| This Country of Ours|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Stories from the history of the United States beginning with a full account of exploration and settlement and ending with the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. The 99 chapters are grouped under 7 headings: Stories of Explorers and Pioneers, Stories of Virginia, Stories of New England, Stories of the Middle and Southern Colonies, Stories of the French in America, Stories of the Struggle for Liberty, and Stories of the United States under the Constitution. Ages 10-14 |
ABOUT SIR WALTER RALEIGH'S ADVENTURES IN THE GOLDEN WEST
 THE first attempt to found an English colony in America had been
an utter failure. But the idea of founding a New England across
the seas had now taken hold of Sir Humphrey's young step-brother,
Walter Raleigh. And a few months after the return of the Golden
Hind he received from the Queen a charter very much the same as his
brother's. But although he got the Charter Raleigh himself could
not sail to America, for Queen Elizabeth would not let him go. So
again he had to content himself with sending other people.
It was on April 27th, 1584, that his expedition set out in two
small ships. Raleigh knew some of the great Frenchmen of the day,
and had heard of their attempt to found a colony in Florida. And
in spite of the terrible fate of the Frenchmen he thought Florida
would be an excellent place to found an English colony.
So Raleigh's ships made their way to Florida, and landed on Roanoke
Island off the coast of what is now North Carolina. In those days
of course there was no Carolina, and the Spaniards called the whole
coast Florida right up to the shores of Newfoundland.
The Englishmen were delighted with Roanoke. It seemed to them a
fertile, pleasant land, "the most plentiful, sweete, fruitfull and
wholesome of all the worlde." So they at
once took possession of
it "in the right of the Queen's
 most excellent Majesty as rightful
Queen and Princess of the same."
The natives, too, seemed friendly "and in their behaviour as
mannerly and civil as any man of Europe." But the Pale-faces and
the Redskins found it difficult to understand each other.
"What do you call this country?" asked an Englishman.
"Win gan da coa," answered the Indian.
So the Englishmen went home to tell of the wonderful country of
Wingandacoe. But what the Indian had really said was "What fine
clothes you have!"
However, the mistake did not matter much. For the Englishmen now
changed the name of the land from whatever it had been to Virginia
in honour of their Queen.
This first expedition to Roanoke was only for exploring, and after
a little the adventurers sailed home again to tell of all that they
had seen. But Raleigh was so pleased with the report of Roanoke
Island which they brought home, to him that he at once began to
make plans for founding a colony there. And the following April
his ships, were ready and the expedition set out under his cousin,
Sir Richard Grenville.
But now almost as soon as they landed troubles began with the
Indians. One of them stole a silver cup, and as it was not returned
the Englishmen in anger set fire to the corn-fields and destroyed
them. This was a bad beginning. But the Englishmen had no knowledge
yet of how cruel and revengeful the Redman could be. So it was with
no misgivings that Sir Richard left a colony of over a hundred men
in the country. And promising to return with fresh supplies in the
following spring he sailed homeward.
The Governor of this colony was named Ralph Lane. He was wise
and able, but he was soon beset with difficulties. He found that
the place chosen for a colony was not a good one, For the harbour
was bad, the coast dangerous, and
 many of the Indians were now
unfriendly. So he set about exploring the country, and decided as
soon as fresh supplies came from England to move to a better spot.
Spring came and passed, and no ships from England appeared. The men
began to starve. And seeing this the Indians who had feared them
before, now began to be scornful and taunt them.
"Your God is not a true god," they said, "or he would not leave
you to starve."
They refused to sell the colonists food no matter what price was
offered. Their hatred of the English was so great indeed that they
resolved to sow no corn in order that there should be no harvest;
being ready to suffer hunger themselves if they might destroy the
As the days passed the Englishmen daily felt the pinch of hunger
more and more. Then Lane divided his company into three, and sent
each in a different direction so that they might gather roots and
herbs and catch fish for themselves, and also keep a lookout for
But things went from bad to worse; the savages grew daily bolder
and more insolent, and the colonists lived constantly in dread of
an attack from them.
At length, although he had tried hard to avoid it, Lane was forced
to fight them. They were easily overcome, and fled to the woods. But
Lane knew well that his advantage was only for the moment. Should
help not come the colony would be wiped out. Then one day, about a
week after the fight with the Indians, news was brought to Lane that
a great fleet of twenty-three ships had appeared in the distance.
Were they friends, or were they foes? That was the great question.
The English knew the terrible story of Fort Caroline. Were these
Spanish ships? Fearing that they might be Ralph Lane looked to
his defences, and made
 ready to withstand the enemy, if enemy they
proved to be, as bravely as might be.
But soon it was seen that their fears were needless, the ships
were English, and two days later Sir Francis Drake anchored in the
wretched little harbour.
Drake had not come on purpose to relieve the colony. He had been
out on one of his marauding expeditions against the Spaniards. He
had taken and sacked St. Domingo, Cartagena, and Fort St. Augustine.
And now, sailing home in triumph, chance had brought him to Raleigh's
colony at Roanoke. And when he saw the miserable condition of the
colonists, and heard the tale of their hardships, he offered to take
them all home to England. Or, he said, if they chose to remain he
would leave them a ship and food and everything that was necessary
to keep them from want until help should come.
