Migration from Croatan
Group using deeds to trace colony, Croatan to Chocowinity

Washington Daily News, Washington, NC, May 30, 2002
Written by Lawrence Keech, Staff Writer
Part 2 of a 4-part Series

    EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second in a series of articles about the Roanoke Voyages of the late 1500s, their place in history and the legends, facts and theories about the plight of more that 600 missing people. Note: The term "lost colony" is a modern one pertaining to only one group of settlers. Note also that in the writings of John White, the English used the letter "u" for the current "v." This is the second of two hypotheses by Fred Willard, a researcher looking for the 1585 colony and an aspiring archaeologist attending Elizabeth City State University.

Where did the colonists go -- migration

    Willard believes the colonists were broken up slowly into several smaller groups. He points to 15 other people left behind two years prior to the 1587 colony as well.

    "You started with 117, and they were transported a long distance and I think they were all broken up." he said. "There are supposed to be four men at Picanicnecak, which was near Cedar Island; you've got four which are supposed to be at Panowikee, which was on the Pamlico; you've got the children, which are supposed to be on the Chowan River, ... You are covering millions and millions of acres just with them.

    "Then you have Grenville's 15 men. (Sir Richard Grenville left Plymouth, England on April 9, 1585 with one group of Sir Walter Raleigh's colonists.) We know they fought their way to Port Ferdinando and then they just disappeared, and the Croatan don't know what happend to them. Then you've got the three that were left by (Ralph) Lane." (Lane was the governor of the colony established in 1585.)

    What led to their breakup was an attack, he believes.

    "I think what people have done is misinterpret the words 'The Powhatan of Roanoke,'" Willard states. "They went 'Powhatan. Oh, Pocahontas' father.' Seven kings from seven different Indain tribes are all telling us the same things -- they were attacked; it doesn't say where. I'm going to guess Gum Neck or that area.

    "The chief of Ritanoe takes them to Ritanoe and slaughters them. What does slaughter mean -- look what they did to (English explorer from the 1700s) John Lawson: They put a thousand slits in him and put pine bark in and they burned him to death one piece of bark at a time. They tell you the name of the king, Econo or Pemocoan, described as the chief of Panowikee and that he has these four men and he is not going to give them up. (One researcher) documents seven different sources of the split-up. They all say the same thing: Seven survived."

    If his theories are true -- he uses a handful of deeds and oral history to make his case -- Willard believes history books will change in the coming decade or so.

    "What we are about to find out is that the Indans' migration is nothing like what it is in the North Carolina history books," Willard said. "What we are seeing is that everything on that John White map from 1585 is an Algonquian name. Jamestown is settled 1608 and the first deed is signed 1650. Then in this circle down here (Hyde County area), every single name turns into a Tuscaurora name. I think the Saponie, Aconoche and the Tuscaurora finally decided they were in a position where they could overrun the English if they joined forces.

    "When the Jamestown people come down, there are no Algonquians left. Seven hundred warriors at Chowanock -- and the village is gone. Everything they are dealing with is Tuscaurora Indians."

    In 1712 the Tuscaurora War broke out.

    "After the Tuscaurora Indian wars, 60 to 80 Indians -- Croatan and Mattamuskeet and a few Coree -- waged gorilla warfare out of these swamps," Willard says, pointing to the Dismal Swamp area of his map.

    He then relates the Dismal Swamp Indian legend.

    "They waged warfare out of there for six years. (The English) never defeated them and never saw them. They came out of the swamp and raided Roanoke Island and killed 24. They went back into the swamp and (the English) went in after them and never saw an Indian.

    "They came out and raided a village on the Alligator River in 1712 and killed 16. Nine months later, they raided the Pamlico and killed over 100 people and went back into the swamp.

    "We have the Indian name and his English counterpart's surname, John Padgett, and his Algonquian Indian name, and they sued for peace. They meet John Padgett and his men on the Outer Banks and what they gave them was the best Indian reservation any Indians ever got in North America, which was Mattamuskeet Lake and all the land to the sound. Padgett and Squarehooks, who we were wondering if they are Squires. Also Mackey, John Barbour and Long Tom are the Indians in charge. They get this land, and then we get almost 25 deeds (showing) where they are selling it. We think they leave there and (go) to Pinetown."

