“the air was redolent with the perfume of flowers” — Roanoke Island Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin

Today, the Roanoke Island Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin remembers when Sir Walter Raleigh’s two ships landed and took possession of the country on July 13, 1584.

From The American Geography by Jedidiah Morse, published in 1792:


1584 — This year two patents were granted by queen Elizabeth, one to Adrian Gilbert, (Feb. 6.) the other to Sir Walter Raleigh, for lands not possessed by any Christian prince. By the direction of Sir Walter, two ships were fitted and sent out, under the command of Philip Amidas, and Arthur Barlow. In July they arrived on the coast, and anchored in a harbor seven leagues west of the Roanoke. On the 13th of July, they, in a formal manner, took possession of the country, and, in honor of their virgin queen Elizabeth, they called it Virginia. Till this time the country was known by the general name of Florida. After this, Virginia became the common name for all North America.


From Historical Sketches of North Carolina, From 1584 to 1851, compiled by John Hill Wheeler, published in 1851:


The renown acquired for the Spaniards in the discovery of America by Columbus, in 1492, excited other nations to emulate this example.

England and France engaged in this enterprise.

In 1496, John Cabot obtained from Henry VII a patent for himself and three sons, to search for countries hitherto unseen by Christian people, and to affix the banners of England in any land they might discover.

A voyage, in 1497, was undertaken by him, and, for the first time, the shores of North America, among the polar bears and rude savages of Labrador, were visited by an English ship.

The discovery of a north-west passage, and the mercantile interests of the kingdom, kept this feeling alive with the English nation through the subsequent reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth.

Added to this feeling was the thirst for gold, which it was believed abounded in this western world.

In 1584, Sir Walter Raleigh, not disheartened by the sad fate of his step-brother, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, who perished a year previous on a voyage of discovery, obtained a patent from Queen Elizabeth, and fitted out two ships under Philip Amidas and Arthur Barlow.

These ships sailed in April, 1584, from England, and in July they landed on the shores of North Carolina.

It was then and there “the meteor flag” of England was first displayed in these United States, and on the sandy banks of North Carolina, rested the first Anglo-Saxon anchor.

After returning thanks to God for their safe arrival, Amidas took formal possession of this country, in “the name of Elizabeth of England, as rightful Queene and princess of the same.”

Here we may pause at this interesting point of our inquiries, and remark as most providential, that this settlement occurred at this period, under such auspices.

Had it occurred a few years earlier, under the rule of “the bloody Mary,” seas of blood and persecution must have been encountered before our forefathers had attained the religious liberty they then enjoyed.

Had it occurred under the flag of Spain, the sword of a Cortez or Pizarro would have carried blood and devastation; murder would have signalized the event, and this country now be no further advanced in science or religion than the benighted and bigoted regions of South America.

But here, the reformed religion and enlightened privileges of the age of Elizabeth marked the event.

The season of the year (July), was mild.

The sea was calm; the air was redolent with the perfume of flowers; and, as expressed by Amidas, in his report to Sir Walter Raleigh, “the fragrance, as they drew near the land, was as if they had been in the midst of some delicate garden, abounding in all manner of odoriferous flowers.”

The loveliness of the scenery, and the mildness of the climate, was excelled by the gentleness of the native inhabitants, who received the strangers with all that hospitality, which, even at this day, is characteristic of “the Old North State.”

On Roanoke Island, now in Currituck county, the English were welcomed by the wife of Granganimeo, father of Wirgina, the king.

“The people were most gentle, loving, and faithful, void of all guile and treason, and such as lived after the manner of the golden age.”

After making a short stay, Amidas and Barlow returned to England, where they arrived safely in the following September, accompanied, in the guileless simplicity of their nature, by Manteo and Manchese, two native Indians of North Carolina.

Their accounts to their patron, Sir Walter Raleigh, and to Queen Elizabeth, of the climate, soil, and inhabitants, caused a thrilling excitement throughout the kingdom of England.

In the fullness of her heart, the queen called it Virginia, discovered as it was under the reign of a Virgin queen.


The Roanoke Island Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows with an artist’s woodcut of Sir Walter Raleigh.

Roanoke Island Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin