White, John (fl.1585-1593) (DNB00)

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WHITE or WITH, JOHN (fl. 1585–1593), Virginian pioneer, sailed with Sir Richard Grenville from Plymouth on 9 April 1585, and was one of the 107 men whose names are recorded by Hakluyt as those of the first settlers in Virginia. They were left by Grenville on the island of Roanoke under the governorship of (Sir) Ralph Lane [q. v.]; but in June 1586, at their own earnest request, they were taken back to England by Drake. Two years later one of the colonists, Thomas Harriot [q. v.], wrote for the edification of Ralegh (at whose expense the experiment had chiefly been made) his ‘Briefe and True Report of the new found land of Virginia’ (London, 1588, 8vo; and Frankfort, ‘sumptibus Theodori De Bry,’ 1590). The Frankfort edition was illustrated by twenty-three copperplates from drawings by John White, including a ‘carte of all the coast of Virginia,’ which formed the basis of the subsequent ‘Map of Virginia’ (1612) of John Smith.

In July 1587 a hundred and fifty new settlers were sent out by Ralegh under John White, who is generally identified with the draughtsman of the previous expedition (cf. Stevens, Bibl. Historica, 1870, p. 222). In August White wished to send home two of his subordinates to represent the needs of the colonists, but the wish of the colony generally was that White himself should undertake the mission. He was reluctant to leave some relatives who had accompanied the expedition, but eventually on 27 Aug. he sailed, and after a painful voyage reached Southampton on 8 Nov. With him there landed an Indian, who was baptised in Bideford church, but died within the year. In April 1588 Ralegh sent White back with two small relief vessels, but the sailors, as usual, had thoughts for nothing but Spanish prizes, and, after having been worsted in an encounter, the vessels had to put back to Plymouth ‘to the utter destruction of the unhappy colonists.’ He managed ultimately, in March 1590, to sail upon what he states in his letter to Hakluyt to be his fifth voyage to the West Indies, in one of the ships of a merchant, John Wattes (probably Sir John Watts [q. v.], lord mayor in 1606–7), the captain of which undertook to land supplies at Roanoke. On 15 Aug. they weighed anchor off that island, cheered by the sight of some ascending smoke, but when next day they went ashore, nothing of the former colonists could be found. White arrived back at Plymouth on 24 Oct. On 4 Feb. 1593 from his ‘house at Newtowne in Kylmore,’ he wrote a letter to Hakluyt, in which he apologises for his ‘homely stile,’ giving details of his last voyage. This letter was printed in Hakluyt's third volume (1600, pp. 288–95).

In Additional MS. 5270 (now in the print room at the British Museum) are some watercolour drawings by White of Virginian subjects. Some of these drawings are copied in Additional MS. 5253.

[Stith's Hist. of Virginia, i. 25; Doyle's English in America, Virginia, pp. 91 sq.; Archæologia Americana, iv. 21; Winsor's Hist. of America, iii. 124; Drake's Making of Virginia, 1894; Kohl's Maps relating to America, Washington, 1857, pp. 42 sq.]

T. S.