have hold and occupy and enjoy, to him his heirs and assigns forever.”

     It was provided further that a settlement should be made in the territory granted within six years next
succeeding the date of the letters patent.

     This grant was made during one of the most critical periods of British history.  The Protestant Elizabeth had espoused the cause of the Netherlands and had given high offense to Spain by rejecting the proposed matrimonial alliance with Philip, the reigning monarch of that country. The Armada, consisting of one hundred and forty ships of war and carrying fully thirty thousand men threatened an early attack upon England. Powerful allies stood ready to assist King Philip. The length of time necessary to complete this powerful armament had afforded to Elizabeth opportunity to prepare for the impending danger. Sir Walter Raleigh then enjoyed high favor at Court. The Queen early discovered his soldierly qualities and intellectual ability and in addition to high rank which she bestowed upon him, readily granted him and his heirs extensive territory in North America. Raleigh was one of the most skillful generals of his times and while actively engaged in the preparation for the threatened invasion of England found opportunity to fit out an expedition to the coast of America to make discoveries and to locate a colony in compliance with the terms of his grant. The commanders of the expedition were Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe, who sailed with two barques from the coast of England on the 15th day of April 1584, O. S. and reached the coast of America in July of the same year. They sailed along the coast for one hundred and twenty miles before they found any entrance or river issuing into the sea. These navigators probably entered at Hatteras Inlet on the coast of what is now North Carolina, and having anchored “within the haven’s mouth on the left hand of the same,” they went in boats “to view the land adjoining and to take possession of the same in right of the Queen’s most excellent majesty as rightful Queen and Princess of the same.” The land thus taken into possession was Roanoke Island, about seven leagues distant from the anchorage.

     After a stay of nearly two months, the expedition returned to England, carrying two of the natives, Manteo and Wanchese. The disposition of the natives towards the Englishmen was friendly and though no reason is given for carrying the two Indians to England, it was probably understood that a second expedition would soon follow and that they could return to their own country at an early day. There was good policy in impressing them, as prominent men of their own land, with the greatness of England. Manteo and Wanchese returned in another expedition to Roanoke, the former to become Lord of Roanoke, the latter to become the determined enemy of the English.

     A second expedition under Sir Richard Grenville, the cousin of Sir Walter Raleigh, sailed from England on the 9th of April 1585. This expedition consisted of seven vessels, and arrived at Roanoke during the following July. In August following, Sir Richard Grenville returned to England, after leaving a colony on Roanoke Island under Master Ralf Lane.

     Lane explored the surrounding country, making many valuable discoveries, and finally despairing of aid expected, embarked with his entire colony on the fleet of Sir Francis Drake, which stopped at Roanoke, and sailed for England.

     The departure of Lane’s colony left no Englishmen on the shores of North America.

 Chapter II

     In less than one month from the departure of Lane, Sir Richard Grenville arrived at Roanoke with supplies, and after a fruitless search for the colonists, he left fifteen men on the Island to hold possession
of the country. After the departure of Grenville those men were seen no more by Englishmen.

     Not discouraged by repeated failures, Sir Walter Raleigh fitted out another expedition under John White as Governor, who with others of the colonists, were incorporated as “The Governor and Assistants of the city of Raleigh in Virginia.” The city of Raleigh was designed to be built on the shores of Chesapeake Bay.

     Governor White was instructed to call at Roanoke Island to ascertain the fate of the fifteen men left there by Sir Richard Grenville. The commanders of the ships seemed to have been independent of the authority of Governor White, and fully aware that a voyage to Chesapeake Bay would delay their expected cruise in the West Indies, refused to transport the colony to its destination, and thus compelled Governor White to stop at Roanoke Island. The vessels departed soon after in search of Spanish prizes.

     After reciting many incidents, Governor White relates that “on the 13th of August, our savage Manteo, by the commandment of Sir Walter Raleigh, was christened in Roanoke and called Lord thereof, and of Dasamonguepeuk, in reward of his faithful service.” “The 18th, Eleanor, daughter of Governor White and wife to Ananias Dare, one of the colonists, was delivered of a daughter in Roanoke, and the same was christened there the Sunday following, and because this child was the first Christian born in Virginia, she was named Virginia.”

     Governor White relates that a violent tempest arose on the 21st of August which lasted for six days and threatened the destruction of one of the vessels then ready to sail for England. Governor White was sent back to England by the planters, to act there as factor for the colony.

     The Croatan Indians who visited Roanoke Island, invited the colonists to reside with them, and the latter, prior to the departure of the Governor, expressed to him their intention to accept the invitation and to remove fifty miles “up into the main.” It was understood that if they went to Croatoan, they were to carve the word Croatoan on the bark of a tree in some conspicuous place, that the Governor might know where to find them on his return. It was further understood that if they left the Island in distress they were to carve the Christian cross above the word Croatoan.

     On the 27th of August, White sailed for England and the colonists were seen no more by white men.

 Chapter III

     On his arrival in England, Governor White found all things in commotion. The long threatened storm of war had burst upon England and the services of Sir Walter Raleigh and others, who were interested in the distant colony, were enlisted in the national defense. It was a critical period of British history. Queen Elizabeth relied upon the skill of Raleigh, under whose guidance the Armada was defeated, and “liberty of person and liberty of conscience were once more free.”

