Friday, November 30, 2018

The Lost Colony & 16C Awareness of Potential Medicinal & Profit Possibilities of New World Plants like Sassafras

Probably the first ever illustration of Sassafras albidum - in Historia medicinal (1574).  Historia medicinal de las cosas que se traen de nuestras Indias Occidentales ("Medical study of the products imported from our West Indian possessions") is the standard title for the survey by Nicolás Monardes (1493–1588), Spanish physician & botanist. It appeared in successive editions under varying titles, gradually enlarged, in 1565, 1569 & 1574, followed by an unchanged reprint in 1580.

In 1552, during the early years of Spanish rule of "New Spain" (which covered Mexico, Central America, much of the Southwestern & Central United States, the Spanish West Indies & Spanish Florida) two Native American students at the College of Santa Cruz in Tlaltilulco, a physician Martinus de la Cruz & Juannes Badianus, compiled a list of herbs that had been used as medicines for centuries by the native populations. Martinus wrote, & probably illustrated, the original Aztec text, & Badianus translated the work into Latin. Today their work, Libellus de Medicinalibus Indorum Herbis which is Latin for “Little Book of the Medicinal Herbs of the Indians” is commonly called the Badianus Manuscript. Presently housed in the Vatican Library, The Badianus Manuscript is the oldest known American herbal.

The Badianus Manuscript of 1552 is the first illustrated & descriptive scientific text illustrating sassafras as a component of Nahua medicine & botany produced in the Americas. The original text was produced in Nahuatl & translated to Latin for European readers.

It is a significant text in the history of botany & the history of medicine. Badianus Codex was written in Nhuatl by the Aztec physician Martinus de la Cruz, translated by Juannes Badianus (latin), presented to the son of the first Viceroy of New Spain in 1552.  The manuscript was compiled 1552 by a young Aztec doctor, Martin de la Cruz “taught by no formal reasonings, but educated by experiments only” & describes a number of ailments suffered by the native people, together with recommended treatments.

This was the oldest known herbal which originated from the Americas.  The indigenous populations of the Americas had already developed very considerable botanical & medical knowledge by the time they were 'discovered' by Europeans. The native peoples of North & South America also used medicinal herbs. Over thousands of years, the people of North & South Americans accumulated a vast store of botanical & medical knowledge, a fact that surprised many European explorers when they began their conquest of the Americas in the 16C.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Lost Colony - What could Sassafras from the Americas Do for 16C & 17C Mankind ?

From 1569 Fronispiece of Historia medicinal de las cosas que se traen de nuestras Indias Occidentales ("Medical study of the products imported from our West Indian possessions") is the standard title for the survey by Nicolás Monardes (1493–1588).

Sassafras is a small tree, Sassafras albidum, belonging to the laurel family native to eastern North America. Sassafras grows in woodlands in rich sandy well-drained soil from Maine to Florida, reaching a height of about 75 ft (25 m). All parts of the sassafras tree are aromatic with a pleasant odor & a slightly sweet but astringent taste. The root & root bark were formerly used medicinally. The root is thick & woody. When alive, it is whitish but rapidly turns cinnamon-brown on exposure to air. Other names for sassafras are ague tree, cinnamon wood, saxifrax, saxafrax, & saloop. The first Europeans learned the uses of sassafras from the Native Americans, who as a group rank among the most astute botanical observers of all time. In the North American Appalachian mountains, the Cherokees utilized sassafras tea to purify blood & for a variety of ailments, including skin diseases, rheumatism, & ague. A poultice was made to cleanse wounds & sores, while the root bark was steeped for diarrhea or for “over-fatness” (certainly one of the first weight reduction remedies to hit the market).  Native Americans used this plant for a number of medicinal purposes. It was used to treat colds, flus, stomachaches, measles, rheumatism, insomnia, & arthritis. It was also thought to be important for preventing illnesses by cleaning the blood, bowels, & kidneys. Sassafras roots can still be boiled to make a tea, & can be ingested in moderation. The use of root beer made from sassafras roots dates back to the colonial times.

Monardes claimed he learned of sassafras from “a Frenche manne whiche had been in those partes [Florida].”  The Frenchman told Monardes that his countrymen in Florida “had been sicke…of greevous & variable deseases, & that the Indians did shewe them this Tree, & the maner how thei should use it, & so thei did, & thei healed of many evilles.”  The French in this case may have been  part of the failed settlement at Ft. Caroline, indicated by Monardes saying “the Frenche menne were destroied.” Monardes described sassafras as a panacea for many illnesses & praised God for its existence: “Blessed be our Lord GOD that deliuered vs from so great euill, & gaue vs this most excellente tree called Sassafras, which hath so great vertues, & worketh such mauellous effects as we haue spoken of, & more which Time wil shewe vs, which is the discouerer of all thinges.”  It was a general belief during the early modern period that “God often placed remedies for a disease in the areas where that disease flourished,” & since syphilis was of American origin, its cure surely was to be found in America.

 Mondardes claimed that hearing reports out of Florida of the beneficial uses of the tree gave him the “courage to experimente it.”  He used it on “a gentlewoman” suffering from “certaine indispositions of the Mother, & of greate colde,” & “was burdened in suche sorte with a verye greate Agewe.”  After following Monardes’ instructions on how & when to take sassafras water, the woman was “healed very well, of her disease.”  Monardes also healed “a yonng man which had an Opilation of certaine Tertians.  And thereof he was all swolne, & in such sort that he was well nere full of Dropsie” by treating him with “water of this sassafras” in conjunction with “Pilles of Ruibarbe, & by takying of Dialaca.”   Monardes healed a gentleman with “with foule deseased hands…which could not write…paste five or six letters,” upon drinking sassafras water ."  Reminiscent of plague doctors, Monardes used sassafras as a pomander because the sweet smell of the roots was “so acceptable it did rectifie the infected ayre.”  He carried it when treating patients, & in addition to the sassafras, Monardes believed he “was delivered by the healpe of God from the fyre, in the whiche we that were Phisitions went in.”

Monardes also heard anecdotes & eyewitness reports of the miraculous plant.  Spanish soldiers under the command of Pedro Menedez (the same Menedez who destroyed Ft. Caroline) drank sassafras water to ward off disease; a priest accompanying the soldiers cured his kidney stones by drinking sassafras water; a captain in Florida who was unable to walk & had to be carried by his soldiers was cured by sassafras; & a physician in Havana used sassafras to cure his patients of constipation.  In addition to the previously mentioned diseases (pregnancy pains [indispositions of the mother], fever & malaria [ague] edema [dropsy], blockages [opilations], arthritis [foul deseased hands], kidney stones, lameness, constipation), Monardes claimed sassafras could cure dysentery (staie the flux), headaches (griefes of the head), stomachaches (griefes of the Stomacke), bad breath (stinking breath), toothaches, gout, comfort the liver, engender clean blood, restore appetite (cause lust to meate), help digestion, consume winds, cause urination, cure bareness in men & women, cause weight gain, & reduce childbirth pains (evill of the Mother).  Monardes claimed that sassafras had “the same effectes that the reste of the water of the holie woodd, the China, & the Sarcaparillia dooeth.”  Monardes is referring to the four sudorific woods: sassafras, guaiacum, china root, & sarsparilla, all of which were found in America.

Monardes’ description of sassafras laid the foundation for future authors to understand the physical & medicinal properties of the sassafras & its leaves, roots, wood, & bark. A side by side comparison of John Frampton’s translation of Monardes’s Joyfull Newes, & the Thomas Johnson’s edition of John Gerard’s The herball or Generall historie of plantes (originally published by Gerard in 1597, edited Johnson edition published in 1633) demonstrates how Monardes’ work served as the cornerstone of knowledge for the English knowledge of sassafras for at least 2 generations.

