Outdoor Stage at the Lost Colony of Roanoke Theater. photo by Kala Ambrose
It’s summer time in North Carolina and for many people here it’s time to getaway to the beach. When I visit the beaches of NC, my thoughts always return to Virginia Dare and the Lost Colony of Roanoke. Their time spent here on the beach was far less relaxing as they braved hostile natives, endured heat, mosquitoes and disease and struggled to survive from day to day.
Here’s how their adventure began… In 1584, explorers were sent to Roanoke Island (a narrow island situated between the Outer Banks and the mainland of North Carolina) by Sir Walter Raleigh to determine if the area would be well suited to establishing a colony. Upon their return, they delivered a positive report of the location, which included a list of the abundant natural resources surrounding the area and findings that Roanoke was better protected from the elements than the Outer Banks. The island appeared all around to be a good choice for a settlement with live oaks and plenty of other trees to build cabins and a variety of wildlife to hunt for food. Sir Walter Raleigh delivered the information to Queen Elizabeth and she granted Raleigh a charter to all the lands that he could claim in the area.
The next year Sir Raleigh sent out a group of one hundred men, mostly soldiers and craftsmen to establish the colony under the guidance of Ralph Lane, a military captain. The group met with poor results from the beginning and departed the area.
Sir Raleigh responded to the news of Lane’s departure by gathering a party of one hundred and seventeen men, women and children who were willing to sail from England in order to establish a permanent settlement in the New World. As the group sailed to the New World, their leader John White included in his party his pregnant daughter Eleanor Dare. Upon their arrival, the situation was hostile on all fronts and the colonists asked John White to return to England to gather support and supplies.
Three years after Eleanor gave birth to her daughter Virginia Dare, her father John White returned to Roanoke Island to find everyone and everything missing. All traces of the settlement had disappeared. There was no sign of struggle nor were there any signs of where the group had gone. His heart raced with terror, were his daughter and his granddaughter alive? Had someone taken them? There had been no way to get a direct message to them for the past three years. The colonists had no news source and relied on ships that very infrequently stopped in the area. It’s highly likely that the colonists might not have known about the war that had kept White from traveling back to them. They may have presumed White to be dead or lost at sea.
Imagine how Eleanor must have felt, a new baby and practically defenseless, waiting each day in such dangerous territory, cradling her small daughter Virginia while everyone rationed the dwindling supplies. John White understood this and more, realizing that his dream of starting the first settlement in the new world and bringing his daughter with him, had led to her destruction. Read the rest of this entry »