The Legend of the Coharie
From the Sampson Historical Society
By Ernest M. Bullard 1880-1959
(Editor’s note: Ernest M. Bullard was of the Hayne Community and is presented as
written by him in the 1950s, as told to him as a boy in the 1880s.)
“Only this much of truth I know to be; I tell the tale as ‘twas told to me.” E.M. Bullard
About the end of the year 1588 or early in the year 1589, the remnant of the Lost Colony which had taken up their abode with Manteo on Croatoan Island, the place of Manteo’s birth, accompanied by Manteo and all that survived a tremendous tidal wave left the island for the mainland beyond the sound to the west.
One of the colonists making this sojourn was young George Howe, whose father George Howe, Sr., was slain by the Indians on Roanoak Island on July 28, 1587. These migrants of whites and Indians, it is believed, landed in what is now Carteret or Pamlico County, because, so goes the legend, they tried early the next year, probably 1589, to ascend the “Neus” River farther inland in order to reach higher land on which they could grow Indian corn, for the tidal wave had salted the earth where they first settled so that it would not grow corn. Many of the colonists grew sick for lack of bread to eat with sea foods and game which were abundant.
Before they could get settled on a desirable location they were attacked by an unfriendly tribe and a few of the migrants were wounded.
A consultation was held before leaving Croatoan Island and it was decided that some of the colonists would bypass Wanchese’s hostile tribe by going to the north and some would go to the south. Our legend concerns only those choosing the southern route.
According to the legend as it was told to me in about 1892, Manteo and most of his tribe, which was small, chose the southern route. This seems reasonable since the hostile tribe of Wanchese was to the north and west of Croatoan Island and since he in all probability knew much of the coastline and fishing waters to the south of the island of his nativity.
On meeting resistance in their attempt to establish themselves inland, they turned south and for many moons dwelt along the coast, finally establishing themselves on the east side of the Cape Fear River where they lived in peace for many seasons.
Finally a colony of white people settled across the river, possibly the Clarendon Colony (1664). Manteo’s tribe very much desiring peace and tranquility, once again began to migrate farther inland. How many years, or moons, as they counted time, passed before they reached the confluence of the Deep and Haw Rivers, which forms the Cape Fear River, may never be known.
They established themselves on the eastern prong, which they named Howe River in honor of George Howe III who, according to legend, was the grandson of Manteo. (George Howe II married one of the daughters of Manteo.)
The legend continues: They lived in the “Howe” River section about 170 moons when a severe drought came and dried the river and all the springs. When they felt they could no longer survive
there, they began the journey down stream and migrated in keeping with the receding water supply until they reached what is now Cumberland County. Here, they encountered scattered Scotch settlements along the Cape Fear River.
With peace and tranquility still uppermost in their minds, they dispatched two runners, one of which was George Howe IV. The two men started eastward and crossed South River and Big Swamp, both of which they found dry. They continued on and soon came into a dense forest with black and mucky soil. Within a few hundred paces one of the two stepped out of the thick brush to the bank of a sparkling clear stream of water several feet wide. With delight he cried out to his companion, “co-her-ah.” (Come here ah).
The colonists, or rather the descendants of the colonists and Manteo’s tribe of Croatoan Indians, settled along the two Coheras, (now Coharies), and South River where many of their descendants still reside.
This ends the legend of the Cohera, but not the people whose origin this legend is intended to explain, nor that segment of these people which is responsible for handing it down by word of mouth for more than three hundred years before one word of it was ever put into writing, so far as this writer has ever been able to learn.
It has been reported that some of the Manors who have to a considerable degree preserved their Indian blood and characteristics, and who now reside in the central western section of Sampson County, North Carolina, and on both sides and between the two “Coheras,” claim to be the direct descendants of Manteo. The definition of Manor furnishes a clue as to why the surname Manteo was changed to Manor after he was christened Lord of Roanoke by order of Sir Walter Raleigh and given dominion over all the Indians in those entire areas.
A fact that lends support to the theory that the descendants of the “Lost Colony” have resided and still reside in Sampson and adjoining counties is that of the more than eighty surnames of the colonists, considerably more than half are today found in the census rolls of Sampson County and more than two-thirds can be found among the peoples of southeastern North Carolina.
Of the remaining twenty-five or thirty, names of eight are known to have been changed on the records to names as spelled today. Several others are so similar that it is quite reasonable to conclude that they too may have been changed.
One of these names is Howe, which according to the legend, was the name given to the eastern prong of the Cape Fear River. The name Howe has since been changed to Haw River, possibly because of the more harsh sound given in usage and because of the influence of the Indian dialect.
Near the center of a small clearing on which these early people produced Indian corn and perhaps potatoes and collards, on top of a knoll overlooking the lowland of Big Swamp in the western part of what was known at that time (1779) as “The Territory” of Duplin County, there stood a small log cabin belonging to Enoch Hall. Hall was said to have been a lineal descendant from George Howe of the “Lost Colony,” the name having been changed from Howe to Haw, then to Hall. Little better could have been expected from a people who had survived the hardships of more than a century and a half without a school.
I believe that the descendants of a substantial number of those 96 men, 16 women and 9 boys of the “Lost Colony” have lived and are now living in Sampson County and adjoining counties and many have moved to every state in the Union and some to foreign countries.
They survived the hardships of their time and in so doing exemplified courage, perseverance and stamina seldom equaled and never surpassed in the annals of the history of man. Nor were these attributes confined to the colonists alone. The friendly Indians who met them and through every danger, every hardship, and every misfortune accompanied them all the way manifested a loyalty and devotion seldom equaled among the children of men. E. M. Bullard
Commentscomments powered by Disqus
Local Gas Prices