The sweet & powerful smell of sassafras as described by Monardes’ Joyfull Newes & echoed by Gerard also appeared in the writings of Thomas Harriot.  Harriot, while visiting southern Virginia in the 1585, encountered & described sassafras as “a kind of wood of most pleasant & sweet smell, and of most rare virtues in physic for the cure of many diseases.”  Harriot advised his readers if they wanted to know about “the description, the manner of using, & the manifold vertues thereof,” they should read “the Booke of Monardus, translated & entituled in English, The joyfull newes from the West Indies.”  In 1631, Robert Fludd claimed that sassafras could be “scented by nauigators vpon” the shores of Guaiana & Virgina “sometimes before they can discerne any land.” In 1633, James Hart claimed the scent of sassafras wood in the West Indies could “be many miles carried into the aire, & by sailers smelt a farre off.”

Sassafras became the first major forest product shipped to the old world, where it was initially considered to be a wonder drug. Indeed, at the height of the “sassafras craze,” early colonists were burdened with a governmental requirement that each man produce 100 pounds of the sassafras per year or be penalized ten pounds of tobacco.

Once the source of a curative oil, tonic, & tea, sassafras was avidly sought by some 16C American explorers who hoped to make a fortune by exporting the root bark for medicinal uses.  Sassafras soon lost its popularity in Europe as a cure-all, but early American colonists, as well as native Americans, continued to use various parts of the tree to treat arthritis, colds, & diarrhea.  Sassafras extracts were added to soaps & perfumes, & the aromatic wood, thought to repel bed-bugs, was made into bedsteads.  Sassafras was also used to concoct a root beer-like drink.  According to Rebecca Rupp’s Red Oaks & Black Birches: The Science & Lore of Trees, sassafras tea was thought to cure scurvy, syphilis & other unpleasant maladies. It was served in London coffeehouses with milk & sugar. It was believed that ships with sassafras hulls were reputedly safe from shipwreck; chicken houses with sassafras roosting poles were reputedly free of lice; human bedsteads built from it were reputedly bedbug-less; & so on. Eventually, of course, the bottom fell out of the sassafras market as Europeans & Americans moved on to other faddish & trendy panaceas.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Lost Colony OR a "Hidden" Secret Treasure of Botanical Riches? - Harriot, Ralegh, & the Temptation of Sassafras

Sassafras Illustration 1574

Thomas Harriot's (1560-1621) life up to his teenage years is kind of a mystery.  But at 17, the Oxford County commoner pops up studying at the University of Oxford. Harriot got his degree in 1580 at St. Mary's Hall, & headed for London, where he was hired by Sir Walter Ralegh. By 1585 he was sailing for Virginia as a scientist/cartographer in Ralegh's expedition. On returning in 1586, Harriot wrote of his impressions of Virginia & its natives, A Briefe & True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, published in 1588. He had taken meticulous notes & made remarkably accurate drawings of the wildlife, fauna, & natives of the New World. Ralph Lane (c1530-October 1603), was also part of this expedition & wrote the introduction to Harriot's book

Next Harriot had joined Ralegh in Ireland, which the English were colonizing at that time. In 1598 he left Ralegh & entered the service of Gunpowder Plotter William Percy, 9th Earl of Northumberland, who gave him a pension & living quarters near London for the rest of his life.  Except for A Brief & True Report, Harriot published no books. At his death he left a large number of manuscripts on various scientific subjects: optics, algebra, & astronomy.  Although Harriot shared his observations with a group of correspondents in England, he did not publish them. One interest of Harriot is seldom mentioned. From his trip to Virginia it appears that he was enthusiastic about importing medicinal plants & sassafras from America. He speculated that sweet gum & other apothecary drugs would be an important source of revenue. And he appears to be right.

In their 1996 paper, Breadcrumbs:  Facts & Clues Regarding the 1587 “Lost Colony,” researchers Frederick L. Willard, Phillip S. McMullan, & Kathryn L. Sugg suggest an alternative motive for the disappearance of the colony. 

The North Carolina researchers relate that the importation of Virginia sassafras into England brought enormous monetary profits before the London market became flooded early in the 17th century.  A letter of Ralph Lane to Richard Hakluyt, 1585: “And we have found rich commodities & apothecaries & drugs."  Richard Hakluyt (1553-1616) was an English writer known for promoting the English colonization of North America through his Divers Voyages Touching the Discoverie of America & The Principall Navigations, Voiages, Traffiques & Discoueries of the English Nation.

In A Brief & True Report, Harriot mentions secret commodities, but he would not divulge their location to those who did not wish him well: “Two more commodities of great value one of certaintie, & the other in hope, not to be planted, but there to be raised & in a short time to be provided & prepared, I might have specified. So like wise of those commodities already set downe I might have said more; as of the particular places where they are founde ----; But because others then welwillers might bee therewithall acquainted, not to the good of the action, I haue wittingly ommited them: knowing that to those that are well dsposed I have uttered, according to my promise & purpose, for this part sufficient.”  In his list of commodities, he writes the word Sassafras but leaves the description blank.

Richard Hakluyt wrote to Sir Walter Raleigh letter in 1587: “One of your followers knows about the ‘certain secret commodities’ already discovered by your servants.”  At that time, the most promising commodity for export from the Roanoke Colony was sassafras.  John Brenton wrote to Sir Walter Raleigh, 1594: “A company of men manned a new ship & were paid weekly wages to ensure they would not go after ships for plunder, & they are to secure sassafras & instructed to seek out the 1587 colony.”

Apparently, many voyages to acquire sassafras are documented from 1587 to 1590.   Almost all of these voyages are associated with Sir Walter Raleigh, who had invested large sums of money in the ventures & knew about the secret commodity of sassafras.

In Seville Dr Nicolas Monardes, (1512-1588) described sassafras as having "the smell of Fenell, with muche sweetenesse of taste, & of pleasaunt smell insomuch that a little quantity of this Wood being in a chamber, filleth the ayre conteined in it, & the rinde hath some sharpnesse of taste the inner part hath little smel, the hogher part that containeth the bowes hath leaves: the which be greene after the manner of a Figge tree, with three poyntes. . . . They bee of collour a sadde Greene, & of a sweet smell, & muche more when they be dry. The Indians use to lay them beaten or stamped upon bruises, or when any man is beaten with dry blowes: & being dried they are used in medicinall thinges...At first we were given a fragment of this wood by Franciscus de Zennig, a most diligent pharmacist in Brussels, & a very good friend of mine. But in the past few years, large fragments were sent from London by other dear friends, C. V. Richard Garth, Hugo Morgan the royal pharmacist, & Jacob Garet, to me in Vienna, & these fragments were by the pound. Their smell & flavor indeed resembled fennel; once tasted however, they seemed to give a flavor more of that plant commonly called Draco, known to some as Tharco, known to makers of vinegar, & much more its bark. The wood with its bark is so similar to Tamarisk that if its smell & flavor didn’t prevent it, it could be taken for it. Its bark is blackish on the inside where it adheres to the wood, & is lavis. On the exterior, it is wrinkled & turns red from ash. This wood has begun to be more common then, & to be brought as almost entire tree trunks. But it has been learned that it also grows in Wingandecao, called Virginia by the English, who occupy it, & that from there, the boughs of this tree have been brought to England."

There appears to be a consignment of Sassafras in 1603 from Raleigh to Nurnberg:  September 10, 1603: Sir William Waad, Clerk of the Privy Council wrote to Cecil, enclosing a letter which had been intercepted on its way to Raleigh, who had been arrested on July 15th for treason. Information in it indicated that some of his American sassafras, consigned to Nurnberg for sale, had failed to arrive at its destination. The sassafras in question was several hundred weights.

