The Mysterious Disappearance of the Roanoke Colony



9 Questions

What was the main reason for the failure of the Roanoke Colony founded in 1585?

Who led the second expedition to Roanoke Island in 1587?

What was the clue left behind by the colonists when they disappeared in 1590?

What was the intended number of colonists for the Roanoke Colony?

What did John Smith report about a place called 'Ocanahonan'?

What did William Strachey write about the fate of the colonists?

What is the most widely accepted theory about the fate of the Roanoke colonists?

What is Site X, and why is it significant?

What did John Lawson report about the Tuscarora tribe in the early 18th century?


Failed Colony in North America (1585-1590)

  • The Roanoke Colony was an attempt by Sir Walter Raleigh to establish the first permanent English settlement in North America in 1585.

  • The colony was founded on Roanoke Island in what is now Dare County, North Carolina, United States, but was abandoned by governor Ralph Lane after only a year due to a lack of supplies and poor relations with local Native Americans.

  • A second expedition, led by John White, arrived in 1587 to set up another settlement, but the colonists disappeared without explanation before White could return with supplies in 1590.

  • The fate of the approximately 112-121 colonists remains unknown, with the only clue being the cryptic word "CROATOAN" carved into the palisade.

  • Speculation that the colonists had assimilated with nearby Native American communities appears in writings as early as 1605.

  • Investigations by the Jamestown colonists produced reports of people with European features in Native American villages but no conclusive evidence was found.

  • The Outer Banks were explored in 1524 by Giovanni da Verrazzano, who mistook Pamlico Sound for the Pacific Ocean.

  • Queen Elizabeth I granted a charter to Sir Humphrey Gilbert to explore and colonize "unclaimed by Christian kingdoms" territories in 1578.

  • Raleigh's charter, issued on March 25, 1584, specified that he needed to establish a colony by 1591, or lose his right to colonization.

  • The intended number of colonists was 69, but approximately six hundred men were sent in the voyage, with about half intended to remain at the colony, and were to be followed by a second wave later.

  • The colony's top priority was to locate a better harbour, but the shallow inlets of the Outer Banks made the region unsuitable for a base to support large ships.

  • Grenville raided a large Spanish galleon, the Santa Maria de San Vicente, in Bermuda, which had become separated from the rest of its fleet, and took it back to England as a prize, spurring excitement in Queen Elizabeth's court about Raleigh's colonization efforts.The Lost Colony of Roanoke: A Summary

  • The Roanoke colony was established in 1585 by English settlers in what is now North Carolina, but little is known about what happened during the winter of 1585-86.

  • The colonists relied heavily on the Secotan tribe for food, and tensions rose in the spring of 1586.

  • Lane, one of the leaders of the colony, planned to explore the mainland and make contact with other tribes, but his mission was unsuccessful due to a lack of provisions and hostile natives.

  • The colony was briefly evacuated in 1586 after contact with Sir Francis Drake's fleet, but the colonists returned and established a new colony in 1587.

  • The new colony included families and was led by John White, but it faced numerous challenges, including hostile tribes, food shortages, and disease.

  • White left the colony to get supplies from England, but was delayed by the Spanish Armada and did not return until 1590.

  • When he arrived, the colony was deserted, and the only clue was the word "Croatoan" carved into a tree.

  • It is still unclear what happened to the colonists, but theories include assimilation into Native American tribes or massacre by hostile tribes.The Mystery of the Lost Roanoke Colony

  • The Roanoke Colony was established in 1587 by Sir Walter Raleigh in present-day North Carolina, but the fate of the colonists remains unknown.

  • The colony was abandoned by 1590 when a resupply mission led by John White returned to find it deserted.

  • White found the word "CROATOAN" carved on a post, leading him to believe the colonists had relocated to nearby Croatoan Island, but he was unable to investigate further.

  • Spanish reconnaissance missions in the area failed to locate the English base, but a plan was made in 1590 to destroy the colony and set up a Spanish colony in Chesapeake Bay.

  • Raleigh organized several expeditions to search for the colonists, but none were successful.

  • John Smith, who later founded the Jamestown settlement, reported hearing about a place called "Ocanahonan", where men wore European-style clothing, and "Anone", which featured walled houses.

  • Smith dispatched search parties to find the lost Roanoke colonists, but none were successful.

  • William Strachey later wrote that the colonists had spent twenty years living peacefully with a tribe beyond Powhatan territory before being attacked and killed.

  • Samuel Purchas wrote Virginia's Verger in 1625, asserting England's right to possess and exploit its North American claim and citing the 1586 ambush of Grenville's garrison, an alleged attack on White's colonists, and the 1622 Jamestown massacre as reasons for justifying this claim.

  • John Lawson explored the area in the early 18th century and reported that the Tuscarora tribe claimed to be descendants of the Roanoke colonists.

  • Despite numerous investigations and theories, the fate of the Roanoke colonists remains a mystery.The Lost Colony of Roanoke Island, consisting of English colonists who settled in North America in 1587, disappeared without a trace. Theories about their disappearance include assimilation with local Native American tribes, an attempt to return to England, and a Powhatan attack. There is evidence of European influence on the Hatteras tribe, and artifacts have been found on Roanoke Island, but none conclusively linked to the Lost Colony. Archaeological evidence has been limited due to shoreline erosion and the difficulty in distinguishing artifacts from other European settlements in the same era. Recent research has focused on Site X, where fragments of Tudor pottery and weapons were found. Genetic analysis has not yet identified any living descendants of the Lost Colony. The fate of the colonists remains a mystery, but assimilation with local tribes is the most widely accepted theory. The Croatan tribe is believed to be descendants of the Lost Colonists, and other tribes have been linked to them as well.


Test your knowledge on one of the most intriguing mysteries in American history with our quiz on the failed Roanoke Colony. Can you recall the key events, people, and theories surrounding the disappearance of the colony in North America from 1585-1590? Challenge yourself to remember the details of the colony's establishment, the challenges faced by the settlers, and the various theories that have emerged over the years to explain their disappearance. Sharpen your history skills and see how much you know about this fascinating

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