The Mysterious Lost Colony of Roanoke Island Vanished, Leaving Behind a Strange Message

The Mysterious Lost Colony of Roanoke Island Vanished, Leaving Behind a Strange Message

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The early English settlers of Roanoke Island in the New World established homes and lives alongside indigenous populations, but then they vanished completely, only leaving behind a coded message for other colonists. If there were survivors of the mysterious events of their disappearance, where did they go? What was the fate of the vanished Roanoke Island colony?

Hardships for the Roanoke Island Colony

In 1584, the English attempted to set up a colony in the New World on Roanoke Island, North Carolina. The following year, the colony was abandoned due to the harsh weather, lack of supplies, and poor relations with the indigenous people. Three years later, a second attempt at colonization was undertaken. As the struggles to survive and thrive continued, one of the settlers, Captain John White, was forced to return to England to obtain supplies.

The village of Secoton in Roanoke, painted by settler and artist Governor John White c.1585

In 1587, White’s daughter gave birth to Virginia Dare, who was said to be the first English child born in the New World.

Leaving behind friends and family, White sailed to England against his will. He remained there three years, as the Queen had disallowed all shipping due to Spanish Armada attacks on England.


When he finally returned in 1590, the Roanoke Island colony had vanished , and it is said that White found only the words ‘CRO’ and ‘CROATOAN’ carved on two trees.

"CRO" written on a tree, part of the Lost Colony performance at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. Wikimedia Commons

When White saw these words, he inferred that the settlers had sought the help of the Croatan Indians on the nearby Hatteras Island. It had previously been decided by the settlers that should they move due to disaster or attack, a Maltese Cross image would be left behind. No such symbol was found by White.


Did the Lost Roanoke Island Colonists Join the Croatans?

The Croatans had been friendly towards the settlers, as the English were able to establish good relations with them when they founded their colony in 1587. Thus, it was reasonable to speculate that the colonists had gone to Hatteras Island during White’s absence. Dogged by terrible weather and a dangerously reluctant sailing crew, White was unable investigate the matter further. He went back to England instead, leaving behind the mysterious disappearance of the colony, his daughter and granddaughter. He never returned to the New World. Consequently, no one is certain of the fate that befell the English settlers of Roanoke Island.

One of the theories regarding the disappearance of the English Roanoke Island colony is that they managed to integrate themselves with the Croatan people. It has been claimed that subsequent English historians mentioned a tribe of North Carolina Indians who spoke English fluently, practiced Christianity, and called themselves Croatan Indians. Additionally, there were between 20 and 30 English surnames from the Roanoke settlers found in the Croatan tribe, suggesting that integration between the two peoples had happened.

Dancing Secotan Indians in North Carolina. Watercolour painted by explorer and artist John White in 1585.

More recently, the Lost Colony Center for Science and Research has initiated the ‘Lost Colony DNA Project’ to investigate whether the Roanoke settlers did assimilate themselves with the Croatans.

Archaeological excavations on the remains of an Indian village at Cape Creek and Pamlico Sound near Cape Hatteras recovered not only artifacts produced by the Indians, but also European trade goods. While this demonstrates that the Croatans were likely to have had contact with the Roanoke settlers, it is not enough to say that the two peoples were assimilated.

The Croatans themselves were believed to have become extinct by the early 17th century. Their direct descendants, the Lumbee (who still exist today), began appearing some 50 years after the disappearance of the Roanoke settlers. One of the prominent characteristics of the Lumbee people, as pointed out by observers, is their European features. By 1650, the Lumbee had migrated and settled in Robeson County.


When two teams of archaeologists went looking for traces of the lost Roanoke Island colonists on Hatteras Island and on the North Carolina mainland 50 miles (80 km) west of Roanoke in 2015, they found late 16th century European artifacts which may have belonged to the settlers. It has been suggested that the Roanoke colonists may have went to both sites, but it is uncertain if they truly inhabited them.

Although the intermarriage between the Croatans and English settlers is the most popular explanation for the origins of the Lumbee, it is not accepted by all. For instance, some subscribe to the ‘Cherokee Theory’, in which some of the Cherokees marching home after fighting the Tuscarora (in the early 18th century) with Colonel John Barnwell decided to remain in Robeson County and intermarried with local residents. Amongst the Lumbee, it has been reported that their oral tradition contains four different migration theories.

The Mysterious Dare Stone, Is it a Hoax or the Last Message of a Lost Daughter?

Even though many believe that the colonists joined the Croatans and eventually became the Lumbees, some believe that a darker fate befell the settlers. The Dare Stone, discovered in the 20th century, records that the number of settlers dwindled to 24 as a result of illness and war with hostile natives. In the end, only seven of the original settlers were left. One of them was Eleanor White Dare, the daughter of Captain John White and the alleged maker of the stone. It has been claimed, however, that the Dare Stone is a hoax. Moreover, archaeological evidence has yet to prove that the settlers slowly perished, as no burials have been found so far.

Nonetheless, researchers have recently decided to take another look at the Dare Stone . It was originally disregarded because of other hoax stones having appeared soon after it was found, but a re-examination shows that it is different from the other (proven) fakes. The writing was made by a different hand and the words are more likely to have appeared in the proper time frame (no obvious modern words are included).

Ed Schrader, a geologist and president of Brenau University in Georgia, where the Dare Stone is kept, seems hesitantly hopeful about the results of the new analysis. He says , "If this stone is real, it's the most significant artifact in American history of early European settlement. And if it's not, it's one of the most magnificent forgeries of all time." Schrader went on to say that Dare was "moderately educated" and the wife of a stonemason, so she probably had the skills necessary to create the inscription. However, before Schrader pushes for an expensive and "exhaustive, geochemical investigation," he’s requested a Brenau professor to assemble a team of linguists to give the language on the stone a more thorough analysis.

Other theories suggest cannibalism by local tribes to account for the lack of human remains, or that the settlers perished at sea while trying to return to England.

History may never reveal what actually happened to the settlers who vanished on Roanoke Island, so for the time being it remains a mystery.

Roanoke colony mystery: Could this strange rock reveal the settlers' fate?

Scientists are planning to take a fresh look at an engraved rock purported to hold the key to the mysterious “lost colony” of Roanoke.

Described as “the coldest case in American history,” the fate of more than 100 English settlers of the 16th century on Roanoke Island, N.C., has long baffled historians. The settlers’ disappearance has been shrouded in mystery for centuries.

The settlers, who included women and children, arrived on Roanoke Island in 1587 to help establish America’s first English settlement. By 1590, however, the group was nowhere to be found, fueling ongoing speculation about their mysterious disappearance.

The only clues left behind by the settlers were the words "Croatoan" and "Cro" carved into a fort's gatepost and a tree nearby. This sparked a theory that the settlers fled 50 miles south to Hatteras Island, which was then known as Croatoan Island.

However, in 1937, a 21-pound stone engraved with strange markings was found by a California man driving in coastal North Carolina. Initially taken to the history department of Emory University, the stone ended up in the possession of Brenau University in Gainesville, Ga. The stone is supposedly engraved with a message from one of the colonists, Eleanor White Dare, to her father, John White, the colony’s governor.

White had returned to England in 1587 to request help for the colony. On his return to Roanoke Island three years later, however, he was unable to find any of the settlers, which by that time included his granddaughter Virginia Dare, the first English child born in "the New World."

“Virginia Went Hence Unto Heaven 1591,” explains the engraving, written in 16th-century English. “Father Soone After You Goe for England Wee Cam Hither,” it notes, on the reverse side of the stone, adding that “Onlie Misarie & Warre,” resulted in the death of more than half the settlers.

The engraving indicates that the remaining colonists were killed by “salvages [savages],” except for seven, who were taken captive.

The tourist who found the stone said that he discovered it about 50 miles inland from Roanoke Island, according to National Geographic. This corresponds with White’s account that the settlers had planned to move “fifty miles into the main.”

While initially hailed as a major historical find, question marks soon arose about the authenticity of the stone, and more than 40 other engraved stones that subsequently surfaced and were purchased by Brenau University.

While the majority of the so-called “Dare stones” are widely acknowledged to be fakes, the first stone, which supposedly bears a message from Eleanor White Dare, continues to fascinate historians.

National Geographic reports that analysis of the stone by the University of North Carolina at Asheville in 2016 revealed that its interior was bright white, while its exterior and carvings were much darker.

Matthew Champion of the U.K.’s Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Survey, told National Geographic that a freshly-cut inscription “would appear bright white on the stone, particularly so on this type of stone, and it takes a great deal of time for that whiteness to fade.”

Using chemicals to mask the color would have been difficult in the 1930s, according to Champion and Ed Schrader, the president of Brenau.

New technology for spotting trace elements and isotopes, as well as ultraviolet and multispectral photography, could also unlock the mysterious stone’s secrets, Eric Doehne, a Los Angeles art conservator, told National Geographic.

While some experts are still skeptical about the stone’s authenticity, Brenau’s Schrader is said to be planning a comprehensive study of the artifact in the near future.

Brenau has not yet responded to a request for comment on this story from Fox News.

Essay On The Lost Colony Of Roanoke

of the New World is the mystery of the lost colony of Roanoke. It has been centuries and no one truly knows what happened to the lost colony of Roanoke. In 1585, around 20 years before the famous settlement of Jamestown, the first English settlement happened. This settlement was called the colony of Roanoke which is modern day North Carolina. Roanoke like most colonies had a rough start when they suffered from Indian attacks and lack of food. The colony decided to send their mayor, John White, back&hellip

The Hunter Meteor Storm pounded the town of Haven and the Troubles did not end. After The Barn was destroyed, the Troubles got worse. It is unknown if the Troubles got worse because of the destruction itself, or if because without hope, the Troubled had less ability to control their Troubles.

It is later found out through Vince, that he brought out Simon’s Trouble and asked him to kill his father-in-law to end his wife’s family Trouble. After this it was seen that Vince and Lucy killed Simon.

Archaeologists Find New Clues to “Lost Colony” Mystery

When John White, appointed by Sir Walter Raleigh as governor of Roanoke Colony, returned to England for more supplies in late 1587, he left behind his wife, his daughter and his infant granddaughter—Virginia Dare, the first child born in the New World to English parents𠅊mong the other settlers. Upon White’s return in 1590, he found no trace of his family or the other inhabitants of the abandoned colony. Over the centuries to come, archaeologists, historians and explorers would delve into the mystery of the “Lost Colony” of Roanoke, all failing to find definitive answers.

Based on the scant clues left behind, some speculated that Native Americans attacked and killed the English colonists. 𠇌roatoan” was the name of an island south of Roanoke, now Hatteras Island, which at the time was home to a Native American tribe of the same name. Alternatively, they might have tried to sail back to England on their own and been lost at sea, or been killed by hostile Spaniards who came north from their own settlements in Florida. One enduring theory was that the settlers might have been absorbed into friendly Native American tribes, perhaps after moving further inland into what is now North Carolina.

Illustration depicting discovery of the word 𠇌roatoan” on a tree on Roanoke Island.

Stock Montage/Getty Images

Two independent teams found archaeological remains suggesting that at least some of the Roanoke colonists might have survived and split into two groups, each of which assimilated itself into a different Native American community. One team is excavating a site near Cape Creek on Hatteras Island, around 50 miles (80 kilometers) southeast of the Roanoke Island settlement, while the other is based on the mainland about 50 miles to the northwest of the Roanoke site.

Cape Creek, located in a live oak forest near Pamlico Sound, was the site of a major Croatoan town center and trading hub. In 1998, archaeologists from East Carolina University stumbled upon a unique find from early British America: a 10-carat gold signet ring engraved with a lion or horse, believed to date to the 16th century. The ring’s discovery prompted later excavations at the site led by Mark Horton, an archaeologist at Britain’s Bristol University, who has been directing volunteers with the Croatoan Archaeological Society in annual digs since 2009. Recently, Horton’s team found a small piece of slate that seems to have been used as a writing tablet and part of the hilt of an iron rapier, a light sword similar to those used in England in the late 16th century, along with other artifacts of European and Native American origin. The slate, a smaller version of a similar one found at Jamestown, bears a small letter “M” still barely visible in one corner it was found alongside a lead pencil.

In addition to these intriguing objects, the Cape Creek site yielded an iron bar and a large copper ingot (or block), both found buried in layers of earth that appear to date to the late 1500s. Native Americans lacked such metallurgical technology, so they are believed to be European in origin. Horton told National Geographic that some of the artifacts his team found are trade items, but it appears that others may well have belonged to the Roanoke colonists themselves: “The evidence is that they assimilated with the Native Americans but kept their goods.”

The Trustees of the British Museum

A watercolor map drawn by none other than John White inspired the search at Site X (as it’s known), located on Albemarle Sound near Edenton, North Carolina, some 50 miles inland. Known as La Virginea Pars, the map shows the East Coast of North America from Chesapeake Bay to Cape Lookout it is housed at the British Museum as part of its permanent collection. White began drawing the map in 1585, two years before he became governor. In 2012, researchers using X-ray spectroscopy and other imaging techniques spotted a tiny four-pointed star, colored red and blue, concealed under a patch of paper that White used to make corrections to his map. It was thought to mark the location of a site some 50 miles inland, which White alluded to in testimony given after his attempted return to the colony. If such a site did exist, the theory went, it would have been a reasonable destination for the displaced Roanoke settlers.

According to archaeologist Nicholas Luccketti of the First Colony Foundation, which is conducting the excavations at Site X, the group has found shards of pottery that they claim may have been used by Roanoke settlers after they left the colony. Located nearby is a site that archaeologists believe might have been a small Native American town, Mettaquem. After the Roanoke colony met its end, English settlers eventually came south from Virginia into North Carolina, but the first recorded settler in the area did not arrive until about 1655. But the recently uncovered pottery is in a style called Border Ware, which is typical of the pottery dug up on Roanoke Island, as well as at Jamestown, but was no longer imported to the New World after the early 17th century, when the Virginia Company dissolved.

In addition to the Border Ware pottery, archaeologists at Site X discovered various other items, including a food-storage jar known as a baluster, pieces of early gun flintlocks, a metal hook of the sort used to stretch animal hides or tents and an aglet, a small copper tube used to secure wool fibers before the advent of the hook and eye in the 17th century. Based on his team’s findings, Luccketti thinks the Roanoke colonists may have moved inland to live with Native American allies sometime after White left, and these artifacts might have been among their belongings. As reported in the New York Times, the First Colony Foundation will reveal more about its findings and theory this week in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Though the newly announced discoveries don’t solve this lingering historical mystery, they do point away from Roanoke Island itself, where researchers have failed to come up with evidence pointing to the Lost Colony’s fate. Archaeologists on both teams are hoping that a detailed study of their new finds will yield more clues, and—of course—that more evidence remains, waiting to be discovered, in the endless layers of dirt that surround them.

On July 22, 1587, a detachment of English settlers landed at Roanoke Island, in what is now North Carolina, with the intention of establishing a colony. This group of colonists became famous as the mysterious “Lost Colony” of Roanoke, but prior to this infamous colonial failure, Sir Walter Raleigh and the English had made a previous unsuccessful attempt at establishing a colony at Roanoke, one that also resulted in the disappearance of the last English detachment at the colony.

Digging Deeper

After the voyages of Christopher Columbus, the Spanish had made numerous voyages of exploration and conquest in the New World and had a decades long head start on the British in exploiting the New World. British interest focused on the areas North of where the Spanish had established a presence, from the Carolinas to Canada. Sir Walter Raleigh, a gentleman of lands and means, sought to exploit the new lands and was granted a charter from Queen Elizabeth I to explore and colonize the lands from Newfoundland South to Florida, where the Spanish had claimed and settled. The areas from Newfoundland and North were granted by charter to Adrian Gilbert, the half-brother of Sir Walter Raleigh. Raleigh’s charter had a provision by which he was required to establish a colony by 1591, or face losing his charter.

Only a month after being granted the charter, Raleigh organized an expedition to the American coast that set sail in April of 1584, stopping at the West Indies for fresh water and provisions. By July 4, 1584, the expedition had reached the Carolina coast in the area of Cape Fear. Contact with the local Native American people (Secotan) went well, especially since the Secotan had recently fought with another Native American tribe, the Pamlico. The expedition returned to England with glowing reports of what they had found, including amiable relations with the Natives. In fact, they even brought back a representative of the Secotan and another Native American from the Croatan tribe. It is possible, if not likely, that Raleigh exaggerated the bounty of the new land when describing the expedition to Queen Elizabeth. Suitably impressed with Raleigh’s report, Elizabeth knighted him Sir Walter and gave him the governorship of the land she called “Virginia.” Raleigh proceeded forthwith to raise funds and the means of establishing a colony in Virginia.

Raleigh planned a major effort at establishing a colony strongly supported by men and arms, amassing 600 men in a fleet bound for Virginia (really North Carolina), perhaps half of which were to be left as the initial colonists. Ralph Lane was made governor of the new colony, and this first effort by Raleigh has become known as “The Lane Colony.” The 7 ship fleet was commanded by Phillip Amadas and overall command of the expedition was held by Sir Richard Grenville. Both of the Native Americans that had been brought to England were on board to return to their homelands. (We have previously discussed the tortured relationship between Europeans and Native Americans.)

The colonial fleet lost one of its smallest ships in bad weather on the Atlantic crossing, but when the flagship landed at Puerto Rico, a new replacement ship was made. Only one other ship from the fleet made it to the rendezvous point at Puerto Rico, although 3 of those ships later made it to catch up to the other 2 ships off the Carolina coast. The voyage to the Carolina coast had been an adventure in and of itself, with fighting the weather and the sea, ships grounding on shoals, and encounters with the Spanish, including the capture of 2 Spanish vessels. One of the ships in the fleet dropped off 30 men at Croatoan Island and went North to the coast of Newfoundland to engage in privateering. When the expedition finally arrived at the intended location of the new colony, a ship was sent back to England with tidings of the successful arrival of the fleet. Unfortunately, much of the provisions had been lost in the grounding of a ship, and the size of the colony had to be reduced to only 100 people along with Lane due to the lack of provisions.

