Arthur Barlowe, First Voyage to Virginia (1584)

[Arthur Barlowe, a young protégé of Sir Walter Raleigh, co-captained the earhest voyage outfitted by Rahegh soon after he was granted a patent by Queen Elizabeth I for dominion over lands in North America. The following is Barlowe's account of that voyage, and of the land and peoples he encountered. Compare Barlowe's description with Thomas Hariot's in the next wek's documents.]


The 27 day of April], in the year of our redemption, 1584 we departed the West of England, with two barkes well furnished with men and victuals, having received our last and perfect directions by your letters, confirming the former instructions, and commandments delivered by yourself at our leaving the river of Thames. . . .

The second of July, . . . we entered, though not without some difficulty, & cast anchor about three harquebuz-shot within the havens mouth, on the left hand of the same: and after thanks given to God for our safe arrival thither, we manned our boats, and went to view the land next adjoining, and to take possession of the same, in the right of the Queen's most excellent Majesty, as rightful Queen, and Princess of the same, and after delivered the same over to your use, according to her Majesty's grant, and letters patent, under her Highness great Seal. Which being performed according to the ceremonies used in such enterprises, we viewed the land about us being, whereas we first land, very sandy and low towards the waters side, but so full of grapes, as the very beating and surge of the Sea overflowed them. . . .

This Island had many goodly woods full of Deer, Conies [rabbits], Hares, and Fowl, even in the midst of Summer in incredible abundance. The woods are not such as you find in Bohemia, Moscovia, or Hercynia, barren and fruitless, but the highest and reddest Cedars in the world, far bettering the Ceders of the Azores. . . We remaind by the side of this Island two whole days before we saw any people of the Country: the third day we espied one small boat rowing towards; us, having in it three persons: this boat came to the Island side, four harquebuz-shot from our ships, and there two of the people remaining, the third came along the shoreside towards us, and we being then all within board, he walked up and down upon the point of the land next unto us: then the Master and the Pilot of the Admiral, Simon Ferdinando, and the Captain Philip Amadas, myself, and others rowed to the land, whose coming this fellow attended, never making any show of fear or doubt. And after he had spoken of many things not understood by us, we brought him with his own good liking, aboard the ships, and gave him a shirt, a hat, & some other things, and made him taste of our wine, and our meat, which he liked very well: and having viewed both barks, he departed, and went to his own boat again, which he had left in a little Cove or Creek adjoining: as soon as he was two bow shot into the water, he fell to fishing, and in less then half an hour, he had laden his boat as deep, as it could swim, . . . after he had (as much as he might) requited the former benefits received, departed out of our sight.

The next day there came unto us divers boats, and in one of them the Kings brother, accompanied with forty or fifty men, very handsome and goodly people, and in their behavior as mannerly and civil as any in Europe. His name was Granganimeo, and the king is called Wingina, the country Wingandacoa and now by her Maiesty Virginia. . . .

The King is greatly obeyed, and his brothers and children reverenced: the King himself in person was at our being there, sore wounded in a fight which he had with the King of the next country. . . . A day or two after this, we fell to trading with them, exchanging some things that we had, for Chamoys, Buffe, and Deer skins: when we showed him all our packet of merchandise, of all things that he saw, a bright tin dish most pleased him, which he presently took up and clapt it before his breast, and after made a hole in the brim thereof and hung it about his neck, making signs that it would defend him against his enemies arrows: for those people maintain a deadly and terrible warr, with the people and King adjoining. We exchanged our tin dish for twenty skins, worth twenty Crowns, or twenty Nobles: and a copper kettle for fifty skins worth fifty Crowns. They offered us good exchange for our hatchets, and axes, and for knives, and would have given anything for swords: but we would not depart with any. After two or three days the Kings brother came aboard the ships and drank wine, and eat of our meat and of our bread, and liked exceedingly thereof: and after a few days overpassed, he brought his wife with him to the ships, his daughter and two or three children: his wife was very well favored, of mean stature and very bashful she had on her back a long cloak of leather, with the fur side next to her body, and before her a piece of the same: about her forehead she had a band of white Corall, and so had her husband many times: in her ears she had bracelets of pearls hanging down to her middle, (whereof we delivered your worship a little bracelet) and those were of the bignes [bigness?] of good peace. The rest of her women of the. better sort. had pendants of copper hanging in either ear, and some of the children of the king's brother and other noble men, have five or six in either ear: he himself had upon his head a broad plate of gold, or copper, for being unpolished we knew not what metal it should be, neither would he by any means suffer us to take it of his head, but feeling it, it would bow very easily. His apparel was as his wives, only the women wear their hair long on both sides, and the men but on one. They are of colour yellowish, and their hair black for the most part, and yet we saw children that had very fine auburn, and chestnut coloured hair.

. . . Their boats are made of one tree, either of Pine, or of Pitch trees: a wood not commonly known to our people, nor found growing in England. They have no edge-tools to make them withall: if they have any they are very few, and those it seems they had twenty years since, which, as those two men declared, was out of a wreak which happened upon their coast of some Christian ship, . . . The manner of making their boats is thus: they burn down some great tree, or take such as are wind fallen, and putting gum and rosin upon one side thereof, they set fire into it, and when it hath burnt it hollow, they cut out the coal with their shells, and everywhere they would burn it deeper or wider they lay on gums, which burn away the timber, and by this means they fashion very fine boats, and such as will transport twenty men. Their oars are like scoops, and many times they set with long poles, as the depth serveth.

