Does CRO = Chowan?

I originally wrote this article for the Lost Colony Research Group Newsletter, published in June, 2012.

A few months ago, Fletcher Freeman, one of our members, e-mailed me and asked me a simple question, which, as simple questions often do, let to a much more detailed discussion.  Fletcher is descended directly from John Freeman who was closely allied with the Chowan Indians. It is thought that John’s wife, Tabitha, was or may have been the  daughter of Chowan Chief, John Hoyter.

The Chowanoke Descendants Community have a lovely website at this link:

On the website, they also feature a blog where members interact.  One of their members had a question or theory, and Freeman was interested in whether it had any validity.

“The theory was that the letters “CRO” carved in the tree by the Lost colonists represented the words “Chowan River Ohanoke” and was a clue to their destination.  Ohanoke was the principal town of the Chowan Indians.  Thus the belief that the Lost Colonists flew to the home of the Chowans where they settled and melded with the tribe.  John Smith later reported that the Chowans lived in houses similar to the English and there were stories of whites working in copper among the Chowan.”

My first question back to Fletcher was whether the Chowan River had always been called the Chowan River.  It turns out that Fletcher has written a lovely piece about the history of the Chowan Indians, and he has kindly given us permission to reprint it.

Before getting to Fletcher’s article, the CRO theory certainly deserves some consideration.  My first thought was that it seemed to conflict with the second engraving, which was “Croatoan” and which John White clearly knew, or thought he knew, how to interpret.

There are some who embrace the theory that the colonists split up.  It’s true that 100+ people were a lot to feed and a lot of people to incorporate into any tribe.  That was the size of many tribal groups.  On the other hand, there is safety in numbers, and the colonists did have leverage – guns and metal objects like swords and knives.  They had an advantage, which would both encourage collaboration and also attacks.  We certainly welcome any thoughts and commentary on this topic or Fletcher’s article, The Chowan Indians by Fletcher Freeman, to be published on this blog tomorrow.

About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
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