1585 - the First Roanoke Colony

Sir Walter Raleigh

January 6, 1585 - Sir Walter Raleigh is knighted by Queen Elizabeth who appoints him Lord of the new territories he will discover in North America.

February, 1585 - Queen Elizabeth grants a charter to Adrian Gilbert, the young brother of Sir Humphrey Gilbert, allowing him to sail to the north, northwest and northeast with so many ships as he could, with the aim of colonizing all the lands he would discover to set up a trade monopoly.

Sir Humphrey Gilbert and Martin Frobisher's failures had not appeased the enthusiasm of those who sought to find the Northwest Passage. Adrian Gilbert, philosopher John Dee and Secretary of State Sir Francis Walsingham had joined for further research. They will organize several expeditions in this purpose but none would achieve results.

Sir Richard Grenville (1542-1591)
April 9, 1585 - the 5-ship expedition commanded by Sir Walter Raleigh’s cousin, Sir Richard Grenville, newly appointed General of Virginia, leaves Plymouth with a group of 600 would-be settlers and sets sail to Roanoke, North Carolina.

With its 140 tons, the Tiger, commanded by Sir Richard Grenville himself was also the biggest ship, the others being the Roebuck (140 tons, John Clark captain), the Red Lion (100 tons, owned and captained by George Raymond, a merchant-adventurer from Chichester), the Elizabeth and the Dorothy. Among the present officers were both veterans Phillip Amadas and Simon Fernandes, but also Thomas Cavendish who will later become the third sailor to perform a full world tour, John Arundell, Grenville's half brother and John Stukeley his brother-in-law.
There were also cousins and friends of Raleigh including Richard Gilbert, a Courtenay, a Prideaux, Ralph Lane and Anthony Rose. There were finally an illustrator, John White, two scientists, Thomas Hariot and Robert Hues, and among the most humble, an Irishman named Darby Glande. Both Indians Winchese and Manteo were part of the trip.
The chosen route was to pass Canary Islands and the Spanish West Indies.

May 12, 1585 - After suffering a storm in the Bay of Portugal, Grenville's fleet casts anchor in Mosquito Bay, Puerto Rico. The Roebuck and the Red Lion have followed other routes. Grenville orders the building of a fort and the fitting out of a small smithy. He aks also his men to build a new rowboat intended to replace the one lost in the gale.

Got tired of waiting in vain the missing ships, the members of the Raleigh expedition left Puerto Rico late May, taking care to burn previously the fort and the neighboring woods and not forgetting, by the way, to loot two Spanish frigates, reminding that England and Spain were virtually at war. The open conflict was going to burst only three years later but, at that time, the British felt involved in a sort of "cold war" from the fact that based in Florida, Spain saw as a bad thing the English colonial attempts in North America. Their ambitions went against the Spaniards' interests who feared that they would directly affect their trade with the New World. And it was obvious that such possibility was by contrast essential for Raleigh and Grenville who hoped seriously to finance their colonial program by piecemeal privateering against the Spanish galleons.

June 1, 1585 - having reached the island of Hispaniola, the English fleet drops anchor in the port of La Isabela where Grenville invites the residents to board the Tiger.

June 3, 1585 - the Spanish governor agrees Grenville's invitation to have dinner at his table and climbs aboard the Tiger.

This one felt flattered of this attention and allowed back Grenville and his men to get all the supplies required for their settlement: horses, mares, cows, bulls, goats, pigs, sheep, sugar, etc....

Hispaniola (S. Domingo)
June 8, 1585 - Grenville and his men leave La Isabela to the Bahamas from where they have to set sail to North American coasts.

June 16, 1585 - The Red Lion captained by captain George Raymond arrives at Cape Hatteras. About thirty men are landed on Croatoan Island looking forward to the other boats of the Raleigh expedition while Raymond decides for his part to leave to Newfoundland for a privateering campaign.

Grenville's fleet had been dispersed further to a storm off the Bay of Portugal and the Red Lion had since followed another route.

June 20, 1585 - the Raleigh expedition sails along the coast of Florida.

Map of Virginia

June 23, 1585 - the English arrive off Cape Fear.

June 26, 1585 - the expedition reaches Wococon Island (today Ocracoke) south of Cape Hatteras.

June 29, 1585 - Despite his pilot's skills, Simon Fernandes fails to steer properly the Tiger when crossing the Wococon inlet and causes an important waterleak damaging most of the supplies.

This incident was even more disastrous than while provisions had initially to allow the colony to survive for a year, what was left ensured its livelihood for barely a month. Fernandes caused accordingly a lot of resentment among the colonists.

July 3, 1585 - Grenville sends Winchese and a small company to inform king Wingina of their arrival.
An old man of Pomeiooc

Unlike Manteo who was rather well accustomed to the English manners, Winchese had never really agreed to be hauled despite him to England and just arrived at Dasamonquepeuc, he hastened to chase away his accompanists and informed his tribe that the newcomers were not as trustworthy as they believed.

July 6, 1585 - John Arundell is sent with Manteo to Croatoan Island where they find the men landed shortly before from the Red Lion.

July 11, 1585 - Grenville leaves for exploration in mainland, accompanied with about sixty men and the Indian Manteo.

The village of Pomeiooc

July 12, 1585 - They visit the village of Pomeiooc where lives Pemiacum, Wingina's rival. John  White paints on  this occasion spectacular watercolor sketches of the town with longhouses and palisade around it.

July 13, 1585 - the settlers go to Aquascogok.

July 15, 1585 - Grenville and his men are welcomed at Secotan.

Unlike the previous year, the Indians remained divided on the way to receive the foreigners. Their return had been preceded by strange phenomena as a total solar eclipse and the appearance of a comet but the most worrying came from the insidious arrival of a disease which recently began to decimate the Native population.

