Sunday, May 22, 2022

Coastal Land Trust says it may have evidence of the Lost Colony of Roanoke

'Site X,' located in Bertie County in the northern part of the state, was recently acquired by the Wilmington based North Carolina Coastal Land Trust. In addition to being a pristine natural area, the area has recently been pin pointed as a likely location of the remnants of the Lost Colony. (Port City Daily photo/COURTESY NORTH CAROLINA COASTAL LAND TRUST)
‘Site X,’ located in Bertie County in the northern part of the state, was recently acquired by the Wilmington based North Carolina Coastal Land Trust. In addition to being a pristine natural area, the preserve has recently been pin pointed as a likely location of the remnants of the Lost Colony. (Port City Daily photo / COURTESY NORTH CAROLINA COASTAL LAND TRUST)

WILMINGTON — The story of one of the nation’s longest running mysteries, that of the so-called “Lost Colony,” may be getting a new chapter, thanks to the efforts of the Wilmington-based North Carolina Coastal Land Trust.

Last month, the conservation organization announced it had acquired a 1,000-acre tract of land, known as “Site X,” in Bertie County, along the Albemarle Sound.

According to Executive Director Camilla Herlevich, this is an area the organization has had its eye on for a while.

“So, the cool thing about Site X, is it was slated for development. It was syndicated by a group of investors in the Midwest, who had permits for 2,800 units, and who knows how many boat slips,” Herlevich said. “Fortunately for us, not fortunately for the investors, the recession hit before they had a chance to put their plans in place. So, the land is virtually untouched.”

Site X features bottom land hardwood forests, considered by the North Carolina Heritage Program to be “nationally significant,” old farm fields, and frontage on Salmon Creek, an important environmental area that hosts cypress-gum swamp and freshwater marshes.

The area was a prime location for the Land Trust, which looks to preserve areas of natural, cultural, or historical value. After some “difficult negotiations,” the group was able to secure a $4.85 million loan, making Site X their’s.

Remnants of the Lost Colony?

According to Herlevich, early surveys found a variety of Native American artifacts, as well pre-Colonial American pottery. Could these have been left behind by some of North Americas earliest colonists, who mysteriously vanished without a trace from the Roanoke Colony in the late 1500s?

“About 4 or 5 years ago, this group that started looking into places where the Lost Colony might have relocated, or remnants of the Lost Colony might have relocated, and they started looking at the history related to John White’s map,” she said.

According to the National Parks Service, White was a cartographer, who served with Sir Walter Raleigh on his explorations of the Carolina Coast. Later, he would go on to become Governor of the first permanent English foothold in America, the Roanoke Colony, aka the Lost Colony.

After establishing the colony, White returned to England for supplies, leaving 117 people behind to live in the New World. On his eventual return, White found the colony had disappeared, leaving a mystery that has spanned more than 400 years.

However, during the recent investigations into the map, known as the “Virginea Pars Map,” researchers came across a clue.

“John White had prepared a map of the area that was in the British Museum, and the story goes that he had told them that if they had to leave, to write where they were going, and to go 50 miles into the ‘maine,’ that is inland," Herlevich said. (Port City Daily photo/COURTESY NCDCR)
‘John White had prepared a map of the area that was in the British Museum, and the story goes that he had told them that if they had to leave, to write where they were going, and to go 50 miles into the “maine,” that is inland,’ Herlevich said. (Port City Daily photo / COURTESY NCDCR)

“John White had prepared a map of the area that was in the British Museum, and the story goes that he had told them that if they had to leave, to write where they were going, and to go 50 miles into the ‘maine,’ that is inland,” Herlevich said. “This site happens to be 50 miles inland from the original colony. And when they looked at the map, there was a spot with a patch ‘X’ on it.

“They didn’t take the patch off before, because apparently maps were patched a lot in the old days, for fear of spies and things. Anyway, they did a sort of spectroscopy analysis from the back of the map, and found that underneath the patch for ‘X,’ on the original map, there was a fort.”

Around the same time, she said, state archaeologists, working with the First Colony Foundation, had begun a survey, turning over pottery shards from a specific 20-year period in the late 1500s, right around the same time the colonists went missing.

“The artifact assemblage from the limited area that has been excavated so far, particularly the relatively large amount of Surrey-Hampshire Border ware, as well as shards of North Devon plain baluster jar, which were provisioning jars for sea voyages, leads us to postulate that these finds are the result of Roanoke colonist activity at the site and are not related to later English settlement in the area,” a news release from the First Colony Foundation states.

The First Colony Foundation is a non-profit group, made up of veteran archaeologists and historians, dedicated to the Roanoke voyages.

“Additionally, we submit that this evidence is more likely the result of the 1587 colony’s stated plan to relocate from Roanoke Island rather than possible brief visits in previous years by exploratory parties under Philip Amadas or Ralph Lane,” the organization stated.

Salmon Creek Natural Area

In an effort to protect the location, the organization brought in members of the North Carolina State Parks Department, who were immediately interested in the potential of the area.

“We thought State Parks would be a natural fit, and they loved it too. We took a whole group of people out on a pontoon boat, and they were just as excited as we were,” Herlevich said. “So, legislation was passed this summer, for a new Salmon Park State Natural area, which sailed through the House and the Senate.

The new state legislation is authorized, and our project ranked number one this year for the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, which was approved this week as a $1.2 million grant. We have a commitment of a $1 million grant from the Fish and Wildlife Service, so we are well on our way to raising that money, and that’s our number one priority right now.”

Once the loan is paid off, which the Herlevich expects to have done by 2018, Site X will be handed over to the state, to be permanently utilized as the Salmon Creek Natural Area. This will allow the land to remain undeveloped, while investigations can continue into the whereabouts of the Lost Colony.


Get in touch with Reporter Cory Mannion: follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or send an email at cory@localvoicemedia.com.

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