What We Know
In 1587, Sir Walter Raleigh commissioned John White to lead 118 men, women, and children on a three-month voyage from England across the Atlantic Ocean to Roanoke Island, now part of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. The goal: establish a permanent colony in the New World. A month after arrival, White’s daughter, Eleanor, gave birth to a baby girl. Christened Virginia Dare, she was the first child of English parentage born in what is now America. But the colonists struggled to survive. Governor White made a trip to England, vowing to return promptly with aid. While White was in England, a naval war with Spain broke out, and Queen Elizabeth I called on every available ship to confront the mighty Spanish Armada. It was three years before White was able to obtain a ship to sail back to America. When he arrived, nobody was there. The colony had disappeared without a trace.
What We’ve Heard
Over the centuries, there have been many theories as to the fate of the Lost Colony. Due to a carving of the word “CROATOAN” left behind at the site, many believe the colonists assimilated into neighboring Native American communities, of which the Croatoan were one. This theory has recently been supported by newly discovered artifacts in North Carolina. However, some still believe that the disappearance has supernatural origins. Or perhaps they tried to sail back to England on their own, and met death on the high seas. They could have been attacked and killed by Spanish forces or by a hostile tribe. They could simply have moved to another location, seeking sustenance after a severe drought hit the area. Whatever their fate, the Lost Colony remains one of the most enduring mysteries in American history.