On the map in Virgo Triumpans is a sassafras tree (at the location of the Tramansquecooc Indian village on the White 1585 map) & two English fortifications located at Fort Landing (on the Alligator River) & near the Chowanoc Indian village. Farrar clearly depicts a sassafras tree in this one location, & no other trees are identified.

From 1588 to 1608 hundreds of ships were sent out under Raleigh’s command or by investors in the Roanoke Colony, to seek reprisals & allegedly to search for the Lost Colonists.  The voyages that are known to have reached the Outer Banks & returned with sassafras are as follows:

The ship’s log of the Primrose, one of Drake’s ships that relieved the 1585 colony, has notations that there are large amounts of sassafras stored in the hold to take back to England, & that sassafras was the most valuable commodity in all of North America.

From 1600 to 1605 Samuel Mace is documented on five voyages to find the Lost Colony, & to trade copper for sassafras. He claimed he landed south of Roanoke & had to turn back every time because of “foul weather” (and yet he returned with sassafras every time).

Captain Martin Pring was sent in ships to find sassafras in 1603: On April 10, 1603, a Captain Martin Pring, in command of the Speedwell & Discoverer, sailed to North America & returned with their holds full of sassafras. Interestingly, they were reported to have landed far north of Roanoke Island, but at the same time, many accounts that Sir Walter Raleigh’s colony had again been contacted were reported from several sources.

In 1602 Samuel Mace, of Weymouth, who had been in Virginia twice before, was employed by Raleigh “to find those people which were left there in 1587. To whose succor he hath sent five several times at his own charges.” 

“At this last time, to avoid all excuse,”---for the former expeditions had accomplished nothing---Raleigh “bought a bark, & hired all the company for wages by the month: who departing from Weymouth in March last, 1602, fell forty leagues to the southwestward of Hatteras in 34 degrees or thereabout.” They spent a month here, & pretended that extremity of weather & loss of tackle prevented them from entering Hatteras Inlet, to which they had been sent.  They accomplished nothing, & yet didn’t fail to bring back sassafras.

Apparently, Raleigh & his investors were aggressively importing large amounts of sassafras into England, & that the location of the sassafras was Raleigh’s “lost” city

Cowen, David L. “Boom & Bust: Sassafras”. Apothecary’s Cabinet: News & notes from The American Institute of the History of Pharmacy. No 8. Fall 2004

Nicolás Monardes, Joyfull Newes out of the New-Found Worlde. Wherein are Declared, the Rare & Singuler Vertues of Divers Herbs, Trees, Plantes, Oyles & Stones, with their Applications, as well to the use of Phisicke as of Chirurgery. Englished by John Frampton (London: E. Allde, by the assigne of Bonham Norton), 1596; Apothecary’s Cabinet: 9.

The Bibliography from "Breadcrumbs" -

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Ford, Alexander Hume. “The Finding of Raleigh’s Lost Colony”. Appleton’s Magaine. The Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Department: The Collection of North Carolina. Registration #: Cp970.03,F69f. ID #: 00032198381. July 1907:

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McMullan, Phil. “A Search For The Lost Colony In Beechland”. Lost Colony Center for Science & Research: Northeastern NC Development. 2002:

McMullan, Phil. “Beechland & The Lost Colony”. North Carolina State University History Department: Dr. Holly Brewer, a thesis submitted to the Graduate Faculty of in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts. Archaeology for the Lost Colony, Lost Colony Center for Science & Research. 2010.

Miller, Lee. Roanoke: Solving The Mystery Of The Lost Colony. New York: Arcade Publishing. 2000

Monardes, Nicolás. Joyfull Newes out of the New-Found Worlde. Wherein are Declared, the Rare & Singuler Vertues of Divers Herbs, Trees, Plantes, Oyles & Stones, with their Applications, as well to the use of Phisicke as of Chirurgery. Englished by John Frampton. London: E. Allde, by the assigne of Bonham Norton. 1596

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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Lost Colony - Thomas Hariot's A Brief and True Report - The Third & Last Part

Thomas Hariot's A Brief and True Report
(Note: The following text is a modernization of the English language used from the original source, printed in 1590.)

A briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia
of the commodities and of the nature and manners of the natural inhabitants. Discovered by the English Colony there seated by Sir Richard Grenvile, Knight in the year 1585. Which remained under the government of twelve months, at the special charge and direction of the Honorable Sir Walter Raleigh, Knight, Lord Warden of the Stanneries who therein had been favored and authorized by her Majesty and her letters patents.

The Third and Last Part

I wish to say a few words concerning the different kinds of trees, which could be used for building and for ship's timber and also to list the lime, stone and brick we saw in that country. If I did not mention them, their existence might be doubted, or some malicious persons might say they are not found in Virginia. Fort Raleigh National Historic Site - Heritage Education Program

Oaks grow fair, straight, and tall and make as good timber as exists. There are a great number of them, and in some places they are very large.

Walnut trees. As I have said before, there are very many walnuts; we saw some growing above fourscore feet, straight and without a bough. They make excellent timber four or five fathoms long.

Fir trees, suitable for making ships' masts, grow very large and tall. Rakiock is a kind of sweet wood that the inhabitants in our vicinity use for their boats and canoes. They make their boats simply by the use of fire, stone hatchets, and shells for shaping them. Some of their canoes, made of a single tree, are large enough to carry twenty men and much baggage besides. The timber is thick, tall, straight, soft, and light, yet it is tough enough, I think, to be suitable also for the masts of ships.

Cedar is a sweet wood suitable for ceilings, chests, boxes, bedsteads, lutes, virginals, and many other things. Some of our company, who explored places where I did not go, affirm that cypress is to be found there. This wood has great value, many excellent uses, and is held in high estimation.

Maple and witch hazel. The natives make their bows of this wood. Holly is needed in making birdlime.

Willow may be used for making weirs and traps for catching fish in the English manner. The inhabitants use only reeds, which, since they are strong and flexible, serve the purpose well.

Beech and ash are good for cask hoops, plow work, and many other things.



Ascopo. This tree is very much like laurel, its bark spicy and hot in taste, similar to the tree which Monardus describes as cassia lignea of the West Indies.

Many other strange trees can be found there, whose names I know only in the Virginian language. I do not think it necessary to describe them in detail now, for I have named enough for timber and other uses. But I have no doubt that some of the woods I have not mentioned can be used to good advantage.

Stone, brick, and lime. Near the seacoast where we dwelt we could not find any stones save a few small pebbles about four miles away. All the stones had to be brought from the mainland. On some of our trips we saw several hard, ragged stones, great pebbles, and a kind of grey stone like marble, which the inhabitants used for their wood-cutting hatchets. When we inquired, we learned that a little farther inland there was an abundance of all kinds of stone. The natives are ignorant of quarries, and they do not keep a supply of stone. Every household has only one or two to crack nuts, grind shells, and whet copper, and also keeps a few in reserve for hatchets. They do no digging, except for their graves, which are about three feet deep. It is therefore not surprising that they have no quarries or any limestone, though both may exist near by, unknown to them. In the meantime, until a good supply is discovered in some convenient place, you, the future planters, could use brick for building. This could be easily made, as there is plenty of good clay in many places. Lime could be used for the same purpose, made of oyster or some other shells and burned as they do in the Isles of Thanet, Sheppey, and other parts of England. This kind of lime is known to be as good as any other. As for oyster shells-one can find them with the greatest ease and in great abundance in many places, particularly in one shallow sound along the coast. Here, for many miles along the shore and for three miles inland, the ground is covered with them.

