Sunday, July 24, 2011

From Roanoke to Hatteras: A Two-day Hunt for Clues to the Lost Colony

From Roanoke to Hatteras:
A Two-day Hunt for Clues to the Lost Colony
By Baylus C. Brooks 

Baylus C. Brooks & Dawn F. Taylor in Roger & Celia Meekin’s Roanoke Island backyard on the Croatan Sound north of Manteo.

Doug was a terrific host, proudly guiding a tour through the temperature-controlled and oh-so-cool artifact storage area. Yes, the “cool” reference was literal! He showed his small audience the many artifacts found during the various excavations on Roanoke Island in the search for Sir Walter Raleigh’s elusive first colony in what is today, North Carolina.

Doug allowed LCRG researchers access to the maps and photos collections available in their archives collection. After the tour of the artifacts and a brief overview of the collections room, the researchers studied aerial photos from 1945-1958 revealing Hatteras island’s layout prior to the man-made structuring of Brigand’s Bay, purposeful terraforming of lakes and ponds on a significant scale, and even prior to the replacement of the island’s dirt roads with a comfortably-paved Highway 12, which opened the island to large scale development for the first time in 1952.

Many people contribute to LCRG.  The primary focus of research for the group is to study Hatteras Island through standard genealogical analysis, including deed records (paired with Dare County GIS data), logs, diaries, wills, court records, and archaeology in an effort to understand the families who lived on the island and how they arrived there.  Nancy Frey contributes her expertise on UK genealogy, a valuable asset for later DNA comparison.  Ultimately, the group employs DNA analysis and genealogical data correlation (LCRG president, Roberta Estes’ expertise) of Hatteras Islanders to be compared to members of John White’s final “abandoned” (not exactly “lost”) colony of 1587 in order to determine whether or not native Hatteras Islanders today are the result of “blending” between White’s colonists and Algonquian inhabitants of then-called “Croatoan” Island, today’s Hatteras Island.   Finally, LCRG employs archaeology (organized by Anne Poole and George Ray) to verify the physical existence of Croatoan villages and hopefully, to find actual evidence of the “Lost” Colony.

Doug demonstrates to Celia how the wooden artifact was used as a well by Roanoke’s 16th-century Elizabethan visitors. Photos: Dawn Taylor

All of this study is backed up by historical records and analysis provided by ECU Maritime Studies graduate student, Baylus C. Brooks and Andrew Thomas Powell, former mayor of Bideford, England and author of the recently-published Grenville and the Lost Colony of Roanoke.  Other members of LCRG include our web-mistress Nelda Percival, blog administrator and librarian Janet Crain, blog and DNA project administrator Penny Ferguson, early English records researcher Joe Chandler, NC genealogist Jennifer Shepherd, Spanish researcher Dr. Ana Oquendo Pabon, specialty genealogist, Robert Noles, with the contributions of myriad others. Hopefully, the preponderance of data from these varied disciplines and analysis of LCRG’s many more devoted scholars and support staff will finally prove that White’s colony is still among our state’s citizenry today and that the colony was, after all, successful and not “lost” as previously supposed.

 Another goal for the two intrepid adventurers this steamy July involved the study of local Hatteras Islanders themselves and their families. That is where Dawn Taylor steps into her role as the president of Hatteras Island Genealogical and Preservation Society (HIGPS). One of the more significant finds was the John W. Rolinson “Wreck Log,” which holds a great deal more than information on simply wrecks which were quite common on Hatteras. There are details about many local people, illnesses, marriages, deaths, and details of their maritime businesses in the Trent/Frisco area of the island. Fishing for porpoise and trade with exotic Caribbean locales for sugar and molasses seem commonplace features of the book Rolinson kept.

The pair of researchers stopped at Hatteras’ public library and also at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras Village for a visit with Clara Scarborough who guided them through the facility’s conservation and archives area in search of log books and local history. The conservation lab contained many artifacts from old wrecks, including the Corolla wreck, the oldest known to our coast and originally surveyed by ECU’s Maritime Studies Program before its transportation to the museum by cooperating agencies where it is to be conserved and displayed. The “Graveyard” Museum in Hatteras Village is one of three North Carolina Maritime Museums that also include Southport and Beaufort.

Two excellent days of research and study ended with the perfect dinner cooked by Dawn Taylor’s culinary couplet, her father Kenneth Dickerson and her cousin Edith Jennette Bradley. Perhaps the heat and humidity were made more bearable by the constant island breezes and the tropical atmosphere. Then again, maybe it was the food! Either way, a lot of work got done pleasantly despite the heat of this July’s summer swelter.

Dawn Taylor and Clara Scarborough at the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” Museum. Photo: Baylus Brooks

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