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Mysteries of the Past: vocabulary; The Roanoke Voyages 7


Read the article, then answer the practice question.

adapted from The Roanoke Voyages

by the National Park Service

A New Colony for Families

  1. In 1587, English courtier Sir Walter Raleigh organized his third expedition to the land the English called “Verginia”, hoping to set up a permanent colony there. Raleigh gathered more than one hundred men, women, and children as colonists, and appointed the artist John White as their governor.
  2. White had also taken part in Raleigh’s previous expedition in 1585, when a group of Englishmen had set up a temporary settlement on Roanoke Island, just off the coast of modern-day North Carolina. That expedition was abandoned after some of the English colonists murdered several of the Native people from the area; the group ran low on supplies and had to return home. White’s 1587 colonists set out for the New World once more, but this time they did not intend to settle on Roanoke Island.
  3. The new colony would be north of Roanoke on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. There they could make a fresh start and perhaps develop real friendship with the Native groups. But after sailing two and a half months across the Atlantic and safely reaching their first stop—Roanoke—something strange happened. Simon Fernandes, the Portuguese navigator who had guided the colonists all the way across the ocean and brought them safely to Roanoke, refused to take them any further. It was too late in the year, he said, to do any more sailing. They would have to stay on Roanoke Island.
  4. The colonists made the best of things for a while. They repaired the houses that had been built by men on the previous trip and tried to learn how to use the foods that grew there. However, the colonists struggled. They were running out of food, and they were terrified of the Native people. They demanded that Governor White return to England and bring back more tools, more food, and more people. Governor White did not want to desert his family or leave the colonists without a leader, but he agreed and sailed back to England. He did not know it at the time, but he would never see his granddaughter, his family, or any of the colonists again.

Three Years Later . . .

  1. It took three years for John White to return to Roanoke to search for his friends and family. England and Spain were at war, and Queen Elizabeth of England was reluctant to let any of her own ships leave England since they were needed to defend the country against attack. John White could not get a ship to take him back to America.
  2. Raleigh finally found a sea captain, a privateer, who was willing to allow John White to join his pirating expedition to America. John White was the only one allowed to get on the ship as a passenger. He could not tell the captain what to do or where to go.
  3. When John White arrived on Roanoke Island, nobody was there. A high fence had been built around the village site, but the houses themselves had been taken down! There were a couple of small cannons nearby. There were no bodies, no pots and pans, no tools. On one of the fence posts, the word "Croatoan" was carved. It was the name of another island to the south. Could the colonists have gone there? Were they safe after all? White’s granddaughter, Virginia, would be three years old, and he wanted very much to see her again.
  4. He persuaded the captain to sail south to Croatoan, but on the way the ship was caught in a storm and could not get there. The captain initially agreed to try again after the storm, but then came a more terrible storm, probably a hurricane. He gave up and sailed the battered ship back to England. John White never got another chance, and he never saw his family again.

The “Lost Colony”

  1. Many people have tried to solve the mystery of the “Lost Colony”. Historians and archeologists have searched for answers for hundreds of years. Some possible solutions are:
A. Native people killed the colonists on Roanoke Island.
B. The colonists were all killed on Roanoke Island by disease.
C. Their town was washed away by a hurricane, and the people drowned.
D. They left Roanoke Island and went to live in some other place.
  1. Let’s look at each possibility:
A. When John White got back to Roanoke Island in 1590 he did not find any bones or bodies or any signs of fighting. Bones last a long time. If Native people had killed the colonists, there would probably have been some remains or other signs of violence. We can guess that the colonists were not killed on Roanoke Island.
B. When the English first came to "Verginia" they brought diseases with them, such as flu and smallpox, that were new to the Native communities. They had no immunity against them and many died very quickly. Letters written by the colonists tell us that the English remained healthy. And remember, no bones or bodies or graves were found. We can guess that the colonists did not all die of disease.
C. When John White got back to the Island he found that the houses were gone, but a high fence, called a palisade, had been built around the town. If a hurricane had blown away the house and drowned the people, would the fence still be standing? Probably not. We can guess that it wasn’t a hurricane.
D. The word “Croatoan” carved on a fence post has puzzled historians for a long time. We know that Croatoan meant two things: the name of a friendly Native people, and the name of the island where they lived. When John White returned to find his colonists gone from Roanoke he thought they might have gone to Croatoan Island (modern-day Hatteras Island) because the word was carved on the fence post. John White was never able to go to Croatoan to find out. Modern searchers have not yet found anything that shows that the colonists were there either. We just don’t know why the colonists carved that word.
Remember that John White’s group was supposed to build their town near the Chesapeake Bay, not on Roanoke Island. It is possible that they left Roanoke and went to the Chesapeake, using the wood from their houses to build a boat. That might explain why the people, their houses, and their equipment were all gone when White got back. Is there any evidence?
Almost twenty years later, a different group of English sailed to the Chesapeake and started a settlement. It was called Jamestown and one of its leaders was Captain John Smith. The Native king of the area, Powhatan, told Captain Smith that the Roanoke colonists had been in his land! He claimed that he had killed them all to discourage other English from coming to the New World and taking Native peoples’ land. Was this story true? Captain Smith believed it and some historians today think it happened but, again, there is no proof.

Practice question

Read this sentence from the passage.
“Simon Fernandes, the Portuguese navigator who had guided the colonists all the way across the ocean and brought them safely to Roanoke, refused to take them any further.”
Which of the following best explains how the author uses connotation to convey meaning in this sentence?
Choose 1 answer: