Saturday, February 1, 2014

1602 - In search for the Lost Colony

March 1602 - Captain Samuel Mace leaves the port of Weymouth to Virginia. He is sent by Sir Walter Raleigh in search of traces of the Roanoke colony.

Mace was an experienced seafarer. He had previously sailed twice to Virginia. For his part, Sir Walter Raleigh hoped to find live settlers and extend the validity of his chart, come to an end.

March 26, 1602 - Bartholomew Gosnold leaves Falmouth (Devon) to the North American continent aboard the Concord. He intends to found a lasting settlement in North Virginia (name given at time to New England) and takes with him 8 crewmen and 24 "gentlemen" looking for adventure.

Despite limited resources, his plan was rather ambitious. He hoped to find the famous refuge discovered by Giovanni da Verazzano in 1524 (Narragansett Bay) and found a colony, or at least, a trading post. But he had to bring back from the New World enough convertible goods to clear his expenses and cover the expedition cost. Two things interested him actually, pelts and sassafras roots. The latter were quite popular in Europe for their medicinal properties and allowed its suppliers to reap huge profits. The sassafras, however, only grew in America. Apart from the project's funding, Gosnold had to solve another problem : his father was imprisoned for debts and it was his reponsibility to pay them off.

Some historians have argued that Gosnold hired captain Bartholomew Gilbert's services due to his links with Lord Cobham, owner of an old license granted to Edward Hayes by Sir Walter Raleigh. Lord Cobham was indeed the brother-in-law of Sir Robert Cecil, Secretary of State of Queen Elizabeth but this hypothesis was not confirmed.

We also worried about the small quantity of supplies shipped but Gosnold had decided to be the first navigator to achieve in direct line the ocean crossing. It was about a particularly audacious strategy because, with its 30 tons, the Concord was a rather modest ship, added to the fact that it was originally designed to follow the trade winds to the Caribbean and up the North American coast pushed by southwest winds. Gosnold knew that from the Azores, it would certainly save a siginficant distance, but he would have to tack unabated.

Among people who accompanied him were his friend Gabriel Archer and chaplain John Bereton, both  responsible to the expedition account ; William Street, one of the Concord's owners ; Robert Salterne and John Angell, who went on one year later to accompany Martin Pring in the Great Sassafras Hunts ; Robert Meriton, a botanist-pharmacist who knew well the plants curative properties.

Bartholomew Gosnold (Grundisburgh (Suffolk) 1572 - Jamestown (VA)  August 22, 1607) 
Both lawyer, privateer and explorer, he played a leading role in the founding of the Virginia Company of London and the Jamestown colony. He was born in a family of the landed gentry that gravitated in the wake of the Earl of Essex. He spent his early years in the family manor at Otley Hall before leaving to follow studies at Jesus College, Cambridge. After graduation, he came to London to study law at Middle Temple where he met Richard Hakluyt, the famous geographer of the queen with whom he befriended. The latter conveyed his interest in the colonization of the New World, quite as Sir Thomas Smythe, the rich cousin of his wife and founder of he East India Company. Gosnold apprenticed for adventure on a first trip to the Azores in 1597 and accompanied the Earl of Esssex Robert Devereux, in a piracy campaign off the Spanish coast. He began to develop his project to colonize Virginia following the publication by Hakluyt of "Principal Navigations of the English Nation", a campaigning book for merchants. He lost however in 1601 his two main financial supports: Essex first, convinced of treason and beheaded, and Sir Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, disgraced and imprisoned in the Tower of London. He had therefore to assume virtually alone achieving his projects.

Robert Salterne - ()
Born in Bristol, he was the son (or the grandson) of William, deputy of the " traders-adventurers " of the city. Richard Hakluyt had consulted him in 1583, at the request of Secretary of State Sir Francis Walsingham, to get his support for hatching an expedition in America, supervised by Sir Humphrey Gilbert. It is likely that Richard Hakluyt was not foreign to the fact that the young Robert had been at first oriented towards an ecclesiastical career.

John Bereton (1572-1619?) 
Born in a wealthy drapers family from Norwich, he attended Cambridge University where he was graduated in 1596. He chose then the priesthood and was ordained two years later to be assigned to Lawsall parish. He met there cousins of Bartholomew Gosnold and began to acquire the taste for adventure. He was the one who made the "Relation" of the 1602 journey, referring in great detail the explored coasts, vegetation and wildlife, bartering furs with the Indians and the first sowing experiences on an exceptionally fertile soil. He never tired to be impressed by the great quantity of fish found in these waters, up to whale skeletons seen on Martha's Vineyard’s beaches. His work was, in fact, a plea, liable to encourage all English merchants and potential migrants to settle in North America.

Gabriel Archer (1575 - Jamestown 1609) 
Hailing from Essex, he studied at Cambridge and Gray Inn and worked at first as lawyer. He had known Bartholomew Gilbert at University and it was due to their friendship that he was appointed in 1602 second captain on the Concord.