A gentleman of our company found a great vein of hard, ragged stones a hundred and twenty miles from our fort, near the water in the side of a hill. I thought it good to tell you of this.

It remains to speak a word or two about the native inhabitants, their nature and manners, leaving detailed discourse about them until a later, more convenient time. Now it is only necessary to reassure you that they are not to be feared. I do not think they will trouble our living there or obstruct our farming. I rather believe that they will have cause both to fear and to love us.

The clothing of the natives consists of loose deerskin mantles and aprons of the same fur which they wear around their waists; they wear nothing else. In stature they differ one from another, much as we do in England. They have no edged tools or weapons of iron or steel to attack us with, nor do they know how to make them. The only weapons they possess are bows made of witch hazel, arrows made of reeds, and flat-edged wooden truncheons, which are about a yard long. For defense they wear armour made of sticks wickered together with thread, and they carry shields made of bark.

Their towns are small and few, especially near the seacoast, where a village may contain but ten or twelve houses-some perhaps as many as twenty. The largest town we saw had thirty houses. In many cases the villages are walled with stakes covered with the bark of trees or with poles set close together.

The houses are built of small poles attached at the top to make them round in shape, much like the arbors in our English gardens. The poles are covered from top to bottom either with bark or with mats woven of long rushes. The dwellings are usually twice as long as they are wide; sometimes they are only twelve or sixteen yards long, but we have seen them as much as twenty-four yards in length.

In one part of the country a Weroans, or chief, may govern a single town, but in other parts the number of towns under one chief may vary to two, three, six, and even to eight or more. The greatest Weroans we met governed eighteen towns, and he could muster seven or eight hundred warriors. The language of each chief's territory differs from that of the others, and the farther apart they are, the greater the differences.

Their manner of making war against each other is by a surprise attack, either in the dawn of day or by moonlight, by ambush, or by some such subtle trick. Set battles are very rare. When they do take place, it is always in the forests, where the natives may defend themselves by leaping behind a tree after they have shot their arrows.

If we should ever fight the inhabitants, the results can easily be imagined. We have great advantages over them, for we have disciplined soldiers, strange weapons, devices of all sorts, and especially we have large and small ordnance. So far we found their best defense against us was to turn on their heels and run away.

Compared with us, the natives are poor. They lack skill and judgment in using the materials we have and esteem trifles above things of greater value. But if we consider that they lack our means, they are certainly very ingenious. Although they do not possess any of our tools, or crafts, or sciences, or art, yet in their own way they show excellent sense. In time they will find that our kinds of knowledge and crafts accomplish everything with more speed and perfection than do theirs. Therefore, when they realize this, they will most probably desire our friendship and love, and, respecting our achievements, they will try to please and obey us. Whereby, if we govern them well, they will in a short time become civilized and embrace the true religion.

They have already a religion of their own, which is far from the truth, yet for that reason there is hope that it may sooner and more easily be reformed.

They believe in many gods, which they call Mantoac. These gods are of different kinds and degrees. Their chief god has existed from all eternity. They affirm that when he created the world, he first made the other principal gods, in order to use them in the creation and government to follow. Then he made the sun, the moon, and the stars. The petty gods act as instruments of the more important ones. The natives say that the waters of the world were made first and that out of these all creatures, both visible and invisible, were formed.

As to the creation of mankind, they think that the woman came first. She conceived and brought forth children fathered by one of the gods, and in this way the natives had their beginning. But how many ages or years have passed since then, they do not know, for they have no writing or any means of keeping records of past time, only the tradition, passed on from father to son.

They believe that all the gods have human shapes; therefore they represent them by images in the form of men and call the images Kewasowok. A single god is called Kewas. These images are set up in temples which they call Machicomuck. Here the natives worship, pray, sing, and make frequent offerings to the gods. In some of these temples we saw only one Kewas, but others had two or three. Most of the natives think that the images themselves are the gods.

The natives believe also in the immortality of the soul. They say that after this life the soul departs from the body, and, according to its works in life, it is either carried to heaven, where the gods live, or else to a great pit or hole. In heaven it enjoys perpetual bliss and happiness, but in the pit, which is situated at the farthest part of their world toward the sunset, it burns continually; this place they call Popogusso.

In confirmation of this belief, they told me stories about two persons who had lately died and revived again. One occasion was but a few years before we came to Virginia and concerned a wicked man who died and was buried. The day after the burial the natives saw that the earth of his grave had begun to move, and took him up again. The man made a declaration, saying that his soul had been about to enter into Popogusso, when one of the gods had saved him and given him leave to return to earth to teach his friends what they should do to avoid that terrible place of torment.

The other event happened during the year we were in Virginia in a town only about threescore miles away. Again a dead man had been buried and had returned to the earth. He related that his soul had travelled far along a wide road, on both sides of which grew the most delicate and pleasant trees, bearing rare and excellent fruits of such fine qualities that he could scarcely describe them. At length he came to some beautiful houses, where he met his dead father. The father instructed him to go back to earth and to tell his friends that he was enjoying the pleasures of heaven, and after he had done so to return.

Whether or not the Weroans and priests use subtle devices with the common people, the belief in heaven and the fiery pit makes the simple folk give strict obedience to their governors and behave with great care, so that they may avoid torment after death and enjoy bliss. Evil-doers have to pay for their crimes in this world, nevertheless. Thievery, whoremongering, and other wicked acts are punished with fines, beatings, or even with death, according to the seriousness of the offense.

This sums up their religion. I learnt of it from some of their priests with whom I became friendly. They are not fully convinced of its truth, for in conversing with us they began to doubt their own traditions and stories. They expressed great admiration for our religion, and ihany showed an earnest desire to learn more than we, with our small knowledge of their language, were able to tell them about it.

They marvelled at all that we had, such as mathematical instruments, mariner's compasses, the loadstone, which attracted iron, a perspective glass, in which they saw many strange sights, burning glasses, fireworks, guns, books, and spring clocks that seemed to go by themselves. All these things were beyond their comprehension, just as reading and writing were utterly strange to them. They could not understand how they were constructed and how they worked and thought all these things must have been made by the gods or that the gods must have presented them and taught us how to make them. Therefore they began to admire us and thought it wise to learn the meaning of the true God and the true religion. Seeing our abilities and possessions, they believed more readily in our words.

Many times and in every town I came to I described the contents of the Bible as often as I could. I told the natives that there was set forth the only true GOD and His mighty works, with the true doctrine of salvation through Christ. I related the miracles and the chief points of religion to them, as many as I thought fit and could recount at the time. And although I told them that the book itself had no great virtue, but only the doctrine it contained, still they wished to touch, embrace, and kiss it, and to bold it to their breasts and heads and stroke their whole bodies with it. Thus did they show their hungry desire for its knowledge.

Wingina, the chief with whom we lived, and many of his people joined us often at our prayers. He called upon us many times, both in his village and in other villages where he accompanied us, to pray and to sing Psalms, hoping thereby to benefit from the effects we also expected from those means.

On two different occasions this Weroans was so seriously ill that he seemed likely to die. As he lay languishing, he doubted that his own priests could help him; therefore he sent for us and asked us to pray to our God that he might either live or dwell in bliss with Him after death. And not only he but also many other natives asked us to pray for them.

Another time their corn began to wither because of an unusual drought. They feared that this had come to pass because they had displeased us in some way. A few of them came to us asking that we should pray to our English God that he should preserve their corn, and they promised that when it was ripe they would share the harvest with us. Whenever they suffered from some sickness, loss, accident, or other misfortune, they believed that this came to pass because they had offended or displeased us.

