1. The Lost Colony was only the first English attempt to settle North America. The Spanish had already founded St. Augustine (Florida) 20 years before.
Many falsely think that Plymouth, Jamestown, or the Lost Colony were the first European settlements in North America. In truth, the Spanish settled in Florida and established St. Augustine decades before any English colonies were attempted.
2. The Lost Colony was not one attempt to colonize Roanoke Island, but three. All three colonies were lost.
The first colony was a group of 108 people, the second was 15, and the third was 115. Only a few of the first colony was lost, but all of the other two disappeared without a trace.
3. The hostility between the Europeans and the Natives began over a single silver cup.
Sir Walter Raleigh sent an expedition to Roanoke Island in 1584, under the leadership of Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe. During the six weeks they explored the coastline, they made contact with the local Aquascogoc tribe. The relationship was rocky, and was made worse when the English accused the Aquascogoc of stealing a silver cup. The English sacked and burned their entire village. The Aquascogoc would later retaliate with an attack on the English. When the more famous third Lost Colony arrived on the island two years later, they had no idea that they were already hated by these Natives. They found out soon enough: the Aquascogoc murdered one of the colonists (George Howe) while he was crabbing.
4. The first Lost Colony was made up of all men.
In August, 1585, 108 men from the initial expedition were left to settle the island while the rest returned to England. These first settlers were promised that a ship would arrive the following spring with more men and supplies. The ship didn’t arrive, and two months later the Aquascogoc attacked. Sir Francis Drake stopped by soon after (he had been busy carrying out raids in the Caribbean), and these first colonists jumped at the opportunity to escape Roanoke Island and return home to England. They brought with them tobacco, which quickly became a commercial success and an incentive for England to establish a stable North American colony.
Though the details are sketchy, it appears that at least a small number of men were left behind on Roanoke Island to hold down the fort. When the promised and delayed supply ship finally arrived, however, the fort was deserted. The first Lost Colony was no more.
5. The second Lost Colony was a force of 15 men. They were all lost.
Sir Richard Grenville, a distant cousin of Sir Walter Raleigh, arrived in the summer of 1586 with the supply ship to refresh the first colony. Finding the fort deserted, he left a small garrison of 15 men to maintain Sir Raleigh’s claim to the island. A new ship with people and supplies returned a year later, and found no trace of the garrison except one human skeleton.
6. Virginia Dare is famous as the first English child born in the New World. Has she been born just a few days later, she would have been completely forgotten.
In July of 1587, a new group of colonists sent by Sir Raleigh arrived under the leadership of John White. They found the deserted fort and the single human skeleton. Just a few weeks later, White’s daughter Eleanor gave birth to the first English child born in the New World: Virginia Dare.
Virginia Dare has been remembered in many ways: Roanoke Island is part of Dare County, North Carolina. Automobiles travel back and forth on the four-lane Virginia Dare Memorial Bridge between Manns Harbor and Roanoke Island. A section of NC-12 is known as the Virginia Dare Trail.
However, just days after Virginia was born, colonist Margerie Harvie gave birth to a child of her own. This second English child born in the New World has largely been forgotten – we do not know the baby’s sex nor name. Had Virginia been born just a few days later, it is possible that Roanoke Island would be in Harvie County, not Dare County.
7. The third Lost Colony might have survived had it not been for the greed of two English ship captains.
John White returned to England in 1587 to gather more people and supplies for the colony. During this time the Anglo-Spanish war intensified and it became almost impossible for White to acquire a ship. He initially procured two, but on their way to the island the two English ship captains seized the opportunity to attack a group of Spanish ships, attempting to capture them and enrich themselves. Instead, they themselves were captured and all of the supplies intended for the colonists were taken by the Spanish. White returned to England and had to wait another three years before he could return to the colony.
8. The only recorded clue to explain what happened to the Lost Colony is the word “Croatan”.
When John White finally returned to Roanoke Island (on his granddaughter Virginia’s third birthday), he found the settlement completely deserted. There was no sign of a battle and no hint as to where the people had gone. The only clue was the word “Croatan” carved into a fence post, and the letters C-R-O carved into a tree. This has led a few to think that the colonists were taken by the Croatan and killed at some other location. More believe that the colonists intentionally joined and integrated with the Croatan.
9. There is practically no definitive archaeological evidence from Roanoke Island to show that English settlers were ever there.
Despite a few debated artifacts, most archaeologists agree that the search for evidence of the 16th Century English presence on Roanoke Island has come up empty. Most believe that this is because of shore erosion. The colonists settled on the northern part of the island, and most archaeologists believe that the actual location of the settlement is now under water.
Everything we know about the Lost Colony we know from written reports.
10. The Lost Colony might have been destroyed by the Spanish.
Though the integration theory remains the most popular explanation of the fate of the Lost Colony, there are some who believe that the colonists were massacred by the Spanish. The Spanish were at war with the English, and even the later English colonists at Jamestown were as fearful of an attack by the Spanish as they were one by the local Natives. The Spanish managed to obliterate the French colony at Fort Charles in South Carolina, so this kind of an attack on Roanoke Island was certainly possible.