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Richard of Jamestown by  James Otis

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THE STORY OF ROANOKE

TWENTY-ONE years before we sailed from London, Sir Walter Raleigh sent out a fleet of seven ships, carrying one hundred and seven persons, to Virginia, and Master Ralph Lane was named as the governor. They landed on Roanoke Island; but because the Indians threatened them, and because just at that time when they were most frightened, Sir Francis Drake came by with his fleet, they all went home, not daring to stay any longer.

Two years after that, which is to say nineteen years before we of Jamestown came here, Sir Walter Raleigh sent over one hundred and sixteen people, among whom [131] were men, women and children, and they also began to build a town on Roanoke Island.

John White was their governor, and very shortly after they came to Roanoke, his daughter, Mistress Ananias Dare, had a little baby girl, the first white child to be born in the new world, so they named her Virginia.

Now these people, like ourselves, were soon sorely in need of food, and they coaxed Governor John White to go back to England, to get what would be needed until they could gather a harvest.

At the time he arrived at London, England was at war with the Spanish people, and it was two years before he found a chance to get back. When he finally arrived at Roanoke Island, there were no signs of any of his people to be found, except that on the tree was cut the word "Croatan," which is the name of an Indian village on the island nearby.

That was the last ever heard of all those hundred and sixteen people. Five different times Sir Walter Raleigh sent out men for the missing ones; but no traces could be found, not even at Croatan, and no one knows whether they were killed by the Indians, or wandered off into the wilderness where they were lost forever.

You can see by the story, that the London Company had set for Captain Newport a very great task when they commanded him to do what so many people had failed in before him.

[132] And now out of that story of the lost colony, as Master Hunt told Nathaniel and me, grows another which also concerns us in this new land of Virginia.

You will remember I have said that Master Ralph Lane was the governor of the first company of people who went to Roanoke Island, and, afterward, getting discouraged, returned to England. Now this Master Lane, and the other men who were with him, learned from the Indians to smoke the weed called tobacco, and carried quite a large amount of it home with them.

Not only Sir Walter Raleigh, who knew Master Lane very well, but many other people in England also learned to smoke, and therefore it was that when we of Jamestown began to raise tobacco, it found a more ready sale in London than any other thing we could send over. Once this was known, our people gave the greater portion of their time to cultivating the Indian weed.


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