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CROATOAN

by Phillip W. Evans, 2006The "CRO" tree at the Lost Colony theater at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. Image courtesy of Flickr user Sarah Stierch.

CROATOAN was the sole complete word found on Roanoke Island by John White on 18 Aug. 1590 in his search for the English colonists, including his granddaughter Virginia Dare, whom he had left there three years earlier. White reported that the word in "fayre Capitall letters was graven" on one of the chief trees or posts of a palisade or stockade structure that had been built on Roanoke Island. Earlier in the day's search, White had seen the three Roman letters " CRO" carved into a tree on the bluff of the sound shore. In neither place did he discover a cross, the secretly agreed upon sign that the colony, now known as the Lost Colony, was in distress.

White's statements about the word and the absence of a cross indicate that he was comforted to find the word because he thought it was a "certaine token" or sign that the colonists had relocated to Croatoan, the principal town of the Croatoan (or Hatteras) Indians near Cape Hatteras. White recounted that the colonists had discussed leaving just such a message for him in 1587, although they had then considered moving 50 miles into the mainland rather than about 60 miles south to an isolated barrier island. White recognized Croatoan as the native town of the Indian Manteo, who made two trips to England in the 1580s and seemingly had embraced the English colonial efforts. (It is believed that Manteo's mother was a tribal monarch of the Croatoans.)

Ethnologists and anthropologists believe that the word "Croatoan" may have been a combination of two Algonquian words meaning "talk town" or "council town."

References:

David B. Quinn, The Roanoke Voyages, 1584-1590 (2 vols., 1955).

Quinn, Set Fair for Roanoke: Voyages and Colonies, 1584-1606 (1985).

David Stick, Roanoke Island: The Beginnings of English America (1983).

Image Credit:

The "CRO" tree at the Lost Colony theater at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. Image courtesy of Flickr user Sarah Stierch. Available from http://www.flickr.com/photos/sarahvain/5567003890/ (accessed June 12, 2012).

 

Origin - location: 

Comments

Comment: 

My mother's family name is Kingsley. Directly descended from England. However, there is proven blood ties in with the Algonquian Native Americans. It would be amazing to see a list of names of settlers who came and settles into Roanoke. If such a list exists, it would be nice to see if the name Kingsley is amongst them. Side note: there is no ship record of the name coming to America later on with other Europeans into the Harbors of New York or anywhere else. So this also poses the question: Just how long have the Kingsleys been here?

Comment: 

Donna, research text by John Lawson, British explorer that was in the North Carolina/South Carolina are during the 1700s. I am not for certain if it is, but I think he references the list in one of his books. I know one is "A New Voyage to Carolina".

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Copyright notice

This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

Educator Resources on North Carolina American Indians

NC Humanities Council, 2009 - 2011. "Teaching about North Carolina American Indians." Online at Learn NC.

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