By Vern Jordan
Copyright © 1996 firstname.lastname@example.org
One of my maternal lines, Rainwater, is said to have descended from the Lost colony of Roanoke Island, N.C. John Berry Rainwater is said to have been the son of John Berry, one of the colonists, and Mary Rainwater. He took his mother's maiden name for his last name as was the old English custom. I cannot seem to find it but just last month I read some information about the Melungeon which if I recall correctly is the same group as the Lost Colony. I have seen them referred to as the Lost Colony of, Roanoke, Croatan, Governor John White's, and Raleigh's. I understand they were a dark skinned people, and sometimes referred to as Negro in the old South, which they took offense to because they were not Negroid, but white English to begin with, but by then, almost full blood Indian but with European features too.
From personal experience, I can say the Rainwater family was very dark skinned, mostly tall, rawboned people. Very hardy individuals.
One of my Rainwater uncles, brother of my second great-grandmother settled at Dayton, WA., 30 miles east of Walla Walla in the mid 1800's in the foot of the Blue Mountains. Their overall route was N.C. to TN, to Arkansas, then out here. Being in each location long enough to leave descendants in all three areas. In this area they had large holdings which were known as The Rainwater Cattle Company.
I fished and hunted on their land during the 1960's not knowing they were blood relatives even though I was familiar with the name. They only recently sold their holdings (twice), once about three years ago and the buyer defaulted, they sold again early this year. Price was, I believe, about eight million. Much timber on the land. If true about them descending from the lost colony, which I have no reason to doubt, then early Washington state is also a part of that story.
The Rainwater family was not liked much around Dayton in the last few years because they stopped all hunting on their holdings after having some trouble with shot cattle. As far as I know, only one person named Rainwater from that family remains in this area. Many other names of families they intermarried with are still here. All old pioneer families such as Pettyjohn for one, who must have settled across the Tucannon River from the Rainwater group as there is a steep road going down into the Tucannon river canyon that is named Pettyjohn Grade. Many markers of Rainwater people have accumulated in the old Dayton cemetery during the intervening 150 or so years since they arrived.
This article is a summary of some research I did at the request of Gene Blackwell. He is also from North Arkansas and said he knew some of the Rainwater and Pettyjohn families still in that part of Arkansas today. So it appears that probably the two families migrated west together and they intermarried quite frequently. Some of the family stayed in Washington County, Arkansas and remain there today. Another branch went to Bell county, Texas and remain there. They fought on both sides in the Civil War with father against son in many cases. Very strong willed people.
Further research turns up the following: The source is an old school book called "Founders of Our Country" by F. E. Coe. It is so old that the copyright page is no longer in it. Just to illustrate how old it is, I had to pay for it while in school over 50 years ago because I damaged it. It has been in my possession ever since. Now it is more interesting to read than when I was required to read it. This particular bit of information comes from a section on Sir Walter Raleigh, English Pioneer and starts on page 103. My story starts with Raleigh's first involvement with trying to establish a colony in America. which he and his brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert attempted in 1583. Raleigh did not sail with the five ships on this trip, only secured the fleet and charter from Queen Elizabeth who was fascinated by the young, gallant Walter.
Walter had gone to London at age thirty to present himself at court. The Queen happened to be out walking in her park after a rainfall. She came to a mud puddle. Of course this is the start of all the good fortune for Walter. It was here he stepped forward and gallantly spread his rich velvet cloak on the water so she could pass without getting a foot wet. Queen Elizabeth flipped over this act.
London being a wet and rainy place, I guess the Queen thought she may have further use for Walter's talents with the cape so she kept him around. The young man's fortunes were assured. In those days the Queen would grant any petition he would make for others. She had already showered him with estates, revenues and many honors. Walter had a brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, who wanted to make a second attempt to start a settlement in America. He had tried once before but failed. Walter wanted to help his brother so made petition to the Queen which was granted. Raleigh also paid for one of the ships himself.
To cut this short, this try also failed, as well as cost Sir Gilbert his life. He insisted on sailing in the smaller Squirrel, rather than the Golden Hind much to the consternation of his men who urged him to sail in the larger Golden Hind. The Squirrel was swallowed up in a storm off the Main coast at midnight on a Monday in 1583 and all hands were lost. His brother's death did not deter Walter from his purpose.
The Queen made him a large grant of land in America. Raleigh promptly sent out two ships to explore. They entered various inlets and sounds on the coast of what is now North Carolina, and finally discovered Roanoke Island. On their return to England they told of the balmy climate, the beautiful harbors and rivers, the abundant game and fish, the luscious fruits, the noble forests. All who listened were charmed, and especially Queen Elizabeth. She herself gave to this region the name Virginia. "This name was given that men might know that the country was explored in the time of the virgin queen." As further proof of her satisfaction, Elizabeth knighted Raleigh. Henceforth he was known as Sir Walter Raleigh.
