The story of the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock is of course famous for being one of the first colonies to be founded in the “New World” — the first being Jamestown. However, before they had come here, there was a group of one hundred and seventeen people who landed in Virginia, only to never be seen again. This is, of course, the story of Roanoke.
In 1587 colonists landed at Roanoke Island and established a settlement — the first of its kind. Included in these numbers are John White and his daughter Eleanor Dare — who was pregnant — and her husband, and Chief Manteo who had become an ally to the English. The group set to work repairing an old fort that had been erected on the island previously, and soon after Eleanor Dare gave birth to the first English child born on the continent. A few days later, her father left for England to fetch supplies in order to help the budding colony.
John White was delayed in England, and when he arrived back in Roanoke — three years after his departure — he found that the fort was deserted. The only piece of evidence that might hint as to where the colonists had gone or what had happened was the word “CROATOAN” which was carved into a nearby tree. Croatoan was the name of Chief Manteo’s home, though when John White went looking for them, he was stopped by a hurricane that damaged his ships so horribly he was forced to return to England. Though he made several attempts to go back, John White would never return to look for his family and died never knowing what had happened to them.
The colonists of Roanoke had vanished from history. No one knows exactly what happened — whether they were attacked or they fled or they starved to death remains a mystery. Archaeologists still search for clues as to what happened to the lost colonists, searching for answers. So far there are none.
For more reading on Roanoke (sources):