Contact with Native Americans was at first cordial, but a dispute over the alleged theft of a silver cup resulted in the British “teaching the Natives a lesson” by burning an entire Secotan village along with its crops. Roanoke Island was decided upon as the site of the colony with the agreement of local Natives, and 107 men were left with Lane, with the expectation that a resupply fleet would be leaving England in June of 1585. Unfortunately for the colonists, that resupply fleet was diverted to Newfoundland instead. Lane set about constructing fortifications on Roanoke, a practice the expedition regularly put into effect each time they stopped on shore during the voyage to the colony site.

The “Lane Colony” at Roanoke was created with the expectation of finding gold and silver, thus enriching the colonists, but precious metals were never found. Even Native supplies of copper eluded the colonists, who engaged in trade with the Native people for their food. English provisions quickly ran out, resulting in the reliance on Native food supplies and a marked decrease in morale and enthusiasm for the colony. Historians have noted that every time the colonists visited a Native American village, the Native people suffered an epidemic of European illness such as smallpox or influenza. By the Spring of 1585, the English colonists were hungry and dispirited, and the local Native population had suffered epidemics caused by interaction with the colonists, which aggravated the food situation for both the Natives and the colonists. Lane sent forays into the countryside to explore and meet with other Native people, hearing of potential riches and plotting English conquest to exploit those riches. Of course, Lane lacked the requisite number of men for such forays, and he waited for his expected resupply before mounting such an expedition. As relations between the Natives and the colonists deteriorated, Lane found his colony increasingly hungry and with diminished food supplies from the Secotan, as well as increased hostility from the various Native people in the area. By the end of April, 1585, the Secotan had left Roanoke and destroyed their fishing weirs (sort of nets or traps made of sticks) while passing word that no Native people should supply the English colonists with food. Things actually went downhill from there!

By June 1, 1585, Lane knew of planned hostilities toward the colony by the Natives and conducted a preemptive attack of his own, striving to prevent Natives around the colony from notifying larger Native groups inland of the onset of hostilities. The English attack was a ploy using the ruse of negotiations in order to surprise the Native warriors, and the English were successful, including the beheading of the Native chief. The unfortunate chief’s head was displayed on the outside of the English fortification as a warning to any Natives that sought to attack the colony.

During June of 1586, Lane was able to make contact with Sir Francis Drake who commanded a fleet in the Caribbean and East coast of North America, raiding Spanish ships and ports while amassing slaves and provisions with the intention of resupplying the Roanoke colony. Drake proposed leaving considerable supplies, slaves and even a ship for the colony, but after a storm Lane and his colonists just wanted desperately to evacuate the colony and Drake agreed to take the colonists back to England, arriving in July of 1586. Meanwhile, Raleigh had dispatched a resupply fleet to Roanoke which included another 400 colonists, not knowing what had been transpiring there and Drake’s involvement in the evacuation of the colony. The relief ship arrived and found no trace of the colonists who had already departed for England. The rest of the fleet arrived and the Natives in the area told the English that the colonists had packed up and left with Drake’s fleet. The relief fleet left a small detachment at Roanoke to keep Raleigh’s and the English claim on the land and left for the return to England.

The small detachment left at Roanoke, only 15 men, suffered attacks by Native Americans and were ultimately all killed. When a second attempt at establishing a colony at Roanoke was mounted by Raleigh in 1587, the English arriving there found no trace of the detachment left behind by Drake. That second Roanoke colony became infamous as “The Lost Colony,” overshadowing the 1585 first failed attempt to make a permanent English colony in what is now the United States. Ah, but that is another story…

(Note: The second, “Lost” colony at Roanoke saw the first English baby born in North America on August 18,1587, when little Virginia Dare took her first breaths. We have also previously discussed the “Lost Colony.”)

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Historical Evidence

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About Author

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.


The name of Roanoke Island comes from the Roanoke who originally resided on the island for at least 800 years prior to the coming of the English in the New World. The meaning of the word Roanoke itself is derived from the Powhowten language which was geographically close to the Roanoke. Roanoke means "white beads made from shells" (or more literally "things rubbed smooth by hand"). White beads were used as ornaments and currency for the Coastal Algonquin peoples of Virginia and North Carolina. One of the first governors of Jamestown, Virginia, John Smith records the usage of the word Rawrenock in the Algonquin Powhowaten language.

Cuscarawaoke, where is made so much Rawranoke or white beads that occasion as much dissention among the savages, as gold and silver amongst Christians . [1]

In the context of the quote, Rawranoke refers to the items being traded, not people. Roanoke People, were therefore known for the trade of shells that are part of Roanoke Island and the other barrier islands of the Outer Banks. The Roanoke People may have created and exported the white beads and shells abroad.

Overview Edit

It was, for thousands of years, the site of ancient indigenous settlements. Archeological excavations in 1983 at the Tillett Site at Wanchese have revealed evidence of various cultures dating back to 8000 BC. Wanchese was used as a seasonal fishing village for 1500 years before English colonial settlement. Ancestors of the Algonquian-speaking Roanoke coalesced as a people in about 400. [2]

Roanoke Island was the site of the Roanoke Colony, an English settlement initially established in 1585 by Sir Walter Raleigh. A group of about 120 men, women and children arrived in 1587. Shortly after arriving in this New World, colonist Eleanor Dare, daughter of Governor John White, gave birth to Virginia Dare. She was the first English child born in North America. Governor White returned to England later that year for supplies. Due to impending war with Spain, White was unable to return to Roanoke Island until 1590. When he arrived, the colony had vanished. The fate of those first colonists remains a mystery to this day and is one of America's most intriguing unsolved mysteries. [3] Archaeologists, historians, and other researchers continue to work to resolve the mystery. Visitors to the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site can watch The Lost Colony, the second-longest-running outdoor theatre production in the United States, which presents a conjecture of the fate of Roanoke Colony.

Roanoke Island is one of the three oldest surviving English place-names in the U.S. Along with the Chowan and Neuse rivers, it was named in 1584 by Captains Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe, sent by Sir Walter Raleigh. [4]

Another colony, more populous than that of Raleigh, was developed at the island during the American Civil War. After Union forces took over the island in 1862, slaves migrated there for relative freedom, as they were considered contraband by the military, who would not return them to the Confederates. The Army established the Roanoke Island Freedmen's Colony in 1863, an important social experiment as part of the US government's developing policies related to the future of the slaves in freedom. The Congregational chaplain Horace James was appointed superintendent of the colony and of other contraband camps in North Carolina. With a view to making it self-sustaining, he had a sawmill built, and freedmen were allotted lands to cultivate. Those who worked for the Army were paid wages. When the United States Colored Troops were founded, many men from the colony enlisted. A corps of Northern teachers was sponsored by the American Missionary Association, and they taught hundreds of students of all ages at the colony. [5]

Geological formation and Pre-Columbian settlement Edit

The North Carolinian Coast began to shape into its present form as the Outer Banks Barrier Islands. Previously the North Carolina Coast had extended 50 miles eastward to the edge of the continental shelf. The melting of Northern Hemisphere Glaciers at least 14,000 years ago caused sea levels to rise. The Outer Banks and by extension the land of Roanoke Island began to stabilize around 6,000 B.C. [6] Roanoke Island was originally a large dune ridge facing the Atlantic coastline. [7]

Archaeological discoveries at the Tillett site of Wanchese, North Carolina have dated the human occupation of Roanoke Island's land at 8,000 B.C. At the time Native Americans across North America were developing in the Archaic Period. Archaeologists discovered that the land of Roanoke Island was part of the Mainland when it was first inhabited by the first Native Americans. For thousands of years the development of Native Cultures on Roanoke Island corresponded with cultures occurring in the Coastal Plain of North Carolina.

Around the year 400 AD the area experienced environmental transformation. The sand dune of Roanoke became disconnected from the mainland by water, and inlets in the Outer Banks turned fresh water sounds (lagoons) into brackish ecosystems. From approximately the years 460 AD to 800 AD the Mount Pleasant Culture had a village on the Tillett Site in southern Roanoke Island within the modern day Wanchese township. After the year 800 AD the village was occupied by the Colington Culture, the Colington Culture was the predecessor to the Roanoke Tribe who were encountered by the 1584 English Expedition.

The Roanoke People of the Tillett site had a semi-seasonal life style inhabiting the area from early Spring to early Fall, primarily the village existed for fishing. Shellfish was the main diet of the inhabitants with oysters and clams being the most common food source. Plants including acorns and hackberry nuts. Ronaoke Indians had smoking pipes and used plants such as Cleaver and Plaintain seeds for medicinal purposes. Four burials of Roanoke Indians of various social positions have been found at the site. Roanoke believed that their great warriors and kings lived on in the afterlife but commoners lived only a mortal existence. [7]

There were other villages on Roanoke Island prior to European contact, as indicated by English maps and written accounts. Englishman Arthur Barlowe described a palisaded town with nine houses made of Cedar bark on the far north end of Roanoke Island. This second village according to historian David Stick was based on hunting of land animals. All Ronaoke Island villages were likely outlying tributaries of the Sectoan's capital, Dasamonguepeuk, located on the western shore of the Croatan Sound in the modern day mainland of Dare County. Upon contact with the English the Roanoke Tribe had anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 members. The Roanoke Tribe, like many other tribes in the area were loyal to the Secotan. In 1584 Wingina was their king. [8]

The first colony Edit

Roanoke Island was the site of the 16th-century Roanoke Colony, the first English colony in the New World. It was located in what was then called Virginia, named in honor of England's ruling monarch and "Virgin Queen", Elizabeth I.

When the English first arrived in 1584, they were accompanied by a Croatoan native and a Roanoke native called Manteo and Wanchese respectively. The two men made history as the first two Native Americans to visit the Kingdom of England as distinguished guests. For over a year they resided in London. On the return journey, the two men witnessed English pirates plundering the Spanish West Indies.

English Scientist Thomas Harriot recorded the sense of awe with which the Native Americans viewed European technology:

Manteo took especially great interest in Western culture, learning the English language and helping Harriot create a phonetic transcription for the Croatoan language. By contrast, Wanchese came to see the English as his captors upon returning home in 1585, he urged his people to resist colonization at all costs. The legacy of the two Indians and their distinct roles as collaborators and antagonists to the English inspired the names of Roanoke's towns.

The first attempted settlement was headed by Ralph Lane in 1585. Sir Richard Grenville had transported the colonists to Virginia and returned to England for supplies as planned. The colonists were desperately in need of supplies, and Grenville's return was delayed. [10] While awaiting his return, the colonists relied heavily upon a local Algonquian tribe. [11] In an effort to gain more food supplies, Lane led an unprovoked attack, killing the Secotan tribe's chieftain Wingina and effectively cutting off the colony's primary food source. [11]

As a result, when Sir Francis Drake put in at Roanoke after attacking the Spanish colony of St. Augustine, the entire population abandoned the colony and returned with Drake to England. Sir Richard Grenville later arrived with supplies, only to find Lane's colony abandoned. Grenville returned to England with a Native American he named Raleigh, leaving fifteen soldiers to guard the fort. The soldiers were later killed or driven away by a Roanoke raid led by Wanchese.

In 1587, the English tried to settle Roanoke Island again, this time led by John White. At that time the Secotan Tribe and their Roanoke dependents were totally hostile to the English, but the Croatoan remained friendly. Manteo remained aligned with the English and attempted to bring the English and his Croatoan tribe together, even after the newcomers mistakenly killed his mother, who was also the Croatoan chief. After the incident Manteo was baptized into the Anglican Church. Manteo was then assigned by the English to be representative of all of the Native nations in the region this title was mainly symbolic, as only the Croatoan nation followed Manteo. [12] John White, father of the colonist Eleanor Dare and grandfather to Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the New World, left the colony to return to England for supplies. He expected to return to Roanoke Island within three months.

By this time, England itself was under threat of a massive Spanish invasion, and all ships were confiscated for use in defending the English Channel. White's return to Roanoke Island was delayed until 1590, by which time all the colonists had disappeared. The whereabouts of Wanchese and Manteo after the 1587 settlement attempt were also unknown. The only clue White found was the word "CROATOAN" carved into a post, as well as the letters "CRO" carved into a tree. [13] [14] Before leaving the colony three years earlier, White had left instructions that if the colonists left the settlement, they were to carve the name of their destination, with a Maltese cross if they left due to danger. [15]

"Croatoan" was the name of an island to the south (modern-day Hatteras Island) where the Croatoan people, still friendly to the English, were known to live. However, foul weather kept White from venturing south to Croatoan to search for the colonists, so he returned to England. White never returned to the New World. Unable to determine exactly what happened, people referred to the abandoned settlement as "The Lost Colony."

In the book A New Voyage to Carolina (1709), the explorer John Lawson claimed that the ruins of the Lost Colony were still visible:

Lawson also claimed the natives on Hatteras island claimed to be descendants of "white people" and had inherited physical markers relating them to Europeans that no other tribe encountered on his journey shared:

Lawson, John (1709). A New Voyage to Carolina. University of North Carolina Press (1984). pp. 68–69. ISBN 9780807841266.

From the time of the disappearance of the Lost Colony in 1587 to the Battle of Roanoke Island in 1862, Roanoke was largely isolated due to its weather and geography. Sand shoals on the Outer Banks and the North American continental shelf made navigation dangerous, and the lack of a deep-water harbor prevented Roanoke from becoming a major colonial port.

Intermediate years Edit

After the failure of the English Roanoke Colony, Native peoples on the island endured for seventy more years. Archaeology from the Tilliet site indicates that the Roanoke population persisted until 1650. Written accounts indicate visible remnants of the final native presence which survived long after the end of the island's native population. A large mound 200 feet tall and 600 feet wide was recorded to exist in Wanchese in the early 1900s now little evidence remains. [17]

The 1650 extinction date corresponds with the final war between the Powhatan Tribe and the Jamestown Colony that took place in 1646. Invaders from Virginia drove the Secotan Tribe out of Outer Banks region.

Survivors of the English Invasion fled southwards and became the Machapunga. [18] The Machapunga fought alongside the Tuscarora Indians against English encroachment in 1711. After their defeat most Machapunga settled and adapted to English lifestyle around Hyde County, North Carolina, other Machupunga fled northwards to join the Iroquois Confederation. The North Carolina descendants continued to carry some native customs until 1900 and now live in the Inner Banks of North Carolina.

Some in the former Croatoan Tribe went to Hatteras Island prior to 1650, maintained good relations with the English and were granted a reservation in 1759. Descendants of the Croatoan-Hatteras tribes later merged with English Communities. The 2000 federal census found that 83 descendants from the Roanoke and Hatteras Tribe lived in Dare County. Others lived in the states of New York, Maryland, and Virginia. [19]

With Roanoke Island open for settlement, English Virginians moved from Tidewater Virginia to Northeast North Carolina's Albremarle Region. In 1665, The Carolina Charter established the colony of Carolina under a rule of landowners called the Lord Proprietors. Carolina under its original name Carolana included the territory of modern North and South Carolina. [20] Early organized English towns in North Carolina include Elizabeth City and Edenton. Pioneers crossed southwards across the Albremarle Sound to settle in Roanoke Island. They came primarily to establish fishing communities but also practiced forms of subsistence agriculture on the Northern parts of Roanoke Island. Most of the Pioneers had originally immigrated to the American Colonies from Southern English Parishes such as Kent, Middlesex and the West Country. Upon the creation of the Royal British Province of North Carolina in 1729, Roanoke Island became part of Currituck County. During the rule of the Lord Proprietors, Roanoke Island had been a part of the earlier Currituck Parish. [21] It was during this time that historical families arrived including the Basnights, Daniels, Ehteridge, Owens, Tillets and others.

Ownership at first belonged to the original Lord Proprietors, who had never visited the area even as Englishmen, and they began to build houses. The Island was owned by both Carolina Governor Sam'L Stevens and Virginian Governor Joshua Lamb. Joshua Lamb inherited the island by marrying Sam'L Steven's widow. The property was then sold and divided to a series of merchants from Boston (then part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony). Ownership by distant, far-away property holders continued until at least the 1750s. A Bostonian by the name of Bletcher Noyes gave power of attorney of his property to local William Daniels. English legal documents indicate the actual presence of settlers in 1676, with the possibility that the first Englishmen had made permanent homes much earlier. [22]

There were no incorporated towns until Manteo was founded in 1899. From the 1650s to the Civil War period, the Virginia settlers developed a distinct Hoi Toider dialect across the Outer Banks. [23] The island was ill-suited for commercial agriculture or for a deep water port and remained isolated with little interference from outsiders. The nearby community of Manns Harbor came into being as a small trading post where goods were transported across the Croatan Sound. Unlike inland North Carolina, the British authorities made no roads within or nearby Roanoke and the Tidewater region of North Carolina was avoided entirely. [24] The development of colonial Roanoke Island also depended on the natural opening and closing of inlets on Bodi and Hatteras Islands to its east. As at other times, the Island was also struck by deadly hurricanes.

During the Revolutionary War there were eight recorded encounters fought in nearby Hatteras, Ocracoke and the High Seas. These battles were between local privateers from Edenton against the British Royal Navy. The Royal Navy often had little place to rest during their coastal patrol duty. On August 15, 1776 a British patrol sent foragers to the now extinct Roanoke Inlet in modern-day Nags Head to steal cattle. The Outer Banks Independent Company who was guarding Roanoke Island killed and/or captured the entire party. This battle, while not on Roanoke Island itself, was less than three miles away. [25] Skirmishes involving ships continued until 1780 but no large land battles occurred in the area. Roanoke Island itself was largely spared from war violence and independence for the United States had little effect on local residents. [26]

Thirty years later during the War of 1812 the British Royal Navy planned for an Invasion of North Carolina's Outer Banks. The invasion was aborted on Hattaras Island because it was deemed there was nothing worthwhile for the British to occupy or pillage. The force then moved northward to attack Chesapeake Bay communities in Virginia. [27] Roanoke Island continued its isolation until authorities of the Confederate States of America hastily prepared Roanoke Island to defend Coastal North Carolina from the invading Unionist Navy and Army. After passing by Cape Hatteras Union forces attacked Roanoke Island in 1862.