     On the 22nd of April 1588, Governor White, by aid of Sir Walter Raleigh, sailed from England, with two barques, to visit the colony at Roanoke.  These vessels, disabled in fighting ships encountered during the voyage, were compelled to return to England. No further attempt to reach the colony was made till the 20th of March 1590, when White again sailed for Virginia with three vessels. Nearly six months passed before the vessels reached Roanoke in the following August.

In his account of this voyage, as published by Hakluyt, Governor White says that “on the 15th of August, towards evening, we came to anchor at Hattorask in 36 1/3°, in five fathoms water three leagues from the shore.  At our first coming to anchor on this shore, we saw a great smoke rise in the isle Roanoke, near the place where I left our colony in the year 1587, which smoke put us in good hope that some of the colony were there expecting our return out of England. The 16th and next morning, our two boats went ashore, and Captain Cooke and Captain Spicer and their company with me, with intent to pass to the place at Roanoke where our countrymen were left. At our putting from the ship, we commanded our master-gunner to make ready two minions and a falcon, well loaded, and to shoot them off with reasonable space between every shot, to the end that their reports might be heard to the place where we hoped to find some of our people.”

     Omitting some unimportant details we extract from White’s narrative the following:  “Our boats and all things filled again, we put off from Hattorask, being the number of nineteen persons in both boats; but before we could get to the place where our planters were left, it was so exceeding dark that we over shot the place a quarter of a mile, when we espied towards the north end of the island (Roanoke) the light of a great fire through the woods, to which we presently rowed: When we came right over against it, we let fall our grapnel near the shore and sounded with a trumpet a call, and afterwards many familiar tunes and songs and called to them friendly; but we had no answer, we therefore landed at daybreak and coming to the fire we found the grass and sundry rotten trees burning about the place. From hence we went through the woods to that part of the island directly over against Dasamonguepeuk, and from thence we returned by the water side round about the north point of the island until we came to the place where I left our colony in the year 1587. In all this way we saw in the sand the print of the savage’s feet of two or three sorts trodden in the night, and as we entered upon 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, which was, that in any way they should not fail to write or carve, on the trees or posts of the doors, the name of the place where they should be seated; for at my coming away they were prepared to remove from Roanoke fifty miles into the main. Therefore at my departure from them in Aug. 1587, I willed them that if they should happen to be distressed in any of those places that they should carve over the letters or name a cross ϯ in this form, but we found no such sign of distress. And having well considered of this, we passed through the place where they were left in sundry houses, but we found the houses taken down and the place very strongly enclosed with a high palisade of great trees with curtains and flankers, very fort-like, 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.  This done we entered into the palisade, where we found many bars of iron, two pigs of lead, four iron fowlers, iron locker, shot and such like heavy things thrown here and there almost overgrown with grass and weeds.” “But although it grieved me much to see such spoil of my goods, yet on the other side I greatly joyed that I had safely found a certain token of their being at Croatoan, which is the place where Manteo was born, and the savages of the island our friends.”

     Foul weather compelled Governor White to return to the fleet, and on the following day with a favorable wind they prepared to sail to Croatan, but owing to the loss of all their anchors, save one, and the approaching foul weather, it was determined to sail to St. John or some other island southward for fresh water, and after obtaining victuals and necessaries in the West Indies and spending the winter there to return in the spring to seek the colonists at Croatan. One of the vessels being in a leaky condition was compelled to sail for England. The other vessels, after cruising for a while in search of Spanish prizes, finally sailed for England and arrived at Plymouth on the 24th day of October, 1590.

     From the story of Governor White it is evident that Croatoan was situated southward from Roanoke Island, and upon the coast, for the voyagers attempted to sail to it upon the open sea. It is probable that the island mentioned was one of the long islands curtaining the coast and embraced within the present county of Carteret. It is so located on one of the oldest maps, bearing date of 1666.  On a map published by order of the Lords Proprietors in 1671, the peninsula embracing the present county of Dare is called Croatan. Lawson’s map of the year 1709 also locates Croatan in the same region. The sound immediately west of Roanoke Island still bears the name of Croatan. The name of the island belonging to the tribe was probably Croatoan, while the name of the tribe inhabiting it, may have been Croatan. The name Croatan was given to the tribe by the English from the name of a locality within their territory. That part of their territory lying west of Roanoke Island was called Dasamonguepeuk by some of the natives. Manteo, by order of Sir Walter Raleigh, was made “Lord of Roanoke and Dasamonguepeuk,” the first instance of a title of nobility being conferred on an American.  There can be little doubt that the territory now embraced within the counties of Hyde, Tyrrell and Dare, was claimed and occupied by the friendly tribe of Manteo at one time, and was designated as Croatan, and at another time occupied by a different tribe of hostile Indians who called it Dasamonguepeuk. Croatoan, the principal seat of Manteo and his tribe lay to the southward. The name carved upon the tree according to a secret understanding between Governor White and the planters prior to the departure of the former, was Croatoan, and was understood by him to mean an island southward from Roanoke, “for there,” he relates, “Manteo was born and the savages of the island, or friends.”

