Sunday, August 23, 2009

Roanoke Island Trip - Day 5

Day 5 - August 20 – Thursday

by Roberta Estes

I’ve been looking forward to today for 2 years now. Anne and I are going to Hatteras Island which is where Croatoan is located. Croatoan, if you recall, is the location that the Lost Colony carved on the post and the tree at Fort Raleigh as a message to John White telling him where the colony had removed to. He found it on his return voyage in 1590 and was thrilled that the colonists were among the friendly Indians headed by Manteo, their friend who had gone with them to England twice.

John White was also greatly relieved by what he did not find; no cross. Their agreement was that if the colonists left under duress or in distress, they would carve not only their location, but a cross. There were no crosses anyplace, and the houses had been disassembled and removed, not ransacked, so their move was obviously orderly and planned, not hurried.

John White wanted to visit Hatteras Island, they called Croatoan, but a violent storm interfered with is plans, drowned some of the men, and nearly sank their ships. They had to abandon those plan and return to England. So close, yet so far away.

Anne and I retraced that journey today. After leaving Roanoke Island, we crossed the bouncing bridge and turned onto NC 12. NC 12 is the ribbon highway that runs the length of Hatteras land for more than 50 miles. The island starts out running North to South, but does a dog-leg turn in about 45 miles at Buxton and then runs East to West. The North to South portion is generally not inhabitable. Now of course there are a couple of tiny villages with a few hearty souls who must not need insurance who have built right on the sand dunes on the ocean on a tiny spit of land not more than an eighth of a mile wide in some locations. But these locations do not support any agriculture because there is only sand and no dirt. In fact, these areas are quite picturesque. The park service has erected sand fences in some areas to attempt to reduce erosion and the sand drifts around the fences. However, the road has been washed out many times and new inlets through the island are often created during hurricanes and other bad storms, letting us know indeed how fragile those islands truly are.

In some locations, maritime forest exists on the islands. While this is different than mainland forests, it’s still beautiful and often blocks the view of the ocean making the distance to the ocean from the road seem far greater than it is.

This site has beautiful photos of the Outer Banks. Take a look and share the unique charm and the stark beauty. You can see Maritime forest in many of these photos.

We stopped in Buxton and visited Scott Dawson at the Croatoan Inn. Scott and his wife own the inn and Scott has a beautiful collection of Native artifacts found on the beaches and elsewhere on Hatteras Island.

Scott is a wealth of information about the history of Hatteras Island. He is passionate about the colonists who he believes assimilated with the Indians. Indeed, they told us they were going to Croatoan and Hatteras Island is Croatoan. This part of Hatteras Island is the first location between Roanoke and the end of Hatteras Island that can sustain a population and grown food, and the Indians have inhabited that island at least seasonally for thousands of years.

Scott has done a great deal of research on the topic and his book “Croatoan, Birth Place of America” is now in its second printing.

We had read the book and wanted to see the area for ourselves as well as some of the landmarks Scott discussed in his book. Even though he couldn’t leave the hotel and go with us, he was kind enough to tell us how to locate several items, including the Cora tree.

The Cora Tree and the coffins are in very close proximity. The coffins were, unfortunately, reburied many years ago, right after they were accidentally excavated by a drag line operator before anyone realized the significance of what he had stumbled upon. However, we do know the general area where the canal digging as going on and the Cora tree is in the same vicinity.

The Cora tree is quite interesting, although maddeningly inconclusive just like so much else about the Lost Colony. Recalling that the colonists were to carve the location of where they were moving on a tree or post, this tree is over 1000 years old, so even in 1600 or so it would have been remarkable. At that time it was already 600 years old, a substantial tree.

Did the colonists carve a second message to their hoped-for rescuers after they moved to Croatoan? Were they trying to tell John White where they went if they moved a second time? Is Cora similar to Coree? The locals tell the story that
Cora was a witch who was hung in the tree and lightening carved the name Cora in the bark.

From there Anne and I drove around the area where we knew the coffins to have been, and revisited the sites of earlier archaeological digs, although there have been very few on Hatteras Island, with most digs being focused on Fort Raleigh and that area. Earlier digs on Hatteras (Croatoan) were very successful, unearthing a gunlock and the Kendall family signet ring among other English items. In the 1930s, a man found a sword in that area as well. Again, while confirming the presence of the English on the island, it doesn’t confirm that the colonists themselves were there and that that they weren’t later artifacts. Kendal was in the 1585-86 military expedition, but not in the 1587 group, so we may be finding artifacts from the military expedition, not the colonists themselves.

How I would love to test the DNA of the skeletal remains in those caskets. It could potentially tell us a great deal about what happened between 1587 when the colonists moved to Croatoan and the next “sighting” we have directly of their descendants which is in 1701 when John Lawson visits the Hatteras Indians and reports that they have grey eyes and some have light hair as well. The Hatteras told Lawson that their ancestors were white people and talked in books. The Hatteras also tell of a ghost boat which appears on misty nights and is Raleigh’s boat which has come for them.

How many misty and foggy nights indeed did the colonists spend watching for any sign through the mists of their rescuers? Did they every give up waiting? At some point, had they assimilated so well into the Native culture that they no longer wanted to be rescued? Did they in fact survive to have descendants in the present generation, or did they survive only long enough to be annihilated by disease or warfare with other warring nations and the white settlers as well during the long and bloody Tuscarora War and preceding events?

