This is one of the mysteries that stays in my heart!!
About eight miles (12 km) long and two miles (3 km) wide, Roanoke Island lies between the mainland and the barrier islands, with Albemarle Sound on its north, Roanoke Sound at the northern end, and Wanchese CDP at the southern end. Fort Raleigh National Historic Site is on the island. There is a land area of 17.95 square miles (46.48 km²) and a population of 6,724 as of the 2000 census.
Located along U.S. Highway 64, a major highway from mainland North Carolina to the Outer Banks, Roanoke Island combines recreational and water features with historical sites and an outdoor theater to form one of the major tourist attractions of Dare County.
Roanoke Island is best known for its historical significance as the site of Sir Walter Raleigh‘s attempt to establish a permanent English settlement with his Roanoke Colony in the late 16th century. The fate of the final group of colonists has yet to be ascertained, leading to the continuing interest in what became known as the “Lost Colony” for over 400 years. In the 21st century, even as archaeologists, historians and scientists continue to work to resolve the mystery, visitors come to see the longest-running outdoor theater production in America: “The Lost Colony.”
Roanoke Island is one of the three oldest surviving English place-names in the U.S. Along with the Chowan and Neuse rivers, it was named in 1584 by Captains Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe, sent by Sir Walter Raleigh.
Roanoke Island was the site of the sixteenth-century Roanoke Colony, the first English colony in the New World in what was then called Virginia, in honor of England’s ruling monarch, Queen Elizabeth I. Who was also known as the Virgin Queen, thus Virginia. There were two groups of settlers who attempted to establish a permanent settlement at Roanoke Island, and each failed. The first attempt in 1585 to establish the Roanoke Colony was headed by Ralph Lane after Sir Richard Grenville, who had transported the colonists to Virginia, returned to England for supplies as planned. Unfortunately for the colonists, who were desperately in need of supplies, Grenville’s return was delayed. As a result, when Sir Francis Drake put in at Roanoke after attacking the Spanish colony of St. Augustine, the entire population of the colony returned with Drake to England.
In 1587, the English again attempted to settle in Roanoke. John White, father of one of the colonists Eleanor Dare, and grandfather to the first English child born in the New World, Virginia Dare, left the colony to return to England for supplies that he felt would help the colonists to survive, expecting to return to Roanoke Island within three months. Instead, he found England at war with Spain, and all ships were confiscated for use of the war efforts. His return to Roanoke Island was delayed until 1590. When he finally returned, the colonists had disappeared. The only thing he found were the letters “CRO” carved into a nearby tree and the word “CROATOAN” carved into a fencepost. Before leaving the colony for England three years earlier, White left instructions with the colonists that if they were forced to abandon their settlement on Roanoke, that they were to carve out the name of the place where they were going and a Maltese cross under the carving if they left due to danger.
“CROATOAN” was the name of an island to the south (modern-day Hatteras Island), where a friendly native tribe was known to live, and it was thus reasonable to assume that the colonists had left the Roanoke settlement bound for that island. However, foul weather would keep White from venturing south to search on Croatoan for the colonists, and they returned to England. White would never return to the New World. The fate of the colony has never been authoritatively ascertained, and consequently it became known as “The Lost Colony”.
Later, in 1880’s, a man living in North Carolina wrote about what the Natives looked like there. He wrote he noticed some had “fair skin and light eyes and hair, with Anglo bone structure.” These are not found among Native Americans normally, so some believe that the Roanoke colonists assimilated into the Croatoan Indian tribe.
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