In the spring of the next year, 1585, seven vessels owned by Raleigh sailed from Plymouth. They carried one hundred and eighty colonists to Virginia. Sir Richard Greenville, a very lion for bravery, commanded the little fleet. Storms met them on the American coast. They were nearly wrecked off a point they named Cape Fear. But at last Greenville landed them all safe and sound upon Roanoke Island. Then, promising to return the next Easter, he sailed away.
Few American colonies behaved so foolishly as this one from which Raleigh hoped so much. The men should have tilled the ground and sowed seed would have yielded a good harvest in the fall. But they spent their time in looking for gold mines, that they might grow rich without hard work. They also quarreled with the Indians. Food was scanty and the people were much discouraged. Suddenly sails appeared on the horizon. They proved to be not, Greenville's vessels, but Drake's. He was returning from a cruise in the Spanish Main (Caribbean Sea), and had stopped to see how the English colony was progressing.
The colonists begged to be taken home, and finally Drake yielded to their prayers. Thus the colony was abandoned, to Raleigh's bitter disappointment. Supply ships from Raleigh came soon after the colonists had gone, so they had not been forgotten as they thought. Greenville also appeared at Roanoke and was distressed to find no one there. " But the colony must not be given up so lightly," he thought. " We must hold this land for England." So he left fifteen men at Roanoke Island with supplies for two years.
The next year, 1587, Raleigh sent out another colony of farmers and mechanics. Their Governor was John White, and they were to settle farther north, on the shores of Chesapeake Bay. But first they were to stop at Roanoke to take off the fifteen men whom Greenville had left. There was some misunderstanding. The Captains landed the colonists at Roanoke Island and then sailed away and left them.
It was found that Greenville's fifteen men had been killed by the Indians. And now here they were, in this unlucky place, instead of beginning happily a new venture on Chesapeake Bay. One ship had been left them, and in that Governor White went home for supplies. He left behind at Roanoke his daughter, and her husband, and their child, his baby granddaughter. This little girl was named Virginia Dare. She was the first English child born in America, and her parents chose to name her for the country.
It was three years before White returned. This was not his fault, but was due to the war with Spain. In 1591 he landed at Roanoke and looked around for his family and friends. They were not to be found. The spot was deserted; grass was growing in the blockhouse; five broken chests stood near a clump of cedars; tattered leaves from books fluttered here and there. The place was most forlorn. There was but one clew to the fate of the colonists. On the trunk of a tree was carved the word Croatan.
Now there is an island of that name not far from Roanoke. The captain agreed to take White there, but a severe storm arose and the captain dared not linger near the coast. He sailed away to England, and the poor old grandfather never knew what became of little Virginia Dare. Some say the colonists went to live with the Indians, but no one will ever know. All these failures did not alter Raleigh's purpose. He sent in all, nine more expeditions, but all were failures. Raleigh's fate is well known. Queen Elizabeth died. Raleigh spent his last few years a prisoner of King James in the Tower of London except for a release or two to serve the king and be betrayed by him. He finally was axed to death by the executioner on James order.
I have read other articles concerning reports that a tribe of light skinned people were encountered by some of the early settlers in that area of the south many years after this era. I have also seen hints that these people may have been absorbed by the Cherokee. Plus the story of the Rainwater family mentioned earlier. It would seem most likely to me that some of them would have been assimilated into the native people. Some were probably killed, some made slaves but some must have survived. Many tales but no proof that I am aware of.
The Concise Encyclopedia of the American Indian, by Bruce Grant,
1958, 1960, 1989, states:
CROATAN (kro'-atan). A people of mixed blood who are believed to be descendants of Raleigh's "lost colony of Croatan." They live in North Carolina, mainly in Robeson County. For many years after the Civil War they were classed as free Negroes, but refused to send their children to Negro schools. About sixty years ago (1900 ?....vjj) they were legally given the name of Croatan Indians. In South Carolina are found a people believed to be of similar origin. They were originally called "Red Bones." Others in Tennessee are termed "Melungeons" and some in Delaware are called "Moors". See Hatteras, Roanoke.
HATTERAS. A tribe of Indians who lived on the sand banks around Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. They were of Algonquian stock, but claimed their ancestors were white. Some think they may have been the same as the Croatan Indians with whom Sir Walter Raleigh's colonists are believed to have taken refuge on Roanoke Island. See Croatan.
ROANOKE (ro'-a-nok). An early tribe of Indians living on the island by that name off the coast of North Carolina. It was on this island that Sir Walter Raleigh's colony first was established in 1585-1586. The colony was to become known as the "lost colony of the Croatan." The term "roanoke" was used by Virginia colonists to designate shell beads or wampum. Captain John Smith in his writings reported the Powhatan name for such beads was rawrenock.
The Wild Shores, "Americas Beginnings", By Tee Loftin Snell, 1974, a National Geographic book, shows similar information as above, with some additional information and, of course, wonderful color pictures, as all N.G.S. books do. In this article, the group of colonist with White were said to number 117 settlers. This is the group left there by mistake.
