Ancient Shipwreck of a vessel from the old world on the coast

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Whilst the northern tribes lived under the ancient confederacy before named, on the banks of the St. Lawrence and its waters, and before they had yet known white men, it is affirmed that a foreign ship came on the northern coasts, but being driven by stress of weather, passed southward, and was wrecked in that quarter. Most of the crew perished, but a few of them, dressed in leather, reached the shore, and were saved with some of their implements. They were received by a people called the Falcons,1 who conducted them to a mountain, where, however, they remained but a short time, for their allies, the Falcons, disclosed an unfriendly and jealous spirit, and threatened them. In consequence they immediately selected another location, which they fortified. Here they lived many years, became numerous and extended their settlements, but in the end, they were destroyed by furious nations.

This tradition is divested of some of the symbolic traits which it possesses in the original, and by which the narrators may be supposed to have concealed their own acts of hostility or cruelty, in the extirpation of the descendants of the Europeans thus cast on their shores. To this end, they represent in the original, the saving of the crew to have been done through the instrumentality of carnivorous birds, and attribute the final destruction of the colony to fierce animals. It is one of the well known facts of history that none of the vessels of Columbus, Cabot, Verrizani, Sir Walter Raleigh, or Hudson, were wrecked on the American coasts: and there is hence a bare presumption that some earlier voyage or adventure from the old world is alluded to.

Can we suppose that in this dim tradition there is light cast on the lost colony of Virginia, which was first left on the island of Roanoke? The Tuscaroras,1 who preserve the tradition, came to western New York from that quarter. They were a fierce, powerful and warlike nation, having in 1712 resolved on the massacre, on a certain day, of all the whites in the Carolinas. What is once done by natives, barbarous or civilized, is often the reproduction of some prior national act, and especially if that act had been attended with success; and it is by no means improbable that in this desperate and bloody resolve of 1712, the Tuscaroras meant to repeat the prior tragedy of “Croatan.”2 Whether, however, the incident be of ante-Columbian or post-Columbian date, it is worthy preservation, and may be assigned its place and proper importance when we have gleaned more facts from the dark abyss of American antiquity.


  1. One of the totems and clans of the Iroquois, is the hawk, or falcon. 

MLA Source Citation:

Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe. Notes on the Iroquois: Or, Contributions to American History, Antiquities, and General Ethnology. E. H. Pease & Company. 1847. Web. 21 December 2014. - Last updated on Jun 22nd, 2014

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