|Governor White's map of the Roanoke Colony|
The creation and disappearance of the Roanoke Colony is a very interesting story, it was always one of my favorites to teach in American History.
The colony at which the settlers hoped to live had been previously established by the English and had been left with only a skeleton crew of soldiers to maintain it in anticipation of new arrivals and new supplies. However, when White and his group arrived there was no one left in the colony. Although odd, the previous occupants of the fort had run afoul with local native groups. The fort had been attacked by natives before and had also been completely abandoned at one time.
Although White and his colonists were depending on the men that remained, they stayed in an attempt to re-establish the fort and colony. John White became the Governor of Roanoke. He tried his best to create peaceful relationships with the tribes surrounding the colony, including the Croatans. During this time his daughter gave birth to the first English child thought to have been born in the
Despite Governor White’s efforts with the local tribes, one of the
White believed that the colonists had traveled to
There have obviously been several hundred theories presented since 1590, which attempt to explain the disappearance of the
Even the Jamestown Colonists, including the famous John Smith, was interested in finding the lost colonists. Although not necessarily a reliable source, he was told by Powhatan (the father of Pocahontas), that the colonists who had once been at
However, the evidence discovered recently does not seem to support any of the established theories. According to ABC news, a map created by Governor John White in 1585 indicates that the colonists might have moved west up the Albemarle Sound to the area where the Chowan and
This new evidence was discovered by examining two patches attached to Governor White’s map, which had apparently never been looked at before. One patch appeared to be a simple correction to the original, but the other hid a small symbol representing the existence of a second English fort. Scholars believe the symbol of the fort could indicate where White believed the colonists could have gone. The article reports that this discovery would not have been made had one of the researchers not recently pondered what might be hidden under the two patches.
Although the discovery on White’s map is fascinating, the area it indicates is now privately owned. Some of it even appears to be covered by a golf course, so archeological digs will have to wait several years, if they happen at all.
This type of discovery is interesting. The fate of the
This is certainly also an interesting lesson in historical research for everyone. No matter how many times one has examined a single source, looking at it carefully and objectively one more time might reveal a hidden clue previously missed by hundreds of researchers who believed they knew everything about the source in front of them. There are literally thousands of unsolved historical mysteries; some are probably in walking distance from your own home. In addition, in our digital age, one no longer necessarily has to sift through dusty old pages in dank dark archives (though that can be fun too). So start digging people. You never know if you will be the researcher that asks that one simple question that cracks a case hundreds of years old or as new as yesterday.