Farm Life school purchased to house Lost Colony research
Space also available for free use by cultural groups

The Enterprise, Williamston, NC, May 16, 2006
Written by Suzanne Stotesbury

Photo by Jennifer Sheppard, LCCSR Director of Genealogy

    Farm Life - New possibilities are on the horizon for Farm Life -- and the rest of Martin County -- since the sale of the old Farm Life School building to a Lost Colony research group last week. "We are very excited about coming to Martin County." said Fred Willard, director of the Lost Colony Center for Science and Research. "We are stunned at the response that we are getting. We knew we would eventually get here, but we didn't think it would be for another 20 years."

    The center recently obtained the Farm Life School building and closed the sale on Tuesday of last week. The building was purchased by an anonymous donor who donated it to the center.

    Willard got interested in the Lost Colony when he decided to retire to the Outer Banks to fish. The research center was just a hobby for him and several others until they found Croatan Indian site -- and he hasn't held a fishing pole since.

    Already having an entrepreneurial background, he is currently completing a degree at East Carolina University in anthropology with a specialty in archaeology, a degree in history and a multi-disciplinary minor in the Lost Colony.

    Now, he is bringing the history and mystery of the Lost Colony to Martin County. Jumping in head first, Willard said that he was moving his desk in yesterday.

    "It generates a lot of interest because it's the bigest unsolved mystery in North America. The number one goal of the research center is to hire an archaeologist who isn't born yet to finish our research," Willard said.

    The second goal of the center is to educate and involve the public in the research.

    The third goal, of course, is to find the Lost Colony.

    According to Willard's research, descendants of the Lost Colony and Croatan Indians have migrated -- over the span of centuries -- to make their homes in both the Chocowinity area and right here in Martin County.

    The area where those descendents settled here -- and still live today -- is in the eastern part of the county that includes Jamesville, Free Union, Ange Town and Piney Woods.

    For Willard, the placement of the new facility couldn't be better.

    "We have a research center in Washington and we have literally run out of space," he said. "We'll have the full building (in Farm Life) plus 19 acres there. There is so much space."

    Willard said he wants to have the building named the Martin County Science and Cultural Center, with a dedication to George W. Ray, chairman of the Lost Colony's Endowment Committee, who found the funding for the building.

    The building will serve as a place to clean, study and display artifacts pertaining to the Lost Colony. There will be office space for the archaeologists and students, and a lecture auditorium.

    The center will rent out some office space, but local cultural groups will be able to get free space to use for an office and other purposes, Willard said.

    "We are hoping to make it the curtural center of Martin County," he added. Once it is up and running, the center will be open to the public.

    The sale came at a busy time for Willard. A group, mostly consisting of volunteers, is heading out to a dig site on the Alligator River on Saturday and will continue digging into the summer.

    Willard said that the group is always looking for volunteers to help out on the digs and anyone interested in joining the expedition can contact him at (252) 926-5087.

    This is an opportunity not only for education, but also as a tourist attraction for the county, Willard said.

    "People are starved for information on the biggest unsolved mystery around," he said.

    For more information about the Lost Colony Center for Science and Research, look at its website at

    Jennifer Sheppard -- a local genealogist who has worked with Willard and writes a weekly column for The Enterprise -- also contributed to this article.

      ~ This article was also published in the North Carolina's Down East magazine, Summer 2006 issue.

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