Atlanta Constitution

November 7, 1897


It seems to me that I am haunted by Indians.  The other night as I came from Macon to Atlanta my friend, Judge Hall, introduced me to Dr. Peterson, (*See Below) of St. Louis, a very learned and cultured gentleman who was connected with the ethnological department of the government and was engaged in examining Indian mounds and in writing up the history of the Indian tribes, especially of the five tribes known as civilized. Viz. The Cherokees, Creeks, Chickasaws, Choctaws and Seminoles.  As these were our Indians, I became much interested in this discourse, for he had been careful and diligent in his research, and what he knew, he knew well.  We talked about DeSoto and how, with a handful of brave soldiers, he overran this country and took captive as many Indian girls as his men wanted.

“Why did not these Indians overwhelm DeSoto and his handful of followers and extinguish them?” I asked. “Because," said the doctor, “they were paralyzed with fear of this new and aggressive race of people just as the Peruvians were paralyzed by Pizarro, who overran and conquered Peru with less than a hundred men.”

The doctor had been to eastern North Carolina investigating the tribe of 4,000 Croatans over there. They were originally called Hatteras Indians but about three hundred years ago Sir Walter Raleigh planted a colony of English and Portuguese on Roanoke Island and put them in charge of Governor John White, a very practical and accomplished gentleman. A few days after landing, Governor White’s daughter Eleanor, who had married a Mr. Dare. Gave birth to a child and she was named Virginia and so Virginia Dare was the first English child born on American soil.  Let the boys and girls remember that.  But no man knows anything more about her. 

Governor White and Sir Walter went back to England for supplies and farming tools for the colony and on their return trip got into a fight with some Spanish cruisers and lost their cargo and many of their men and had to go back to England, and it was several years before they made another venture and when they arrived at the island the colony was nowhere to be found and little Virginia has never been heard of.  The colony left some marks on a tree pointing to an Indian town called Croatan, but the town was deserted. 

The doctor’s investigations have satisfied him that the colony did not perish nor were they killed but that the men wanted wives and went into the interior and co-habited with the Croatans- for it was found a hundred years after that, these Indians were of mixed colors and many of them spoke broken or mixed English and Portuguese, although they had no intercourse with white people until the colony came nor for a hundred years after.  He believes that Virginia Dare probably grew up with those Indians and her descendants are now of mixed blood.

It seems that these Croatans were never Americanized until the last civil war when many of them came to the front with their guns and said they wanted to fight some.  They were accepted and enrolled and did fight for the confederacy.  During the war there was an election held in a county where some of them lived. And they were persuaded by an ambitious candidate to go to the polls and vote for him.  Their votes were challenged by the other fellow upon the ground they had some Negro blood in their veins.  They were very indignant and said, “When you want us to fight for you, we are same as white folks, when we want to vote, you say we are negurs.”  And so a committee of four doctors was appointed to examine them and say what they were.  The committee took them out to a sandy place in the road and had them take off their shoes and make tracks barefooted.  Five of them made very fair Anglo-Saxon tracks and were accepted, but of the other two the report was that the hollow of their feet made holes in the ground and they were rejected.  There are some of these Croatoans on Newman’s ridge, in Tennessee.

 I remember that, some years ago, a party of us were riding in the Negro car on the state road, and when we reached Kingston a colored convention of preachers got aboard and claimed the car.  Sanford Bell ordered us out, and we retired, of course, but one man did not move.  He was a dark, cadaverous individual with black eyes and black hair.  “What are you” said Sanford, “are you a white man or a Negro:   He smile and said; ‘Mine fader a Portugee, mine mudder a negur.”  Sanford looked perplexed and turning to one of the colored preachers, said “What must I do with him?” And he said “Let him alone I reckon.”  I learned afterwards that he was a Croatoan.

[This ends the part of the article dealing with Croatan and Newman's Ridge.]

*I believe this Dr. Peterson mentioned  is Cyrus Asbury Peterson who wrote a book on the mound builders.  He was born 1848 in Burke Co., NC and lived in St Louis -- see link -
See also this page for Dr. C. A. Peterson  jp