Imperial England Settles the Southeast

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Imperial England Settles the Southeast


The Lane Colony. Arthur Barlowes description of the settlement site thrilled Sir Walter Raleigh, so in April 1585 he put his cousin Sir Richard Grenville and another man, Ralph Lane, in charge of the 108 men who would build the first English colony of Virginia, so named after Queen Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen. Manteo and Wanchese also went along to provide translation skills and practical advice. Lane supervised the construction of Fort Raleigh and several frame houses, and he and the other men quickly began searching for gold and the passage to Asia. Supplies soon ran out, however, and relations with the local Algonquians were terrible.

Chief Wingina. The Roanoke colonists encountered three groups of Algonquians: the Roanokes, Croatoans, and Secotans, who together amounted to about seven thousand people. In terms of culture they lived in a fashion similar to the Powhatan Indians of the Virginia Tidewater. Verrazzano may have had contact with the groups during his voyage, and there is scattered evidence to suggest that the Secotans from time to time rescued shipwrecked Spanish sailors. The wereowance, or paramount chief, of the Roanokes, Wingina, assigned the colonists a portion of Roanoke Island for their colony, and he attempted to position himself so that he controlled their movements and their trade with the rival

Croatoans. Twice he fell sick and requested that the English pray for him. When his health improved he and many others began to express a great interest in the English god, but their curiosity soon gave way to resentment. Short of food, the English demanded of Winginas people supplies of corn they were not prepared to surrender. English frustrations came to a head when an Indian allegedly stole a silver cup from a colonists home. Unable to reclaim the missing object, the settlers burned a town and destroyed its cornfields. Later, after hearing of a conspiracy organized by Wingina to drive the English off the island, one of the military commanders assassinated the chief and his advisors. The murders hardly settled things, and the colonists settled in for a period of protracted hostility. By chance Sir Francis Drake, who had just sacked St. Augustine, arrived in 1586, and he hauled the surviving colonists back to England. The bags of pearls that they brought back nevertheless confirmed to many the existence of the elusive Chicora.

The Lost Colony. In spite of Lanes failure, Raleigh had faith that a colony could be built, so in 1587 he sent John White, who had belonged to the first Roanoke expedition, to try again, only this time the target was Chesapeake Bay. The following year White led eighty-four men, including Manteo; seventeen women; and nine children across the Atlantic, but problems with food and dissension among the settlers forced him to land at Roanoke, where he at least knew the ground and what to expect. Continued hostility with the Roanokes threatened the new colony, and White began drawing up plans to relocate among the friendly Croatoans where Manteos mother was chief. When supplies ran short White returned to England to collect more provisions. He planned to return with a supply ship the following summer, but Philip IIs Spanish armada cut off English naval traffic in 1588. Not until 1590 did White make it back to Roanoke, where he found the houses taken down [and] things throwen here and there, almost overgrown with grasse and weedes. He also found the word CROATOAN carved on a tree. No one knows what happened to the so-called Lost Colony, but most scholars agree that the colonists probably headed inland to live with the Croatoans. Evidence suggests that the Powhatans killed the colonists in 1606, one year before the founding of Jamestown, in order to forestall further English settlement of the area.


Native Societies From the Mogollons to the Algonquians smoked a wide variety of plants in their ceremonies and healing rituals, but of all of the various plants, tobacco was by far the most common, and, given the course of colonization, the most important for both natives and newcomers. Tobacco, a Spanish corruption of the Arawak word for cigar, grows in several different species, the most common of which was Nicotiana rustica, which came originally from the Andes region of South America. How it got to North America is unknown, but like corn and other plants it probably was carried over such great distances by traders. The frequency with which pipes are found in archaeological sites suggests the importance of the plant, but it was also used as snuff and was eaten. Notwithstanding the stimulant properties of tobacco, its smoke was considered to unite the earth on which the Indians lived with the spirits and gods of the skies. Whenever Indians wanted Europeans to enter into an alliance with them they shared with the newcomers a calumet, or pipe, stuffed with the weed. The tobacco that gained later fame as the staple of the Jamestown colony was not indigenous to North America but was imported from the Orinoco Valley of Brazil.

Sources: Wilbert Johannes, Tobacco and Shamanism in South America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987);

V. G. Kiernan, Tobacco: A History (London: Hutchinson, 1991).


David B. Quinn, comp. and ed., The Roanoke Voyages, 15841590, 2 volumes (London: Hakluyt Society, 1955);

David B. Quinn, Set Fair for Roanoke: Voyages and Colonies, 15841606 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985).