Civil War years Edit

During the American Civil War, the Confederacy fortified the island with three forts. The Battle of Roanoke Island (February 7–8, 1862) was an incident in the Union North Carolina Expedition of January to July 1862, when Brigadier General Ambrose E. Burnside landed an amphibious force and took Confederate forts on the island. Afterward, the Union Army retained the three Confederate forts, renaming them for the Union generals who had commanded the winning forces: Huger became Fort Reno Blanchard became Fort Parke and Bartow became Fort Foster. After the Confederacy lost the forts, the Confederate Secretary of War, Judah P. Benjamin, resigned. Roanoke Island was occupied by Union forces for the duration of the war, through 1865.

The African slaves from the island and the mainland of North Carolina fled to the Union-occupied area with hopes of gaining freedom. By 1863, numerous former slaves were living on the fringe of the Union camp. The Union Army had classified the former enslaved as "contrabands," and determined not to return them to Confederate slaveholders. The freedmen founded churches in their settlement and started what was likely the first free school for blacks in North Carolina. Horace James, an experienced Congregational chaplain, was appointed by the US Army in 1863 as "Superintendent for Negro Affairs in the North Carolina District." He was responsible for the Trent River contraband camp at New Bern, North Carolina, where he was based. He also was ordered to create a self-sustaining colony at Roanoke Island [28] and thought it had the potential to be a model for a new society in which African Americans would have freedom. [29]

In addition to serving the original residents and recent migrants, the Roanoke Island Freedmen's Colony was to be a refuge for the families of freedmen who enlisted in the Union Army as United States Colored Troops. By 1864, there were more than 2200 freedmen on the island. [29] Under James, the freedmen were allocated plots of land per household, and paid for work for the Army. He established a sawmill on the island and a fisheries, and began to market the many highly skilled crafts by freed people artisans. James believed the colony was a critical social experiment in free labor and a potential model for resettling freedmen on their own lands. Northern missionary teachers, mostly women from New England, journeyed to the island to teach reading and writing to both children and adults, who were eager for education. A total of 27 teachers served the island, with a core group of about six. [29]

The colony and Union troops had difficulty with overcrowding, poor sanitation, limited food and disease in its last year. The freedmen had found that the soil was too poor to support subsistence farming for so many people. In late 1865 after the end of the war, the Army dismantled the forts on Roanoke. In 1865, President Andrew Johnson issued an "Amnesty Proclamation," ordering the return of property by the Union Army to former Confederate landowners. [28] Most of the 100 contraband camps in the South were on former Confederate land. At Roanoke Island, the freedmen had never been given title to their plots, and the land was reverted to previous European-American owners.

Most freedmen chose to leave the island, and the Army arranged for their transportation to towns and counties on the mainland, where they looked for work. By 1867 the Army had abandoned the colony. In 1870 only 300 freedmen were living on the island. Some of their descendants still live there. [29]

Postbellum period: becoming the seat of Dare County Edit

In the aftermath of the Civil War the area which is today Dare County was still split between Tyrell, Currituck and Hyde. Roanoke remained a part of Currituck.

In 1870 Dare County being named after the famous Virginia Dare became independent from the surrounding areas. Originally in April 1870 The Town of Roanoke Island was christened as the County Seat. In May of that year the town's name was changed to Manteo. The town of Manteo was the first place on in Dare County to have a federal post office. Roanoke Island went from being the outpost of Currituck to being the center of power in the new county. Dare County was allocated lands which included the Mainland, Roanoke Island and the beaches from Cape Hatteras upwards towards Duck. [30]

Outside Interest in the history of the Roanoke Island took hold for the first time. The State of the North Carolina protected the historical Fort Raleigh Site that had been the location of the 1584 and 1585 English expeditions. N.C State Senator Zebulon Vance attempted to build a monument in honor of the Colony in 1886 but was rebuffed by Congress because the bill would have distracted attention from Plymouth, Massachusetts.

The Town of Manteo grew as the center of business in Dare County, though it was not even the largest community in the county at the time. Buffalo City on the mainland had over 3,000 on the mainland but the community faded after the 1930s. Manteo while technically a new town was a combination of estates of landowners who had already resided on the island for two centuries. The organization of the town did spur new growth, as it became a central hub for the area. The waterfront become a bustling port with a network to Buffalo City, Edenton and Elizabeth City. Local fisherman, boat builders and landowners built fortunes whose wealth was later redistributed into new development.

There are five historically registered sites within Downtown Manteo all constructed during the turn of the 20th century. At the time Manteo carried a North American styled Queen Ann architecture combined with unique elements that reflected its coastal Environment. Churches such as Mount Olivet Methodist and Manteo Baptist were early community centers that guided local life. The construction of the island's first Court House symbolized the permanence of organized government. Manteo became Roanoke Island's only incorporated town in 1899. [31]

As seasonal tourists began to take interest Roanoke became more aligned with the national American culture. In 1917 the Pioneer Theater was established showing movies from around the country, the theater remains in existence as one of America's remaining small theaters. The transition from a wholly subsistence to a partial consumer economy began to gradually take place on the eve of the construction of the first bridge.