After some artifact hunting on the beach, from which we turned up empty handed, we ate at a place that passes for fast food. Let’s just suffice it to say it took as long to get a salad, burger and piece of pizza as it would have taken to wait on a table at the nicer restaurant (20 minutes) and have ordered and eaten a dinner. Let’s just say that calling the food mediocre would be doing it a favor. That restaurant is definitely on my “never again” list.

Our drive home was in the dark, and it’s amazing just how dark dark is on the island. Of course, there are no street lights and in the areas with no habitation, there is also no ambient light. The mainland is often out of sight and if you look eastward of course there is just ocean and more ocean. Anne and I watched the ocean and wondered if Hurricaine Bill will cause severe rains and flooding, but this evening, and for a couple of more evenings, Hurricane Bill isn’t a problem. But one this is for sure on the Outer Banks, if this hurricane misses you, there’s always another one waiting in the wings. The surfers count on that.

We arrived home under the poplar tree quite late, for the last time for me. I packed and got my car ready to load in the morning. I slept restlessly trying to decide whether to risk the traffic by going north by Washington DC or take the longer route westward and up 77. By 4:30 AM or so, I had come up with a compromise plan which took me north to Richmond they west on 64 which should keep me out of traffic and rain with little backtracking. My GPS this morning was not happy with my decision. How I just love having a bossy woman in my car. I swear she sounds more disgusted with every direction of hers that I don’t follow. She gets confused sometimes and got herself all bolluxed up near Richmond, nearly sending me to Washington DC in spite of what I told her to do.

This morning when I woke up, I looked out the bedroom window to see condensation running down the window….and it wasn’t raining. It was just that humid. No need to dry your hair here, because it’s going to be wet again in 2.7 minutes. And makeup – only waterproof. But none for me thank you…..I got over that about the same time I got over staying up late.

As I was loading my car for my final trip across the bouncing bridge, Turkey Lurkey ran up and offered some parting advice….I’m not sure I understood her correctly, but I think it was something about not celebrating Thanksgiving this year.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Roanoke Island Trip - Day 4

Wednesday – Day 4 - August 19th

After staying up way too late last night at the cast party, we slept a little late this morning. I can’t remember the last time I as up till 3AM for a positive reason! However, even with nothing stronger than water to drink, I could certainly feel the late night this morning. How did I ever think this was fun when I was younger?

By noon, Anne and I were absorbed in acid free boxes chocked full of surprises at the Outer Banks History Center. Anne focused on contributed genealogies of Outer Banks families and I was overwhelmed with the magnitude of the Elizabethan Collection, a 16+ box (think banker’s boxes) collection of information collected by research here and overseas that was connected with the preparations for the Roanoke Decoded conference which took place in the late 1990s. After the conference, all the prep was contributed and is now available for researchers. If you’re going to work with that collection, I suggest a day per box minimum, so plan on going to NC for a month as the center is only open Monday through Friday 9-5. Of course you’ll have to amuse yourself in the evenings and weekends while waiting for the center to reopen. Now what better excuse could you have for a month in NC?

I made another important discovery today. There are no quilt shops on the Outer Banks. Now you’d think with nearly 100 miles of ribbon-like highway and thousands of tourists on that one highway, at least some of them would be quilters and would want to take home more than a shirt, a sunburn and some sand in their shoes for souvenirs. Apparently not, because there not only aren’t any quilt shops, there aren’t even any plain old vanilla fabric stores. Hello, how can you live without JoAnne Fabrics? The closest store is at the far northern end of the Island where Kitty Hawk in located and is a WalMart with a very limited selection. No mind though, because I found some pink pirate material that will just have to suffice for my NC souvenir fabric. Talk about things that shouldn’t be pink, but it’s now “unique” and I like that. As far as I’m concerned a quilt shop located beside a Starbucks would be quite the ticket, and of course there are no Starbucks either. Is anyone listening out there….here’s an economic stimulus suggestion for someone!!!! Let me tell you, there are still tourists in NC and they are still spending money.

When visiting the Outer Banks, you have to stop at Kitty Hawk Kites. Kitty Hawk Kites is quintessential Outer Banks. Where is Kitty Hawk Kites? Everyplace. There are many of the stores and yes, they have just stunningly beautiful kites. One thing the Outer Banks always has is wind…and it‘s so hot there that you’ll be exceedingly grateful for that wind, let me tell you. So it’s also a kite flyer’s dream and even if you can’t fly a kite, you can there. There’s no way you can’t fly a kite on the shore line, so indeed, go fly a kite.

I was looking for a particular t-shirt. I bought the long sleeve version 2 years ago, and I wanted a short sleeve one as well. It says “don’t ask the locals for directions, they’ve lost one colony already”! Yep, my kind of place. Of course, sale is the word that Americans are in love with so if you tell them the second t-shirt is on sale, you’ll sell 2 for sure. My second (half price) t-shirt says something akin to “Woman who behave don’t make history”. In honor of the fabric, it’s kind of coral colored and has a small insignia size pirate skull and crossbones on it. I’m liking my pink pirate fabric better already. I always love visiting Kitty Hawk Kites! It’s a vacation for your inner child.

By now, I’m late for dinner. If you love seafood, the Outer Banks is the place for you and Beach Road which runs along, you’ve guessed it, the beach, is polka dotted with wonderful local hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Actually, its official street name is Virginia Dare Trail, but it’s always been called Beach Road down there and the locals and any tourist there for more than 24 hours still call it Beach Road.

