Brief History of Raleigh's Lost Colony
of Roanoke Island
Twenty years before English planters settled at Jamestown, Sir Walter Raleigh was granted a 'patent of discovery' by Queen Elizabeth I. In July 1584 two ships landed at the outer banks of what is now North Carolina and claimed possession for England. Raleigh sent 107 'planters' to build a fort in 1585. The colonists lacked the survival skills to succeed and angered the natives. They were forced to abandon the colony and return to England in 1586.
Meanwhile a relief ship was sent to resupply the colony--but arrived too late. The fort was deserted. Fiften new colonists were left at the fort and their ship sent back to England. The fifteen were attacked by natives--some killed and the others disappeared.
A third ship with 115 settlers arrived in July 1587--men, women and children. These were more successful than the previous colonists. They sent their governor back to England to bring more supplies. The governor, John White, did not return until August 1590.
When, finally, John White went ashore, he found the colony deserted. Carved into a tree were the letters "CROATOAN." White believed the colonists had migrated to another Island of that name. Others speculated that the colony had been attacked by native people called "Croatoans."
Over the years many legends were told of the fate of the 115 colonists. A favorite tale implies that at least some survivors migrated inland and intermarried with natives and were thus absorbed into the indegenous population.
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© Marilou West Ficklin, all rights reserved 2006