Honoring Joachim Gans

Sir Walter Raleigh at Fort Raleigh
Board member Eric Deetz meets Gov. John White and Sir Walter Raleigh before the ceremony honoring Joachim Gans.

Joachim Gans is not a familiar name to most of us. Nevertheless, his achievements were recognized in a dignitary-rich celebration at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site on July 27, 2018. Gans was a skilled metallurgist who accompanied the 1585 settlement to assay the materials retrieved by the explorers. He was from a region of the Holy Roman Empire that was later to become the Czech Republic. Certainly the sponsors of this voyage were disappointed by the lack of precious metals that were found, but Sir Walter Raleigh was wise to include a metallurgist among the colonists. A recent voyage to the North Atlantic had returned with a shipload of fool’s gold.

Brent Lane Honoring Joachim Gans at Fort Raleigh
Brent Lane speaks of Joachim Gans at the site of science center. Senator Bill Cook, the Honorable Stephen B. King and Superintendent Dave Hallac, National Park Service Outer Banks Group, are seated behind him.

Speakers at the outdoor celebration included North Carolina Senator Bill Cook, the Honorable Stephen B. King, Ambassador to the Czech Republic, Mr. Brent Lane of the Kenan-Flagler Business School at Chapel Hill and First Colony Foundation board member Eric Deetz.  Later this year a historical marker honoring Joachim Gans will be erected along Route 64 near the entrance to Fort Raleigh.  The marker will identify him as a native of Prague, and it is believed that he was the first Jewish person in the New World.

Highway marker honoring Joachim Gans
Ambassador Stephen B King and Manteo Mayor Bobby Owens stand before a mock-up of the highway marker to honor Joachim Gans.

Archaeology in the 1990’s uncovered evidence of the metallurgy workshop, and the site has been declared to be the first science center in the New World.  In September Deetz and First Colony Foundation volunteers will re-excavate a portion of the earlier dig to analyze features based on recent research at other sites in Virginia and North Carolina.