We ate at the Beach Road Grill, a long-time local favorite and had their house-special steamed and spiced shrimp, served hot with drawn butter and cocktail sauce, along with black beans and rice. Their black beans and rice are served half on one side of the dish and half on the other (rice on one end and beans on the other) with hot salsa across both halves. Nothing like this up north, I guarantee you. Lovely waitress as well. Southern hospitality at its best. The harmonica player was going to start shortly, but we were just too tired to stay up late again, so we left amidst a beautiful sunset, crossed the bouncing bridge, watched the lightening over the sound above Manteo and went home under the poplar tree and called it a night.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Happy Birthday, Virginia Dare!!!

Roberta Estes and Anne Poole

Day 3 – August 18th – Tuesday


Little Virginia could never have imagined the impact she would in a misty and uncertain future. We don’t even know that she even lived past a few days of age, so her future might have been very short. Then again, if she lived to a ripe old age, she could have lived to be 70 or 80 years old. In fact, the Lumbee have a story that tells us that Virginia Dare is buried in Robeson County. Is it true? Well, it could be, assuming of course that she lived. We do know from historical records that there were people living in the Robeson County area as early as 1654. A surveyor entered the area to survey and got himself run off by a group of people with guns. Seems they didn’t want the land they were living on surveyed.

But the Virginia Dare we are all familiar with is the child, the baby, born on August 18th, 1587, to her young mother, Eleanor White Dare, wife of Ananias Dare shortly after landing on Roanoke Island. A marker at Fort Raleigh today commemorates her birth, but looks for all the world like a tombstone.

The Virginia Dare Faire at Fort Raleigh is always free and fun. Today’s event included the Kitty Hawk Kite Company, face painting, a balloon artist, Pizza Hut with free samples, the cast cruising about in costume, singing, dancing, juggling swords, playing “old games” with visitors and more throughout the park. Of course, we had our table there among the festivities as well.

We were fortunate that 2 of our members, Aleda Bunch and Jeri Evans, joined Anne and I for the day. There were lots of questions to be answered as many people stopped by and we needed the help, but more importantly, we go to know each other and had a lot of fun. We were also pleased to discover that two couples came specifically to talk to our group, but most people had a more general curiosity.

Interestingly enough, one of the most interested individuals was a young tour guide who works at Fort Raleigh. He had excellent questions for us and made me wish it was the beginning of their season, not the end. I think though that the Lost Colony is now under his skin, so to speak, and he will carry it with him in many ways for the rest of his life.

Anne talking to visitors

I must say that I don’t think I’ve ever met a nicer group of young people. Most of the staff there consists of college students. All of them were friendly, polite and some were genuinely interested in our project. They smiled and were engaging and helpful. And I must add that most were dressed in stifling wool costumes, floor length, long sleeves, and they must have been miserably hot. We were sweating like faucets stuck “on” and we certainly weren’t in authentic period costumes. Bravo to them for their sunny dispositions!!!

We decided that everyone must want to be an Indian in the cast, because although Ananias Dare is clearly a “leading man”, the Indians are much more comfortable in their costumes. The Queen passed through and traditionally cuts the birthday cake for Virginia Dare, but surely no one wants to wear her wardrobe in hot sultry August in NC.

After the Faire ended, Anne and I visited with Doug Stover, the Cultural Resource Manager at Fort Raleigh. Said another way, Doug is the historian and a font on knowledge. Doug was very gracious and spoke with us along with curator, Jason Powell for quite some time. We’re very pleased to continue to work with Fort Raleigh and the National Park Staff.

Tomorrow we’ll be using another local resource, the Outer Banks History Center. While Fort Raleigh involves archaeology, the Lost Colony, military colonists and the later history of the property, the Outer Banks History Center is administered by the North Carolina State archives and includes information on genealogy and family histories. Anne and I are hopeful that we can find some information directly related to the early families on Hatteras Island. We have a “hot lead” to follow!

Tonight, we travel the road beside the swamp to the stop light at the intersection of the bouncing bridge, back to Manteo, through the tree lined streets with names such as Grenville, Amadas and Ananias Dare. We return to the Fort Raleigh, not as workers, but to attend the play. This is Anne’s 52nd year attending the Lost Colony play. She has missed a few years, but not many. Jeri Evans told me today that her parents were at opening night in 1937. We’ll be asking these ladies to share their very special memories with us in a future blog. Tonight, we’re just going to enjoy this year’s rendition of the play, always slightly different, always wonderful.

Two years ago, we were invited to a very special event after the play. It has now become a tradition that we look forward to every year. Traditionally, Virginia Dare’s birthday is either the last production or the next to last production of the play for the season. Dignitaries are present, of course, and there are special events and awards to the actors and crew who deserve outstanding merit.

One of the most special events is the cast party after the play behind the stage. The area behind the stage is directly on the sound. Parts of the stage are built on a deck that is extended over the sound, and the sand in front of the stage is truly beach sand. By the time the play is over, darkness has fallen and thankfully, the heat has diminished a bit. Volunteers and local businesses provide food for the cast, staff and volunteers, and everyone sits together at picnic tables, visits and of course eats wonderful home-made southern food. (Anne is taking ham, green beans (with bacon fat of course), potato salad (a southern must) and Scotch Cake (some kind of the most wonderful smelling chocolate concoction). Cast members have created their own entertainment, sing, dance, so skits and entertain themselves and others as well. They have become family, indeed, throughout the summer and although we were not family members, they welcomed us warmly into their world. What a beautiful end to the perfect day, looking over the sound, watching the stars, the moon rising over the water and knowing that whether the Colonists survived and moved on or died on Roanoke Island, we’re sharing the same sand, land and stars, a few generations and 422 years removed.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Important Find Housed in Lindsay Warren Visitor's Center on Roanoke

Once this gorgeous copper necklace flashed in the sun as its wearer proudly exhibited his or her possession.