Before I come to the end of my narrative I want to mention one other rare and strange occurrence which moved the inhabitants of the whole country to a wonderful admiration for us. When trickery was practiced against us in any town, we were careful to leave it unpunished, because we wanted to win the friendship of the natives through gentleness. But strangely it happened that within a few days of our departure the people began to die very fast. In some towns twenty people died, in some forty, in some sixty, and in one sixscore; this was a large portion of the inhabitants. And the strange thing was that this occurred only in towns where we had been and where they had done some mischief against us, and it happened always after we had left. The disease with which they were stricken was so strange a one that they did not know anything about it or how to cure it. Even their elders could not remember the like ever having happened before. After this disease had struck in four or five places, some of our native friends, especially Chief Wingina, were persuaded that it was we who brought it about, helped by our God. They thought that through Him we were able to slay anyone at any place and without the use of weapons.

From that time on, whenever they heard that any of their enemies had abused us on our journeys and that we had not punished them, they begged us to let our God bring about the death of these enemies. This they alleged would be to our credit and profit, as well as to theirs, and they hoped we would grant their request because of the friendship we professed for them. We explained that such entreaties were ungodly and that our God would not be ruled by such prayers and requests from men; rather, all things are done according to His pleasure and as He ordains. We said that we ought to pray to Him, on the contrary, to show ourselves His true servants and ask that these enemies might know His truth and serve Him in righteousness, so that they could live together with us. And we told them that everything would be done in accordance with the divine will and pleasure of God, as He ordained to be best in His wisdom.

It happened that shortly after this the disease struck their enemies just as they had desired. They thought we had brought it about, disguising our intentions from them. They thanked us profoundly for fulfilling their wish even though we had not promised to do so.

Because of this marvelous accident all the natives throughout the country began to have a wonderful opinion of us, and they were not sure whether to consider us gods or men. Their wonderment increased when they saw that not one of our number became ill during their sickness, nor did any of us die. They also noted that we had no women with us, nor did we care for any of theirs. Some of them were of the opinion that we were not born of woman and were therefore not mortal but were men of a past generation who had risen again to immortality.

They prophesied that more of our generation would yet come to this country to kill them and to take away their homes. They imagined that these men who were to arrive they shot invisible bullets into the victims who died in their villages, after us were already in the air, invisible and without bodies, and that inflicting this punishment at our instigation because they loved us.

And as their medicine men could not cure the strange disease, they tried to excuse their ignorance by shamefully encouraging the simple people to believe that the death was caused by invisible bullets. To prove it they sucked strings of blood out of the sick bodies and said these were the strings to which the bullets were attached.

Yet some of the natives did not believe in the invisible bullets. They thought that we shot our enemies from a distance, killing anyone who offended us, no matter how far away he was. Still others said it was the work of God for our sakes, and we ourselves had reason to agree with them, no matter what other causes there might be. Astrologers believed that the reason of these strange happenings might be the eclipse of the sun which we saw during our outward voyage, or it might be caused by a comet which appeared a few days before the sickness began. But I do not myself think that these outward causes brought about these special accidents. There must have been other reasons, on which I will not speculate at present.

Thus, I have given the opinions of the native inhabitants in detail to show you that there is good hope that they may be brought to embrace the truth through discreet handling and wise government and consequently will come to honor, obey, fear, and love us. Although towards the end of the year some of our men were too harsh with them and killed a few of their number for offenses which might easily have been forgiven, still the natives thought the punishment just and did not change their friendly attitude toward us. I do not believe that they are likely to change their general good opinion of us, and if we are careful at all, they need not be feared. Nevertheless, we must hope for the best and try to do our best, taking care to remove the causes for any discontent among them.

I hope I have related enough about the country so that those who have been indifferent to it will like it, even if they do not know any more than I have mentioned. Without doubt there is much still to be discovered, as to both the commodities and the soil itself.

Everything I have spoken of was found not far from the seacoast where we lived. Sometimes we made journeys farther into the mainland, and there we found the soil richer, the trees taller, the ground firmer, and the topsoil deeper. We saw there more and larger fields and finer grass, as good as any in England. In some places the ground was high, rocky, and hilly, fruits grew plentifully, beasts lived in greater abundance, the country was more thickly populated, the towns and houses larger, and the communities better ruled.

Why, then, may we not expect even more and greater plenty from the inland parts? The Spaniards found this to be the case when they discovered the mainland of the West Indies. I am sure that the mainland of this country, Virginia, extending in some directions many hundreds of leagues, will yield many excellent commodities which we have not yet seen. We have certain knowledge that the country is vast-and this is not only from the tales of the inhabitants-although no Christian ruler has any trade or possessions there.

From the nature of the climate we gather that the land is similar to Japan, China, Persia, Jerusalem, the Islands of Cyprus and Candy, the southern parts of Greece, Italy, and Spain, and other famous countries. Not to be tedious, I leave to your own consideration what hopes this gives us.

The air is much warmer there in all seasons than it is in England, yet it is always temperate, never so violently hot as near the tropics. As to the wholesomeness of the climate, I need say only that we lived entirely on the food and water of the country for all but twenty days.

The foods were at first very strange to us and might have been expected to change our body temperatures and to bring about grievous and dangerous diseases, yet this was not so. Nor did we have our own means of catching beasts, fish, and fowl, and we had to depend upon native devices. Therefore we could not quickly and easily procure these foods in sufficient quantities or choice as would have satisfied and contented us. We also suffered for lack of clothing. Furthermore, in all our travels, even in winter, we lived in the open and slept on the ground. Yet despite all these discomforts, out of the hundred and eight men of our company only four died during the entire year of our stay. These four men died toward the end of the year, and none because of privation and hardship. They had all been sickly when we left England, and the wonder was that they ventured to travel and lived as long as they did.

I hope there no longer remains any reason for disliking the Virginia project. The air is temperate and wholesome there, the soil is fertile and yields the commodities I have listed, and the voyage over the ocean has been so many times performed that we now know it can be done three times a year in any season. Moreover, Sir Walter Raleigh has been liberal in granting large tracts of land there. The least he has given to any man has been five hundred acres, besides many other aids.

Those travelling to Virginia to live and plant there need carry only provisions for the first year, as the last expedition did. Then, with reasonable diligence and care, they can easily supply themselves with plenty of excellent food thereafter. More English cattle should be transported; likewise our varieties of fruits, roots, and herbs may be planted there. Some of them have already been sown and have grown well. And in a short time the planters may raise the commodities I have described. These will enrich themselves and those who trade with them.

This is all the fruits of our labors that I have thought necessary to tell you at the present. As to more concerning the nature and manners of the inhabitants of Virginia, the number and particularities of the voyages made thither, the undertakings of the men employed there and in the project by Sir Walter Raleigh, this matter I shall publish later.

Many of the men of our company are worthy to be remembered: the first discoverers of the country; Sir Richard Grenville, our General at that time; Ralph Lane, his successor and our Governor; and others who worked under their government. Besides these, the captains of our vessels and the masters of the supply ships should be mentioned, as well as the present Governor and Assistants. I have a discourse ready, written in the manner of a chronicle, dealing with all these and many other persons and occurrences, and when the time is convenient it will be published. Thus, referring my discourse to your favorable reception, awaiting the good success of the project from Him who is the acknowledged Author and Governor, not only of this but of all things else, I take my leave of you this month of February, 1588.

Monday, November 26, 2018

The Lost Colony - Thomas Hariot's A Brief and True Report - Part 2

Thomas Hariot's A Brief and True Report
(Note: The following text is a modernization of the English language used from the original source, printed in 1590.)

A briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia
of the commodities and of the nature and manners of the natural inhabitants. Discovered by the English Colony there seated by Sir Richard Grenvile, Knight in the year 1585. Which remained under the government of twelve months, at the special charge and direction of the Honorable Sir Walter Raleigh, Knight, Lord Warden of the Stanneries who therein had been favored and authorized by her Majesty and her letters patents.

The Second Part


Pagatowr is a kind of grain. It is called maize in the West Indies; Englishmen name it Guinea wheat or Turkey wheat, after the countries from which a similar grain has been brought. This grain is about the size of our ordinary English peas and, while similar to them in form and shape, differs in color, some grains being white, some red, some yellow, and some blue. All of them yield a very white and sweet flour which makes excellent bread. We made malt from the grain while we were in Virginia and brewed as good an ale of it as could be desired. It also could be used, with the addition of hops, to produce a good beer. The grain increases on a marvelous scale-a thousand times, fifteen hundred, and in some cases two thousand fold. There are three sorts, of which two are ripe in ten, eleven, and, at the most, twelve weeks, when their stalks are about six or seven feet in height. The third one ripens in fourteen weeks and is ten feet high. Its stalks bear one, two, three, or four heads, and every head contains five, six, or seven hundred grains, as near as I can say. The inhabitants not only use it for bread but also make food of these grains. They either parch them, boiling them whole until they break, or boil the flour with water into a pap.

Okindgier we called beans, because they are like the beans in England, except that they are flatter, more varied in color, and some are pied. The leaf on the stem is also different. However, they taste as good as our English peas.

Wickonzowr. We named these peas to distinguish them from the beans, because they are much smaller. They differ little from the beans, though they taste different and are far better than our English peas.

Both the beans and the peas ripen in ten weeks. The natives boil them in a broth, where the beans are reduced to small pieces or boil them whole until they are soft and begin to break, as we prepare them in England. These peas are either cooked by themselves or mixed with wheat. Sometimes after they have been boiled whole they are pounded in a mortar and made into loaves or lumps of doughy bread.

Macocqwer. This is the native name for what we call pumpkins, melons, and gourds. In Virginia there are several varieties of this family, all of which taste very good. There are two varieties of macocqwer, one of which is ripe in a month, the other in two months.

There is an herb which is called melden in Dutch. Some people to whom I have described it believe that it is a kind of orach [mountain spinach]. It grows about four or five feet high, and the natives make a thick fine-tasting broth of its seeds. From the stalk of the herb they produce a kind of salt by burning it to ashes. This is the only salt they know, and they season their broths with it. We ourselves have used the leaves for pot-herbs.

There is also another large herb, which resembles the marigold, about six feet high. The head is a span in width with the flower. Some believe it to be planta solis [sunflower] From its seeds a kind of bread and also a broth are made.

All the commodities I have described are planted, sometimes separately, but more often mixed together in one plot. To make you understand the fertility of the soil, I will explain briefly how the natives prepare the ground and how they go about the planting.

They never enrich the soil with refuse, dung, or any other thing, nor do they plough or dig it as we do in England. They simply break the upper part of the ground to raise up the weeds, grass, and old stubs of cornstalks with their roots. This is done by the men a few days before they sow, using wooden instruments made almost like mattocks or hoes with long handles, while the women sit on the ground helping with short peckers or parers about a foot long and five inches in breadth. After the weeds have dried in the sun for a day or two, the refuse is scraped up into many small heaps and burned to ashes. This they do to save themselves the labor of carrying it away, rather than to enrich and better the ground.

Then they sow the seed. For corn they begin in one corner of the plot and make a hole with a pecker. They put four grains into each hole, about an inch apart, taking care that they do not touch one another, and cover them with soil. The seeds are planted in rows, each row spaced half a fathom or a yard from the last, and the holes in each row are the same distance apart. Thus, there is a yard of spare ground between the holes, where the natives sometimes set beans and peas or plant macocqwer, melden, and sunflowers.

The planted ground, compared with an English acre of forty rods in length and four in breadth, yields at least two hundred London bushels of corn, beans, and peas, in addition to the crop of macocqtver, melden, and sunflowers. In England we think it a large crop if an acre gives forty bushels of wheat.

So that you who will live and plant there may know how much that country's corn is to be preferred to ours, I thought it good to tell you this. Besides the many ways it may be used for food, the yield is so great that little labor is needed in comparison with what is necessary in England. Of this I can assure you, for according to our experiments we found that one man may prepare and cultivate as much ground (which has borne corn before) with less than twenty-four hours' labor as will supply him food in abundance for a year. This is true even though he has no other food save what was grown in that ground, and of no other kinds than those I have spoken of, and even if the plot were only twenty-five yards square. If it were necessary, two crops could be raised on the same plot. For the natives sow at any time from the middle of March until the end of June and can still plant after they have eaten from their first harvest. We have heard that in some places they do harvest two crops from the same ground.

As to English corn, whether you who will live there should wish to use it or not, you may decide as you think best after trial. You need not doubt that it will grow, for we have seen the proof with barley, oats, and peas. We did not purposely plant these; the seeds fell casually in the worst sort of ground, and yet they grew to be as fair as any we have ever seen in England. We could not try our wheat, because it was musty and had soaked up salt water, nor could we test our rye.

There is an herb called uppowoc, which sows itself. In the West Indies it has several names, according to the different places where it grows and is used, but the Spaniards generally call it tobacco. Its leaves are dried, made into powder, and then smoked by being sucked through clay pipes into the stomach and head. The fumes purge superfluous phlegm and gross humor2 from the body by opening all the pores and passages. Thus its use not only preserves the body, but if there are any obstructions it breaks them up. By this means the natives keep in excellent health, without many of the grievous diseases which often afflict us in England.

This uppowoc is so highly valued by them that they think their gods are delighted with it. Sometimes they make holy fires and cast the powder into them as a sacrifice. if there is a storm on the waters, they throw it up into the air and into the water to pacify their gods. Also, when they set up a new weir for fish, they pour uppowoc into it. And if they escape from danger, they also throw the powder up into the air. This is always done with strange gestures and stamping, sometimes dancing, clapping of hands, holding hands up, and staring up into the heavens. During this performance they chatter strange words and utter meaningless noises.

While we were there we used to suck in the smoke as they did, and now that we are back in England we still do so. We have found many rare and wonderful proofs of the uppowoc's virtues, which would themselves require a volume to relate. There is sufficient evidence in the fact that it is used by so many men and women of great calling, as well as by some learned physicians.

Openauk is a kind of round-shaped root the size of walnuts or larger. It is found in moist or marsh grounds growing together in ropes, as though fastened with string. When boiled it makes a very good food.

Okeepenauk is also round in shape, but is found in dry places. Some of these roots are as large as a man's head. They have to be eaten as soon as they are taken out of the ground, because they are dry and will neither boil nor roast. They do not taste as good as the first-named kind, but even so the inhabitants eat them with fish or meat, especially when they do not have bread or wish to vary their food. In my judgment it is as good as the English household bread made of rye.

Kaishucpenauk is a white root about the size and shape of a hen's egg. It does not taste as good as the other; therefore we did not pay much attention to the manner of its growth. Still, the inhabitants often boil and eat it.

Tsinaw is much like the root called China root here in England, which is brought from the East Indies. And for all we know, it may even be the same. The roots grow in large clusters, the stalk is like that of a briar, but the leaf has a very different shape. It grows near trees, and sometimes climbs to the top of the highest. The fresh-dug roots are chopped into small pieces and pounded, and the juice formed by the adding of water is strained and used to make bread. When the root is boiled it gives a very good spoon-meat [pudding] like a jelly and is even better if the taste is tempered with oil. This tsinaw cannot be the same as China root, for it has been discovered since China root was brought into England; the roots are, however, very similar in shape.

