Roanoke Colony was supposed to be the first English settlement in America. But it vanished without any trace. The mystery behind this lost colony has baffled the researchers for more than a hundred years. There are no concrete evidences as to how these groups of men vanished. Thus there many theories regarding the fate of these English settlers. Queen Elizabeth I on hearing news about a lush and beautiful area in Americas decided to name the place Virginia. She gave permission to Sir Walter Raleigh to set up a new colony in the area. Sir Walter was also to finance the expedition to what is today known as North Carolina. The timeline set for his tasks was set at 10 years.
In 1585, 77 men were sent to start the colony and they were led by Sir Richard Grenville. But a conflict arose when the settlers suspected the local Indians of stealing a silver cup. The settlers burnt and destroyed the Indian village and the tribal chief was burnt alive. This led to hostilities but Grenville decided to go forward and build the colony as it is. He left shortly and vowed to return back by April 1586. When the month of April passed men grew tensed and they decided to ride back home with Sir Francis Drake. Drake had stopped by at the colony on his return journey after a successful expedition to the Caribbean. But Grenville arrived shortly afterwards. When he found the settlement empty he decided to leave 15 men to protect England’s interest.
The second group of settlers arrived at Roanoke Island on July 22, 1587. This group comprised of 117 people, both men and women. They were led by John White whose daughter gave birth to the first English child in America shortly afterwards. The child’s name was Virginia Dare. These were later known as “The Lost Colony of Roanoke Island”. The settlers tried to make peace with the Indians. They were successful in befriending the Croatoan tribe but there were hostile relations with other tribes of the area. One of the settlers George Howe was murdered by the tribes when he embarked on the beach to hunt for crab. This spread fear among the other settlers and they asked John White to return home and get help. He left the settlers but these people were never to be seen again.
After returning back to England John White was unable to secure a passage back to the Roanoke Islands. None of the captains would set sail in the Atlantic during winter, then there were threats of the Spanish Armada, lastly he set sail on two small boats. But this expedition was also not successful. So he had to wait for three years. When John finally returned to the island on August 18, 1590 on the eve of his granddaughter’s third birthday to his dismay there was no sign of his family or friends. The colony had been dismantled and deserted. Only clues to the whereabouts of the settlers was left on a remaining post and tree. The carving on the post read “Croatoan” and the carving on the tree was even more cryptic and said “Cro”. John travelled to the nearby Crotoan Island. It had been agreed before White’s departure that if the settlers were forced they would carve a Maltese cross on a tree. As such a sign was not to be seen so White assumed that the settlers had left on their own will. He started the search of settlers but was forced to return to England due to inclement weather. He never returned on the Roanoke Islands again.
Many theories have been placed as reasons for the missing of these settlers. Some feel they left due to weather, food shortage or threat from attacks of local tribes. There are no certain claims. But later on some settlers were seen around the area who had light hair and eyes. May be they were not killed after all, they may have lived in the Croatoan Island. But nothing is for sure!