I am updating a previous post of mine. The one about the Freedmen's Colony. On Maxine's and the Hawthornes' exciting whirlwind afternoon tour of the highlights of Manteo, I shot pictures of everything. Rather quickly. After all, Maxine was only paying for the $5 tour. We drove through Manteo per se. We showed Maxine the Elizabeth II. We went to the Freedmen's Colony. To Fort Raleigh. To The Lost Colony at the Waterside Theater. A drive by through the parking lot of the Elizabethan Gardens. To a quick trip through the North Carolina Aquarium. To Michael Coley's Christmas display in Manns Harbor. Michael Coley's decorations at the Manns Harbor Post Office. And finally to the Poulos' Christmas display in Kill Devil Hills.
Here's the display I didn't write about. With all the others, I put on my glasses, got a magnifying glass with a magnifying inset, and wrote down what every monument and display said. Except for the above display ... With this particular picture, I started copying the words, was having a horrible time doing so throughout, and at the very end, I just couldn't see anything. So I didn't put it in my blog post. Now, I'm correcting that. (I actually started this post on 12/29/09 at 6:07 PM and I'm just getting around to editing and posting the draft.) Thanks to the wonders of Picasa3, I was able to sharpen up the photograph so I could read it.
Here it is: "If you can cross the creek to Roanoke Island, you will find 'safe home' " was a phrase often shared by freed and runaway slaves during the Civil War. In February 1862 Union General Ambrose Burnside defeated a Confederate force on the island and gained control of northeastern North Carolina's strategically, valuable waterways. Hundreds of slaves from the interior of the state then began to make the journey towards the island and their first light of freedom. The first able-bodied men to arrive were offered rations of food and employment building a new Union fort. As word spread, more freedmen arrived, seeking food, work, and shelter as well as the safety provided by the Union forces. By May 1863 the situation was so acute that the Federal government seized unoccupied land and established a tunnel colony on Roanoke Island. The Reverend Horace James, as "Superintendent of Blacks in North Carolina" was directed to "settle the colored people on the unoccupied lands and give them agricultural implements and mechanical tools ... and to train and educate them for a free and independent community." As the colony was being organized and laid out the union military began enlisting the able-bodied men to form the first North Carolina Regiment of freedmen. The Colony continued to grow as more freedmen sought "safe haven" By 1864 a census reported 2,212 black residents on Roanoke Island. A church and a school with 7 teachers were established and a sawmill operations supported the Union Army Quartermaster. In 1865, the Superintendent reported 561 homes had been built and the population had grown to 3901. After the war ended, the Union government returned the seized land to its original owners. Rather than homesteading, the freedmen were viewed as squatters on someone else's land and the colony was disbanded. While most of the freedmen returned to the mainland, many descendants still live, work, and raise their families on Roanoke Island today. Just thought you'd like to know. You too, Brother H. Now, what I'd like to know is how did they establish a "tunnel colony" on Roanoke Island? You dig down 2-3 feet anywhere here and you hit water. I'm curious about this. Research needs to be performed.