     For nearly three hundred years after the departure of White no trace of the lost colony had been discovered, with the exception of the following related by Lawson, an early historian, who wrote in 1714: “The Hatteras Indians who lived on Roanoke Island, or much frequented it, 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 amongst these Indians, and no others. They value themselves extremely for their affinity to the English, and are ready to do them all friendly offices.”

     Purchas tells us that several subsequent voyages were made at the expense of Sir Walter Raleigh, to discover his lost countrymen, but without success.  Commanders of ships in those days were more anxious to capture Spanish vessels than to find lost Englishmen and it is doubtful if a single ship touched at Croatan or Roanoke to make inquiries, after the departure of White in 1590.

 Chapter IV

     Who were the Croatans? The term Croatan or Croatoan was applied by the English to the friendly tribe of Manteo whose chief abode was on an island on the coast southward from Roanoke. The name Croatan seems to indicate a locality in the territory claimed by Manteo and his tribe. Dr. Hawks speaks of this tribe as Hatteras Indians, and from an incident to be related hereafter, this title seems to have been recognized by these Indians. From the first appearance of Amadas and Barlowe to the departure of Governor White in 1587 relations of the friendliest character are known to have existed between this tribe and the English colonists. Their chief, Manteo, in reward of his faithful services to the English, was, by command of Sir Walter Raleigh, baptized as a member of the Church of England and was made Lord of Roanoke and Dasamonguepeuk. For reasons given in the succeeding pages, we believe the term Roanoke, then applied to the island, was afterwards given to a large extent of territory contiguous to Pamlico Sound, in fact to all the territory claimed by Manteo.  The tribes at that early day seemed to have no settled boundaries to the territories claimed by them and occupied the land adjacent to their principal seats, alternately with other tribes, as hunting grounds.

     The history of this tribe, as connected with the early attempts to colonize our eastern coast, if of peculiar interest and is worthy of extended notice.

     Harriot, who accompanied Lane’s expedition to Virginia, in describing the Indians on our coast, says, “they are a people clothed with loose mantles made of deer skins and aprons of the same around their middles, all else naked, of such a difference of stature as we of England, having no edge tools or weapons of iron or steel to offend us withal, neither know they how to make any.” “The language of every government is different from any other, and the further they are distant, the greater is the difference.” “They believe that there are many gods, which they call Mantoac, but of different sorts and degrees, one only chief and great God which has been from all eternity.” “They also believe the immortality of the soul, that after this life as soon as the soul is departed from the body according to the works it has done, it is either carried to heaven, the habitable of the gods, there to enjoy perpetual bliss and happiness, or else to a great pit or hole, which they think to be in the further part of the world towards sunset, there to burn continually, the place they call Popogusso.”

     In reading this account of the religion of the natives we conclude that at some period they had communication with more civilized races from the East who impressed upon them some idea of faith more exalted than that common among savages. Some may be ready to accept the absurdities of monkish fancy and readily believe them to be descendants of the “lost tribes” who had retained something of ancient Jewish faith. The difference in color, language and other characteristics renders it difficult to accept such a theory. The knowledge of this western land is as old as the time of Plato and Solon, who mention an island in the West called Atlantis “and a great continent which lay beyond it.” The Persians established a colony in the West Indies a thousand years ago, which, by “abstaining from all admixture with the black aborigines, differs but little from their progenitors in the parent country.” The Welsh colonized the Carolina coast in the twelfth century.  In 1660 Rev. Morgan Jones in travelling in the Tuscarora country was captured by the Doegs, a branch of that tribe who spoke Welsh.  He describes them as settled upon Pontigo River near Cape Atross. This statement seems to confirm the Welsh chronicle which describes Madoc’s colony. Long before the discovery of Columbus the Basques sent fishing vessels to the north part of America. The Norse records describe voyages to the American coast, reciting facts and dates which are confirmed by Irish and Arabic chronicles, and also by the inscription on Woman’s Islands on our northern coast bearing date of April 25th, 1135. If we discredit the accounts of these early voyages we may discredit anything of ancient date recorded in history. The Sanscrit root syllable ap and the Latin root ak, both meaning water, are detected in the names of scores or rivers and bays on our Atlantic coast facing Europe, where vessels driven by the north east trade winds, would probably reach our shores.

     We cite these facts in support of the theory that colonies were in past times, located on our coast, and in course of time were neglected and forgotten by the parent countries and became absorbed by native tribes. If this theory is accepted it will account for traditions of wrecked vessels prevalent among the Indians described by Harriot, as well as for their religious notions so far above those commonly found among savages. Prescott, as quoted by Dr. Hawks in speaking of the Indians found on the Atlantic coast of North America, says, “they had attained to the sublime conception of one Great Spirit, the creator of the universe, who, immaterial in his own nature, was not to be dishonored by an attempt at visible representation, and who pervading all space was not to be circumscribed within the walls of a temple.”

     What may have been the origin of the tribe, known to us through the English colonists as Croatan, can only be a matter of conjecture. They had traditions of vessels wrecked in past times, and they affirmed that iron implements found among them were obtained from such wrecks. Children with auburn hair and blue eyes were noticed among them, which impressed the belief that they had had communication with white people. From the appearance of Amadas and Barlowe in 1584 to the departure of Governor White in 1587, their demeanor towards the whites was friendly.  The treatment received by Manteo during his visit to England may have enhanced to good feeling towards the English.  What became of them?

