Mystery of the Lost Colony
The mystery of the “Lost Colony” dates back to when 118 European men, women and children settled on Roanoke Island off the coast of the outer Banks in North Carolina in 1588. An earlier attempt in 1585 by Sir Walter Raleigh failed. The village was one of the first English colonies in the New World, but not their intended destination. Originally, they had planned on the Chesapeake Bay area, but because of the hurricane season they were forced to stop at Roanoke.
However, in any case, this village fared little better. It lasted less than three years and no one knows for certain what became of the inhabitants. There are many theories, but few facts.
The Governor of this second group was John White and there were difficult obstacles to overcome from the start. There was a severe shortage of food and tools, not to mention the ever present fear of attacks by local Native Indians. Complaints by the colonists escalated until White was forced to return to England for much needed supplies.
White returned after three years to find just a few remnants of what had once been a town. Gone were his daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter, Virginia Dare, the first English child born in North America. There were no houses or people. All that remained were some small cannons, a chest and a fence around the perimeter. The only clue to what might have happened was a single word inscribed on a fence post…“Croatan.” Croatan was the Indian name for "Hatteras,” the name of a nearby island. Before White had left for England he had instructed the settlers to carve a destination on a tree or post if for any reason they had to abandon the village.
When the Jamestown colonists arrived in 1607, Captain John Smith searched for the lost colonists and reportedly learned they had lived among the friendly Chesapeake Indians on the south side of the Bay. Historians believe the group split into two groups, the larger of which headed for the Chesapeake Bay. According to one Indian Chief, his tribe had massacred the second group in an attempt to keep them from stealing their land. As proof, he reportedly showed a few odds and ends which belonged to the ill fated colonists.
Later, in 1709, English explorer John Lawson spent some time among the Hatteras Indians, descendants of the Croatan tribe. According to Lawson, several of their ancestors were white, spoke English and had gray eyes.
Young Lumbee Indian
More interesting clues as to the colonist’s fate came from a North Carolina man named Hamilton MacMillan in the 1880s. MacMillan lived in Robeson County near a settlement of Pembroke Indians, many of whom claimed their ancestors came from "Roanoke in Virginia." Roanoke in Virginia was how Sir Walter Raleigh had referred to Roanoke Island. MacMillan said the Pembroke Indians spoke English and had surnames matching those of many of the lost colonists. And they also had fair eyes, light hair and other European features.
Reports such as these support the theory the colonists assimilated with friendlier local Indian tribes. Over time, intermarriage between the natives and the English would eventually produce other groups. One of these may well be the Lumbee tribe in North Carolina. Family names of some of the Roanoke colonists, like Dial, Hyatt and Taylor, were noted by tribe members as early as 1719. But, even within the Lumbee tribe, the subject of their lineage is still argued.
There’s an old adage, “A photograph says a thousand words.” If so, this photograph says plenty.