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First Born American - Virginia Dare
Somehow I got through grade school, high school and college never hearing of Virginia Dare (and being a good student I was sure I had not simply missed her) so when I did hear of her plight I was sure she was just so unimportant she had not made history! This poem was based on that assumption.
First, let's take a look at Virginia Dare's story.
I wrote the poem and then could not let it go until I found all the knowledge about her that I could. The book I found I listed here. So if you want to read on I think you will find it very interesting. Was I right or wrong? What he must have gone through knowing he had left his daughter and her little baby trusting him to return and surely he could not foresee the Queen of England refusing him a ship to return. Did she cost them their lives?
He Got Around
"Historic Minutes" by Burlington Industries
Sir Walter Raleigh on April 9, 1585 sent out seven ships with over one hundred colonists to begin a settlement in the Roanoke region of the new discovered country. Raleigh himself did not go because Queen Elizabeth wanted him by her side. Ralph Lane, was chosen governor of the first Roanoke settlement, being the first of a succession of errors endangering colonization efforts and harm affairs with Native American nations. Lane’s idea of political affairs with the Indian nation that had given the settlers relief was to kidnap the son of Chief Menatonon and seize him as a captive.
His excuse for this deliberate hostile deed was to gather information from the chief about the protective capabilities of the bordering Indian nations, only isolating the tribe and forcing the settlers to depend on their own means to survive. Hostilities would grow and be an obstacle to the peaceful organization of the second colony. Within months, the first Roanoke colony was in hysteria and the settlers were near starving, maybe having died if not for Sir Francis Drake arriving in the spring of 1586. Drake wished to use Roanoke as a base of maneuvers for upcoming efforts against the Spanish existence in North America, yet instead he was forced to ship the ineffective colony back to England. Raleigh next chose a man with little military experience to head up his expedition.
John White, an artist whom Raleigh respected, was chosen to be the governor of the second expedition. Besides the choice of a less dictatorial leader, Raleigh also invited colonists who were well versed in farming methods as opposed to the less industrial soldiers who populated the first colony. Everything seemed to be in order and the colony seemed destined for success.In 1587 on July 22; Sir Walter Raleigh’s second colony landed at Roanoke Island with 120 settlers. Among these were seventeen women and nine children. The plan had been to go on to Chesapeake Bay, but the fleet’s commander, Fernandez, found Ralph Lane’s abandoned colony and wouldn’t go farther. Since it was too late in the year to plant crops the colonists stayed at Roanoke, and were lead by Governor John White, having been the artist on the 1585 expedition. Efforts to rebuild the falling English fort began almost as soon as the party landed. Governor White began preparing his report on their progress and efforts were made to have a channel of communication with the neighboring Indian nations.
Unfortunately, the Roanoke tribe would not sit down with the colonial government, having familiarity with the aggression of Governor Lane only two years before. Persistently though, Governor White sent out a message of peace to the neighboring Indian settlements, an effort to bring about friendly relations with a nation known as Croatoan; located on an island just south of Roanoke colony.
A captive or murdered? It is a wish many of us claim that she was kept in this tribe and raised by the Indians to live to a ripe old age with descendants.
Roanoke Island (Lost Colony)
An Unsolved Mystery People of Croatoan.
The Croatoan; also known as Pamlico, were an Algonquian people who populated the islands on the outer banks of North Carolina south of Roanoke. A messenger sent from the colony to the Croatoan nation built positive relations between the two very different groups of people. Although a good sign, still it was very necessary for the governor to return to England in search of supplies and a possible relief effort should departure become a necessity. Governor White left Roanoke in August of 1587 with hopes of returning in just a few months.
Previously to his leaving his post, the governor told the colonists to leave him a sign if they felt the need to go on from the region for any reason. He told them to place a cross on a tree as a sign that they were in distress and leaving was necessary for their survival; giving him some idea as to the colony’s status and help him in locating them. It was the last message he gave, and the last time he saw the colonists. He swore to return to Roanoke as soon he could.
Uneasy Unrest and No Trust
"America! half-brother of the world! With something good and bad of every land."
~ Philip James Bailey
The missing Roanoke Colony was linked to the mystery of the people of Croatoan. They were described greatly in reports around the islands and along the coastline of North Carolina as a friendly people. Even White described the people of Croatoan as “our friends” and once the shock of the colony’s disappearance wore off he was relieved to find that they had removed themselves from their territory.
He knew that they would find assistance there. The governor’s sense of safety regarding the people of Croatoan came from his relationship with a young man name Manteo, who was of that particular tribe. Manteo was a main reason for the establishment of peaceful relations between his people and the settlers of the first Roanoke colony. Even with Governor Lane isolating the leaders of the Roanoke Indian nation, his relationship with Manteo helped promote a friendship with the inhabitants of the settlement’s southern neighbors. Manteo even returned to England with the colony and eventually began the European customs.
The second expedition dispatched, Manteo came along in order to assist Governor White with his tactful efforts and also to keep an eye on the governor for Sir Walter Raleigh. In other words, Manteo was Raleigh’s personal representative, being essential to the efforts to maintain the colony and re-open ties with the people of Croatoan. When White returned to the island in 1590, he set out to find the people of Croatoan; for with them was the salvation of his colony.
