The Lost Colony

I posted about the most mysterious manuscript several weeks ago. This is about the most mysterious mass disappearance in the world: The Roanoke Colony.

The first attempt to colonize Roanoke Island was in 1585. Sir Richard Grenville, cousin of Sir Walter Raleigh, along with 100 all male colonists made the trip from England to what is now known as North Carolina 22 years before Jamestown and 37 years before the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts. Grenville returned to Britain for supplies leaving Ralph Lane in charge. Unfortunately, the colonists weren't prepared and not too clever. So, how did they survive? They antagonized the Native Americans with such tactics like kidnapping them and holding them hostage in exchange for information.

The colonists were desperate for supplies and Grenville's return was delayed. After destroying the Spanish colony of St. Augustine, Sir Francis Drake picked up the colonists from Roanoke and they returned to England. Interesting though is that after Grenville did return, he left 15 of his own men behind to hold the island and sailed back to England. They were never seen again. Only the bones of one man, possibly killed by the Indians, remained.

After the first attempt failed, Raleigh organized another expedition consisting 150 men, women, and children. John White, illustrator and colonist from the first Roanoke Colony, was appointed as Governor. Instead of moving on to Chesapeake Bay country, they decided to settle again on Roanoke Island. Any houses found standing were repaired and new ones were built. Governor White with the help of an Native American named Manteo, helped reestablish a friendship between the colonists and the Croatoan Indians. On August 27th, White returned to England for more supplies, but wouldn't return until years later. The events that transpired during his absence is a mystery. There were talks that the colony moved 50 miles inland, but no evidence to prove it.

White along with other men set out to find the colonists, if they were still alive. When arriving at the colony, they found nothing. No houses. No colonists. Nothing except the word "Croatoan" carved in a tree. Continuing their search, they found iron and other heavy objects in overgrown grass. The search crew tried to proceed to the Croatoan Islands where White believe the colonists would be but was unsuccessful. Due to bad weather, they were forced to return to England. Governor White and Sir Walter Raleigh were both unsuccessful financing another expedition. Despite rumors collected over the years, the mystery of the Lost Colony was never solved.

Could they have been killed by the Croatoan Indians? Maybe or they could have relocated to the Croatoan Island instead. Some even believe they were killed by Spanish troops. Other theories include disease or natural disaster. Of course, we can't leave out the suspects well known for their abductions, aliens. One thing is certain though. This mystery may never be solved, but it was a milestone in U.S. history. If lessons weren't learned from Roanoke Island, colonists at Jamestown may not have survived.


History & Culture: National Park Service Cultural Resources


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