This article, written by Andy Powell, was published in the February 2012 issue of the Lost Colony Research Group newsletter. Thank you Andy for permission to reprint here.
“Raleigh a Wynganditoian, Richard the son of Baptist Tooker and Katheryne the daughter of William Berry all here Christened the Sunday 26th day of March” so reads the Bideford Parish Register of 1588; but just who was “Raleigh”?
Raleigh, the Indian was brought back to Bideford from Roanoke by Sir Richard Grenville following his capture there during a skirmish in 1586.
Of his origins, we can say that he is unlikely to have been a member of the friendly Hatteras Indians led by Manteo; much more likely to have been a member of a tribe allied to Wanchese, who had been involved in several skirmishes with the English previously onRoanoke.
“Raleigh” therefore, may not have started out as the most willing of pupils on his arrival in Bideford!
What took place during the following eighteen months before that Native Indian was christened upon the Font that still stands in St Mary’sParish Church today is unknown. Nevertheless, christened he was, on that fateful day in March 1588.
Whether Grenville was present for the ceremony, we cannot say for certain as we do not know the date of his return to Bideford after leading the town’s flotilla of ships to Plymouth in readiness for the fight against the Spanish Armada…. the same flotilla that was made ready with the original intention to sail to Roanoke as the relief voyage for the colonists early in 1588.
Sadly for “Raleigh”, his new life in England did not last long, for the same Parish register records the burial of “Rawly a man of Wynganditoia following of the day 2nd April 1589”, (meaning he died during the night of the 2nd.) The cause of his death was probably the same epidemic of Influenza that was to strike tragedy at the heart of the Grenville family when Sir Richard’s 16 year old daughter Rebecca also died from it only a few weeks later.
Perhaps the final question we can answer, on the “man of Winganditoia” enigma is where he lies buried today. According to a record dated 1792 in the Bodleian Library of Oxford, he was not buried as some suggest, in the church crypt, but in the Churchyard. Given that this record pre-dates the Victorian rebuilding of St Mary’s in the 1860’s, it seems certain that he still lays there, somewhere, today, his grave unmarked. Thanks however to the work of the Bideford 500 Heritage Group, (of which I am proud to be Chairman,) we hope that after more than 420 years, his last resting place will once again be commemorated in 2012.