What does a resort real estate sales brochure have to do with Sir Walter Raleigh and with the Lost Colony that disappeared from North Carolina’s coastland 425 years ago?
The colorful brochure that was delivered to my house last week promoted “A Retreat from the Ordinary” at Scotch Hall Preserve, a 950-acre resort community in Bertie County on the Albemarle Sound.
A photo of a lovely Arnold Palmer golf course overlooking a broad expanse of open blue water got and kept my attention. The sales pitch explained, “If North Carolina has a ‘sweet spot,’ this is it. Set above the majestic Albemarle Sound, where cypress trees silhouette the shoreline. As grand as Nature herself, this unspoiled place sits amidst stands of cypress, yellow pine and oak trees on a bluff overlooking the historic Albemarle Sound … the second largest estuary in America, second only to the Chesapeake Bay.”
Sir Walter Raleigh would have admired this sales pitch. He would have understood the need to engage the imagination of prospective purchasers or investors by the use of attractive and colorful illustrations.
To raise funds to finance a permanent colony in what is now North Carolina, he used the lovely drawings of the native peoples and landscapes of the area prepared by John White. White also prepared a “sales map” of the area, one that covered the coast from the Chesapeake Bay to Cape Lookout and lands far into the interior. White’s map was beautiful and amazingly accurate.
That map made news a few weeks ago by delivering a clue that suggests where the Lost Colonists might have gone when they left their encampment on Roanoke Island.
Here is how the British Museum, which has custody of this “Virginea Pars” map, announced discovery of the clue:
“After decades of unsuccessful searching, archaeologists may have their best evidence ever of the possible fate of Sir Walter Raleigh’s ‘Lost Colony.’ It comes in the form of a clue from Sir Walter himself, secreted within the 425-year-old ‘Virginea Pars’ map drawn by his expedition to site the first English colony in the New World.”
This clue resulted from the curiosity of Brent Lane, adjunct professor of heritage economics at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. Lane noticed two small parts of the map were covered with paper patches. He wondered what was under the patches, thinking that perhaps John White had been persuaded to make a correction or two to his map after it had been completed.
Lane persuaded the museum staff to look under the patches to see if there were anything interesting underneath. Using a powerful light source, the staff found something important under one patch, a discovery that made front-page news in North Carolina and across the Atlantic.
Under the patch was a symbol of a fortress, which probably marked the future location for the “Cittie of Raleigh,” the planned center of the colony. To Lane, this location, marked under the patch, made perfect sense.
Why? Because it put the colony’s planned capital at the confluence of the Chowan and Roanoke rivers and on the Albemarle Sound. These rivers and the sound would be major internal trade routes.
But what does this have to do with Scotch Hall Preserve? Its owners and Sir Walter picked the same location to build a major development.
Brent Lane and others think that when the Lost Colonists left Roanoke Island they may well have made their way to the site of the colony’s planned capital as shown under the patch.
Lots of on-ground research will be necessary to explore and document this possibility. So, with the permission of the Scotch Hall owners, archaeologists may soon join golfers in digging up the ground in the sand traps and fairways of the resort’s Arnold Palmer course.
— D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV, with and past programs at 11:30 a.m. Wednesdays on UNC-MX, a digital cable system channel (Time Warner #172 or #4.4). For more information or to view prior programs visit the webpage at www.unctv.org/ncbookwatch/.