July 16, 1585 - Sir Richard Grenville sends Admiral Phillip Amadas to Aquascogok to get back a silver cup stolen during his visit. The Indians not being decided to do so, the order is given to chase away all the inhabitants and to burn the village and the corn crops.

Grenville triggered the Secotan's anger by not hesitating to sack and make burn down the whole village of Aquascogok for the simple theft of a silver cup. What ordered Grenville reflected that the English culture was unable to consider the Natives otherwise than as savages and treat them on an equal footing.

Burning Aquascogock

July 21, 1585 - Leaving Wococon, Grenville sets sail following the outer banks northbound up to Roanoke. He meets King Wingina's brother Granganimeo in Dasamonquepeuc, asking him to allow his group to settle in the north of the island.

July 27, 1585 - Grenville anchors at Hatoraske, not far from the strip of coastal dunes, at a short distance from Roanoke.

There was then a real tension between officers and gentlemen and mainly between Sir Richard Grenville and Ralph Lane, a veteran allied to Sir Francis Walsingham who was less concerned with the founding of a colony than to engage fight against the Spaniards of whom he judged the strengths rather weak. The colony finally settled in the northern end of Roanoke Island and Ralph Lane was appointed the first governor. He sent a letter to Sir Phillip Sidney, the son-in-law of Walsingham who closely followed the New World's exploration, informing him about the success of the expedition. In another letter to Richard Hakluyt, geographer and historian, the new governor of Virginia pointed out that he was really impressed by the immensity of this unknown continent. He added that if the colony had horses and cows in reasonable quantities and was inhabited by Englishmen, no realm of Christendom would be comparable to it.
The Indians he described naively as courteous and eager to wear clothes, seemed chiefly interested in red copper. Their leader Wingina received the English with hospitality and cooperated with them at the beginning of their settlement.

August 25, 1585 - Grenville returns to England for provisions. He leaves on Roanoke 107 men led by new governor Ralph Lane.

On the way back, Grenville seized a Spanish galleon the booty of which was used to pay off generously the costs incurred during the expedition. Upon his arrival in England, he reported to Walsingham who confirmed him all the interest of the Queen to his project and insisted on the "national" character of the Virginian venture. According to Ralph Lane, as General of Virginia, Grenville distinguished himself especially by his brutality and tyrannical conduct. He relied on the foresight of Sir Walter Raleigh to move him aside from the project of colonization for his pride and immoderate ambition had more endangered the settlement than contributed to its safety.

The Roanoke Colony
Mural painted in 1954 by Francis Vandeveer Kughler
in the North Carolina Institute of Government's Assembly Hall.
It includes especially Ralph Lane, Thomas Hariot, John White,
Manteo and Winchese. 
September 3, 1585 - Ralph Lane writes a letter to Richard Hakluyt describing the new colony as "the goodliest and most pleasing territorie of the world".

Lane built a small fort he called Fort Raleigh the remains of which were still visible in 1896. It was located near the shore, on the East Coast of Roanoke between the northern point and a rather wide cove used as mooring for small boats. The fort looked like the one previously built in Puerto Rico forming a square strengthened by fitted out bastions in the middle of each side.
The houses of the first settlers were nearby. They were, according to their occupants, simple but decent. Roofs were thatched and chimneys, as foundations, were to be brick-built, according to Darby Glande’s testimony. Vestiges discovered nearby in 1860 and recent excavations have indeed unearthed the remains of bricks probably going back up to the Elizabethan time. Thomas Hariot found that there was no stone on the island but the presence of clay could serve to make bricks and it was possible to obtain lime from oyster shells deposits, as were particularly in England on the islands of Tenet and Shepy.
As the searches were not however able to highlight the significant use of the brick, it is reasonable to assume that the main construction material was wood. Richard Hakluyt, in his "Discourse of Western Planting" wrote that the will of Sir Walter Raleigh, dictated in 1584, one year before the expedition started, was to have it mostly composed with expert hands in the art of fortification, people knowing to manufacture blades and shovels, shipwrights, carpenters, brickworkers, tile makers, whitewashers, masons, roofers, thatchers, etc.... It is assumed that the buildings erected at Roanoke by the craftsmen were widely inspired by traditional English cottages.
Relationship with the American Natives was initially friendly although the English settlement was not to everyone's taste at the tribe's Council. The Indians made sowings and laid fishtraps while the colonists used their diplomatic skills to convince their leader Wingina to farm at the same time his lands on Roanoke and those around Dasamonquepeuc, so that they could supply them if their settlement grew.
The coast was explored to the south until Secotan (c. 80 miles) and to the north until Chesapeake (c. 130 miles). Thomas Hariot gathered information on plants, animals and stones. John White made inimitable watercolor paintings of the Secotan life in Roanoke and the coast. The settlers also learned to smoke tobacco by using Indian pipes.

It is unclear to what extent the first settlers conformed to the criteria laid down by Richard Hakluyt but records tell that there were experts in fortification, brickmakers, carpenters and roofers. We also know the name of the colonists. Thomas Hariot teaches us that some of them were highborn citizens who became fast nostalgic of their cosy bed and delicate food. Others, according to Lane's testimony, were excellent soldiers. There were also people of humble condition of whom Darby Glande had to be the representative and who, although Irish, had certainly taken part in the expedition without having really chosen.
This expedition looked more like a military campaign than a genuine settlement.

The season progressed and it was not only late to plant but none of the colonists was more a farmer. Accordingly, they depended on both Indians and England for their supplies. Staples such as salt, horses, cattle had been mostly acquired from the Spaniards, through negotiation but also by force. Especially, it appeared that there were no women in the group to imagine a real future to the colony.

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