Coscushaw. Some of our men believed this to be the same root Which the Spaniards of the West Indies call cassavy; we therefore gave it the same name. It grows in muddy pools and moist ground. Prepared in the native fashion, cassavy makes not only a good bread but also a good spoon-meat. The juice of this root is poison, and for this reason care must be taken before anything is made with it. Either the roots must first be sliced and dried in the sun or by a fire and pounded into flour, or else they must be peeled while they are green, cut into pieces, and then beaten. The loaves made from the our must) e ai' near or over the fire until they are sour. After this they are well pounded again, and the bread or spoon-meat made from them has a very good taste.

Habascon is a root like a parsnip in size and shape and hot in taste. It is not used by itself, but is boiled to flavor other foods.

There are also leeks in many parts of the country, differing very little from ours. We gathered and ate them, but the native inhabitants never did.

Chestnuts grow in great abundance in several places. The natives eat them raw, or crushed and boiled; they also make the same kind of dough bread from the boiled chestnuts that they do from the beans.

Walnuts are of two kinds, and there is an infinite number of both. In some of their great forests a third of the trees are walnut. The one kind is very similar in taste and form to the English walnut, only harder and thicker shelled. But the other kind is larger, with a hard and ragged shell. The kernels of the fruit are very oily and sweet. The inhabitants either eat them or make a milk of them by breaking the nuts with stones and grinding the powder in a mortar with water. This they add to their spoon-meat, their boiled wheat, peas, beans, and pumpkins, thus giving the food a far more pleasant taste.

Medlars are an excellent fruit, which are not tasty until they are rotten-ripe, They are about the size of our medlars and open at the head as ours do, but otherwise they differ both in taste and color. Their color is as red as cherries, and their taste is sweet, but while the cherry's sweetness is sharp, medlars are luscious.

Metaquesunnauk. This is a pleasant fruit, almost the same shape and size as our English pear. Its color is a perfect red, both inside and out. The plant that bears it has thick leaves full of prickles, sharp as needles. Men who have visited the Indies and seen there the kind of red dye called cochineal relate that its plant is very like that of metaquesunnauk. Whether they speak of the true cochineal or of a wild variety I cannot say, as I think that true cochineal does not come from the fruit, but is found on the leaves of the plant.

Grapes. I have mentioned two kinds of grapes under the marketable commodities.

Strawberries found in Virginia are as good and as large as those we have in our English gardens.

Mulberries, crab-apples, and whortleberries are the same as those we have in England.

Sacquenummener. These berries look like capers, but are somewhat larger. They grow in clusters on a plant or herb found in shallow waters. If boiled eight or nine hours they give good, wholesome food, but if they are eaten raw they will make a man frantic and extremely sick for a time.

There is also a variety of reed which bears a seed much like our rye or wheat and when boiled, makes a good food.

In our travels we found in some places wild peas very much like our English peas, except that they were smaller.

There are five different sorts of berries or acorns growing on trees, The kinds called sagatemener, osamener, and pummuckoner are dried upon a fire on a hurdle made of reeds, very much as we dry malt in England. When the berries are ready, the natives water them until they are soft, then boil them. They are eaten either raw or pounded into loaves or lumps of bread. The berries are also used for-making sweet oil.

Another kind is the sapummener, which, boiled or parched, tastes like chestnuts and is eaten in much the same way.

The fifth kind is called mangummenauk. The acorns are dried like the other berries and then soaked and boiled. Not only the ordinary natives but also the chiefs themselves eat them with fish or flesh, instead of bread.

Deer. In some places there are a great number of deer. Near the seacoast their size is that of our ordinary English deer, though sometimes they are smaller; but farther inland, where there is better feed, they are larger. They differ from our deer in two ways: their tails are longer, and the snags of their horns point backward.

Conies, or rabbits, are gray in color like hares. In some places there are so many that the people of the towns make mantles for themselves of the fur or down from the skins.

Saquenuckot and maquowoc, two small animals somewhat larger than rabbits, make good meat. We have not caught any of them, but ate many which the natives brought to us.

Squirrels. We caught and ate gray squirrels.

Bears are black in color. In the winter the natives shoot and eat a great many, just as we did. They are hunted in certain islands or in places where they are especially abundant. When the bears perceive a man, they run away, and when they are chased, they climb the nearest tree, from which the natives shoot them down. We too have hunted them and killed them with our muskets.

I have the names of twenty-eight different kinds of beasts which I have been told are found in various parts of the country. Of these we have so far discovered only twelve, and those which are good for food I have already mentioned. At times the natives kill a lion and eat it, and we ourselves have eaten their wolves or wolfdogs. These I have not set down as good meat, lest my judgment in the matter be thought more simple than it is. I could describe, though, how different is the taste of the Virginia wolves from that of our English ones, for some of our company have eaten both.

Turkey cocks and turkey hens, stockdoves, partridges, cranes, and herons. Swans and geese, which could be had in winter in great abundance, may be added to these. I have noted in the native language the names of eighty-six different kinds of fowl. Besides those I have already named, we have caught and eaten, as well as made pictures of, several different varieties of waterfowl and seventeen kinds of land fowl. We have seen and eaten many others as well, but had not the leisure to draw pictures of them. When we make further discoveries and have better examples, I shall publish all we know about the strange beasts, fish, trees, plants, and herbs there.

We found also parrots, falcons, and merlins, which we do not use for food, but I thought it would be well to mention them for other reasons.

For four months of the year-February, March, April, and May-there are plenty of sturgeon and herring. Some of these fish are the size of those we find commonly in England, but most of them are far larger-eighteen, twenty inches, and some two feet in length and more. We found them to be a most delicate and pleasant food.

There are also trout, porpoises, rays, oldwives, mullets, plaice, and many other varieties of excellent fish which we caught and ate. I know their names only in the language of the country. But we made pictures of twelve different kinds of fish while we were there.

The natives catch fish in two different ways: one is by trapping them in a kind of weir made of very strong reeds; the other is by using a pole sharpened at one end, and spearing the fish in much the same way as Irishmen cast darts. This they do either while wading in the shallows or while rowing in their boats.

There are also plenty of shellfish, sea crabs such as we have in England, and large and small oysters. They are found both in salt and brackish water, and, as in our own country, those taken from salt water are the best. Besides these, there are mussels, scallops, periwinkles, and crayfish. Seekanauk, a kind of crusty shellfish, is a good food. It is about a foot wide, has a crusty tail, many legs, like a crab, and its eyes are set in its back. It can be found in salt-water shallows or on the shore.

Tortoises, both of the land and sea varieties, are more than a yard in breadth, with thick shells on their backs and bellies. Their heads, feet, and tails look very ugly, like those of a venomous serpent. Nevertheless, they are very good to eat, as are their eggs.

Thus, I have told about all the kinds of food eaten in Virginia that I can remember and that are worthy of mention.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Lost Colony - Thomas Hariot's A Brief and True Report - Part 1 Merchantable Commodities

Thomas Hariot's A Brief and True Report
(Note: The following text is a modernization of the English language used from the original source, printed in 1590.)

A briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia
of the commodities and of the nature and manners of the natural inhabitants. Discovered by the English Colony there seated by Sir Richard Grenvile, Knight in the year 1585. Which remained under the government of twelve months, at the special charge and direction of the Honorable Sir Walter Raleigh, Knight, Lord Warden of the Stanneries who therein had been favored and authorized by her Majesty and her letters patents.

