The Lost Colony
Second English Settlement in America


Lost Colony is the name given to a settlement established in 1587 on Roanoke Island, off the coast of what is now North Carolina. The colony is called lost because no one knows what happened to its people or where they went.

The Lost Colony was England's second colony in America. The first had been established on Roanoke Island by a group of 108 men sent to the island in 1585 by the English soldier and explorer Sir Walter Raleigh. The first colony was meant to serve chiefly as a base for repairing and resupplying English warships. But the colonists found that the seas around the island were too shallow for ships to seek shelter there. In addition, the land was not productive enough to support both the colony and the Indians already living there. As a result, the colonists returned to England in 1586.

A few days after the colonists left, a group of ships sent by Raleigh from England arrived at the island with supplies and more colonists. When the new colonists found that the others had left, most of them sailed back to England with the ships. However, 15 adventurers remained on the island.

In May 1587, Raleigh sent another group of colonists to America, to settle on the shores of Chesapeake Bay. These colonists became the lost colonists. They were led by John White, an Englishman who had been a member of the first colony.

In July 1587, the commander of the ships carrying the new colony refused to sail beyond Roanoke Island and forced the colonists to land there. When the colony landed, it consisted of 117 people--91 men, 17 women, and 9 children. Twenty-seven days later, on August 18, White's daughter, Eleanor, gave birth on the island to a baby girl. Named Virginia Dare, the baby was the first English child born in America. Her father, Ananias Dare, was also one of the colonists. Later in August, White returned to England for supplies. His daughter, granddaughter, and son-in-law remained on the island.

War between England and Spain prevented White from returning to Roanoke Island until August 1590. By the time he arrived, the colony had been abandoned. The only traces of the colonists were the letters CRO carved on one tree and the word Croatoan carved on another. The Croatoan, or Hatteras, Indians were friendly Indians who lived on an island south of Roanoke Island. Although the colonists had intended to go north by land to Chesapeake Bay, White decided to see if they had gone to live with the Croatoans. However, a storm and the lateness of the season forced White and his expedition to abandon their search and return to England. The lost colonists were never seen again by any European. In 1590 White wrote his account of the lost colony.

Some modern historians think that most of the lost colonists may have moved to Chesapeake Bay and perished there in conflicts with Indians. Stories collected by Virginians indicate that other members of the Lost Colony may have mingled with several Indian tribes. The Lumbee Indians, who live in southeastern North Carolina, believe themselves to be descendants of the lost colonists and of Indians who lived nearby.

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