The Mystery of the Lost Colony of Roanoke

Background

Before establishing the colonies of Jamestown and Plymouth,the English had an attempt to establish a colony on Roanoke Island.They hoped it would be the first permanent English settlement  in the New World.The colony was founded by Sir Walter Raleigh who had a charter for the colonization  granted by  Queen Elisabeth I.This charter granted by the Queen of England had a specification.Raleigh had to establish a colony in North America in the next 10 years or otherwise  he would lose his right to colonization given by the Queen!Those were some challenging times you must admit!Raleigh surely had to stand up to the task he was given.Raleigh himself never visited North America,because he was leading expeditions in South America searching for the legendary city of El Dorado.




(Roanoke colony,the small pink island in the middle)

Establishing the colony

On the 27 th of April 1584,explorers Arthur Barlowe and Philip Amadas  were given permission by Sir Walter Raleigh  to led an expedition  and explore the eastern coast of North America.They arrived on Roanoke Island od July 4 and soon they established relations with the local natives (Secotans and  Croatoans).Amazed with the landscape and the opportunites this island had to offer,Barlowe returned to his country but this time with two native Croatoans who were named Manteo and Wanchese.You probably wonder why Barlowe returned to England with these two men?Manteo and Wanchese were teached to speak English and were able to describe the opportunities and the adventages from the colonization of this island.Queen Elisabetth I was so amazed with this report of the two pioneers and gave permission to  Walter Raleigh to establish a colony in the New World.Based on the  information Sir Walter Raleigh organized the second expedition who was led by Sir Richard Grenville.In this Grenville and his men on July 1585  arrived on the coast of North Carolina and on the north part of the island of Roanoke  they established the first settlement  in the colony.The life of the colonists wasn’t easy and there were many reasons for that.The  English colonists didn’t have good relations with the Native Americans on the island and  they lived in a constant fear of attack from them and  were also lacking food supplies which were needed for normal life.For these reasons Grenvill  in 1586 was obligated to return to England and to bring new supplies and new colonists and to return to the colony that same year.Time had passed and for the colonists in Roanoke it was almost impossible to hold on against the attacks from the Indians,so in the end they decided to leave the colony before Grenvill’s return.In that time Sir Francis Drake was returning home from a successful raid  in the Caribbean and he offered to the colonists to take them back to England.Exactly on this return to England the colonist from Roanoke brought to England tobacco,maize and potatoes.When Grenvill arrived he was surprised to came across an empty colony.Then he decided to leave behind one unit in the colony to maintain the English presence in North America.This unit settled the colony again and Grenvill returned to England for the second time.The colonists had to hold on until Grenvills return with new boats and colonists from England.In 1587 Raleigh sent from England 115 colonists to reunite with the colonist left in Roanoke and to establish a new colony on Chesapeake Bay.These colonist were led by John White  a man who was an artist and also a friend of Raleigh.When they arrived on Roanoke to pick up the unit left by Grenvill they found nothing except one skeleton .In that time the master pilot Simon Fernandez refused to let the colonists to  get back on their ships and insisted that they should try to establish their new colony again on the Roanoke Island.White had an attempt to establish better relations with the Indians on the Roanoke but without success.In 1587 one women brought to the world a baby girl,which is considered to be the first child born from English parents on American soil.She was the grandaughter of John white and she was named Virginia Dare.When the conflicts with the Indians became more frequent the colonist begged White to return to England and bring reinforcement.Leaving behind about 115  colonists including his newborn granddaughter and his family White sailed back to England.In that moment he couldn’t imagine that its gonna be the last time he’s seeing the colonists.

The Lost Colony

White planned to get supplies and more colonists from England and then to return to the colony as soon as possible.But his plans didn’t wok out.Soon after his arrival in England King Philip II of Spain and his Spanish Armada attacked the British.Because of this and many other reasons White couldn’t return to his colony until three years later.When he arrived three years later on Roanoke Island the colony was gone.His man  didn’t find any clue to what happened to the colonists from the colony and there wasn’t any  sign of a battle.The only clues White found was a word CRO on a tree near the water.The word CROATOAN was found carved on a post without any cross near it.Before leaving the colonists White instructed them that if something happened to them they should carve a Maltese cross on some tree like an indication that something bad happened to them or that their absence was forced by something..But there was no cross anywhere on the island and White thought that they moved to the Croatoan Island(Hatteras Island) but he was unable to make a research,because a massive storm was coming and his men refused to go any further so they left the next day. Twelve years after Raleigh sent an expedition to find out the truth about what happened to the colony.However Raleigh decided also to make money from the trip and his ship landed to the Outer Banks to gather some things that would bring a decent profit in England.But when they were planning to search for the colonists the weather turned bad and they went back without searching for them.Later Raleigh was arrested for making treason and he wasn’t able to send any more expeditions.One expedition in 1603 was led by Bartholomew Gilbert for finding the lost colonists.This expedition was also unsuccessful and Gilbert was killed by the Native Americans.In 1607 when Jamestown was established the English attempt to gather information from the Powhatan tribe about the lost colony of Roanoke.The chronicler Samuel Purchas says that John Smith (who was the leader of Jamestown)learned from Chief Powhatan that he personally  made the slaughter of the Roanoke colonists because they were living with a tribe who refused to merge with the Powhatan tribe.This was a shocking information in England and everyone there thought that the Powhatan tribe was guilty for the slaughter of the colony of Roanoke.However no bodies were found from the lost colonist and the archeologists don’t have evidence to support this theory.

There are several assumptions about what really happened to the colonists.




Assimilation by the local population

According to the first and most common  assumption,the colonists mingled with the Indians,accepting their way of life and customs.This assumptions were first suggested  by immigrants who arrived in America in the 17th century and there supposably discovered Indians,who knew English methods of construction and as prisoners they kept people of European descent. In the 18th century travel writers recorded a story by Indians from the Croatoan tribe who clamed to originate from white people.They differed from the rest of the Indians and had a specific color of the eyes that could indicate interference with people of  European descent.The tribe was also very hospitable and friendly towards  the Europeans.Similarity with the Europeans was later established in some other nearby tribes,which used many words very similar to English.

 Destruction  in conflict with the Indians

Many historians believe that the colonists left the colony in search of food and that in the  search they were completely destroyed in conflicts with the Indians.

The destruction of the colony by the Spanish

Under this assumption,the colony was destroyed by the Spanish,in the English-Spanish War.




Moving the colony to the interior of the American mainland

On the basis of interesting traces on the maps drawn by John White during his visit to the island of Roanoke,a small symbol of fortification was observed under the small patch placed at the spot where the map was corrected.Based on this discovery,some historians have suggested that the painting represents a new village built by the colonists after their departure by the island,suggesting that White knew about that.If this data map is accurate it would mean  that  the colonists moved westward to the area where Jamestown  was later built.Archeological excavations in the areas mapped on the map have not yet been carried out,so the theory of  resettlement of the colonists has not yet been confirmed.

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