The lost Roanoke colony is perhaps one of the biggest mysteries that still troubles modern day America. The first English colony to arrive on American soil, the Roanoke Colony had all but disappeared by the time the supply ships made an arrival. With the ship’s crew stumbling across the deserted camp and a tree etched with the word “Croatoan”, they were at a loss of what had happened. While the colonist’s disappearance has never been understood, stories of their arrival on American shore have come to light over the years, shedding a little illumination on what might have happened all those centuries ago.
- Fire and Destruction
To say that the Roanoke colonists were not good people would be to understate the fact. Ever since they arrived on the land, the colonists held such a strong claim to it that they were willing to do away with anyone who challenged their beliefs. When they discovered a nearby village of native settlers, then, things quickly became heated. Building bad blood with the natives, the colonists shut themselves away, assuming their neighbors were nothing more than savages. When one colonist discovered a silver cup had gone missing, the natives were the first guilty suspects to be brought up and taking matters into their own hands, the colonists burned the village to the ground, people and all.
- Kidnap and Ransom
From the moment they set foot on American soil, things did not go well for the Roanoke settlers. Hit by famine and bad crops, the colonists looked to desperate measures in order to get fed, most often at the expense of the natives. The colonists governor would regularly kidnap natives and hold them hostage, using them as barter for food. When one young boy tried to escape, the governor tracked him down and cut off his hands as penance for what he had done. The boy then let slip that the natives were planning a surprise attack on the colony, with an aim of the governor first for his crimes against the natives.
- Cold Murder
Armed with the knowledge of the surprise attack, the colonist governor, Ralph Lane, decided to strike the natives first. Gathering together and armed group, Lane waited until all of the natives were asleep in their homes. In the dead of night, the army sprang into life, butchering every member of the tribe in their sleep. The Chief perhaps faced the grisliest fate of all, having his head severed as he ran for his life.
- Mistaken Identity
Before long, Lane left the Roanoke settlers and was replaced by an artist called John White. White proved less harsh than Lane, even befriending a different neighboring tribe, the Croatans. The chief of the Croatan tribe, Manteo, set out to talk to the native settlers, hoping to smooth out any tensions. In his talks, Manteo discovered the tribe had killed 20 Englishmen over the past two years, a fact that angered White. Setting out to even the score, White ordered Manteo and 25 of his men to go into the tribe and confront the killers. On the way, however, Manteo accidentally led the Englishmen the wrong way, bringing them to a group of peaceful settlers. The English forces knew no better so set about slaughtering the tribe, believing it was they who had killed their men.
- A Lost Cause
Eventually, White left the colony and set sail for pastures new. On his return to Roanoke, however, he was shocked to find no trace of the people that he had left behind. The “Croatoan” etching on the tree seemed to be all that White needed to convince himself that they were safe, protected by the Croatan tribe. A number of groups set about trying to find the lost colony but eventually turned back due to bad weather, lack of information or interest. Over time, people began to accept the colony as lost and now, their fate will forever remain a mystery to be solved.