Philip S. McMullan, Jr.,
is a native of historic Edenton, North Carolina, and has been immersed in the
colonial history of his state since childhood. Despite his early interest in history,
he spent much of his career as a research scientist with RTI International in the
newly created Research Triangle Park in 1960. After retirement, he researched
the history of Beechland and its possible relationship to the abandoned. He
prepared this thesis as part of obtaining his Masters of History at North Carolina
State University. He has taught World History and American History for the
Gateway to College Program at the College of the Albemarle since 2007.
In 1587, one hundred seventeen men, women and children simply disappeared
and became known as The Lost Colony. Sir Walter Ralegh's attempt to settle
Virginia remains one of the greatest mysteries of early American history. John
White, the colony's governor, described how the colonists were forced to remain
on Roanoke Island when their intended destination was Chesapeake Bay. There
they were abandoned and became lost to history after the Spanish Armada
caused their resupply ships to be diverted.

  However, significant evidence suggests that they intentionally relocated
inland and that Ralegh, at least, kept in touch with them. They continued the
alliance they had formed with the Croatan tribe and, for at least ten more years,
supplied Ralegh with a valuable commodity  Sassafras. They chose Beechland,
a protected sassafras site about fifty miles into the mainland, in order to prevent
the Spaniards (and potential competitors) from finding them.  This profitable
venture ended when Ralegh lost his patent and his head after the death of
Queen Elizabeth. In this scenario, the so-called Lost Colonists were not lost
but were finally abandoned when Ralegh could no longer send ships to them.

  Evidence for the colonists' movement was found in original accounts,
native alliances, oral histories, naming patterns, archeological remnants and
reanalysis of early maps. A thorough archeological investigation of the site
might yield the crucial clues to resolve the longstanding mystery of what
became of the majority of the lost colonists.
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