    Willard's ideas may seem a bit far-fetched to some listeners, but as his story continues, other ideas he broaches make his speculation seem more plausible.

    "My oldest English family was traced to the surname Boston," said Charles Shepard, who attended the recent seminar presented by Willard at Southside School and believes he is a descendant of the Mattamuskeet Indians. "In 1790, there was only two people that had only one name in Hyde County; they were both Bostons."

    Shepard also points out, "In Masschuesetts, on Nantuckeet, there was a trial for, and Indians named, Boston, who was a whaler on a ship owned by a man with the name Swain. While they were out (at sea), the state signed into law (a bill) making slavery illegal and Boston, an Indian, was given his wages. A court case ensued and led to all slaves being freed in the state of Masschuesetts.

    "The whaling ships would run from Nantuckeet to Cape Hatteras, and they would always look for safe houses," he continued. "A whaler Indian stole a book from a man named Zephania Pinkham, who came to North Carolina. They always went to the nearest Indian village."

    That's where the first deed Willard found comes into play.

    Elizabeth Elks deeded lands of the native Indians "to Nate Pinkham, (including) a parcel of land known as Indian lands," Chocowinity resident and East Carolina University student Emily Elks noted, reading from the deed.

    After providing a description of the area involved, she notes the deed mentions "the whole of the Indian lands."

    At the conclusion of Emily Elks' reading of the deed at a recent seminar at Southside High School, Barbara Pinkham, also from Beaufort County, interjected, "Nathaniel - Nate on this deed -- I found out his father, Zephania, was a whaler. I found a will that Zephania left to Nate."

    From there, the family lineage was easy to trace; the descendants end up in the present-day communities of Free Union and Pinetown.

    Willard believes the "Beechland Indians" moved inland as well.

    Shepard has deeds showing that his ancestors moved near the same area, as well.

    "Both of my parents are from the Free Union area," Shepard said, "On Whelch's Creek near the Washington/Martin County line, there Moratoc Indians in 1586, and the last of them from 1680 to 1690. In 1685, the Croatan Indians came from Manteo to the area and, in 1687, the Tuscaurora moved in with the Croatan."

    From Pinetown, Willard tracks the Indians' move to the Chocowinity area.

    The deeds led Willard to a site between Blounts Creek and Moore's Beach. In Chocowinity, he found nine surnames that correlate to European names.

    The names that primarily kept appearing in Willard's research were Gibbs, Berry, Bright and Ellis, all of which are on the 1587 roster of the Roanoke Island colony. He also notes Elks and Carrawan as European descendants who integrated into the Croatan tribes. He has traced these to one of the Elks families in Chocowinity today.

    "Genealogy can prove this -- blood testing, DNA testing," Willard said. "We can test people today against remains someday, and that would prove it."

    A DNA specialist working with JWM Productions, an English video company which is considering making a 90-minute documentary on Willard's work, "has identified from the roster eight or nine well-known and prominent names and has located their descendants today and ... wants to go that route," Willard said.

    Those nine descendants, living in England, will be tested against a select group of people from Chocowinity and Free Union, along with at least one set of skeletal remains.

    Willard told the recent group at Southside, "At East Carolina University we have 272 skeletal specimens from the Outer Banks area. One specifically from the Croatan site has been donated to me and will be included in a display , if the details for preserving it can be worked out."

    It is that sample that Willard hopes to have tested at Elizabeth City State.

    "We have the capability and the resources to do it at our research center," said Carolyn Mahoney, dean of mathematics and science at Elizabeth City State University. "Those details have not been worked out yet."

    With his find at Hatteras, the evidence pointing to Gum Neck and Beechland, Willard, who operates out of the lodge at the Mattamuskeet Wildlife Refuge in Hyde County, said only time, digging, and maybe DNA can prove his hypothesis.

    "We're following the 'yellow brick road,' and we only have three pieces of the road," he said. "We have a piece at Croatan, we have a piece at Buck Ridge and we have a piece at Chocowinity, and they do connect. I'm seeing too much to know they (don't) connect. Moore's Creek area -- that's my target area."

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