Three groups of English settlers arrived on North Carolina’s Roanoke Island, one after the other.
In 1584, the first group mapped the area and left.
In 1585, the second group arrived, composed of scientists and military men. They did not get along with the local Indian tribes and were driven out.
In 1587, a third group of settlers arrived. There were 90 men, 13 women, and 11 children. These settlers had every intention of staying and building a new home for themselves and their families.
Three years later, John White returned to the settlement with a ship full of goods for the colony. He expected to return in three months, but he found England at war. That delayed him. By the time he returned to Roanoke Island, no one was there. Everyone, including his own family, had disappeared.
Before he left to get supplies, the settlers had built several two-story homes with thatched roofs. They had built a rough fort, surrounding the settlement. John White found the houses inside the fort had all been taken down. Thre was no sign of a struggle. There were no bones or evidence of graves. John White did dig. He had buried chests with drawings and books and maps near the settlement before he left for England. He found them but they were torn apart by what appeared to be the weather. He had not buried them deep enough to keep them safe.
The people left behind two clues. The word "Croatoan" was carved into a gatepost in the fort they had built, and the word "Cro" was carved into a tree. It was always assumed that they had left these carved words to tell people where they had gone - to Croatoan, another settlement. Croatoan may have been the name of another island on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, now called Hatteras Island. Captain White searched for them on "Coratoan", now Hatteras Island. The Roanoke group were not there. If they meant a different island, he did not find it.
There have been many theories about what happened to this group of people. Some theories suggest they died of disease that swept the settlement, and wild animals dragged away their bones. Others suggest they were killed by the local Indian tribes or perhaps taken prisoner. To this day, no one knows what happened to them.
This early colony on Roanoke Island is remembered, first, because it's a mystery - how do you lose a colony? And second, before the colonists disappeared, the first English child born in the New World was born here. She was born one month after they first arrived. Her name was Virginia Dare.