A historic road marker was dedicated to Joachim Gans today at Fort Raleigh on the north end of Roanoke Island.
Fort Raleigh is the National Park that marks the location of the Lost Colony. Gans part of the first group Raleigh sent to Roanoke Island in 1585-86 to pave the way for the permanent colony.
Until recently Gans was somewhat of a forgotten man in history. Luckily research into that first expedition has changed that and what has emerged is a pretty remarkable story.
Joachim Gans–His Story
Joachim Gans was a Czech metallurgist and he was Jewish. Because he was in that first expedition he was the first Jew and the first Czech to set foot in the New World.
Born in Prague, he was well-known in what is now the Czech Republic for his knowledge of smelting processes. It was his skill in working with copper that brought him to England where he introduced techniques that cut the time to purify copper from sixteen to four days.
His skill brought him to the attention of Sir Walter Raleigh who asked him to join the exploratory expedition to Roanoke Island in 1584. The hope was that he would find deposits of precious metals. Silver was good, gold preferred.
He found neither. However, the chief scientist of the expedition, Thomas Harriot, reported that the mineral man of the team found iron and copper. Interestingly the only readily available artifacts that have been identified from the remains of the Fort Raleigh site are bricks Gans created to build his assay oven and two copper nuggets he smelted.
Gans left the New World along with the rest of the first expedition when Sir Francis Drake offered to evacuate the men. Rising tensions with the local tribes caused by the violent and heavy hand of Ralph Lane the leader of the expedition was the reason Drake offered the first colonists a ride home.
The history of the Outer Banks is a fascinating study. Spend some time on this most “bountiful land” at a Brindley Beach Vacations home and the the site where the first English settlers set foot in the New World.