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Lost Colony clues found on coastal site that will become a NC natural area

First Colony Foundation curator Bly Straube compares pottery shards found at Site X to other 16th-century pottery in this 2015 photo. The Coastal Land Trust said Wednesday it has acquired the 1,000-acre site in Bertie County and plans to transfer it to state ownership.
First Colony Foundation curator Bly Straube compares pottery shards found at Site X to other 16th-century pottery in this 2015 photo. The Coastal Land Trust said Wednesday it has acquired the 1,000-acre site in Bertie County and plans to transfer it to state ownership. hlynch@newsobserver.com

A land conservation group has acquired 1,000 acres in coastal North Carolina that might hold clues to the disappearance of the Lost Colony.

The Coastal Land Trust said Wednesday it has acquired the property near the confluence of Salmon Creek and Albemarle Sound in Bertie County. The site holds swamps, hardwood forests and a freshwater marsh that the state has recognized as ecologically significant.

But those tantalized by the mystery of the 117 men, women and children who disappeared from Roanoke Island in the late 1580s have other reasons to appreciate the property.

Site X, as archaeologists call it, holds clues that might be linked to the ill-fated English colonists. They left behind dismantled homes and fortifications and “Croatoan” carved into a fence post, a possible reference to what’s now called Hatteras Island.

Research at the site by the First Colony Foundation has turned up Algonkian Indian artifacts and English relics from the colonists’ period that hint at settlement. Some researchers believe that’s evidence that Lost Colony survivors relocated to the area, 60 miles west of where they were last seen, after leaving Roanoke.

Before its acquisition by the land trust, the land trust said, the site had been been approved for a 2,800-unit development and marina.

Executive director Camilla Herlevich called the acquisition “the most ambitious and exciting project in the Coastal Land Trust’s history.” The trust has helped protect 68,000 acres of coastal land since 1992.

The Conservation Fund, a national group, loaned the group money to buy the land. The Conservation Fund will be repaid with public and private money. The Enviva Forest Conservation Fund also granted money for the project.

The Coastal Land Trust said it plans to raise $5 million to repay the acquisition costs, then transfer the site to the state parks division as the Salmon Creek State Natural Area. Legislators approved creation of the natural area this summer.

Bertie County officials said the acquisition will help protect the Albemarle Sound waterfront and boost ecotourism in the region.

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051, @bhender

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