Most of us are relatively familiar with the story of the "Lost Colony." Nearly 100 years following Columbus' initial voyage to the New World,
England dispatched a settlement group to found the first permanent colony, after numerous prior disappearances and/or failures.
Though earlier voyages had convinced planners that the best bet was to locate the colony up in the Chesapeake Bay, ship personnel refused to venture
beyond the barrier islands of North Carolina (at the time, though, this was in Dare County, Virginia), thus, in 1587, the group was somewhat stranded
on Roanoke Island and quickly experienced tensions with local Indian tribes.
Things became so dicey, the group convinced their leader, John White, to return to England to acquire supplies and reinforcements (from the colony's
sponsor, Sir Walter Raleigh) and return in order to relocate the colony to an area around the original choice in the Chesapeake Bay. Of course back
in the sixteenth century, trans-Atlantic voyages were neither quick, cheap nor easy. Also, note war between Spain and England was imminent (1588 -
defeat of Spanish Armada), so the seas were not without danger.
Three years later, White returned and the settlement had been abandoned. The only notice of any sort was a carving in a tree ("CRO") and a carving
on a gatepost ("CROATOAN"). Croatan was both a friendly, local Indian tribe, as well a nearby island.
James Horn, a scholar with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has authored a new book, A Kingdom Strange
, which delves into the Roanoke
Island Mystery. Horn's hypothesis suggests the settlement fell victim to wrong place, wrong time. Though he imagines the settlers integrated within
friendly tribes, he also suspects they may have been targeted as many Indians in the region were warring with each other and they, collectively,
feared the ramifications of newly arrived soldiers in what would eventually become the actual first permanent English colony in the New World,
Jamestown. [I am unaware of the specific evidence Horn uses to support this particular hypothesis (as opposed to the many others) - I have not read
the book yet.]
The first child of English heritage to be born in the New World, Virginia Dare, was from this settlement and was John White's granddaughter (she was
born only a month following the group's arrival in 1587).
Numerous other hypotheses have developed as well, though they most often include, at least in part, integration with various Indian tribes. Some have
also suggested cannibalism, sabotage by the Spanish and simple starvation.
The Lost Colony
is a fictional play which dramatizes these events and is held outdoors on Roanoke Island during the summer. It has been
playing, regularly, for 73 years, bar only a brief hiatus during World War II.
Prompted by book review from The Richmond Times-Dispatch
Nonfiction review: A Kingdom
[edit on 4/4/2010 by Hadrian]