The first bridge Edit

The communities of Roanoke were transformed by the construction of the first bridge connecting the island eastwards to Nags Head in 1924. For the first time, automobiles were introduced where travel by water or horse had been previously more common. The Baum bridge marked the first time that higher level infrastructure had been brought to the island. The 1924 bridge would be the only road connection to Roanoke Island for over thirty years. Around the same time, NC 345, Roanoke Island's first paved road for automobiles, was built and covered the entire extent of the land from the marshes of Wanchese to the Northend. The north edge of NC 345 corresponded with a ferry that went to Manns Harbor on the mainland. The North Carolina department of transportation subsidized the Roanoke Island ferry in 1934 to lower ticket costs and this was origin of the modern N.C ferry system. [32]

Both Manteo in the north and Wanchese to the south were transformed by the construction of the first Nags Head bridge. Manteo which had previously been a small port reliant on trade with Elizabeth City and Edenton was now connected to a wider transportation network in both the North Carolina and Virginian Tidewater regions. The docks of Downtown Manteo began to decline as the bridge road became the center of commerce. Roanoke Island became industrialized for the first time in Wanchese. In 1936 the Wanchese Fish Cooperation was incorporated by the Daniels family as a processing and packing plant for fish, scallops and shrimp.

As Roanoke was introduced to the national market economy by the bridge, its fishing sales and local economy suffered from the Great Depression. Another blow was dealt in a 1933 Outer Banks Hurricane that made landfall in Hatteras before moving northwards toward Nova Scotia. Over 1,000 people lost their homes across Eastern North Carolina and 24 fatalities were reported. The waterfront of Manteo was destroyed by a severe fire in 1939.

In response to the crisis, the New Deal came to Roanoke Island to provide desperately needed employment and to highlight Roanoke's importance to the history of the United States. The outdoor theater play The Lost Colony written by Paul Green, began in 1936 and attracted the visit of President Franklin Roosevelt in 1937. The Lost Colony continues its performance every summer season. The onset of WWII with the German declaration of war in December, 1941 affected the island directly.

Legacy Edit

  • In 2001, Dare County erected a marble monument to the Freedmen's Colony at the Fort Raleigh Historic Site.
  • It is listed as a site within the National Underground Railroad to Freedom Network of the National Park Service.
  • Home and burial place of Andy Griffith

Possibly [33] the oldest cultivated grapevine in the world is the 400-year-old scuppernong "Mother Vine" growing on Roanoke Island. [34] The scuppernong is the state fruit of North Carolina. [35]

The island is in Dare County Schools. Residents are zoned to Manteo Elementary School, Manteo Middle School, and Manteo High School. [36]

Our Long Roanoke Nightmare

The sixth season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story focuses on the mysterious lost colony of Roanoke.

The sixth season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story premiered on September 14 th after a lengthy campaign of intentional obfuscation, including 24 trailers that may or may not have had any connection to the season’s theme (verdict: a few did, some didn’t and some we just don’t know yet.) With last Wednesday’s premiere, we now at least know that it’s set in Roanoke (the island in NC, and not the city in VA)—mysterious grist for the (non-native) American imagination for centuries.

The 1587 arrival of 116 settlers was not the first encroachment made at Roanoke: two years before, veterans of the English war against the Irish had arrived under the command of Ralph Lane. During a dispute over a silver cup, the Englishmen sacked and burned the native Secotan village of Aquascogoc, thus setting the tone for European-indigenous relations for the next 500 years. As food ran out, the colonists attacked again, killing the tribe’s leader and when Sir Francis Drake arrived in 1586, they abandoned the colony.

The second group—men, women, and children—landed with a plan to move 50 miles inland towards better food resources, so their “disappearance” from the initial landing site may have been been planned from the beginning. The colonists expected a ship with supplies to arrive within 3 months, but when war broke out with the Spanish, all English ships were diverted to fighting, leaving Roanoke without any contact for 3 years.

When the supply party finally got there, they found the site abandoned with the words “CROATOAN” carved in a post. This was most likely an agreed upon signal, to let visitors know where the colonists were headed—if they were in distress, the signal was to include a Maltese cross (it did not.)

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Multiple archaeological digs have found evidence of English presence further from the site, supporting the idea that the colony split up to find food. Research examining the North Carolina climate of the time found a period of historic drought that would have impacted anyone living in the area. The settlers may have moved even further inland, joined the native villages, succumbed to natural threats, or died in conflict most likely it was a combination of these factors that caused the second colony of Roanoke to be “lost.” The erosion of island shoreline, a loss some have estimated at over 900 feet, may have put the earliest settlement’s structures and artifacts under water, contributing to the “disappearance” narrative.

However Ryan Murphy chooses to use Roanoke (and its first US born child, Virginia Dare) this season, he’ll need to avoid the symbolic racism that’s come before. Dare has been used to brand everything from the oldest American wine offering (and their originally offensively named varietals), “pure” vanilla extract, and a white supremacist website. The looming specter of whiteness landing in Roanoke could be this season’s horror show all by itself.

What Really Happened to the Mary Celeste?

From these bits of evidence, a possible scenario may be pieced together about what may have happened to the Mary Celeste: Something occurred on the Mary Celeste that made the captain panic, and he ordered the crew to get into the lifeboat, and abandon the ship. The halyard was then tied to the lifeboat, and the captain and his crew trailed behind the Mary Celeste to see what would happen to her.

The panic turned out to be a false alarm. But unfortunately for Captain Briggs, his family, and the crew, the halyard snapped during a raging storm , and they were unable to get themselves back to the Mary Celeste .

A memorial to the crew of the Mary Celeste, who vanished without a trace (

What happened to Daniel Nolan? The official theory doesn’t wash.

These articles were first published on my website in 2003. They focus, in the beginning, on the puzzling disappearance of a 14-year-old lad called Daniel Nolan. Daniel vanished around midnight on New Year Day 2002 from the Hampshire harbour town of Hamble-le-Rice.

“The River and surrounding waters have been searched thoroughly but there is no evidence to show he fell in. He is a competent swimmer and has a wide knowledge of the River – he would not intentionally put himself in danger. He may have been taken by someone in a vehicle or on a boat.
This is the last picture we have of Dan, taken with the digital camera he received for Christmas.”

The first part is a précis of the first article I wrote on Daniel’s disappearance. I had been asked to look into it. Following on is the second article almost in its entirety. It looks at other crimes as well.

Some of the original links are now redundant and I have also added more information.

The truth about what happened to Daniel has never been revealed by the police publicly, yet.

Around the same time the remains of two other youngsters were discovered on the shores of the Solent yachting mecca, and territory (hunting ground?) of the accused child-abuser and killer, Ted Heath…Heath used Hamble.