Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Search for the Roanoke Colonists

In January 1608 the King of the Pasbehay and two Englishmen ventured into the territory on the south side of the James River, to search for survivors from the colony Sir Walter Raleigh had attempted to plant on Roanoke Island in the 1580s. Captain John Smith also sent out a search party. He said that in December 1608 he had tested the loyalty of the King of the Warreskoyack Indians by asking him to provide two guides to accompany Michael Sicklemore on a journey southward to look for the Roanoke colonists. Smith reported that the river Sicklemore saw "was not great, the people few," and that nothing was learned about the lost colonists (Smith 1910:410, 449, 474; Strachey 1953:91).

However, in 1609 Virginia Company official instructed incoming Governor Thomas Gates to make another search, for they believed that four English colonists would be found who had "escaped from the slaughter of Powhatan of Roanocke, upon the first arrival of our Colonie and live under the proteccon of a wiroane [weorwance] called Gepanocon enemy to Powhatan" (Kingsbury 1906-1935:III:17). Samuel Purchas, whose four volumes entitled Purchas His Pilgrimes or Hakluytus Posthomous, were published in 1624, said that Nathaniel Powell and Anas Todkill, accompanied by Quiyoughquohanock guides, were sent southward to search for surviving colonists. He added that they returned with the report that Sir Walter Raleigh's people were all dead. In the margin of his text, Purchas, who indicated that he had use of Captain John Smith's written notes, said that "Powhatan confessed that hee had bin at the mirder of that colonie and shewed to Captain Smith a musket barrel and brasse mortar and certain peeces of Iron which had been theirs" (Purchas 1624:1691, 1728). The chart generally known as the Zuniga map (1608) contains several notations that relate to the whereabouts of the Roanoke colonists. One is the site where "the king of Paspahegh reported our men to be and went to se[e]."


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