Winter Tea Party winners: Angela's book,THE SCARLET COAT, will go to: Print copy- Andrea Stephens; e-book copy - Catherine Wight!

LUCY REYNOLDS has a table topper quilt on the way, and winners of the Valentine Ebook Collection are: Deanna Stevens, Caryl Kane, Anne Payne and Winnie Thomas. With thanks to all who joined in!

Friday, July 10, 2015

America’s Oldest Unsolved Mystery


I recently had the opportunity to visit the Outer Banks of North Carolina and fulfill a 40 year wish to see the production of The Lost Colony on Roanoke Island. This popular summer attraction was first performed seventy-eight years ago, making it the oldest outdoor symphonic drama in the country.

On the way to the Outer Banks, I recalled my parents telling me about another drama that took place that same summer on Roanoke Island. That event occurred seventy-eight years ago to the day I would be attending the play.

On an early June day in 1937, a young Naval Lieutenant stationed in Norfolk, Virginia planned on taking his sweetheart on a picnic to propose marriage.
July 1937
That couple in their mid twenties was my parents. Whether it took my father hours to work up his courage or whether it was his intent, they ended up driving all the way to
Roanoke Island, North Carolina. A 200 mile round trip was no small Saturday excursion in 1937. It was also the subject of a lot of teasing over their 43 year marriage, since, at the time, transporting a single female across a state line was a felony.

So now, seventy-eight years later, I had tickets and was on my way to see the play I’d been waiting so long to see. The Lost Colony, a Tony award winning play was written by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Paul Green.

The musical pageant is based on accounts of Sir Walter Raleigh's attempts to establish a settlement on Roanoke Island, then part of the Colony of Virginia. Early in the play we watched Raleigh lead a group of men in 1585 to Roanoke on primarily a military mission. These settlers returned to England with two Indian leaders, Manteo and Wanchese, because of a shortage of food and altercations they had with other natives.
Opening Scene for "The Lost Colony"

John White, Governor of the new colony, led another group of 117 men, women and children in July 1587 to the existing Roanoke Island settlement. The next month, the Governor’s daughter, Eleanor Dare, wife of Ananias Dare gave birth to Virginia Dare, the first English child born on American soil. Ten days later John White sailed back to England for a fresh load of supplies. During this time a major naval war broke out between England and Spain. Queen Elizabeth I insisted every ship would be needed to confront the invading Spanish Armada. Governor White was not able to return to his wife, daughter, granddaughter and other settlers at Roanoke until August 1590. When he arrived, no trace was found of the colony or its settlers. The only clue was the single word “Croatoan” carved into a wooden post. In the past 428 years there have been many scenarios speculated on what happened to these colonists, but no one really knows. At the time the settlers did enjoy a friendlier relationship with the local Indians, so it is possible that they joined with the friendly Croatoan natives in order to survive.

The Lost Colony production was first rate and priced at $30 a ticket. It had elaborate Elizabethan costumes, particularly for the scenes taking place in London. Watching the scene transitions was fascinating. The singing and dancing were nothing short of a Broadway play. I was particularly moved by the Christian emphasis in the Colonist’s hymns, prayers and dialog.

Memorial Stone to the original Roanoke Settlers
Given that our nation was in the midst of the Great Depression when this award winning production was written, it is no surprise that it focuses on the ideals of freedom, struggle and perseverance. The names of the people who lived there so long ago are memorialized everywhere in the towns and on street signs throughout Roanoke Island.




12 comments:

  1. Great post Janet. I love reading and and learning about our history here on Colonial Quills.
    A couple weeks ago we were in the Outer Banks and did go to Roanoke Island, but did not see the Lost Colony. I do hope to see it one day.
    Blessings, Tina

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Mrs. Tina. Hopefully it won't take you as long to see it. ;-)

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  2. Thanks for this interesting post, Janet. I loved the story about your parents. My husband and I visited the Outer Banks to research for my two novels, Laurel (released 1/15) and Cassia (to be released 9/15), which take place there. I fell in love with the area, especially the Maritime Museum in nearby Beaufort, NC. But we didn't have an opportunity to see the Lost Colony. Will make it a point to see it on our next visit.

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    1. Thank you, Susan. I'm really looking forward to reading Cassia. Loved your other two stories.

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  3. History is one of my most favorite topics ever! When I was 16 I was in the Youth Conservation Corp. We stayed on Campus in the dorms at Wilmington College in Ohio.. One of the perks of this was that we would be going to see the yearly production of Tecumseh at the Amphitheater in Chillicothe, Ohio. It was amazing!I am so looking forward to reading your novel! In Tecumseh there were mny references to Christianity as well.Love the story about your parents, how wonderful!

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    1. Thank you, MammaG.

      I didn't realize until the day of the play that it was the same day in June that my father took my mother to Roanoke. It was serendipitous.

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    2. I wonder if that production is still done in Chillicothe. I grew up near Tecumseh, MI, and was raised on that whole story. I'd love to see it!

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  4. Well THIS is going on my bucket list. Thanks. Just what I needed ... a longer bucket list! At the rate I'm going, I'll need to live to 110.

    My son got me watching the TV show Sleepy Hollow and it has a lot of early American history in it, mingled with the fiction. (Sort of like our books!) I loved the episode that included the Lost Colony of Roanoke. Fun stuff!

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    1. Pegg, if you make it to Roanoke Island, you may want to also stop by the Wright Brother's Memorial at Kill Devil Hills, the location of the Wright Brother's aviation' first flight.

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  5. The play sounds wonderful! I can't remember learning about this growing up, maybe I did but I'd forgotten. It makes me wonder what did happen to them and why nothing has ever been discovered. What a great story and sad!

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  6. Thanks for stopping by Terri. It's a fascinating mystery. The streets in Roanoke memorialize many of the characters as do some of the towns. And the Outer Banks is part of Dare County.

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