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Monday, January 11, 2021

Researching the 16th Century: Fort Raleigh National Historic Site

In a year full of uncertainty and isolation, I was blessed to not only sign another book contract, but also do onsite research for the story. Daughters of the Lost Colony: Elinor is scheduled for a December 2021 release. This was not a story I expected to get to tell--but I am so excited to present it to y'all!

After writing already about the Lost Colony and where recent research indicates they went after leaving Roanoke Island, I'll be sharing more bits and pieces of the story: key players in the Lost Colony saga and maybe even some of the political aspects of the era.

But first, the setting itself.

An important part of research for me is to walk the ground where my characters walked, when possible. To get a taste of what a particular area might have looked, smelled, and felt like, especially in a historical context. So after my niece's wedding in July, near Boston, my daughters and I headed to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. My journey took me in reverse order from history, with Buxton on Hatteras Island being our first stop, but Fort Raleigh National Historic Site is properly the first location to be covered chronologically. It's where Ralph Lane of the disastrous 1585-86 expedition built an earthenworks fort, and where the 1587 expedition landed, originally just to check on the 15-some men left to hold an English presence in the New World but then temporarily settling there after being informed their navigator would take them no further. The actual site of the resulting village and its palisade fort is unknown, but archaeological research found the location of Lane's fort, and a reconstruction was commissioned in the 1950's.

Informational plackards at the site explain that it's obvious the fort would have been too small to shelter an entire settlement. The exact site of the village Lane and his men built then abandoned, and the 15 occupied for however long, is unknown, but that would be where the Lost Colony first took up residence, so I had fun imagining what this area might have looked like with a cluster of English cottages nearby. 


 

The ampitheater belonging to the modern-day Lost Colony drama production is also located here, so we poked about there as well. It provides a lovely view of the ocean, and the currently unused Elizabethan-inspired buildings added to the atmosphere of historical mystery. And of course the ever-gorgeous maritime forest of pine and oak possess a charm all their own!



 

 

Outside the entrance to the ampitheater lies the beginning of a walking trail, with paths leading down to the beach. We didn't have time for the whole route, but a side path led us to a spot where I wanted to linger and linger, overlooking Albemarle Sound. You can bet my imagination ran wild here!

 



It isn't hard to envision what those first English explorers might have seen when first setting foot here, how enchanted they must have been with the fragrance of the pines and the tallness of the trees, and how strange and yet a part of the forest the native people might have appeared . . .

And how those same people might have felt, seeing their first Europeans, with their equally strange clothing and armor . . .

To be continued!

4 comments:

  1. Oh, Shannon, how fun! Walking where history walked in order to research a novel is the most fun ever! You must've been beyond excited. Congrats on your book. Sounds so intriguing!

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    1. Thank you so much, Naomi! And yes, it was one of the highlights of my summer, for sure. I hope I can do the history justice!

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  2. This is such a great area to explore. It’s so pretty there! Love the Lost Colony show.too! Looking forward to your story!

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    1. Thank you, Carrie! And it's SO beautiful. I really, REALLY want to spend more time there!

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