North Carolina has a rich tradition of folklore, and it encompasses a variety of magical legends and unexplained natural phenomena – and today we’ll explore one of the country’s most gripping historical mysteries, the Lost Colony.
The story begins over 400 years ago and involves a group of English settlers that arrived on the North Carolina coast in 1587 with the hopes of starting a new life and establishing a permanent colony. Although they were not the first English explorers to make it to the New World, they were the first group to include women and children.
Recruited by the explorer Sir Walter Raleigh, John White lead the group of over 100 people that included his pregnant daughter, Eleanor Dare, her husband Ananias Dare, and the Croatoan Indian chief Manteo, who had become an English ally during a previous visit in Britain. Not long after arriving on the island, Eleanor gave birth to the first English baby born in the New World. Her name was Virginia Dare.
Shortly afterwards, Governor White sailed back to England to encourage and hasten efforts to resupply and reinforce the colony. His departure marked the last known contact between the English and the settlers in the new colony. Just after his arrival, a major naval war began between England and Spain, Queen Elizabeth I called all ships available to confront the Spanish Armada. It wasn’t until 3 years later in 1590, that White was finally able to return to the Americas. Upon his arrival, he found no trace of the colony or the inhabitants, just the word “Croatoan” carved onto a wooden post. White took the carving as a sign that the colonists had moved inland to Croatoan, the home of Chief Manteo’s people south of Roanoke on Hatteras Island. After several setbacks White was unable to find the lost settlers and died many years later, ignorant to the fate of his family and the colony.
There has been plenty of speculation about the fate of those settlers, some hypotheses hold that they tried to sail back to England on their own and got lost at sea, or that they met a bloody end at the hands of Spaniards marching up from Florida. The likely scenario is that they moved further inland and assimilated with native friends where they mixed families and endured for generations.
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