Yardley Sees Colonists’ Fort on Roanoke Island 1654

In 1654, North Carolina, then Carolina, was still being explored.  Francis Yardley’s account of the Tuscarora and Roanoke Island is the first we have of exploration this far South.  In fact it was only 4 years earlier, in 1650 that Edward Bland has attempted to come this far south, and failed, in search of two Englishmen living with the Tuscarora.


Unfortunately, what this infers isn’t necessarily positive for the search for the Lost Colonists.  In 1654, if the colonists or their descendants were living among the Tuscarora, this visit would have been the perfect time to discuss that topic, while they were viewing the remnants of their fort on Roanoke.  One would think the topic of what happened to the colonists would have arisen, especially if there were colonists yet alive only 4 years before.

If that had been the case, since Yardley did in fact discuss the topic, one would believe he would have mentioned something about it, but he mentions no more about the colonists, inferring that the Tuscarora said nothing more.

Colonial and State Records of North Carolina

Letter from Francis Yardley to John Farrar [Extract]

Yardley, Francis

May 08, 1654

Volume 01, Pages 18-19

——————– page 18 ——————–

[Thurloe’s State Papers, Vol. II, P. 273. Reprinted from Hawks’s History of N. C.]

Virginia, Linnehaven, 8th May, 1654.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In September last, a young man, a trader for beavers, being bound out to the adjacent parts to trade, by accident his sloop left him; and he, supposing she had been gone to Roanoke, hired a small boat, and, with one of his company left with him, came to crave my license to go to look after his sloop, and sought some relief of provisions of me; the which granting, he set forth with three more in company, one being of my family, the others were my neighbors. They entered in at Caratoke, ten leagues to the southward of Cape Henry, and so went to Rhoanoke Island; where, or near thereabouts they found the great Commander of those parts with his Indians a-hunting, who received them civilly, and showed them the ruins of Sir Walter Raleigh’s fort, from whence I received a sure token of their being there.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Immediately I dispatched away a boat with six hands, one being a carpenter, to build the King an English house, my promise, at his coming first, being to comply in that matter. I sent £200 sterling in trust to purchase and pay for what land they should like, the which in little time they effected and purchased, and paid for three great rivers, and also all such others as they should like of, southerly; and in solemn manner took possession of the country, in the name, and on the behalf of the Commonwealth of England; and actual possession was solemnly given to them by the great Commander, and all the great men of the rest of the provinces, in delivering them a turf of the earth with an arrow shot into it; and so the Indians totally left the lands and rivers to us, retiring to a new habitation, where our people built the great Commander a fair house, the which I am to furnish with English utensils and chattels.

* * * * * *

Sir, if you think good to acquaint the States with what is done by two Virginians born, you will honor our country. I have at this instant no present worthy your acceptance, but an arrow that came from the Indians

——————– page 19 ——————–

inhabiting on the South Sea, the which we purpose, God willing, to see this summer, non obstante periculo.

I humbly take leave, and ever remain, Sir,
Your true honorer and affectionate
Servant to be commanded,


For the worshipful John Farrar, Esq.,
at his Manor of Little Gidding, in


Hat tip to Sharron for this document.

About Roberta Estes

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