Then for hundreds of years this beautiful necklace lay hidden in the sand awaiting its place in the sun once more.

Last Fall, the archeology group, First Colony Foundation, with the help of a radar sub contractor, uncovered the copper necklace in the wooded sand dunes not too far from the theater.

It was an exciting time to see it "in situ," said foundation archeologist and co-director Eric Klingelhofer.

The necklace is on display at the Lindsay Warren Visitor's Center located in the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, which encompasses the visitor's center, the Lost Colony and Elizabethan Gardens.

Necklace found on a dig last year on Roanoke.Found near the theater where the Lost Colony Drama has been performed for 72 years.


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Monday, August 17, 2009

Live Blogging From Roanoke Island - Day 2

Outer Banks Day 2- Monday - August 17th

by Roberta Estes

What a beautiful glorious summer day on the Outer Banks.

Today Anne and I rested and prepared for tomorrow’s Virginia Dare Faire. We called this our “girlfriend day” where we just “hung out” and did fun things.

We worked on our research at the house this morning. We have been working on an individual research plan, per county in early eastern NC. Our plan today was to visit various bookstores, so we needed to know what is available and what we need before we ventured out.

We left just in time for lunch. We eventually found “Big Al’s Soda Fountain and Grill” which was conspicuously hidden right on the main drag in Manteo. Big Al’s is quite interesting because the family has a Coca-Cola collection displayed in cases in the lobby. Did you know that there were 3D Coca-Cola glasses or a Coca-Cola Barbie? Well, me either. I do remember those small bottles that used to come out of the old cooler-style dispenser machines and no modern Coke product tastes anything like the frosty cold Cokes in those bottles. Those were the days. Oh, yes, and we did eat there too. Their homemade BBQ is the best!!! Kids were dancing on the dance floor. Just pure all-American fun. Check out their website.

From there we drove across the bridge between Roanoke Island and the mainland which crosses Croatan Sound. Mann’s Harbor is directly across the sound and that’s the location of an Indian village when the colonists were living on Roanoke Island. The Sound at that time was shallow enough to wade the entire distance from the island to the mainland. It’s a little different today, much deeper and erosion has increased the distance between the two land masses.

From Mann’s Harbor, we could look back at Roanoke Island though and gain perspective of what it was like back in 1587. Believe it or not, with the exception of a few visible houses, it’s still quite wooded today and doesn’t look that much different from across the sound on the mainland, if you can ignore the bridge that is.

I also learned something very important about Anne. She walks looking down at all times, looking for artifacts. She didn’t find any today, but you never know. And you won’t find any if you’re not looking, that’s for sure.

Fort Raleigh was known to be on the north end of the island and the remains are within the Fort Raleigh National Park today. There is no entrance fee and the site includes a museum which is small but certainly worth your time. In addition, they have a wonderful Museum shop with maps, books and other items of interest. They have a free 17 minute movie as well, but we didn’t see the movie today. The Visitor Center is a wonderful resource not only for books and the historical items on display, but the rangers and employees there are extremely knowledgeable as well. Anne and I spent way too much time (and money) there but enjoyed every minute of it.

The newest treasure at the Visitor Center is the copper necklace excavated last year at Fort Raleigh. This copper is from England and was brought to trade with the Indians. Whether it was traded and lost, or was lost or left by the colonists themselves or the preceding military expeditions is not clear. Regardless, it is a wonderful and intact find and would certainly have been a highly coveted possession by any Native American of that genre.

Following the Visitor’s Center, Anne and I visited the location of the Lost Colony play to get the lay of the land for the Faire tomorrow. We’re going to be located under the breezeway near the John White pictures. How appropriate. And the breezeway near the restrooms is truly a coveted location. We’re looking forward to tomorrow. Virginia will be 422 tomorrow and she’s one mighty old lady!!

We sat for a few minutes in the outdoor theater in the shade and watched the rehearsal for tonight’s play. We noticed that the young men spent an inordinate amount of time rehearsing the brawl and fight scenes. Everyone seems to enjoy those!

We had to hurry to get to downtown Manteo before the sidewalk gets rolled up between 5 and 6. This beautiful, quaint, waterfront town is indeed an old-fashioned, lovely, walkable downtown that is completely safe and wonderfully inviting. Lots of beautiful, clean, owner-operated shops including the Manteo Bookseller which was our destination. We purchased more books there about the Lost Colony, and now we have enough reading material to last another couple of years. Manteo Booksellers carries truly local titles not available elsewhere. The owner stayed late for us to complete our shopping (although we didn’t realize that until we saw the closing time when as we left the shop) and the shop’s cat wasn’t yet back from his afternoon walk, so I’m betting the owner had to go cat-hunting after we left. You don’t find this kind of service in chain stores, but then again, they do stay open later than 6PM too. No chain stores here to worry about though.