Both Lane and his chief officers who were men of spirit wanted to
stay. So they accepted Drake's offer of the loan of a ship, agreeing
that after they had found a good place for a colony and a better
harbour, they would go home to England and return again the next
Thus the matter was settled. Drake began to put provisions on board
one of his ships for the use of the colony. The colonists on their
side began writing letters to send home with Drake's ships. All
was business and excitement. But in the midst of it a great storm
arose. It lasted for four days and was so violent that most of
Drake's ships were forced to put out to sea lest they should be
dashed to pieces upon the shore.
Among the ships thus driven out to sea was that which Drake had
promised to give Ralph Lane. And when the storm was over it was
nowhere to be seen.
So Drake offered another ship to Lane. It was a large one, too large
to get into the little harbour, but the only one he could spare.
Lane was now doubtful what was best
 to do. Did it not seem as if
by driving away their ship God had stretched out His hand to take
them from thence? Was the storm not meant as a sign to them?
So not being able to decide by himself what was best to do, Lane
called his officers and gentlemen together, and asked advice of
They all begged him to go home. No help had come from Sir Richard
Grenville, nor was it likely to come, for Drake had brought the
news that war between Spain and England had been declared. They knew
that at such a time every Englishman would bend all his energies to
the defeat of Spain, and that Raleigh would have neither thoughts
nor money to spare for that far-off colony.
At length it was settled that they should all go home. In haste
then the Englishmen got on board, for Drake was anxious to be gone
from the dangerous anchorage "which caused him more peril of wreck,"
says Ralph Lane, "than all his former most honourable actions
against the Spaniards."
So on the 19th of June 1586, the colonists set sail and arrived
in England some six weeks later. They brought with them two things
which afterward proved to be of great importance. The first
was tobacco. The use of it had been known ever since the days of
Columbus, but it was now for the first time brought to England.
The second was the potato. This Raleigh planted on his estates in
Ireland, and to this day Ireland is one of the great potato growing
countries of the world.
But meanwhile Raleigh had not forgotten his colonists, and scarce
a week after they had sailed away, a ship arrived laden "with all
manner of things in most plentiful manner for the supply and relief
of his colony."
For some time the ship beat up and down the coast searching vainly
for the colony. And at length finding no sign of it, it returned to
England. About a fortnight later
 Sir Richard Grenville also arrived
with three ships. To his astonishment when he reached Roanoke he
saw no sign of the ship which he knew had sailed shortly before
him. And to his still greater astonishment he found the colony
deserted. Yet he could not believe that it had been abandoned. So
he searched the country up and down in the hope of finding some of
the colonists. But finding no trace of them he at length gave up
the search and returned to the forsaken huts. And being unwilling
to lose possession of the country, he determined to leave some of
his men there. So fifteen men were left behind, well provided with
everything necessary to keep them for two years. Then Sir Richard
In spite of all these mischances Raleigh would not give up his great
idea. And the following year he fitted out another expedition. This
time there were a few women among the colonists, and John White,
who had already been out with Lane, was chosen as Governor.
It was now decided to give up Roanoke which had proved such an
unfortunate spot, and the new company of colonists was bound for
Chesapeake Bay. But before they settled there they were told to go
to Roanoke to pick up the fifteen men left by Sir Richard Grenville
and take them to Chesapeake also.
When, however, they reached Roanoke the Master of the vessels, who
was by birth a Spaniard, and who was perhaps in league with the
Spanish, said that it was too late in the year to go seeking another
spot. So whether they would or not he landed the colonists, and
sailed away, leaving only one small boat with them.
Thus perforce they had to take up their abode in the old spot. They
found it deserted. The fort was razed to the ground, and although
the huts were still standing they were choked with weeds and
overgrown with wild vines, while deer wandered in and out of the
open doors. It was
 plain that for many months no man had lived
there. And although careful search was made, saving the bones of
one, no sign was found of the fifteen men left there by Sir Richard.
At length the new colonists learned from a few friendly Indians
that they had been traitorously set upon by hostile Indians. Most
of them were slain; the others escaped in their boat and went no
man knew whither.
The Englishmen were very angry when they heard that, and wanted to
punish the Indians. So they set out against them. But the Indians
fled at their coming, and the Englishmen by mistake killed some
of the friendly Indians instead of their enemies. Thus things were
made worse instead of better.
And now amid all these troubles on the 18th of August, 1587, a
little girl was born. Her father was Ananias Dare, and her mother
was the daughter of John White, the Governor. The little baby was
thus the grand-daughter of the Governor, and because she was the
first English child to be born in Virginia she was called Virginia.
But matters were not going well in the colony. Day by day the men
were finding out things which were lacking and which they felt
they must have if they were not all to perish. So a few days after
Virginia was christened all the chief men came to the Governor and
begged him to go back to England to get fresh supplies, and other
things necessary to the life of the colony. John White, however,
refused to go. The next day not only the men but the women also came
to him and again begged him to go back to England. They begged so
hard that at last the Governor consented to go.
