Secotan panel is formed

Published 11:35 pm Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Staff Writer

The Beaufort County Committee of 100 has announced the formation of a committee devoted to a search for the lost Algonquian Indian village painted by English watercolorist John White as part of an expedition 425 years ago.
The village, known as Secotan, was the capital of the Secotan nation, said Tom Thompson, Beaufort County’s chief economic developer.
Some experts believe the village, painted by White in 1585, was located in Beaufort County, perhaps on Bath Creek-adjacent land now owned by PotashCorp.
The newly hatched committee, named Secotan 1585, was designed to “support the efforts of the Beaufort County Committee of 100 and its partner, the First Colony Foundation, in the archaeological search for Secotan,” reads a news release. “Members may volunteer to be engaged in the archaeological excavation at such point as it begins. They will be kept abreast of the progress being made in finding and documenting the village by a monthly newsletter.
“There is no charge (for) being a member of the Secotan 1585 committee and the only membership (criterion) is a strong interest in Indian history in Eastern North Carolina, particularly in Beaufort County.”
Interested parties are asked to call 252-946-3970 or e-mail the Beaufort County Economic Development Commission at
The Committee of 100 is a nonprofit partner of the publicly funded EDC.
First Colony’s website reads this nonprofit “is dedicated to conducting archaeological and historical research, combined with public education and interpretation, relating to the story of North Carolina and America’s beginnings with the attempts by Sir Walter Raleigh to establish English colonies at Roanoke Island in the 1580s under his charter from Queen Elizabeth I.”
First Colony’s members include Gordon Watts, the underwater archaeologist who helped discover the remains of the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor.
Despite its renowned associates, Secotan 1585 is open to all comers, its backers indicated.
“The committee was started in response to a large number of calls and e-mails and personal contacts” from people interested in the search for Secotan, said Tom Thompson, Beaufort County’s chief economic developer.
Thompson said he counts the approximately 450 members of the Committee of 100 as being involved with Secotan 1585.
“Most of them appear to be very interested,” he said.
The formation of this committee was announced soon after Steven Beckel, general manager of PotashCorp’s Aurora facility, sent county officials a letter detailing the company’s response to calls for further archaeological work on land the company owns at Beasley Point in Bath.
Beckel’s letter noted PotashCorp had obtained advice from Patricia Samford, director of the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory.
In a related memorandum, Samford laid out the case for proceeding with a careful, methodical investigation of the Beasley Point property, which Thompson and others maintain is the most likely candidate for Secotan.
Now, the EDC and its partners, the First Colony experts, are discussing the development of a plan for archaeological work on the property, Thompson related.
Archaeologists have tentatively identified major areas of the land that are “most likely Indian-appropriate pieces,” he said.
These areas were identified, in part, through a state-led archaeological survey of the land in the late 1980s, before a waterfront portion was bulkheaded. The 1986 survey revealed the land had yielded thousands of artifacts, including “prehistoric” Indian artifacts, though nothing that would conclusively prove this plot was Secotan.
Thompson and others see the discovery of Secotan, if it’s here, as a potential boon to Beaufort County, which has lost thousands of manufacturing jobs to downsizing, outsourcing and plant shutdowns since the late 1990s.
Secotan 1585 members envision a reconstructed replica of Secotan as a draw that could increase tourist traffic.
“I think in today’s world, with a whole lot of the jobs being exported overseas to China and Mexico and various other places, you’re not going to make it on manufacturing, small business and government jobs by itself,” said Al Klemm, chairman of the EDC and a Beaufort County commissioner. “I think it’s important to have a strong tourism community in Beaufort County.”
Like Jerry Langley, the county commissioners’ chairman, Klemm wouldn’t favor using county funds for the Secotan project.
“I’d much rather see it done in the private sector, and believe that they can do it,” Klemm said.
Lynn Lewis, tourism director for the City of Washington, agreed Secotan could be an asset to this community — provided it’s here.
“Certainly I think if this site is proven to be Secotan, that it could have a very positive impact on tourism in the county,” Lewis said.