Another stop at the grocery store, and we returned home to cook for cast-party dinner tomorrow night after the last running of the Lost Colony play for the season. (Anne’s cooking, I’m blogging.) Tomorrow’s last performance of the season is special in part because a live baby is included for the part of Virginia Dare instead of the customary doll for the rest of the season. Afterwards, a party is held backstage overlooking the sound for the cast and volunteers and those who work so hard during the production season to make the Lost Colony play the memorable event that it is. No matter how many times you see it in the beautiful outside amphitheater that overlooks the sound, it’s always beautiful and special. Of course the 2008 season introduced the new costumes after the tragic fire in the fall of 2007 that destroyed the costume barn.

After returning home, dinner this evening was a picnic on Anne’s lovely screened-in porch, under the poplar tree, in the quiet peacefulness with the smell of the sea air. I can see clearly why so many people return here year after year, and why Anne had to have her summer home on the island of the Lost Colonists. I thought she had come here to search for them, but now I’m not so sure she isn’t planning on joining them permanently here on the island!

See you all at the Virginia Dare Faire.

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Report from the Outer Banks

Baum bridge over Roanoke Sound

Day 1 Aug 16 2009 Sunday

By Roberta Estes

I had been looking forward to arriving on the Outer Banks for the Virginia Dare Faire for weeks now. My car looked more like I was moving than going on a working vacation. I felt like a modern day Beverly Hillbilly. Anne has moved into her summer home in Wanchese and I’m contributing things from my mother’s home. It’s only fitting it seems, as Anne and I are on a mission together and I’ll be staying with her from time to time as we research and search for the Colonists.

So the back of my Jeep has the seats laid flat, a table with the legs removed, several boxed with miscellaneous kitchen paraphernalia that each has a memory for me, and of course really important things like books relating to our search, several inches of paper relating to our research plan, and, oh yes, trivial necessities like clothes. Of course, I can’t go anyplace without my electronic tether, or lifeline, whatever the days perspective… computer and cell phone. I’d be lost without either.

Last night after arriving, I answered e-mails and sent clients information and kept up with the world outside of Wanchese. But back to the Outer Banks.

I drove from Michigan via Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia this time, as opposed to the more westerly route down 77. I have driven that before to Washington DC, but never beyond. The area through Pennsylvania and Maryland is connected to my early German families and I always think that I need to do more research on them and stop and see where they lived. But that trip will have to wait for another time.

Given that I was in the area of our nation’s capital on a weekend, I didn’t mind risking the Capital Beltway, but I’d never do it on a weekday. That’s analogous to taking your tourist type life in your hands. The 150 miles and supposed two hours I would have saved taking this route would have been likely to evaporate in a single traffic jam.

But on Sunday I whizzed around Washington and noticed that building construction continues there. They apparently aren’t experiencing the same level of recession we are suffering under in Michigan where there is no building and many half-constructed buildings have been abandoned and sold at auction. I whispered my perennial prayer for wisdom and guidance for those in power as I drove by….although my prayers perennially seem to go unanswered in regard to politicians.

I stayed in either Thornburg or Woodford. It’s a schizophrenic place. The Google map and the Holiday Inn website say Thornburg, but my GPS doesn’t know Thornburg Virginia exists, so I called the Holiday Inn and they said “oh yea, type in Woodford. Ok, so Woodford it was. And Google had the location the wrong expressway too, but details….who cares. At least my gps could find it after I typed it the second city. Maybe it’s like a maiden name and a married name for women…..

The free internet was awful, the room had once been a smoking room (do they think we can’t smell), but today the entire property is nonsmoking, and I managed to leave have of the cheesekeeper I was using to hold watermelon in my cooler. Rats. I always take a last look around the room too…..but I missed it somehow and I’m sure that the cleaning staff took one look at that and said “oh well” and into the trash it went. One more of Mother’s things I don’t have to figure out what to do with I guess….but that wasn’t what I had in mind.

Next I passed Richmond and Newport News which began to look like a coastal area with boats, ships really, and cranes and port type of paraphernalia towering over the horizon. Before arriving at Newport News, the area looked strikingly colonial, not nautical. I’m always amazed when traveling in the eastern Virginia area, even near large cities, how wooded the landscape remains. The expressways look more like parkways and not like the sprawling cement ribbons that clear everything to desolation with half a mile in all directions that we have in the Midwest.

South of Newport News, I encountered a surprise. My GPS indicated that I was going to cross an expanse of water, which would be my first real glimpse of the Atlantic on this trip. As I approached, I noticed signs for a tunnel. Hmmmm… tunnels are not my favorite things, but they are a fact of a driving/traveling lifestyle, and once you’re in route they are impossible to avoid, so tunnel it was. This tunnel was unusual though in that it only went half way across the channel or estuary and rose in the middle of the river (whatever you call these wide entrances into the ocean that empties fresh water into the ocean but is also tidal in nature) and became a bridge for the second two thirds or so of the crossing. How so they keep the tunnel from flooding? Amazing. However, I noticed the large “doors” on the end as I entered which made me a little nervous and could be the makings of a horror movie or a nightmare, but I chose not to think about those. They are probably closed during hurricanes.

Speaking of hurricanes, when I left Michigan, there had been none yet this year. Last night there were 3, one which arrived in Florida already and is weakening, one which is heading for the Caribbean, and one, Bill, who is going northwest of the Caribbean, may become a level 3 or 4 and is likely to strike the mainland by or on Friday. Now of course, this area is prime hurricane alley, much to the chagrin of Sir Walter Raleigh’s military colonists. Sir Francis Drake lost several ships in his visit in August of 1586 on these Outer Banks and he ended up rescuing the military colonists instead of resupplying them….but I digress.

As I approached the Virginia/North Carolina border yesterday, 64 transitioned from an expressway to a non-limited access 4 lane road. This is more than a technical transition and the introduction of stop lights. It was a complete change in flavor from a sterile environment with beehives of activity called exits where travelers stop and never stay beyond the closest meal, bathroom and gas pump to an area where travels pass through, but also where people live. It became alive with businesses, and few if any chains. I saw a few Home Depots, but then again, everyone needs those types of stores and here probably more than most with the constant battle of the elements of wind, sand and sea.

Mostly I saw flavorful and colorful hometown restaurants, fruit stands that advertised “free bathrooms” and Burma shave type signs for upcoming businesses. Somehow we subtracted about 40 years and returned to a slower, sweeter time when travel was more of an adventure and less of a race. I wanted to stop at several gift shops, a pawn shop or two (who knows what jewels await in there) and those luscious looking fruits stands with fresh fruit and local crafts decorating the outside of the barns by the roads. Yes, they are all inviting and call out as you drive by.

Further south, the fields continued and the crops looked healthy. Whoever said that the colonists would have not been able to sustain themselves on these islands? Did they visit and take a look at the agriculture? Sand dunes replace trees and marsh replaced fields eventually. In some places condos hug the very edge of the marshy expanses, making me wonder if some of those condos might just tip over and sink. And of course, facing the sea, I wondered about how to protect them from the raging hurricanes and if they could even purchase insurance, but then again, not my worry, I’m just a visitor. Many of the condos and beach houses weren’t on the beach, and frankly, couldn’t even see the beach. They could just see the other houses that also couldn’t see the beach. Talking to Anne later, she mentioned that even the “unlucky” houses were quite expensive. I have to wonder why you’d spend that kind of money to not be beachfront. I guess I’m way too logical. For me it would be beachfront or nothing at all I guess. If I couldn’t afford beachfront, there would be no point in second string. However, I suspect most of these are rentals or timeshares, so perhaps the answer is that they are investments. If that’s the case, then many of these investments are for sale now. I noticed one street of waterfront units where every single unit had a for sale sign on the side. I guess even if Washington isn’t experiencing our recession, the Outer Banks is, if the amount of real estate for sale is any indication.

Crossing from Manteo to Wanchese is the bouncing bridge. I’ve never been on a bridge that literally makes your car bounce up and down like a large beach ball. Now my Jeep has heavy duty suspension (it’s trailer rated), and that makes it ride a little tighter and not so sloshy as the land yachts, but still, this was a huge bounce. I noticed the pickup truck in front of me was bouncing too and so was whatever was in the pickup bed. The contents of the bed were bouncing at a different pace so the truck “caught” the boxes. I guess the message here is to tie everything down if you have a truck and are crossing the bouncing bridge.

Now I think this is new-fangled speed control device and a pretty good one too because the speed limit was about all the faster you could drive and not bounce yourself to death and into another lane. Each section of the bridge every few feet declined where it connected to the next section and then raised midway a bit, causing the wave action of bouncing up and down.

Arriving at Anne’s house was a real treat. She lived on Old Wharf Road with is the old road around the island. The turn into her road is landmarked by a beautiful old white church. Turning into her place leads you back away from the little old road and her house is back under a very large poplar tree. The tree shades the whole house and you park under the front part. The ground everyplace here is sandy, even if grass manages to grow on top of the sand. A tame female turkey named Turkey Lurkey greeted me. She had to check me out to be sure I was Ok and that I was a female. Turkey Lurkey doesn’t like males for some reason. I passed inspection and she settled down and let Anne pet her after eating some bread scraps. Turkey Lurkey is smart, she can fly over the fence in and out of the pen. Her friends or rather, penmates, the chickens simply stand and squawk at that uppity turkey who has the audacity to stand outside the fence and look back at them like they are, well, birdbrains.

After getting settled in and looking longingly at Anne’s screened in front porch, making mental plans for later, we ventured out for dinner. Most of the businesses and restaurants are closed here on Sunday, another, return to times of the past for me, but we went to a local favorite, Sam & Omie’s, which has been here since 1937. Sam & Omie’s has legendary She Crab Soup. Now what exactly is a She Crab and why do they make soup out of it? Well, duh, it’s a female crab and the soup includes crab roe (that’s eggs). It’s made in a cream based chicken stock broth with a touch of sherry. It’s a specialty of the area, but for Anne, it’s just a special treat for visiting Sam & Omie’s. Anne says the She Crab soup just isn’t right anyplace else.

It was yummy, yummy and so was the crab cake I had for dinner. Fresh and you can actually taste the crab. I didn’t even notice any filling but there had to be because it did hold together in a patty. I love the coast for the fresh seafood.

Our next adventure was to the grocery store where a pack of vultures had descended. Our first clue was no carts. No carts? On a Sunday evening? Well, all those rental properties rent from Sunday to Saturday and the new crop of vacationers all arrive at the grocery….you guessed it….on Sunday evening. Thankfully, the grocery was relatively prepared for the descending vacationers and we got in and out relatively quickly with our supplies for lunches this upcoming week. On Tuesday, Anne and I are going to have a table at the Virginia Dare Faire on Tuesday and there isn’t any food service right there. Anne and I take coolers and food and ice cold water. It’s August in the Outer Banks and HOT and HUMID here. And of course we don’t want to leave the table because after all, we’re there to talk to visitors will hopefully come to visit and learn about the colonists.

