SATURDAY, October 12, 2013
The Daily Reflector, Greenville, NC


Wellcome students hear new findings about Lost Colony

The Daily Reflector

        There is new evidence that suggests the "Lost Colony" of Roanoke may not have vanished but instead moved 50 miles inland in an attempt to reconnect with the colony's founder, Sir Walter Raleigh.

        Two researchers from the Williamston-based Lost Colony Center for Science and Research presented their findings to a group of Wellcome Middle School eighth graders during an assembly on Friday. The presentation was part of the students' classroom study of the Lost Colony.

        The colony was founded in 1587 as the second English colony in America after all but 15 of an original 108 men in the 1584 expedition died. It was thought to have been wiped out by disease or starvation or killed by local Native Americans.

        Center researcher Kathryn Sugg said five "breadcrumbs" now lead them to believe the colonists abandoned Roanoke Island in search of Raleigh and a forest of Sassafras trees.

        The first clue was that, at the time, Sassafras was more valuable than gold and England's Queen Elizabeth had given Raleigh exclusive rights to trees. Raleigh could sue anyone else found importing Sassafras trees, take their maps and claim the Sassafras as his own.

        The next clue involves a map of area drawn by a trader named John Farrar.         "There's a tree on the map called 'Sassafras' and it's the only one of over 30 trees on the map that is labeled," Sugg said. "The quest in why?"

        Third is that John White, one of the colonists and grandfather to Virginia Dare, the first English baby born in America, mentioned multiple times in his writings that the colony planned to move 50 miles inland.

        "50 miles into the mainland is where Dasemunkepeuc (an Algonquian Indian village) is located," Sugg said. "It's also where the forest is growing and where Sassafras tree is on the Farrar map."

        Next is that Chief Manteo, a Croatan Indian who had befriended the colony, was made "Great Lord and Chief" of Dasemeunkepeuc, presumably so he and his group would protect the Sassafras forest for the English settlers.

        Last, Thomas Harriot, a colleague of Raleigh and White, wrote multiple letters about "a secret commodity in a secret location."

        "Back then Sassafras was worth its weight in gold and anyone who knew where to find Sassafras and lots of it stood to make the equivalent of millions of dollars (today)," she said. "But that's only if the information about where the Sassafras was growing was kept top secret."

        Essentially, the colonists were just following the money.

        "Raleigh died in 1618 and when he died the secret about where the Sassafras was located and about where the colony moved died with him," she said. "So bye-bye colony."

        Center Researcher Fred Willard said ongoing re-search in the area includes trying to locate colonial and Native American descendents through DNA matching, land deeds and surname research. Willard also said they've used satellite imagery to locate at least 20 Indian villages and should be close to finding the exact location of Raleigh's "lost city."

        Contact Katherine Ayers at kayers@reflector.com and 252-329-9567. Follow her on Twitter @KatieAyersGDR.


Photographs from top to bottom:

Fred Willard, director of The Lost Colony Center for Science and Research, points to a map that shows the migration trail of the Croatan Indians during a presentation on The Lost Colony at Wellcome Middle School on Friday afternoon.

Eighth-grade students at Wellcome Middle School listen to a presentation on The Lost Colony on Friday afternoon.

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