The Kings brother had great liking of our armour, a sword, and divers other things which we had: and offered to lay a great box of pearl engage for them: but we refused it for this time, because we would not make them know, that we esteemed thereof, until we had understood in what places of the country the pearl grew: which now your Worshipp doeth very well understand. . . .

The soil is the most plentiful, sweet, fruitful and wholesome of all the world: there are above fourteen several sweet smelling timber trees, and the most part of their underwoods are Bays, and such like: they have those Oaks that we have, but far greater and better. After they had been divers times aboard our ships, myself, with seven more went twenty mile into the River, that runneth toward the City of Skicoak, which River they call Occam: and the evening following, we came to an Island, which they call Raonoak [Roanoke], distant from the harbour by which we entered, seven leagues: and at the North end thereof was a village of nine houses, built of Cedar, and fortified round about with sharp trees, to keep out their enemies, and the entrance into it made like a turn pike very artificially: when we came towards it, standing near unto the waters side, the wife of Granganimo, the kings brother came running out to meet us very cheerfully and friendly. . . .

After we had thus dried ourselves, she brought us into the inner room, where she set on the board standing along the house, some wheat like fermenty, sodden Venison, and roasted, fish sodden, boiled and roasted, Melons raw, and sodden, roots of divers kinds, and divers fruits: their drink is commonly water, but while the grape lasteth, they drink wine, and for want of casks to keep it, all the year after they drink water, but it is sodden with Ginger in it, and black Cinnamon, and sometimes Sassaphras, and divers other wholesome, and medicinable herbs and trees. We were entertained with all love and kindness, and with as much bounty (after their manner) as they could possibly devise. We found the people most gentle, loving, and faithful, void of all guile and treason, and such as live after the manner of the golden age. The people only care how to defend themselves from the cold in their short winter, and to feed themselves with such meatt as the soil affordeth: their meat is very well sodden and they make broth very sweet and savory: their vessels are earthen pots, very large, white and sweet, their dishes are wooden platters of sweet timber: within the place where they feed was their lodging, and within that their Idoll, which they worship, of whom they speak incredible things. . . .

Into this river falleth another great river, called Cipo, in which there is found great store of Muscles in which there are pearls: likewise there descendth into this Ocean, another river, called Nomopana. . . . Towards the Southwest, four days journey is situate a town called Sequotan, which is the Southermost town of Wingandacoa, near unto which, six and twenty years past, there was a ship cast away, whereof some of the people were saved, and those were white people, whom the country people preserved. . . .

. . . other then these, there was never any people appareled, or white of colour, either seen, or heard of amongst these people, and these aforesaid were seen only by the inhabitants of Secotan, which appeared to be very true, for they wondered marvelously when we were amongst them at the whiteness of our skins, ever coveting to touch our breasts, and to view the same. Besides they had our ships in marvelous admiration, & all things else were so strange unto them, as it appeared that none of them had ever scene the like. When we discharged any piece, were it but an hargubuz, they would tremble thereat for very fear, and for the strangeness of the same: for the weapons which themselves use are bows and arrows: the arrows are but of small canes, headed with a sharp shell or tooth of a fish sufficient enough to kill a naked man. Their swords be of wood hardened: likewise they use wooden breastplates for their defense. They have beside a kind of club, in the end whereof they fasten the sharp horns of a stag, or other beast. When they go to Wars they carry about with them their idol, of whom they ask counsel, as the Romans were wont of the Oracle of Apollo. They sing songs as they march towards the battle instead of drums and trumpets: their wars are very cruel and bloody, by reason whereof, and of their civil dissentions which have happened of late years amongst them, the people are marvelously wasted, and in some places the country left desolate.

Beyond this Island called Roanoak, are main Islands very plentiful of fruits and other natural increases, together with many towns, and villages, along the side of the continent, some bounding upon the Islands, and some stretching up further into the land.

When we first had sight of this country, some thought the first land we saw to be the continent: but after we entered into the Haven, we saw before us another mighty long Sea: for there lieth along the coast a tract of Islands, two hundreth miles in length, adjoining to the Ocean sea, and between the Islands, two or three entrances: when you are entered between them (these Islands being very narrow for the most part, as in most places six miles broad, in some places less, in few more) then there appeareth another great Sea, containing in breadth in some places, forty, and in some fifty, in some twenty miles over, before you come unto the continent: and in this enclosed Sea there are above an hundreth Islands of divers bignesses, whereof one is sixteen miles long, at which we were, finding it a most pleasant and] fertile ground, replenished with goodly Cedars, and divers other sweet woods, full of Currants, of flax, and many other notable commodities, which we at that time had no leisure to view. . . .

Thus Sir, we have acquainted you with the particulars of our discovery made this present voyage, as far forth as the shortness of the time we there continued would afford us to take view of: and so contenting ourselves with this service at this time, which we hope hereafter to enlarge, as occasion and assistance shall be given, we resolved to leave the country, and to apply ourselves to return for England, which we did accordingly, and arrived safely in the West of England about the midst of September.

And whereas we have above certified you of the country taken in possession by us, to her Majesty's use, and so to yours by her Majesty's grant, we thought good for the better assurance thereof, to record some of the particular Gentlemen, & men of account, who then were present, as witnesses of the same. . . .

We brought home also two of the Savages being lusty men, whose names were Wanchese and Manteo.


Source: Richard Hakluyt, The Principall Voyages, Traffiques, and Discourses of the English Nations (1599-1600), reprinted in Albert Bushnell Hart, ed., American History Told by Contemporaries (New York, 1898), volume 1, 89-95.

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