The Queen's Bad Decision
Luck was against baby Virginia. Did the Queen of England cost her life?
England War With Spain
It was regrettable though that at the exact time the governor arrived in England; Queen Elizabeth had ordered all ready vessels into service against the gathering Spanish naval forces. In July of 1587, colonist George Howe was found dead; attacked by members of the neighboring Roanoke nation, whom Governor Lane had harassed in 1585.
Describing the bloody scene, Governor White commented that the Indians had “beat his head to pieces,” shot him with sixteen arrows, and assaulted him with clubs. This attack came as no real surprise to the governor, who was aware that the actions of his predecessor might have generated a sense of injustice among neighboring Indian nations. Aware of the peaceful personality of Croatoan people, the governor quickly sent Manteo and twenty representatives of the colony to their territory.
The embassy succeeds in renewing “the old love that was between” the tribe and the colonists. White went with the Roanoke delegation and promised the Indians that the colonists had no intention of taking over Croatoan territory and did not represent a threat to them; the governor wanted to let the people of Croatoan know that the colonists wished “to live with them as brethren and friends.” Whether this meant that White was seeking some sort of sanctuary should the colony fail is unknown. Implied in his message to the tribal leadership though, was the fact that he did seek some form of co-existence; to greatly improve the colony’s chance for survival if they were included in the territory and protection of the Croatoan nation. White knew, as did the leaders of the Croatoan, that Roanoke was doomed without this treaty of sorts. The Croatoan leaders agreed. His diplomatic mission having succeeded, the governor decided to return to England and arrange for provisions.
Did you know about Virginia Dare before this story?
First Born American
The first child born was his granddaughter, Virginia Dare, being the first child born of English parents in America. Governor White left for England to tell the news of this new colony. White begged Raleigh and members of the English government to allow him to return to America, but it was not until August 17, 1590 that he was able to return to the colony and by then it was too late.
The colonists were gone. All of the buildings were fallen or had been carefully dismantled. With the only clue to their whereabouts the word “Croatoan,” carved on a tree in the center of the town square. What did it mean? He was in a state of shock, but not distraught, since there was no cross located above the word, which meant foul play or a type of attack. There was no sign of fighting, or indication that the colonists were suddenly carried away by natural or unnatural forces. They were simply not there. Something went terribly wrong.
Lost Colony of Roanoke
A sudden coastal storm forced the governor’s rescue ships to return to England and he was unable to make the trip to the island. He made a second attempt, months later, but that vessel was also turned back due to bad weather.
Entirely heartbroken, the governor went back to his native Ireland and died in obscurity. No one knows what happened to the people of the Roanoke colony. The only one who still believed that they were alive, even after all evidence spoke to the contrary, was Governor White never ceasing to believe they were with the Croatoan.
Was this a wishful hope of a heartbroken man who had taken his family here and remembering that newborn granddaughter he last saw at a few days old? The descendants of the Croatoan tribe, modern day Lumbee, began to appear fifty years after the disappearance of the colony. Observers described these people as having European features and speaking English. The Lumbee have remained in North Carolina, even populating the same region as their Croatoan ancestors.
Croatoan & Lumbee Accepted by US and NC
They were accepted by both the United States and the state of North Carolina as an officially mixed tribe. Unfortunately, this has resulted in the U.S. government not recognizing them as an Indian nation. However, the state of North Carolina does recognize the Lumbee as the true descendants of Croatoan. It would make perfect sense to conclude that the people of Croatoan were true to their word and accepted the besieged colonists into their nation.
Though the disappearance of the Roanoke colony is still considered a mystery, it has been accepted that the colonists came to live among the people of Croatoan. I would like to think that as the truth and for those who may not know; Governor White’s granddaughter has a Dare County on the outer banks of North Carolina; named for her. She was not forgotten and it seems a very likely chance she lived a long life. She may have many descendants there.
I choose to believe she does.
Virginia Dare - History in the making.
Virginia Dare how I found you was quite accidentally
In all these years has anyone said your name?
Your fate no one knows other than He Who knows all?
Were there no stories about you or of where you came?
You were a first, always honored and remembered
A female child, so maybe you come bottom of the list
Mystery to surround you and at least should be told
Perhaps a fable for you, maybe one I have missed?
Do not think you were forgotten; and your great honor
Perhaps you became wife one day of an Indian chief?
Or wandered aimlessly to parts never known to be
Perhaps not killed leaving no links against everyone’s belief
Maybe a bloodline still within miles of where you were left
You could have lived, especially if captured to be fed
Perhaps grown up to be one knowing no fear at all
Many kept women and children, maybe only men were dead
I imagine you running fields with hair flying out behind
With your love running to catch you by a flowing stream
This lover would catch you in his arms to swing you high
You will wed, not knowing your name, it may seem
If I wrote your story I think it would go this way
Not saying you starved or killed and went to Heaven
Only say beauty so very fair made you Indian Princess
Born first citizen in America, of the Lost Colony, of 1587
© 2013 Jackie Lynnley