In preparation for the Faire, we have prepared a “Most Wanted” list of surnames associated with the colonists. We prepared this list based on the colonists’ roster, of course, plus historical records in NC that indicate these surnames were found there early and are associated with Native American tribes in the area.

Hopefully, fate with be with us and some folks will visit the Faire, visit our table and will be interested enough to work with us on their genealogy and maybe, just maybe, will be the right person in their line to take a genealogy DNA test.

Here is our “most wanted” list. Do you have any of these surnames in your family from eastern early North Carolina?




































If you can’t visit us in Manteo tomorrow at Fort Raleigh at the Waterside Theater, then visit our Lost Colony website.

We hope to see you soon!!!

Read all posts in the Trip to Roanoke series:

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Daniels Day on Roanoke Island

Family ties bind Daniels kin, N.C. history

Family’s roots
Today, the Daniels family is hosting its 75th family reunion. Considering that the Danielses arrived on Roanoke Island 275 years ago, it’s no wonder that the name fills a page and half of the 2009 phone book. Some prominent Danielses:

  • State Sen. Marc Basnight, a Manteo Democrat and son of Cora Mae Daniels
  • Josephus Daniels, secretary of the Navy under Woodrow Wilson, ambassador to Mexico and the founder and publisher of the Raleigh News & Observer
  • John T. Daniels, the surfman who snapped the photograph of the Wright brothers’ first flight

Want to go?
What: Daniels Day
  • Where: Bethany United Methodist Church, Wanchese
  • When: 3:30 p.m. today
  • Who: All are invited. Attendees are asked to bring a dish to share at the picnic after the program.
    By Catherine Kozak
    The Virginian-Pilot
    © August 16, 2009

    Melvin Daniels Jr. likes to tell a story about President Franklin Roosevelt, his fancy touring car and a group of dazzled Outer Bankers.

    Roosevelt, in town in August 1937 to see "The Lost Colony," was seated in the car next to Gov. Clyde Hooey and U.S. Rep. Lindsay Warren, a Beaufort County Democrat and family friend who liked to play checkers with the young Daniels.

    Daniels and four other boys were standing nearby admiring the car when the congressman leaned to the president and whispered. Next thing Daniels knew, a stern man was walking up to them.

    "The Secret Service man says, 'Which one of you is Daniels?' " Daniels recalled.

    "Five of us raised our hands."

    It was soon determined, Daniels said, that Warren wanted him to go over to the car. "He said, 'Mr. President, I want you to meet the best checker player on Roanoke Island!' "

    Daniels' reaction to meeting the president?

    "It was a beautiful car."

    Laughing at the retelling, Daniels, 86, said the story illustrates not only the proliferation

    of Danielses on the island but also the proud history of one of the Outer Banks' largest and oldest families.

    Today, the Daniels family is hosting its 75th family reunion in Wanchese at Bethany United Methodist Church - the same place it has been held every year since 1934.

    Considering that the Danielses arrived on Roanoke Island 275 years ago, it's no wonder that the name fills a page and half of the 2009 phone book and that nearly all natives of Roanoke Island have some Daniels blood somewhere in their roots.

    Typically, about 250 to 300 people attend the reunion. Daniels said it is nearly impossible to guess how many people all over the country belong to the Daniels family tree.

    "There are oodles and oodles of them," he said. "Not only do the Danielses have handsome men," he said, pausing for a self-deprec ating chuckle, "but they also have beautiful girls. And they married Tilletts, Midgetts, Austins, Etheridges and Hookers. That has really added to it."

    Those Danielses regularly on the court docket?

    "We don't look in that direction," Daniels said dryly. "We don't recognize them."

    Prominent members of the Daniels family include state Sen. Marc Basnight, a Manteo Democrat and longtime Senate leader.

    Basnight's mother was Cora Mae Daniels, who played Agona in "The Lost Colony" for many years.


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    Lots of Lost Colony Events Coming Up!!!

    The Searching for the Lost Colony DNA Project will be well represented August 18th with several board members hosting a booth at the Virginia Dare Birthday festivities. If you are in the area, be sure and drop by to say "Hi".

    August 18

    Virginia Dare's Birthday Celebration

    Celebrate Virginia Dare's 422 birthday as The Elizabethan Gardens, The Lost Colony and Fort Raleigh National Historic Site join together to present a full day of activities you and your family are sure to enjoy; no birthday is complete without cake and ice cream. There will be special activities all day at The Gardens. Free admission.

    Other Important Activities:

    May 29 - August 20
    72nd Anniversary Season of The Lost Colony

    Waterside Theatre. Monday - Saturday at 8 p.m. (no performance on July 4, 11, 18, or August 8, 15). Compelling unsolved mystery of America’s beginnings. Featuring music, dance, drama, riveting action, and special effects with lavish costumes and sets. Children 11 and under are free on Monday and Friday and half price on Saturday with a paying adult. (252) 473-2127 or

    May 29 - August 20
    Backstage Tours of The Lost Colony
    Waterside Theatre. 6 p.m. During this 45-minute walking tour you'll see how The Lost Colony’s stage is transformed right before your eyes and learn other "tricks of the trade" while visiting the theatre, costume shop, and props areas. Tours are held nightly. Tickets are $7 per person. Reservations required. (252) 473-2127 or

    June - August

    Friday – What REALLY Happened to the Lost Colony? 2:00 p.m. Once you know the basic true facts, it is no mystery at all! Scott Dawson will mesmerize you with his vast knowledge and stacato style. He is the author of a book on the subject and lectures widely. And why this topic at a life-saving station? Because in their day they were the social, cultural and educational centers of their villages. This is precisely the kind of topic a visitor would hear there.