All were agreed that the place they were now in was by no means the
best which might be chosen for a colony, and it had been determined
that they should move some fifty miles further inland. Now it was
arranged that if they moved while the Governor was away they should
 on the trees and posts of the door the name of the place to
which they had gone, so that on his return he might be able easily
to find them. And also it was arranged that if they were in any
trouble or distress they should carve a cross over the name.
All these matters being settled John White set forth. And it was
with great content that the colonists saw their Governor go. For
they knew that they could send home no better man to look after
their welfare, and they were sure he would bring back the food and
other things which were needed.
But when White arrived in England he found that no man, not even
Raleigh, had a thought to spare for Virginia. For Spain was making
ready all her mighty sea power to crush England. And the English
were straining every nerve to meet and break that power. So John
White had to wait with what patience he could. Often his heart was
sick when he thought of his daughter and his little granddaughter,
Virginia Dare, far away in that great unknown land across the sea.
Often he longed to be back beside them. But his longings were of no
avail. He could but wait. For every ship was seized by Government
and pressed into the service of the country. And while the Spaniards
were at the gate it was accounted treason for any Englishman to
sail to western lands.
So the summer of 1588 passed, the autumn came, and at length the
great Armada sailed from Spain. It sailed across the narrow seas
in pride and splendour, haughtily certain of crushing the insolent
sea dogs of England. But "God blew with His breath and they were
scattered." Before many days were over these proud ships were fleeing
before the storm, their sails torn, their masts splintered. They
were shattered upon the rocky shores of Scotland and Ireland. They
were swallowed by the deep.
The sea power of Spain was broken, and the history of
 America truly
began. For as has been said "the defeat of the Invincible Armada
was the opening event in the history of the United States."
Free now from the dread of Spain, ships could come and go without
hindrance. But another year and more passed before John White
succeeded in getting ships and provisions and setting out once more
It was for him an anxious voyage, but as he neared the place where
the colony had been, his heart rejoiced, for he saw smoke rising
from the land. It was dark, however, before they reached the spot,
and seeing no lights save that of a huge fire far in the woods
the Governor sounded a trumpet call. The notes of the trumpet rang
through the woods and died away to silence. Answer there was none. So
the men called and called again, but still no answer came. Then
with sinking heart John White bade them sing some well-known English
songs. For that, he thought, would surely bring an answer from the
So through the still night air the musical sound of men's voices
rang out. But still no answer came from the silent fort. With a
heart heavy as lead the Governor waited for the dawn. As soon as it
was light he went ashore. The fort was deserted. Grass and weeds
grew in the ruined houses. But upon a post "in fair capital letters"
was carved the word "Croatoan." This was the name of a neighbouring
island inhabited by friendly Indians. There was no cross or sign
of distress carved over the letters. And when the Governor saw that
he was greatly comforted.
He spent some time searching about for other signs of the colonists.
In one place he found some iron and lead thrown aside as if too
heavy to carry away, and now overgrown with weeds. In another he
found five chests which had evidently been buried by the colonists,
and dug up again by the Indians.
They had been burst open and the contents lay scattered
 about the
grass. Three of these chests John White saw were his own, and it
grieved him greatly to see his things spoiled and broken. His books
were torn from their covers, his pictures and maps were rotten with
the rain, and his armour almost eaten through with rust.
At length, having searched in vain for any other signs of the colonists,
the English returned to the ships and set sail for Croatoan.
But now they encountered terrible storms. Their ships were battered
this way and that, their sails were torn, their anchors lost. And
at length in spite of all entreaties, the captain resolved to make
sail for England. So John White never saw Croatoan, never knew what
had become of his dear ones. And what happened to little Virginia
Dare, the first English girl to be born on the soil of the United
States, will never be known. But years afterwards settlers were
told by the Indians that the white people left at Roanoke had gone
to live among the Indians. For some years it was said they lived
in a friendly manner together. In time, however, the medicine men
began to hate the Pale-faces, and caused them all to be slain,
except four men, one young woman, and three boys. Was the young
woman perhaps Virginia Dare? No one can tell.
All Raleigh's attempts at founding a colony had thus come to nothing.
Still he did not despair. Once again he sent out an expedition. But
that too failed and the leader returned having done nothing. Even
this did not break Raleigh's faith in the future of Virginia. "I
shall yet live to see it an English nation," he said.
But although Raleigh's faith was as firm as before, his money was
gone. He had spent enormous sums on his fruitless efforts to found
a colony. Now he had no more to spend.
And now great changes came. Good Queen Bess died and James of Scotland
reigned in her stead. Raleigh fell into
 disgrace, was imprisoned
in the Tower, and after a short release was beheaded there. Thus
an end came to all his splendid schemes. Never before perhaps had
such noble devotion to King and country been so basely requited.
At the time it was said that "never before was English justice so
injured or so disgraced" as by the sentence of death passed upon
Raleigh. No man is perfect, nor was Raleigh perfect. But he was
a great man, and although all his plans failed we remember him as
the first great coloniser, the first Englishman to gain possession
of any part of North America.
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