Shortly after Jeremy and I moved to Illinois, I had joined a few Meetup.com groups to make some new friends. One group I joined was a group of older adults that would meet weekly for trivia nights. I LOVE trivia games. I know a lot of useless and random facts which are useful for trivia games. The first time I met up with this group, they were doing a trivia game at a local pizzeria. The members of the group were amazing with the answers throughout the entire game until the final question. They were all absolutely stumped, whereas I wasn’t. I forget the exact wording of the question but the announcer said something along the lines of what was the event that happened in the late 1580s that was one of the first mysteries in what would later become the United States. Since I was the new girl, the group didn’t trust me when I snatched the answer sheet, wagered all of our points, and submitted the answer seconds after the announcer finished rereading the question. Not only was our answer correct, we were the ONLY team to get the answer right. Apparently, in Illinois, they don’t teach about the Lost Colony of Roanoke.
The story behind the Lost Colony starts a few years before the colony was established. In 1585, Sir Walter Raleigh attempted to establish a colony off the coast of what is now North Carolina. A year later, the colony was evacuated back to England because of tensions with local tribes and supply issues. A second attempt at establishing a colony at Roanoke happened in August 1587. This time, John White governed the colony. He brought over 115 English settlers which included his wife; his pregnant daughter, Eleanor; and her husband, Ananias Dare. Eleanor gave birth shortly after arriving at Roanoke to a girl who she named Virginia Dare in honor of Queen Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen. Virginia Dare was the first English child to be born in the New World.
By the end of the year, John White had to head back to England for more supplies for the colony. Unfortunately, shortly after he arrived back in England, England would would become involved in a lengthy war with Spain. Queen Elizabeth required all boats to be used in the war. John White could not return to his family and the colony until August 1590, three years after he had left the colony.
Immediately after he landed in Roanoke, he could see that something terrible had happened to the colony. The wooden fence that surrounded where the colony used to be was still intact, but absolutely all the buildings and homes were gone. All traces of the colony was gone. The only hint John White could find was the word “Croatoan” and “CRO” that were carved on the wooden posts in the fence. John White was never able to find out what happened to the settlers or his family.
Over the years, there have been many theories of what happened to the Lost Colony, but still no one knows for sure. Some people think that the colony was either killed by a local Indian tribe. Others think that a hurricane or lack of supplies pushed the colony further in land and they may have joined up with one of the Indian tribes. The words carved into the wooden posts could have been naming the local Croatoan tribe as either their attackers or their rescuers. The theory that my family and I believe is that the settlers came inland for whatever reason and ended up settling with and marrying into one of the local tribes. This would explain the existence of the Lumbee Indians. The Lumbee Indians, while federally recognized, do not receive any of the funds or services that other tribes receive mainly because they don’t know their own history or genealogy. DNA tests show they are a mix of Siouan, Algonquian, and Iroquoian tribes, blacks and whites. The tribe could be descendants of these tribes and the settlers of the Lost Colony. Robeson County (where the Lumbees are based out of) legislator and local historian, Hamilton McMillan, originally introduced this theory in 1885.
Besides the theories of what happened to the colony, a few ghost stories and urban legends have popped up regarding the settlers. At Fort Raleigh in Manteo, North Carolina (where the Roanoke colony was established) is the home to Elizabethan Gardens and The Waterside Theatre where The Lost Colony play is preformed. These areas are said to be haunted by the ghost of a young woman. Many claim the ghost is Virginia Dare. Virginia Dare is also part of an urban legend in Manteo and central North Carolina. The urban legend says that she and her family was taken in by a local Indian tribe. As she grew into a young woman, the tribe’s medicine man fell in love with her. Virginia Dare rejected his advances because she was in love with a boy closer to her age from the tribe. The medicine man, angry at her rejection, changed both her and the boy she loved into deer. The boy became a regular white-tail deer that is common in North Carolina, whereas Virginia Dare became a solid white deer. People have reported seeing a white deer for hundreds of years now.
While we don’t know what happened to the settlers, I can promise you that it is nothing like it was protrayed in American Horror Story: Roanoke. The show was good and offered a pretty decent scares, it definitly isn’t histortically accurate. Besides the television show, has anyone outside of North Carolina heard of the Lost Colony? Let me know in the comments below. Also let me know what your theory is about what happened to the settlers.