Mysterious Lands Lost Colony of Roanoke Virginia

About the mysterious event of the disappearance of Roanoke, Virginia an early American colony.

An Atlas to Enigmatic Lands:


Location: Roanoke Island, N.C.

The Enigma: In 1584, 2 English sea captains financed by Sir Walter Raleigh discovered Roanoke Island. A year later, Raleigh sent 7 ships under the command of Sir Richard Grenville to colonize the island. In 1587 more colonists, led by Governor John White, settled on Roanoke. But because added supplies were needed to survive the bitter winter ahead, White returned to England. The British war with Spain delayed White, and it was not until 3 years later that he returned with supplies for the 121 settlers of Roanoke, who had included his wife, daughter, and granddaughter (Virginia Dare, the 1st white child born in the New World).

Approaching Roanoke in July, 1590, the sailors on White's ship alerted the colonists "with a trumpet a Call, and afterwardes many familiar English tunes of Songs, and called to them friendly." But the Roanoke colonists did not rush to greet the ship, not one human figure was visible on shore, and the silence was ominous. When the sailors landed and entered the village, they found it mysteriously deserted. No sign of the 121 colonists existed. The entire population had vanished. The fort and homes still stood intact. There were no bodies, no signs of destruction, no indication of battle. It had been agreed that an inscribed cross would be left as a signal of distress if the settlers had to leave in haste, but no such mark was found. The only clue to the fate of the "Lost Colony" was the word "CROATAN" carved in the bark of a tree near the gate of the fort, and the letters "CRO" carved on another tree stripped of bark. What had happened to the colonists?

Some Explanations: Although it was generally assumed that the colonists were over-whelmed by hostile Indians, no evidence remained of such violence. Many other theories have been advanced. According to one, the colonists abandoned Roanoke to move to Croatan Island. There, they constructed a ship to take them to some more civilized outpost but perished at sea soon after sailing. According to another theory, Spanish seamen, eager to wipe out English claims to America, invaded Roanoke, took the colonists captive, and massacred them.

But the most intriguing and credible theory of all is that the colonists, fearing either the elements or an attack by a savage nomadic Indian tribe, took refuge with the friendly Croatan Indians who lived nearby, and eventually intermarried with and were assimilated by these Croatans. In 1719, over a century after the disappearance of the colonists, when white hunters came to Robeson-or Robinson-County, N. C., just 100 mi. inland from Roanoke, they found a tribe of unusual Indians whose skins were light and who spoke English. A 1790 census of the Robinson County Indians revealed that 54 of the 95 family names were those of the lost colonists.

Today: Wrote Edwin C. Hill in 1934: "In Robinson County, N.C., live some 12,000 Indians known as the Robinson County Indians. They are a fine and handsome people. Some have blue eyes. Some have gray eyes. They speak only the English language. They use phrases of speech that have scarcely been heard since the days of Shakespeare. . . .If tradition holds any truth, they are the descendants of the lost colonists of Roanoke." Or so it seems. It is unlikely we shall ever know the truth about the fate of the "Lost Colony."

The life of Roanoke is re-created annually at the Waterside Theater, Roanoke Island, Manteo, N.C. There, between June 21 and August 31, an outdoor historical drama is staged by 150 performers. Admission prices range from $1.50 to $3.50. The play, billed as The Lost Colony--The Greatest Disappearing Act Ever to Appear in America, enjoyed its 35th season in 1975.

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