Bartholomew Gilbert (Plymouth - 1603) 
Second captain of the Concord, he had previously been involved in a swindle affair with precious stones whose victim Queen Elizabeth had been. This man seemed involved in a number of financial embezzlements and it is difficult to understand why Bartholomew Gosnold had chosen him for the trip to America, except perhaps the fact that he owned shares in the ship or was a distant cousin. He had been in charge of the boat supply but, disturbing effect of chance, foods quickly proved insufficient, undermining the purpose of the colonization project. Had Gilbert diverted a part from it in his profit? It is, however, certain that on the return of the expedition, he arranged with Sir Walter Raleigh and gave him some valuable information about the importance of the sassafras cargo loaded on the Concord.

May, 1602 - Bartholomew Gosnold reaches Cape Elizabeth, Maine, after only 18 days at sea. Not finding an anchoring place, he decides to follow the coast southwards.

His ship was approached by eight Indians whose boat looked strangely like those of Biscay fishermen, letting believe that the Basques attended this place. The Natives were invited aboard the Concord and seemed quite understand English, mixing Christian words with their comments. Then they sketched with a chalk the outlines of the coast of the area and placed even Newfoundland. The Indians proved very hospitable and suggested to Gosnold to make a short stopover but he declined politely their offer.

May 14, 1602 - Bartholomew Gosnold anchors at the mouth of York River in South Maine.

May 15, 1602 - Bartholomew Gosnold reaches a strip of land that he names Cape Cod ans casts anchor in Milford Haven bay (today Princetown).

May, 1602 - Having set sail southward, Gosnold by-passes an island that he names Nomans land (Nomans coming certainly from Tequenoman, the name of the local Indian leader) before approaching the large nearby island that seems rather hospitable and that he calls Martha's Vineyard.

This island he had so called up because of wild grapevine profusion and to honor the memory his daughter Martha's memory, gone to an early grave, was full of woods and fruit shrubs among which gooseberries, raspberries, dog roses and of all kinds of game. Navigator Giovanni da Verazzano had recognized it in 1524 and included it on his map by attributing it Luisa's name. It was lived by the Wampanoag Indians who formed a powerful Algonquian speaking federation taking over southern New England. They had given it the name of Noepe, meaning " land amid the currents ".  The Wampanaoags welcomed these newcomers with a watchy curiosity and Gosnold used their hospitality to swap with them stuff he had brought for pelts and sassafras.

According to some sources, the name originally given to the island was not Martha but Martin's Vineyard, in reference to captain John Martin, one of Gosnold's seconds.

May 24, 1602 - Gosnold lands on the small Cuttyhunk Island that he calls Elizabeth in honor of the queen, a name given afterward to the archipelago to which it belongs. He chooses this place to start a settlement and decides to build a fort and a house.

This islet was rich in plants of all kinds (oaks, cedars, sassafrases, cherry trees, grapevine, gooseberries, hawthorns, honeysuckle, locust trees) and was apparently uninhabited. The soil proved, on the other hand, extremely fertile and plants grew at an amazing pace. The settlers took advantage of it to sow wheat, barley and peas.

May 31, 1602 - on a scouting mission, Bartholomew Gosnold puts ashore, a few miles North of Cuttyhunk,in a place he names Smoking Rocks (today New Bedford, MA). He becomes aware of the existence of a large Indian population.

June, 1602 - Gosnold's men are making their picking of sassafras when they are approached by about fifty Wampanoag bowmen. These show however courteous and display their want to barter.

Bartholomew Gosnold offered their leader a straw hat and a pair of knives the sharpening quality of which made a strong impression on him.

June 13, 1602 - Some of the men intended to stay on Cuttyhunk inform Gosnold that they prefer to return to England, by fear of Indians, winter harshness and lack of reserves.

June 17, 1602 - the Concord leaves Cuttyhunk with onboard all the members of the expedition.

July 23, 1602 - Bartholomew Gosnold is back to Exmouth. He brings with him an important shipcargo of sassafras and cedar wood, the best price of which he hopes to get.

He considered however his journey as a failure. He had sailed with the naive ambition to found a long-lasting settlement in North America and returned three months later with all his crew, without either having discovered the large bay described by Verazzano.
Known for their curative virtues, sassafras roots used to make drinks supposed to keep youthful and healthy, were at the time very valued by the English. They were especially supposed to guard against syphilis. Gosnold hoped, thereby, to make a good profit. It was however without relying on the legalistic acumens of Sir Walter Raleigh, who had hired captain Martin Pring for equivalent purposes and argued on this occasion the privileges granted to him by Queen Elizabeth.
Raleigh was previously hardly concerned with rights that could be levied on goods from America but the sassafras loading brought back by Gosnold caused such a collapse in prices that he did not hesitate to react. He thus accused Gosnold of having encroached on lands located between the 34 and the 45th parallels that he regarded as his own and made seize all the ship's contents.

Despite the poor result of this expedition, Barthomew Gosnold was convinced of all the interest that represented the American continent, because of the nature of its climate and the fertility of its soils. He felt having never seen such a nice place, with its orchards, meadows and brooks, up to the  Wampanoag Indians who had appeared to him as peaceful people.

September, 1602 - having left Weymouth in May, Samuel Mace returns to London without having collected information on the Roanoke colony.

He had preferred to stop near Cape Fear to stock up an important loading of sassafras and actually engaged no serious research. Mace found as excuse that bad weather had prevented him.

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