 Chapter V

     After the departure of Governor White from the coast of Virginia in 1590 five expeditions were fitted out at the expense of Sir Walter Raleigh for the relief of his distressed countrymen at Roanoke. These expeditions returned with no tidings of the planters and it became the settled conviction of those interested in the colony that it perished from starvation or savage cruelty.

     After the settlement at Jamestown in 1607, Captain John Smith sent a hardy woodsman to the Chowanoke Indians, who lived near the head of Albemarle Sound, under the pretense of sending presents
to their king, but his object was to make inquiries concerning the Roanoke colony. Captain Smith sent two other men to the Mangoaks, on the river Nottoway, but they returned as the other had done, without any information except that the white people were all dead. (Hugh Williamson’s History of North Carolina, Volume I, page 73)

     It is evident from the story of Governor White, as given on a preceding page, that the colonists went southward along the coast to Croatoan island, now a part of Carteret county, in North Carolina, and distant about one hundred miles in a direct line from Albemarle Sound. The Mangoaks were seated northwest from Albemarle and it is not surprising that the messengers returned without definite information. The statement of Lawson, as to the tradition of the Hatteras Indians, may throw some light on the fate of the English colonists, but it is a matter of surprise to us at this time, that a historian would not pursue the investigation of that tradition far enough to ascertain who those ancestors were who could “talk in a book.” Europeans had been upon the coast even before the arrival of Amadas and Barlowe in 1584. Persons were noticed among the natives with auburn and chestnut colored hair, and traditions existed concerning wrecked vessels. Iron implements were found among the Croatan Indians made of spikes and nails obtained from a wreck on their coat, which occurred about twenty years before the arrival of the English colony. A previous wreck in 1558 was mentioned; some of the crew were saved and were supposed to have been lost in their attempt to leave in the frail boats of the natives, Lawson wrote in 1714, one hundred and twenty-seven years after the colonists were last seen on Roanoke Island. Sixty-nine years before the even related by Lawson, Roanoke was visited by an Englishman, Francis Yeardly, who, in a letter to John Farrar, Esquire, dated May 8th 1654, relates a visit made by him and others, “where or thereabouts they found the great commander of these parts with his Indian a-hunting, who received them civilly, and showed the ruins of Sir Walter Raleigh’s fort, from which I received a sure token of their being there. After some days spent to and fro, in the country, the young man, the interpreter, prevailed with the great man and his war captains to come in and make peace with the English, which they willingly condescended unto. (Vide Hawks History of North Carolina, Volume 2, page 17)  So that at that early day the island was occupied by Indians who knew nothing of the lost Englishmen and who pointed out Raleigh’s fort as an object of curiosity, without any tradition as to the fate of those who built it.

     Reverend Mr. Blair, who was a missionary to the settlements on Pamlico Sound, after describing the difficulties of his situation, writes to his patron Lord Weymouth, as follows: “I think it likewise reasonable to give you an account of a great nation of Indians, who live in that government, computed to be no less than 100,000, many of which live among the English, and all as far as I can understand, a very civilized people.” This letter was written in 1703. Mr. Blair speaks of a desert of fifty miles in extent to be crossed in reaching the place.  At the time in which he writes, the descendants of the missing colonists must have held only a tradition respecting the events attending the attempt at colonization on Roanoke Island. The number mentioned by Mr. Blair is evidently an exaggeration and the location of the tribe is indefinite. There is reason to believe that descendants of the colonists were living in a region of country Southwest of Pamlico at the time in which he writes and that they emigrated westward towards the interior, where a large body of Croatan Indians and descendants of the lost colonists had previously located. It is probable that the civilized Indians mentioned were a portion of the Croatan tribe, as there was no other tribe to which the reference could apply. At that early day very little was known of the region to the Southwest of Pamlico sound and the missionary may have traveled one hundred miles in reaching the place of his labor which seemed to be at a great distance from other precincts visited by him.

     At the time in which he writes (1703) there were no settlements of white men known to exist beyond the region around Pamlico Sound. Subsequent to that date white emigrants penetrated the wilderness and in 1729 there was a settlement made on Heart’s Creek, a tributary of the Cape Fear, and near the site of the present town of Fayetteville.  Scotchmen arrived in what is now Richmond County in North Carolina as early as 1730. French Huguenots, in large numbers, immigrated to South Carolina after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and some of them had penetrated as far North as the present Northern boundary of that State, in the early part of the eighteenth century.

     At the coming of white settlers there was found located on the waters of Lumber River, a large tribe of
Indians, speaking English, tilling the soil, owning slaves and practicing many of the arts of civilized life. They occupied the country as far West as the Pee Dee, but their principal seat was on the Lumber, extending along that river for twenty miles. They held their lands in common and land titles only became known on the approach of white men. The first grant of land to any of this tribe, of which there is written evidence in existence, was made by King George the Second in 1732, to Henry Berry and James Lowrie, two leading men of the tribe, and was located on the Lowrie Swamp, East of Lumber River in present county of Robeson in North Carolina. A subsequent grant was made to James Lowrie in 1738. According to tradition there were deeds of land of older date, described as “White” deeds and “Smith” deeds, but no trace of their existence can be found at this date.

