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THE ROANOKE EXPEDITION

In April 1587, Sir Walter Raleigh sent 117 men, women, and children to establish the City of Raleigh on the southern shore of the Chesapeake Bay as the first English colony in the New World.  Raleigh did not accompany the voyage, so it was left in the hands of two men.  John White was to be the Governor of the new colony, and a former Spanish pilot named Simon Fernandez captained the ship.  White took a detailed log as to the events of this journel.  In June, en route to Chesapeake Bay, they stopped at Roanoke Island, in the Outer Banks of NC, to check on the status of 15 soldiers that had been left to hold a military base.  Once the colonists disembarked to stretch their legs on the island, Fernandez abruptly declared that the hurricane season was too near to continue the voyage (probably because he and the other mariners wanted to resume the more profitable activity of privateering) and left the colonists on Roanoke Island instead. 1   


THE LOST COLONISTS

The names of all the colonists are known and are listed here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_colonists_at_Roanoke

Otherwise, very little is known about the vast majority of the colonists, but information is available about a dozen of them. 2  Among them were John White's daughter and son-in-law (whose daughter Virginia Dare was the first English birth in America).  Mark Bennett and William Berde, both "Lost Colonist" are described quite simply as husbandman and a yeoman.  Anthony Cage, another 1587 colonist, had been sheriff of Huntington in 1585. Two other "Lost Colonists," James Hynde and William Clement, had been in prison together in Colchester Castle for stealing. Thomas Ellis of the "Lost Colony" was at the other end of the social ladder. Before leaving home in Exeter, he had been a member of the vestry of his parish church, St. Petrock, which still stands today on the main business street of Exeter. It is believed that John Hewet was the "Lost Colonist" lawyer. He held a bachelor of civil law from Oxford. John Spendlove, later a "Lost Colonists" was described on a 1585 muster list as a "gentleman" and reported present with his horse.  Finally, of special importance to this website, Richard Berry was described as a "gentleman" and was a muster captain of the Devon Militia in 1572. 3

 

DISAPPEARANCE

Roanoke Island was a relatively barren island, so the colonists soon faced looming food shortages.  Before Fernandez departed for England, they convinced Governor John White to return with him, to obtain desperately needed supplies.  Because of the war with Spain (including the Spanish Armada's attempted invasion in 1588), White was unable to return to Roanoke until 1590.  When the supply ship finally returned, the colony was gone, apparently not destroyed, but removed.  The only clue was the word  "Croatoan" carved into a tree.  White believed this message meant they had gone to Croatoan Island where their friend Manteo was Chief of the Indians.  Significantly, the colonists had been instructed to carve a cross on the doors and/or trees in the colony as a sign of distress, but this had not been done.  Nor was there any sign of a struggle.


 

"CROATOAN"

The Croatan Indians lived on Croatoan Island, south of Roanoke Island in the Outer Banks chain.  Although most of the nearby Indians regarded the colonists with distrust and/or hostility, the Croatans were friendly.  One of their own named Manteo had accompanied Drake to England in 1585 and returned, becoming a liaison between the colonists and the Croatans.  Following numerous wars among the local Indian tribes, the Croatans moved inland (thought to be near Roberson Co., NC) and merged with others to form the Lumbee tribe.

On February 10, 1885, state legislator Hamilton McMillan helped to pass the "Croatan bill", that officially designated the Native American population around Robeson County as Croatan. Two days later on February 12, 1885, the Fayetteville Observer published an article regarding the Robeson Native Americans' origins. This article states

"......They say that their traditions say that the people we call the Croatan Indians (though they do not recognize that name as that of a tribe, but only a village, and that they were Tuscaroras), were always friendly to the whites; and finding them destitute and despairing of ever receiving aid from England, persuaded them to leave the island, and go to the mainland... They gradually drifted away from their original seats, and at length settled in Robeson, about the center of the county..."

 

EVIDENCE OF THE COLONISTS' DESTINY

Statements by the Reverend Morgan Jones in 1660 offered other evidence of the possible whereabouts of the "Lost Colony".  Reverend Jones claimed to have been contacted by English speaking Indians that lived in what is probably now Robeson County. In 1709, John Lawson came upon English-speaking Indians who claimed white ancestry. The Indians gave him two chickens, an indication of European influence. Such a gift was a European tradition that was introduced to Native Americans in the Eastern United States who, prior to the arrival of Europeans, kept no domestic fowl (Dial and Eliades, 1975, and Benner and McCloud, 1987).Europeans from the Scottish Highlands moved into the upper stretches of the river in what is now Scotland County, NC starting in the 1730s and found local Native Americans speaking English.

The Lost Colony DNA Project is an ongoing effort underway by the Lost Colony of Roanoke DNA Project at Family Tree DNA. The project will use DNA testing to prove or disprove that some Lost Colony survivors assimilated with the local Native American tribes either through adoption or enslavement. A large percentage of the surnames do exist among these tribes. Additionally, deeds and wills have been discovered to bear this theory out.  The project will attempt to locate and test as many potential descendants as possible. Testing is also planned for some ancient remains.

The present-day Lumbee Indians of Roberson County have a strong oral history that they are descended from the Lost Colonists.  "Berry" is a prominent name among the Lumbees.  We are waiting for one of these Lumbees to test their Y-DNA to see if it matches that of other Berry families.

The Lumbee tribal records include reference to Henry O. Berry (or Henry O'berry), who received multiple land grants in southern North Carolina.  He is claimed by the Carolina Berry Family and its cousins in the Mississippi Berry Family.