The Lost colony Essay

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Roanoke Island, which is now Dare County, North Carolina, was the site of the Lost settlement, also known as the Roanoke settlement, which was founded in 1585. It was created by Queen Elizabeth to create a stable English presence in North America. Sir Walter Raleigh was the one who started it. The Roanoke Colony's ruler was then named by the Queen as John White. White had to return to England that year in order to get new provisions. As soon as he arrived in England, a military conflict between Spain and England erupted. To fend off the Spanish Armada, Queen Elizabeth controlled every ship at her disposal. White went back to Roanoke, where his family was staying, in 1590. He had a wife, daughter and a young granddaughter who was the first English child born in America. Her name was Virginia Dare. However, when he reached home, he found neither the colony nor the inhabitants. All he found was one word “Croatoan” which was carved on a wooden post. “Croatoan” was an island to the south of Roanoke which was inhabited by Native Americans.

Theories on the Fate of the Lost Colony

Since the disappearance of “The Lost Colony”, a number of investigations have been carried out and hypothesis formed on the fate of the colony.

The Croatoan Tribe and the Lost Colony

The first hypothesis states that this colony moved inland where the Croatoans were found and assimilated with them. This is according to Fred Willard, the founder of the Lost Colony Center for Science and Research. This is an organization which focuses its research on the fate of this colony and its connection to the ancestry of Native Americans. It was set in place in 1993 as the Croatoan Group. The methods he used in his research are the use of archaeological findings, satellite imagery and deed research. He states that the ancestors of the Lost Colony had assimilated into the native people. They were then compelled to settle into mainland Carolina by the encroachment of European settlers. He also states that the centre has discovered about five thousand living descendants of the Roanoke Colony.

However, this hypothesis has been refuted by others, the US National Park Service being one of them. They say that the amount of evidence available cannot be used to convince an attorney in a court of law.

The Lumbee Connection

There is also a theory that the descendants of the Roanoke Colony now live in Robeson County, North Carolina. The Lumbee tribe has about forty thousand members and has lived in Robeson Counties for centuries. One of the advocates of this hypothesis is Adolph Dial who is a Lumbee historian and author of “The Only Land I Know” alongside David Eliades in 1975. He says that when the circumstantial evidence and logic of the same is put together it supports the fact that there exists an unquestionable and long lasting link between the Lumbee people and the Raleigh Settlement.

The supporters of this theory have tried to show how Anglicized the Lumbee people have become. They argue that the Lumbee people have been known to speak English for a long time and are mainly Protestant when it comes to religious affiliation. They also claim that they were not made to go through the forced migrations which other Native American tribes went through, due to the fact that they had a mixed race. They also had early contracts with governmental organizations which protected them from displacement and other ill acts of injustice. Currently, the Lumbee tribe is very educated as compared to others in the country, this can be attributed to the establishment of the UNC- Pembroke, which is a university founded in 1887 for the Lumbee community.

UNCP has the Native American Resource Center where most of the research on the origins of the Lumbee people has been carried out. Knick, the director of the center states that there exists a lot of evidence which affirms the connection between the Lumbee people and the Lost Colony. Most surnames used by the Lumbee people are similar to the ones of the Roanoke settlers. He adds that the oral history of the Lumbee community also has tales which show a similar connection.

Spanish Invasion

There is another hypothesis which states that the Spanish destroyed the colony. The supporters of this theory state that this colony was eradicated during the naval war between Spain and England. They argue that the governor of the Roanoke Colony, John White was in England at the time of the war thus leaving it defenceless against the Spanish. However, this theory cannot be supported by any evidence since the Spanish were still in search for its location in 1600. This is years after John White realized that the colony was no longer existent.

Eradication by disease

Another theory is that the inhabitants of the colony were wiped out by natural calamities or diseases. However, Europe was more developed than America therefore it is only logical that its pathogens were more complex. To explain this further, the colonists did not leave any property behind be it possessions, food, clothes or even areas of residence. Bosserman and Dolan, two geographers suggest that erosion was in play. They have shown that the shoreline of the Roanoke Island has eroded by about a quarter a mile within the last year. They state that if we consider the total amount of erosion within the four centuries of the disappearance, the settlement could now be located at Roanoke sound, and their artefacts could be dispersed, corroded and buried.

Archaeological findings

In 1993, the Hurricane Emily resulted in the appearance of many relics. Later on, David Phelps from East Carolina University began to dig in the region. He found proof that the colonists interacted with the local people.

In 1998, “the Croatan Project” was formed in order to look into the events which took place at Roanoke. The excavation team was sent to Hatteras Island where they discovered a ten karat (forty two percent) golden sixteenth century signet ring, flints belonging to a gun and two farthings made of copper where the old Croatan capital was located. This was only fifty miles from the former Roanoke Colony. It was confirmed by genealogists that the lion crest found on the signet ring was also found on the Kendall coat of arms. It was concluded that the ring belonged to Master Kendall who resided in the lost colony between 1585 and 1586. The ring was discovered to be brass in April 2017. However, Mark Horton from the University of Bristol was not convinced that this proved that it dated to the sixteenth century.

DNA project of the Roanoke Colony

In 2007, Roberta Estes established The Lost Colony of Roanoke DNA Project. He used his own company to test the DNA and study the oral history, patterns of migration and historical records in order to find out the fate of the colony. He utilized the Autosomal DNA, the Y chromosome and the DNA of the mitochondria. There has not been a single descendant of the Roanoke Colony that has been positively identified.


After John White returned from England, returning he found no trace of the houses or its inhabitants. There were no clues on where the individuals had gone except for the sentiment “Croatoan” imprinted into a wooden post. There were no bones or crosses to imply that they had died. As such, numerous theories have been instigated to explain their disappearance and elucidate on fate of the Roanoke Colony. However, substantial evidence to support a single theory without any doubt is yet to be established. Further research is still underway in order to uncover this mystery.


Horn, James. A kingdom strange: The brief and tragic history of the lost colony of Roanoke. Basic Books, 2010.

Hirschman, Elizabeth. Melungeons: The last lost tribe in America. Mercer University Press, 2005.

Miller, Lee. Roanoke: the mystery of the Lost Colony. Scholastic, 2007.

Carpenter, Jeannine. "The invisible community of the lost colony: African American English on Roanoke Island." American Speech 80, no. 3 (2005): 227-255.

Ward, Kyle. History in the making: An absorbing look at how American history has changed in the telling over the last 200 years. The New Press, 2007.

July 07, 2023


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