     Many of these people at a later period purchased their lands from persons who obtained large patents from the King.

     Occasional bands of immigrants arrived on the Lumber River from ancient settlements towards the East, while others moved west towards Pee Dee, Catawba and French Broad rivers. These people were hospitable, and friendly relations were established between them and their white neighbors. Subsequent to the coming of white settlers a portion of the tribe went north towards the Great Lakes and some of their descendants can be found at this time in Canada, West of Lake Ontario. Another emigration occurred at a later date and the emigrants became incorporated with a tribe then located near Lake Michigan. Many families, described as white people, emigrated towards the Alleghany Mountains and there are many families in Western North Carolina at this time, which are claimed by the tribe in Robeson County, as descendants of the lost English colonists, who had preserved their purity of blood to that degree that they could not be distinguished from white people. These Indians built great roads connecting the distant settlements with their principal seat on the Lumbee, as the Lumber River was then called.  One of the great roads constructed by them can be traced from a point on Lumber River for twenty miles to an old settlement near the mouth of Heart’s Creek, now Cross Creek. Another great highway still bearing the name of the “Lowrie Road” and used at this day as a public road, extends from the town of Fayetteville, through Cumberland and Robeson counties, in a Southwest direction towards an ancient Croatan settlement on the Pee Dee.

     James Lowrie, previously mentioned as one of the grantees in the deed made by George the Second, and recognized as a chief man of his tribe, is described as an Indian who married Priscilla Berry, a sister of Henry Berry, the other grantee mentioned. James Lowrie was a descendant of James Lowrie of Chesapeake, who married a Croatan woman in Virginia, (as Eastern North Carolina is still designated by the tribe) and became the progenitor of all the Lowries belonging to this tribe. According to the prevalent tradition respecting this family, the men were intellectual and ambitious, and, as a chronicler of the tribe described them, became “leaders among men.” Many persons distinguished in the annals of North Carolina are claimed as descended from the original James Lowrie of Chesapeake. “You will find the name of James Lowrie,” remarked the chronicler, “wherever you find a Lowrie family.”

     Henry Berry, the grantee previously mentioned, was a lineal descendant of the English colonist, Henry Berry, who was left on Roanoke Island in 1587. (See list of names of Lost Colony)

     Many of this tribe served in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary war and enjoyed pensions within the memory of persons yet living. A considerable number served during the War of 1812, some of whom received pensions within the recollection of the writer. From the close of the Revolution to the year 1835, they exercised the elective franchise equally with white men, performed militia duties, encouraged schools and built churches, owned slaves and lived in comfortable circumstances. By an ordinance of the North Carolina State Convention of 1835, the elective franchise was denied to all “free persons of color.” To affect a political purpose, it was contended that these citizens were “free persons of color,” and afterwards they were debarred from voting till the year 1868, when a new constitution was adopted. After the adoption of the new State constitution, they were allowed the benefit of public schools, but having been classed for a long period as “free persons of color,” they were compelled to patronize schools provided for the Negro race. Owing to a bitter prejudice against Negroes, but few availed themselves of the privilege, the greater part preferring that their children should grow up in ignorance, rather than that they should be forced to association with a race which they hold in utter contempt. Separate schools have since been provided for their race, by the Legislature of North Carolina, which, by special act, recognized them as Croatan Indians.

 Chapter VI

     During the late War Between the States, an incident occurred which caused the writer to investigate the traditions of this tribe. Three young men of the Lowrie family were drafted, according to military law, to work on the fortifications at Fort Fisher in Eastern North Carolina, and while on the road to the nearest depot in Robeson County, they were killed, it is supposed, by a white man who had them in custody.  An inquest was held, and at its conclusion, an old Indian, named George Lowrie, addressed the people assembled, in substance as follows: “We have always been the friends of white men. We were a free people long before the white men came to our land. Our tribe was always free. They lived in Roanoke in Virginia. When the English came to Roanoke, our tribe treated them kindly.  One of our tribe went to England in an English ship and saw that great country. When English people landed in Roanoke we were friendly, for our tribe was always friendly to white men. We took the English to live with us. There is the white man’s blood in these veins as well as that of the Indian. In order to be great like the English, we took the white man’s language and religion, for our people were told they would prosper if they would take white men’s laws. In the wars between white men and Indians we always fought on the side of white men. We moved to this land and fought for liberty for white men, yet white men have treated us a Negroes. Here are our young men shot down by a white man and we get no justice, and that in a land where our people were always free.”

     The incident above related occurred in the latter part of 1864, and owing to the troubled state of the country at that time, and for several years afterwards, no investigation could be made till the year 1875, when the writer became a citizen and had opportunity of interviewing leading persons of the tribe.

     After the year 1835, these Indians who murmured greatly at the injustice done them in being classed as “Mulattoes” or “free persons of color,” became suspicious of white men and at first we found difficulty in eliciting any facts relating to their past history. After years of patient investigation, gathering here and there, we present the following summary of traditions prevalent among them:  The tribe once lived in Roanoke in Virginia, as they persist in calling Eastern North Carolina. The name Roanoke is applied to the country around Pamlico Sound, embracing Hyde, Tyrell and Dare counties on the North, with the series of islands as far South as Carteret county and embracing that county with Craven and Jones. Croatoan or Croatan was a locality far to the South, off the coast of Carteret, and was the principal seat of the tribe. Their leading man was made Lord of Roanoke.  The name Manteo they do not recognize, but are familiar with Mayno, a name very common among them and representing a very quiet, law abiding people.

