Saturday, September 1, 2012

            Across the twilight of the ages past
            A spectral figure moves vague, undefined;
            And where it goes a shade comes o’er the mind,
            As‘t were some picture overcast.

IN the early part of the seventeenth century, that is, about the year 1615, or 1620, the Indian hunters who lived on Roanoke Island were greatly excited by seeing a milk-white doe among the herd of deer that were then commonly found on the island.

It attracted the attention of the hunters because it was the most beautiful one of all the herd, because it was the fleetest, and because the most skillful marksmen had never been able to kill it with an arrow. Okisco, a noted hunter, who lived among the Chawanooke tribe, was sent for, and he drew his bow upon the beautiful white doe, but he never could do her harm.
She came to be well known to the Indian hunters of Roanoke Island, and was often found on the situation of the old city of Raleigh, apart from the herd of deer, with her sad face toward the east. Again and again she was hunted, but all the arrows aimed at her life fell harmless beside her. She bounded over the sand-hills with the swiftness of the winds and always turned in the direction of Croatan.

Hunting parties of Indians were made up to entrap her by stationing themselves along the tracks of her flight, which had become known to the hunters by her always taking the same course. But all their efforts were without avail. The swift white doe seemed to have a charmed life, or to be under the protection of some Divine power. Everyone now talked of the white doe, and everyone had his own opinion about her. The braves, the squaws, and the papooses talked of the milk-white doe. Some had fears of evil from the strange apparition. Some thought she was the omen of good, and some thought it was the spirit of some sad departed.

Sometimes she would be seen on the high grounds of Croatan, sometimes in the swamps of Durant’s Island, sometimes upon the Cranberry bogs of East Lake, often on Roanoke Island near Raleigh City, and sometimes, though rarely, on the sands of Kill Devil Hills; sometimes alone, always sad and beautiful.

The news of the white doe spread far and wide, and old Wingina determined to call a council of chiefs to determine what to do.

Okisco, chief of the Chawanookes; Kuskatenew and Kilkokanwan, of the Yeopems, and others, attended the council. The all came with their attendants, all armed with their war weapons, the bow and arrow. They determined to have a grand hunt in the early Indian summer time, and without delay. In November, when the leaves had fallen and the earth was carpeted with its brown and russet covering of forest leaves, all the friendly chiefs came to Roanoke Island to join the fierce Wingina in his appointed hunt for the milk-white doe, and each with his chosen weapon of the chase.

The chiefs, after their feast, prepared by the wife of Wingina, agreed that they should station themselves along the course of the white doe when pursued by the hunters, and either exhaust her in the chase, or slay her with their deadly arrows. Wingina, the most powerful of all, took his place at Raleigh City, where the doe always passed and always stopped.

Old Granganimeo, the brother of Wingina, took his stand at Croatan Sound, where she crossed to Roanoke Island.

Okisco took his stand upon the goodly land of Pomonik, in the low grounds of Durant’s Island.

Kind old Manteo went up into the shaky land Wocokon, among the prairies and cranberry bogs of East Lake.
Minatonon, the fierce chief who made his home at Sequaton, took his stand at Jockey’s Ridge, by the sea, in the land of the Coristooks.

Wanchese took his stand at Kill Devil, in the country of Secotan.
Kill Devil Hills
Photo by David Martinek

They had all brought with them their best bows and arrows, and also their chosen archers. But the bow of Wanchese differed from the others. When, long ago, he had gone over the sea to England, the great Queen had given him an arrow-head made of solid silver, like the stone arrow-head that Armadas carried to Sir Walter Raleigh with his other Indian curiosities. It was made by her most expert workers in silver, and she told him it would kill the bearer of a charmed life that no other arrow could wound. Wanchese carried this with his other weapons, and determined to test its power upon the swift white doe.

Manteo started the doe in the shaky land of Wocokon. She started unharmed at the twang of the bow-string. She sped with the swiftness of the north wind’s breath. Through the tangle wood of Wocokon, through the bogs and morasses of Pomonik, across the highlands of Croatan, on, on, she went, and the twang of the bowstring was the harmless music of her flying bounds. She plunged into the billows of Croatan Sound. She reached the sand hills of Roanoke, leaving the Indian hunters far behind her. As she came to the island, old Granganimeo drew his bow and sped his harmless arrow. She stood upon the top of the old fort at Raleigh City, sniffed the breeze and looked sadly over the sea. Wingina carefully and steadily drew upon her panting side the deadly arrow. All in vain. She bounded into Roanoke Sound and across to the sea. Menatonon was at Jockey’s Ridge, but his arrow, too, was harmless. The panting white doe found time at the Fresh Ponds to slake her thirst, and the, turning to the sea that she seemed to love with an unnatural affection, sped onward, until she reached the steep hills of Kill Devil. There, alas! was her doom. Wanchese, taking aim with his silver arrow, aimed at her heart, let fly the fated bowstring, and the sad and beautiful milk-white doe sprang into the air with the fatal arrow in her heart, and fell to the ground.

Croatan National Forest

 Wanchese ran to the spot and found the victim writhing in the death agony. She lifted her dying, soft eyes to the red man and uttered her last sound, “Virginia Dare.” Under her throat the words “Virginia Dare” were plainly penciled in dark hair, and on her back was penciled in brown hair the name “Croatan.”

 [Source: Richard Benbury Creecy Grandfather’s Tales of North Carolina History. Raleigh, N.C.: Edwards and Broughton Printers. 1901, pages 15-18. ]


No comments:

Post a Comment