The first part of Merchantable Commodities

Grass silk. There is a kind of grass in the country which has a thin, glistening, skin. When this is stripped off, it makes very good silk. The grass grows two feet and a half high or even more, while the blades are about two feet long and half an inch broad. A similar kind can be found in Persia, which has the same climate as Virginia. If one cultivated the grass as the Persians do, it could quickly become a profitable business, because silk is widely used and sold both in our country and elsewhere. And when the grass is planted in good ground, it will grow larger, better, and more plentiful, although there is even now a great abundance of it growing wild in many parts of the country. We tested this grass on our return to England, by making a piece of grosgrain silk, and found it of excellent quality. 

Worm silk. In many of our journeys we came across fine, large silkworms, as big as walnuts. Although we did not find them in such abundance as we heard that they existed in other parts of the country, yet since they grow so naturally there, a successful industry could be established. If mulberry and other trees which feed and nourish the silkworms were planted in spacious places, and if they were carefully gathered and husbanded with expert skill, the industry would in time yield as great a profit to the Virginians as it does now to the Persians, Turks, Italians, and Spaniards.

Flax and hemp. The truth is that there is not a great supplv of flax and hemp growing in any one place, because it is not planted, but grows wild. Although the leaf and stem, or stalk, differ from ours, those men who know assert that the product is of about the same quality. And if future trials should confirm this, we now have enough experience with the soil to believe that our variety will grow there excellently and, if planted, will yield a plentiful crop, There is so much land that some of it may well be applied to such purposes. The benefits from cordage and linens anyone can easily understand.

Alum. There is a vein of earth running along the seacoast for forty or fifty milesy and in the judgment of those who have tested it here in England good alum could be made from it, of the kind known as rock alum. The same earth also yields white copperas, niter, and feather alum, but not so plentifully as the common alum, which is more profitable.

Wapeik. This is the name given by the natives to a kind of earth very like terra sigillata. Having been refined, it has been found by some of our physicians and surgeons to be of the same virtue and even more effective than Lemnian earth. The inhabitants use it a good deal to cure sores and wounds. It is found in great abundance in many places and is sometimes blue in color.

Pitch, tar, resin, and turpentine. The kinds of trees which yield these products grow abundantly. The island where we lived — fifteen miles long and five or six miles wide — was full of them. There were scarcely any other trees.

Sassafras. The inhabitants call it winauk, a wood of the most pleasant and sweet smell and of rare virtues in medicine for the cure of many diseases. It is far better and has more uses than the wood which is called Guaiacum, or lignum vitae. For the description, manner of using, and manifold virtues of it, I refer you to the book of Monardus, translated and entitled in English, The Joyful News from the West Indies.

Cedar. A very sweet wood which makes fine timber. Chests of drawers, fair and fine bedsteads, tables, desks, lutes, virginals, and many other things (which we have already made) could be fashioned from it and shipped to make up freight with other principal commodities that would yield profit.

Wine. There are two kinds of grapes that grow wild there. One is sour and the size of the ordinary English grape; the other is lusciously sweet and much larger. When they are planted and husbanded as they should be, an important commodity in wines can be established.

Oil. There are two kinds of walnuts, both of which yield oil, though one far more plentifully than the other. If there were mills and other devices of the sort, large amounts of oil could be obtained. Three different kinds of oak acorns also grow there, and we were told by the inhabitants that these acorns yield very good, sweet oil. We could also get oil from the fat bears of the country, since there are great numbers of them, and their fat is so liquid that it could be used as oil for many special purposes.

Furs. All along the seacoast there are many otters, and if they could be caught by weirs and other traps, they would make us good profits. We hope also to get marten furs, for the people say that in some places they are plentiful, although during our stay in Virginia only two skins came into our hands. We also heard of lynxes, but we did not see any.

Deer skins, dressed in the manner of chamois or raw, are to be had yearly by the thousand from the natives through trade for trifles. And even so, there would be no more waste or spoil of deer than there has been in the past.

Civet cats. In our travels we found a civet cat, which was killed by one of the natives. In another place we came upon the smell of them. From this evidence, as well as from what the people told us, we know that these animals are found in the country, and much profit could be made from them.

Iron. In two places especially, one about fourscore, the other sixscore miles from our fort, the ground near the water's edge was rocky. When our mineral man tested it, he discovered that it held iron in rich amounts. Not only there but also in many other parts of the country iron is found. I believe this will become a good marketable commodity, considering the infinite stores of wood for smelting and the small cost there of labor and food, especially if one compares it with the scarcity and high cost of wood in England. Another manner of profiting from it would be to use it as ballast for ships.

Copper. A hundred and fifty miles inland we found that the inhabitants of two towns had several small plates of copper. They told us these had been made by the natives farther up in the interior, where, they say, are mountains and rivers that vield copper and also white grains of metal, which we deemed to be silver. In confirmation of this I may say that when we first arrived in Virginia we saw two small pieces of roughly beaten silver about the weight of a testone 1 I hanging in the ears of a Weroans, or chief, who lived about fourscore miles from us. Upon inquiring from him how many days'journey and in what direction the place was, I learned that it was near where the copper and white grains of metal had been found. We tested this copper and discovered that it contained silver.

Pearls. There were often pearls in the mussels we ate. But they are always pied in color. We have not yet discovered where the better pearls in greater abundance are. One of our company, a man skilled in such matters, had gathered about five thousand from the savages. Out of these he chose enough to make a rare chain of pearls, uniform in roundness, luster, and size, and of a variety of excellent colors. The chain would have been presented to Her Majesty had we not lost it, along with many other things, in a terrible storm as we were leaving the country.

Sweet gums of different kinds and many other apothecary drugs can be found there. I have learned more about them from men who have knowledge in these matters and have had time to examine them more carefully. For want of the samples lost in the storm, I cannot now describe them.

Dyes of different kinds. There is shoemake [sumac], well known in England and used for black; the seed of a herb called wasewowr; a small root called chappacor; and the bark of the tree called by the inhabitants tangomockonomindge. These dyes are for different shades of red, and their suitability for our English clothes remains yet to be proved. The inhabitants use them for dyeing hair and for coloring their faces, also for deer skins and for dyeing rushes to make patterns in their mats and baskets. If they should not prove marketable, there is no doubt the planters will find uses for them and also for the other colors which we know to be there.

Woad. This dyestuff is largely sold and used among English dyers. There is never enough of it in our own country, as we lack space for growing it. But in Virginia, where there is land enough, it could be planted easily. It will grow there without any doubt, since the climate is the same as that of the Azores, where woad and madder grow plentifully.

Sugar canes we took with us to plant, but since they were not as well preserved as they should have been and the time of year for setting them was past when we arrived, we could not make the experiment we wished. Nevertheless, seeing that they grow in a similar climate in the southern part of Spain and in Barbary, we can reasonably hope they will grow in Virginia. The same holds true for oranges, lemons, and quinces. From these, in reasonable time and if the undertaking is diligently prosecuted, no small commodities in sugars, sweetmeats, and marmalades may develop.

Many other goods, which I leave to your discreet and gentle consideration, may be raised there. And there are also many already growing which we have not vet discovered. I might have specified two more commodities of great value, which do not have to be planted, but can be raised there and prepared in a short time. Also, I could have revealed more of these I have enumerated, told the particular places where they are found and could best be planted and prepared. And I could have said how soon they would bring profits and how great these profits would be, but I have not done so, because I fear that persons other than well-wishers might learn too much from my description and that would not be to the advantage of the enterprise. I have omitted these facts, knowing that I have revealed enough in this part for those who are well disposed toward the Virginia undertaking.