     At an early period after the English colony became incorporated with the tribe, they began to emigrate
westward. The first settlement made was probably in what is now Sampson County on several small rivers, tributary to Black River. A portion located on the Cape Fear, near a place now bearing the name of “Indian Wells” and at Heart’s Creek in Cumberland County, now Fayetteville.  It is impossible to ascertain at what date the tribe located in Robeson but it is probable that they have resided there for 200 years. According to their universal tradition they were located there long before the troubles with the Tuscaroras began in 1711. Some of the tribe fought under “Bonnul” as they term Colonel Barnwell, and we have reliable evidence that they brought home a few Mattamuskeet Indians as prisoners and slaves. The descendants of the Mattamuskeets had their traditions also. The name Dare was not recognized by them in our first investigations but we afterwards that they pronounce the name variously as DarrDurr and Dorr. This discovery was made when we related to an old chronicler of the tribe the story of Virginia Dare, the first white child born on American soil. This name Dorr or Durr has disappeared on the
Lumber River since the War of 1812. The name Dorr appears on the muster roll of a company composed in part of Indians from Robeson County which served during that war, in the United States Army.

     Several chroniclers, or old persons who keep the traditions of the tribe, have informed us that there are families bearing the name of Dorr or Durr, to be found in Western North Carolina who are claimed by the tribe as descended from the English colonists of Roanoke. These chroniclers affirm that the Dares, Coopers, Harvies and others retained their purity of blood and were generally the pioneers in emigration. Many names are corrupted so that it is difficult to trace their history. The name Goins was originally O’Guin, as appears from ancient court records. The name Lumber, as applied to the river, was originally Lumbee or Lombee. The name Manteo is not familiar to them. While they have a tradition of their leader or chief who went to England, yet they have preserved no name for him. An old woman, whom we interviewed, spoke of their great man as Wonoke. This name may be a corruption of Roanoke, for we must remember Manteo was made Lord of Roanoke. Mattamuskeet Lake, according to a tradition preserved by these Indians, was a burnt lake or lake caused by water filling a hole burnt in the ground. We are indebted for this tradition to an aged gentleman of Robeson County who was familiar with the traditions of the tribe from about 1820 to 1824. He mentioned several persons who represented that they were descended from Mattamuskeet Indians who were taken prisoners, in the war between the Whites and Tuscaroras, by the tribe on the Lumber River. These Mattamuskeets could locate the dwelling places of their ancestors who lived in what is now Hyde County, in the vicinity of Mattamuskeet Lake. In our investigations we could find no tradition respecting these persons. The names given by our informant have all disappeared. Large numbers have emigrated since the beginning of the present century. Within half a century about forty families left the county of Robeson from about Plainview and went to the Northwest. “Traditions are fading fast,” our informant remarked, “as far back as 1820 their traditions were more vivid than now and were familiar to old and young. Now, you will find their ancient traditions confined to comparatively a few old persons.”

     Pungo Lake is known among them as Mattapungo. They have no tradition as to any river named Roanoke. This name is invariably applied by them to the territory previously described as occupied by their tribe on the Eastern coast. Hawks, as previously mentioned, speaks of the tribe in 1587 as Hatteras Indians. When the Act of the North Carolina General Assembly was read to them, recognizing them as Croatans, an intelligent Indian remarked that he had always heard that they were called Hatteras Indians. The line of emigration extended westward from what is now Carteret County, and can be traced according to tradition as far West as the French Broad, in Buncombe County.  Tradition respecting localities occupied by the tribe at the time of the absorption of the English colony is vague, but definite enough to establish the belief that their territory once embraced portions, at least, of the present counties of Carteret, Jones and Craven.  It is not at all probable that any of the English colonists left by Governor White ever lived west of the county of Jones. The settlement on the Lumber River in Robeson County was made during the seventeenth century, possibly as early as 1650. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes occurred in 1685, and thousands of French Huguenots, driven to exile, found refuge in South Carolina. As early as 1709, a colony of these exiles located in the Eastern part of North Carolina. Some of these Huguenots penetrated the interior as far as the Lumber River in the early part of the last century, and
found the country north and east of them thickly populated by Indians who had farms and roads and other evidences of civilized life, and had evidently resided there for a considerable time before the approach of white men.

     Settlements were made towards the Pee Dee and at points beyond that river after their location on the Lumber.

     The language spoken is almost pure Anglo Saxon; a fact which we think affords corroborative evidence of their relation to the lost colony of White.  Mon (Saxon) is used for man, father is pronounce fayther, and a tradition is usually begun as follows:  “Mon, my fayther told me that his fayther told him,” &c. Mension is used for measurement, aks for ask, hit for it, hosen for hose, lovend for loving, housen for houses. They seem to have but two sounds for the letter a, one like short o. Many of the words in common use among them have long been obsolete in English speaking countries.

     They are a proud race, boasting alike of their English and Indian blood, hospitable to strangers and ever ready to do friendly offices for white people.