When they landed, they did find the bones of one man, wrote John White. He later learned from Manteo's people, whom he visited at Croatan Sandbar, present day Hatteras, that 13 men rowed their boats away from Roanoke during an Indian attack. Perhaps they still lived, lost in the wilderness. Manteo, was the chief of the tribe already living on Roanoke. He was taken to live in England for a year and it looks as if he returned when the White colony was brought over. White stayed on the island and visited Manteo's people for one month when he returned to find everyone gone. He made numerous water colors of the local people, flora and fauna. These drawings are on display at the British Museum in London today. Roanoke has a festival each summer with a play of the story presented. This article says the Lumbee Indians in present Robeson County , North Carolina "have a strong tradition that the Roanoke colony amalgamated with them," as historian Samuel Eliot Morison says in "The European Discovery of America". Some blue- eyed, fair-haired types, Elizabethan words, and surnames all "bear this out, " he adds. The Lumbees, he notes, earlier known as Croatan or Hatteras Indians, migrated inland about 1650.
About 1660, Rev. Morgan Jones wandered into their midst and to his surprise "conversed in English" with them. But did all the Hatteras clans go inland? About 1700 John Lawson, exploring North Carolina's coast, wrote that "gray-eyed" Hatteras Indians said "several of their ancestors were white people, and could talk in a book." (this was the early Cherokee term for reading...vjj) The article continues. And I heard these intriguing remarks from Sheriff Frank Calhoun , 67, at Manteo on Roanoke Island: "My grandfather, born in 1830, told me that in his Indian village he lived in one of several very old two-story houses of hand hewn timbers and boards on the mainland across from Roanoke. His blond, blue-eyed mother, Malockie Paine, we believe, was descended from colonist Henry Paine."
All of this looks like a perfect task for DNA Genetics Typing to me. I am from the school of thought that feels we are all descended from some small island, probably down in Southeast Asia somewhere. But it would be wonderful to really know what route we all took to get where we are today. I think one of, if not the most, interesting books I ever read was "The Great North Trail." I no longer recall the name of the author but vividly recall his message. You may be familiar with it. It is the scientific / legendary story of the great migration of the first Americans from Asia to the tip of South America via the ice bridge and down the two continents with the branch turning off and coming back up the east coast from Mexico / Central America to meet those who were coming down that coast at about where Washington, D.C. is today.
Very interesting and I am sure, just about the way it all happened. It is being proven to be true more each year with new analysis methods and equipment such as carbon dating and genetics. I do not suppose the whole story will develop during our lifetime but will eventually yield its innermost secrets. I have been intrigued by such things since finding traces of long lost cultures and civilization as a youngster riding my horse and walking around the deserts and mountains of my home area of Arizona. The memories and mysteries I still cherish these many years hence.
One very perplexing mystery was finding a sealed clay jar in an Indian ? shelter cave, deep in the San Tan Mountains, that appeared to have not been used by man since the very distant past, well before the advent of the European into America. I spent many days and nights living in this cool cave with its many friendly spirits and rattlesnakes. This jar contained three scalp locks and one copper needle. The three wisps of hair appeared to have been human and red, blond and black. Many stone tools, in good order were also in the cave. Probably some Shaman's medicine cave I now think.
I tried to return to this cave many years later but an earthquake had tumbled the high bluffs down, making it impossible to even determine precisely where the opening had been. Many of the numerous burial mounds on the Salt River Valley floor were leveled in the early days of large irrigated farms in that area and I worked in many of those fields as a young man. Many beads, bones, stone tools and pottery fragments were picked up in the process.
I no longer have these mementos of a lost people but sure wish I did. Another great loss to me is the fabulous stories and legends told to me in my younger years of life. I worked and lived in that area with, and knew many of the elderly descendants of those original desert tribes or those who came after. Rode and walked many of the trails used by the Hohokams, or Ancient ones, who built canals and irrigated their crops several thousands years before the white man came and used those same canals as they do today. Now, one cannot even see the desert floor for the concrete of the many streets and houses where once I played, hunted, explored, and worked a lifetime ago, in The Valley of The Sun along the Salt and Gila Rivers and dry Queen Crik of Arizona which was but a teenager when I was born there.
Most whites do not understand the anger, frustration, and sadness of the native. By being from both cultures, I can see a bit of both sides but do not understand why most of what the white man has done was done in the way it was and mostly under the guise of brotherhood and religion. A tragedy that is yet to be reckoned with and paid for. The day will come when that all changes I am afraid. What will then be the status of those of us from both worlds ? I shudder to think of it, for I do know the capabilities and cruelty of both my peoples. I think it a blessing that I will probably not be around to witness the event.
NOTE: Of the references mentioned, probably the last one from National Geographic, is the better and more up to date. It covers about two pages in the book. Not a large one but a medium format book of about 8 X 10 or 11 inch pages with not large type. Two or three pictures that pertain to the area. This seems to be all the sources I currently have on the subject.