The Lost Colony
Before the pilgrims came to Plymouth Rock and before Jamestown became the first permanent English settlement in North America, a group of colonists arrived at Roanoke Island. With the assistance of his friend, artist John White, Sir Walter Raleigh made plans to start an English settlement in America. More than a dozen families signed up for the adventure that would send them across the ocean. They set sail from England on 8 May 1587. The ships made their way to what is now the North Carolina outer banks by mid-summer after sailing through the Caribbean. The 150 brave men, women, and children settled on Roanoke Island in July 1587 and were left to build a community.
Roanoke Island lies between the mainland of North Carolina and the barrier islands of the Outer Banks. A small island, it is eight miles long and two miles wide. When the colonists arrived, they found woods of cedar, cypress, and gum trees. Deer, rabbits, and wild birds were abundant. Grapes grew wild in the dunes at the water’s edge. After three days on the island, a group a American Indians peacefully approached the group. The settlers offered the Indians gifts and the Indians returned the gesture by using their canoes to paddle into the sound to provide a catch of fresh fish.
When ships returned to Roanoke Island three years later to check on these early colonists there was no sight of them. Their village was ransacked, burned, and abandoned. Four hundred years later, it remains a mystery as to what happened to the Roanoke colonists. Some theorize that they abandoned Roanoke Island to live either with the Indians or to move further north into Virginia. Other believe the settlers died from disease or starvation. Recent research has revealed that North Carolina suffered its worst drought in eight hundred years at the time the Roanoke colonists arrived. Surely they would not have survived the hot, dry, rainless summer and fall if they had not moved on.
The Lost Colony is commemorated at the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site on Roanoke Island, North Carolina, which is a part of the National Park Service. In addition to North Carolina’s natural beauty, the Site preserves the history of the early Roanoke colony. For more information, visit the park’s website at http://www.nps.gov/fora/.
Annually, the Roanoke Island Historical Association, produces the outdoor drama "The Lost Colony."
Reference: The Mysterious Disappearance of Roanoke Colony by Zachary Kent, Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, Inc., 2004.