     They are peaceable in disposition, but when aroused by repeated injury, they will fight desperately. The great mass shun notoriety and carefully avoid places where crowds of other races assemble. They generally live retired from public highways, and seem to show Indian characteristics more strongly than in former times. There are sixteen churches owned by them in Robeson County, divided among Baptist and Methodist denominations. Their schoolhouses, built entirely by private means, are all framed buildings and provided far better than those of the colored race.

     They are great road makers, like their ancestors. The best public roads in North Carolina are found among this tribe.

     There has been no census taken separately from the other races, but the number in Robeson County is fully 2,500, and, considering the settlements in other counties, the total is not less than 5,000. The enrollment of Croatan children in Robeson County, between the ages of six and twenty-one years, in accordance with an Act of the General Assembly, passed in 1885, shows about eleven hundred entitled to the benefit of public instruction, provided separately for the race.

     By an Act of the General Assembly, passed in 1887, a Normal School for teachers of the Croatan race was established, and the sum of $500 is annually appropriated for two years by the State for its support.

     According to the law of North Carolina, all marriages between a white person and a Negro or Indian, or between a white person and a person of Negro or Indian descent to the third generation, inclusive, are null and void, but there was no inhibition of marriage between an Indian and a Negro, till the General Assembly of 1887 amended the law, by declaring all marriage between Croatan Indians and Negroes or persons of Negro descent to the third generation, inclusive, null and void.

 Chapter VII

     In investigating the traditions prevalent among this singular people, we found many family names identical with those of the lost colony of 1587. For the information of the reader, we give a list of the names of all the men, women and children of Raleigh’s colony, which arrived in Virginia and remained to inhabit there. This list is found in 1st Volume of Hawk’s History of North Carolina and copied from Hakluyt, Volume III, page 280. 

Anno regni Reginae Elizabethae 29

John White

John Jones

Robert Wilkinson

Roger Baily

John Brooks

John Tydway

Ananias Dare

Cutbert White

Ambrose Viccars

Christopher Cooper

John Bright

Edmund English

Thomas Stevens

Clement Taylor

Thomas Topan

John Sampson

William Sole

Henry Berry

Dionys Harvie

John Cosmuir

Richard Berry

Roger Prat

Humphrey Newton

John Spendlove

George Howe

Thomas Colman

John Hemmington

Simon Fernando

Thomas Gramme, or Graham or Graeme

Thomas Butler

Nicholas Johnson

Edward Powell

Thomas Warner

Mark Bennet

John Burdon

Anthony Cage

John Gibbes

James Hynde

William Willes

John Stilman

Thomas Ellis

William Brown

John Earnest

John Wright

Michael Myllet

Henry Johnson

William Dutton

Thomas Smith

John Starte

Maurice Allen

Richard Kemme

Richard Darige

William Waters

Thomas Harris

William Lucas

Richard Arthur

Richard Taverner

Arnold A. Richard

John Chapman

William Clement

William Nichols

James Lasie

Robert Little

Thomas Phevens

John Cheven

Hugh Tayler

John Borden

Thomas Hewett

William Berde

Charles Florrie

George Martin

Richard Wildye

Henry Mylton

Hugh Pattenson

Lewes Wotton

Henry Paine

Martin Sutton

Michael Bishop

Thomas Harris

John Farre

Henry Browne

Thomas Scot

John Bridger

Henry Rufotte

Peter Little

Griffin Jones

Richard Tomkins

John Wyles

Richard Shabedge

Henry Dorrell

Bryan Wyles



Eleanor Dare

Elizabeth Glane

Margaret Lawrence

Margery Harvie

Jane Pierce

Joan Warren

Agnes Wood

Audry Tappan

Jane Mannering

Winnifred Powell

Alice Charman

Rose Payne

Joyce Archard

Emma Merimoth

Elizabeth Viccars

Jane Jones

_____ Colman


Boys and Children

John Sampson

Thomas Archard

George Howe

Robert Ellis

Thomas Humphrey

John Prat

Ambrose Viccars

Thomas Smart

William Wythers

Children born in Virginia

Virginia Dare


_____ Harvie

      Manteo and Towaye, or Wanchese, who were in England, returned to Virginia with the colony.

     Governor John White, at the solicitation of the colonists, returned to England. Simon Fernando, the Spanish pilot of the expedition, also returned. George Howe, one of the “Assistants” of Governor White, was killed by the Indians on Roanoke Island soon after the arrival. Omitting the name of the perfidious Fernando, we have 120 persons in all, including men, women and children, and about 90 family names, represented in the colony.

     The names in the foregoing list in bold italics are those which are found at this time among the Indians residing in Robeson County and in other counties of North Carolina. The traditions of every family bearing the name of one of the lost colonists, point to Roanoke as the country of their ancestors.

     If we accept their traditions they held communication with the Eastern coast long after their exodus, and it is not improbable that it was a party of this tribe which Lawson describes in 1714, as visiting their old hunting grounds and who described their ancestors as people who “could talk in a book.”

     As to the intellectual character of this singular people but little can be written as public schools were unknown prior to 1835, and such education as they obtained up to that date was limited to a knowledge of reading and writing and the fundamental rules of arithmetic. Hundreds have grown up to manhood and womanhood in perfect ignorance of books. By nature they are quick-witted, and judging by the few examples of educated ones, they are equal to the whites in mental capacity. Ex United States Senator Revels, of Mississippi, belongs to this tribe.  He was born in Robeson County and emigrated to the northwest where he was educated and subsequently resided in Mississippi.

