Thursday, September 27, 2012

Does Your Lost Colony Theory Rely upon a Map Mistake made in 1671?

Just a quick thought about all of those theories about the Lost Colony of Roanoke...

You can't necessarily use old maps showing "Croatan" on the mainland west of Roanoke Island to support your theory that the colonists lived in the swamps of this mainland peninsula... when naming this peninsula "Croatan" was a mistake based on an earlier mistake made by the Roanoke voyagers in the first place!

Two maps (and copies of these) showed "Croatan" where the old Indian town of Dasemunkepeuc used to be.  John Ogilby's map of 1671 was produced for Carolina's new owners, the Lords Proprietors, to facilitate their holdings and settlement in Carolina.  Ogilby never set foot in America and actually was a dance-instructor-turned cartographer who quickly made this map not long before his death.  

John Lawson, on the other hand, HAD visited America, but his engraver, John Senex (who had not), modified Lawson's original manuscript map, removing certain features and possibly filling in details from other maps available in London at the time.  Since Lawson was a deputy of the Lords Proprietors, it is reasonable to assume that he and Senex would have had access to their maps.  Senex may have copied this detail from John Ogibly or, assuming that Lawson was familiar with Ogilby's map already, he may have copied his assumption.  

A comparison of the 1671 John Ogilby map and the 1709 John Lawson/John Senex map - both maps were produced for the Lords Proprietors of Carolina.
The map that probably influenced Lawson's was the earlier map drawn, redrawn and enhanced by four men in London and elsewhere (but NOT America).  Very important to remember is that this map had a different source (Gascoyne's map of 1682) and was, perhaps, not influenced by a misreading of Hakluyt.  It is shown below, compared with Lawson's map of 1709:

Several revisions had already taken place as can be seen in North Carolina Maps' historical note (MC.150.1685w;MARS Id: This is the third state of a map originally created by John Thornton at the Platt in the Minories, and Robert Morden at the Atlas in Corn-hill, London. Philip Lea purchased the plate, erased Morden and Thornton from the cartouche, added his own address, and published the second state of the map about 1690. He also erased "Ashley & Cooper River" as a title to the inset. George Willdey purchased the map between 1725-1735, revised the imprint, and published the map otherwise unaltered as the third state. The listing of settlements, details of the rivers, and other interior information are similar to Gascoyne's map of 1682. The soundings and coastline are more similar with the Lancaster 1679 manuscript map. The date 1685 is based on the time that Thornton, Morden, and Lea appear together in publications regarding the map. The map to right is Lawson's version of 1709.
Here's a blowup of the Dasemunkepeuc area on the 1685 map:

Where's "Croatan"??  It's not here!  These four guys did not misread Hakluyt.
The only reference made to Croatoans ever having visited this area was when some were accidentally killed there while gathering the left-over corn left by the Indians of Dasemunkepeuc in their hasty retreat from the likes of murderous Ralph Lane.  Governor John White of the last Roanoke Colony (the "Lost Colony") mentioned that they had accidentally killed a couple of their friends, the Croatoans, because of this mistake.  Then, he visited Hatteras Island (then known as "Croatoan") to apologize.  Luckily, the apology was accepted and all was well.  The Croatoan apparently understood that it might be hard for a European to tell a Croatoan from a Dasemunkepeucan.  They were, after all, better nourished and somewhat brighter than the average European.  :)

John Ogilby probably read Richard Hakluyt's details in a Discourse on Western Planting, perhaps between dance lessons, and marked this area, now the location of modern "Beechland," "Mann's Harbor" and "East Lake" as "Croatan" by mistake.  Other map makers, however, read Hakluyt as well and may have not skimmed it too much.  I'm referring to Willdey, Morden, Thornton, and Lea who all four had worked on the 1685 map seen above that Lawson used as a base for his map.  Cartographers were seldom original back then.  

Herman Moll was the only cartographer who used Lawson's map as a base for his own.  You can tell because of the term "Gingite" (modern "Jean's Gite") on the Outer Banks and the unique triangular shape of Hatteras Island which only Lawson's map showed before Moll:

1732 Herman Moll map:  Where's Croatan!!??  Moll's been reading his Hakluyt again!  :)

Obviously, Moll read Hakluyt at little closer than Ogilby and left a large blank area in the area of Dasemunkepeuc, even though he copied his map from Lawson!  Why not use "Croatan" there?  Lawson did!  He knew that Lawson had copied his map from Ogilby's who was just flat wrong! That's why. 
Aside from Ogilby, Lawson, and the maps that were copied from theirs, there has been no other known written early references to this area called "Croatan" having any association whatsoever with the Croatoan Indians.  

Edward Moseley, not the most careful surveyor (although he was well-educated!), apparently interpreted "Croatan" to be an island in the same general vicinity of Dasemnkepeuc:

Edward Moseley maps of 1733 and 1737

Moseley was only interested in flattering the Lords Proprietors, the King, and the Society for the Propogation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG)... or the few people he felt were more important than himself.  lol  He hated Lawson, but it looks as though he may have had a copy of his book!  Another "lol" for that one!

The point is... everyone in the eighteenth century misread or misinterpreted each other!
Modern maps do not always continue to refer to the area of Mann's Harbor and East Lake as "Croatan," but the body of water between it and Roanoke Island still carries the name of "Croatan Sound."  Obviously, more than one historian and cartographer have fallen for this cartographic faux pas as well.  I know... messed up!

It was simply a mistake made by a London dance instructor in 1671.  If your theory relies on this flimsy evidence, you may want to re-think it... don't rely solely upon Lawson/Senex's map!  The best theory to date was the one that the last eyewitness of the Lost Colony colonists testified upon his return... Hatteras Island, "where the savages of the island [are] our friends," where the Croatoan Indians actually lived and may still live.  Then, there's the Chesapeake in Virginia [which is not my favorite].  At least, come up with some better theory than only a mere map reference to support it.  So much of "Lost Colony" lore is already strewn with fiction.