The fate of the Lost Colony of Roanoke remains one of the great unsolved mysteries of American history. There were actually two attempts to establish a settlement at Roanoke Island just off the North Carolina mainland, both organized by Sir Walter Raleigh. The first, in 1585, was England’s earliest attempt to colonize America. It lasted a year before the weary, half-starved settlers returned home.
In 1587 Raleigh sent a second expedition, 117 men, women, and children under the leadership of John White. On August 18, 1587, shortly after they reached Roanoke, Governor White’s daughter, Eleanor White Dare, gave birth to the first child of English parents born in America. The baby girl was christened Virginia Dare.
A few days later, John White departed for England to procure much-needed provisions. He arrived home at a bad time. Britain and Spain were at war, and no ships or supplies could be spared
for the tiny colony. Three years passed before the anxious governor could return to Roanoke.
He arrived on his granddaughter’s third birthday. But the colonists were gone. Carved on a post, White found the word CROATOAN. Reasoning that the colonists had moved to the nearby island of the friendly Croatoan Indians, White sailed in that direction, but a storm arose, damaging his ships and forcing him back to England. He was never able to return to the New World.
What happened to little Virginia Dare and her companions? Some believe that hostile Indians or Spaniards destroyed the colony. Others suggest that, giving up hope of relief, they sailed for England in boats White had left them, but were lost at sea. Still others believe that the Lost Colonists of Roanoke made their way inland, where they lived with the Indians, and that their blood still runs in twenty-first-century Carolinian veins.