     The action of the North Carolina Legislature in establishing separate schools for this race and in recognizing them as the descendants of the friendly Croatans known to the early colonists is one great step towards their moral and intellectual elevation. They are almost universally land holders and occupy a territory in the county of Robeson of about sixty thousand acres, adapted to the growth of corn, cotton and tobacco.

 Chapter VIII

     It has long been a settled conviction that the lost colonists perished from starvation of savage cruelty.

     This conviction has arisen from the fact that they were seen no more by white men.

     The particulars given by Governor White of the understanding which existed between him and the colonists prior to his departure for England in 1587, and his finding the word Croatan on a tree, in a conspicuous place, on his return in 1590, seem to prove that the English had accepted the invitation of Manteo’s tribe, and had gone to Croatan Island. The fact that they were seen no more by white men does not prove that they perished. The same fact exists in regard to the Croatans and the same argument would prove their destruction also.

     We must remember that the region embracing Croatan Island and the adjacent mainland was unexplored for a long period after the attempt at settlement on Roanoke Island. The history of those times shows that in 1609 the northeast corner of North Carolina was settled by a colony from Virginia.

     In 1654, sixty-seven years after the English colonists were last seen on Roanoke, Virginia adventurers had explored as far south as the Pamlico and Neuse rivers.  In 1656 a settlement was made on Albemarle Sound.  A colony from Massachusetts was located on the Cape Fear in 1660 and was soon abandoned. Sir John Yeamans’ colony landed on the same river in 1664. In 1690, a French colony from Virginia settled on Pamlico Sound, and in 1698 emigrants from Albemarle also located in that region.

     We have cited these facts to show how little were known, from 1587 to 1690, of the region where tradition says the Croatans were settled.

     In 1690, the date of the settlement of the French on Pamlico, all the English colonists must have been dead, and the sad story was held only in tradition, and it may be that the Croatans who were then remaining in that region, on the approach of the new colony, removed farther into the interior, where portions of that tribe had previously located.

     As previously intimated, the traditions of the Indians now living in Robeson are sufficiently clear to prove that at an early period they located south of Pamlico Sound on the mainland. Tradition in regard to their ancient dwelling places on the tributaries of Black River in the present county of Sampson is more definite. The fact that French, English, Irish and perhaps German names are found among them is accounted for by the tradition that marriages frequently occurred between them and the early immigrants. The name Chavis which is common among this people is probably a corruption of the French name, Cheves. Goins was O’Guin, as court records prove. Leary was O’Leary. Blauc or Blaux is French. Braboy is of recent origin and was originally “Brave Boy” and dates back to the war with the Tuscaroras in 1711, and was conferred on an Indian by the commander of the English for some meritorious act.

     From the earliest settlement of the country along the Lumber River these Indians have been an English speaking people. Their language has many peculiarities and reminds one of the English spoken in the days of Chaucer. The number of old English words in common use among them which have long been obsolete in English speaking countries, is corroborative of the truth of their tradition that they are the descendants of the lost Englishmen of Roanoke.

     In travelling on foot they march in “Indian file” and exhibit a fondness for bright red colors. They unconsciously betray many other traits characteristic of Indians. The custom of raising patches of tobacco for their own use has been handed down from time immemorial.

     In building they exhibit no little architectural skill.  In road making they excel. Some of the best roads in North Carolina can be found within their territory.  They are universally hospitable and polite to strangers. They are proud of their race and boast of their English ancestry. Like their ancestors, they are friendly to white men.

     Their traditions are generally preserved by the old members of the tribe, but the tradition is universal among them from infancy to old age, that their ancestors came from “Roanoke in Virginia.” By Virginia they mean Eastern North Carolina, and the term Roanoke means the territory occupied by the tribe in the vicinity of Pamlico Sound. In religious matters they are Baptists and Methodists. The latter belong to what is called the Indian Mission, which is of recent origin.

     “They never forget a kindness, an injury, or a debt,” said an old citizen.  “They may not pay you when a debt is due, but they seldom forget an obligation and are sure to pay you after a time.” In common with all Indians they have a great respect for the Quakers and look upon them as the true friends of the Indian. In the olden time they had houses of entertainment for travelers.

     The line of emigration from their original seat on the coast was westward, and can be traced as far west as the French Broad, in Buncombe County. Though many families of this tribe emigrated from the Lumber River a long while ago, yet the locations of many of them have been located in Western North Carolina with unerring certainty.

     The writer has been much interested in investigating the traditions prevalent among the Croatans and expresses his firm conviction that they are descended from the friendly tribe found on our eastern coast in 1587, and also descended from the lost colonists of Roanoke who were amalgamated with this tribe.

     Through many centuries of time there comes down to us the sad story of the lost legions of Varus. The mystery that so long hung over the fate of those legions was solved by Drusus who found the bleaching bones of his countrymen in a German forest, near the Baltic sea.

     The fate of the lost colonists of Roanoke, we submit, is revealed in the foregoing pages.

   To the charitable who are interested in the moral elevation of humanity we heartily commend the Croatans.

 The End



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