    Evening racing at Nor'banks Sailing in Duck
    Monday Evenings in June,July and August. Evening racing takes place at Nor'Banks Sailing in Duck. Racing begins 2 hours before Sunset and all small sailboats are welcome. Come and charter a boat or bring your own and participate in some very casual "beer can" races on the water behind Nor'Banks Sailing in Duck. For more information call Jon Britt at 252-202-6880.

    Whalehead Club Wednesday Wine Festivals
    July, August and September - 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Come and celebrate the interesting world of wines! All wine connoisseurs and novices are welcome! Enjoy a Wednesday afternoon of wine tasting and entertainment under the tents on the north lawn of Currituck Heritage Park. With your $20 admission adults can sample wines from North Carolina and the world; keep your souvenir glass; take a complimentary tour of the Whalehead Club; listen to popular local musical artists perform on the stage; sample food from local vendors. Children and leashed pets are welcome. Admission to taste the wines is $20 - parking free. For more information call 252-453-9040.

    August 3 - 26
    Lisa Cooper and Glenn Dodenhoff - Painters
    Art Gallery, Roanoke Island Festival Park. (252) 475-1500 or

    August 4, 11, 18, 25
    Munchkin' Madness
    Laser Tag for the little guys & gals, 5-10 years old. A great time for the younger laser tag player to play against other similarly aged kids. (252) 480-8512 or

    August 5, 12, 19
    Bloody Mary and the Virgin Queen
    Film Theatre, Roanoke Island Festival Park. 3 p.m. A humorous musical farce based on the relationship between Queen Elizabeth I and her half-sister, Mary Tudor. The two loathed one another and yet are buried in the same tomb in London’s Westminster Abbey. The production takes place in the tomb, in the present day. Tickets required. (252) 475-1500 or

    August 5 - 31
    Ray Matthews - Photography
    Dare County Arts Council Gallery. First Friday Opening Reception August 7, 6-9 pm. (252) 473-5558 or

    August 6, 13, 20
    Shepherd of the Ocean
    Film Theatre, Roanoke Island Festival Park. 3 p.m. A whimsical comedy about Sir Walter Raleigh and Queen Elizabeth I. Takes place moments before Sir Walter Raleigh’s execution for treason. Tickets required. (252) 475-1500 or
    August 8, 15

    Waterside Theatre. Oh what a beautiful evenin’ when The Lost Colony presents Rodgers & Hammerstein's landmark all-American frontier musical Oklahoma! at star-canopied Waterside Theatre. Advance tickets: $15 for Preferred Seating, $10 for House Seats. Performance day tickets: $20 for Preferred Seating, $15 for House Seats. (252) 473-2127 or

    August 17
    Meet the Artist
    Waterside Theatre’s Gift Shop Kiosk. 7 p.m. - 8:20 p.m. Greet local North Carolina folk artists and craftsman as they showcase their talents before The Lost Colony’s Monday performance. (252) 473-2127 or

    August 18
    Virginia Dare Faire
    Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. Celebrate Virginia Dare’s 422nd birthday. Attend a full day of free activities for the family that include make and take crafts; games; entertainment, activities, free cake and ice cream. Reserve your seats early for the evening performance of The Lost Colony that cameos infant actors as baby Virginia. Ticket charges apply. (252) 473-2127 or

    August 18
    Virginia Dare Anniversary Performance
    Waterside Theatre. 8 p.m. See a special performance of The Lost Colony that features infant actors in the role of baby Virginia. This traditional anniversary performance is held on the birthday of Virginia Dare, the first English child born in America. (252) 473-2127 or

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    Wednesday, August 5, 2009

    Copper Necklace Inspires More Digs at Roanoke

    Necklace inspires more digs

    Jim Driscoll operated the radar machine as he carefully drove across flat land near the old fort site just outside of the theater enclosure.
    On a hot and humid afternoon last week, a Bobcat 5600 vehicle used a sophisticated radar that looked like a bush hog farm tractor attachment to try to find artifacts near the main gate to the Lost Colony's Waterside Theater on the north end of Roanoke Island.

    In addition to the data the radar tomography amassed, yet another dig is planned for this fall as the quest to find out what happened to America's first colony continues.

    This time last summer, the archeology group, First Colony Foundation and its radar sub contractor, had some success on the site. During a dig they uncovered a copper necklace in the wooded, sand dunes not too far from the theater.

    It was an exciting time to see it "in situ," said foundation archeologist and co-director Eric Klingelhofer.

    The necklace is on display at the Lindsay Warren Visitor's Center located in the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, which encompasses the visitor's center, the Lost Colony and Elizabethan Gardens.

    "The copper necklace was just put on exhibit,"
    Jason Powell, park ranger said. "It's the first time in public."

    He said the park service also plans to create an improved exhibit with renovations beginning in the fall.


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