How Did A Whole Village Disappear? (The Lost Colony of Roanoke Mystery)


There is nothing the world loves more than
a good mystery, and there’s few mysteries quite as tantalizing as the tale of the infamous
lost colony of Roanoke. Originally a settlement of over a hundred
colonists, the English returned three years later to their North American colony only
to discover it a mess of overgrown weeds. Curiously, farm implements and even rifles
were left laying on the ground, and strangest of all were the words Cro and Croatan carved
into a tree. But what exactly happened to this near-mythological
lost colony? Let’s travel back in time and find out. The year is 1587, and governor John White
makes landfall on the northern tip of modern day North Carolina with 117 colonists – 97
men, 17 women, and 9 young boys. This site is not White’s first choice however,
as he originally planned to land on Chesapeake Bay further north which would eventually become
the site of the first successful British colony, Jamestown. Ship Captain Simon Fernandez though, refuses
to sail north, and forces White and his colonists to set up shop here in Roanoke. Originally meant to be a pit stop so the ship
could pick up a previous fifteen men left there two years ago, the location becomes
permanent when the colonists are forced to offload. As far as the fifteen men they had planned
to pick up, there’s no sign of them, and instead the colonists find signs of a massacre- an
inauspicious start for the new colony. For White, this is his second trip to Roanoke,
and for the British it’s one of several faltering attempts to settle the new world. In 1578 Queen Elizabeth I tasked Sir Humphrey
Gilbert to sail to the new world and discover lands that had not been claimed by the Spanish
in order for England to make her stake. On an initial expedition Gilbert located some
suitable sites for a permanent colony, but on his second expedition his ship was lost
in a shipwreck. After his death, his half-brother Walter Raleigh
then took over the task of finding lands to colonize and planned to scout for locations
ranging from Spanish Florida to the Arctic. Would-be governor John White is on Raleigh’s
second expedition, which makes landfall with a garrison of troops in Roanoke in 1585. Their job is to set up a fort from which British
power in the new world could be consolidated, and after making contact with local Native
Americans, relations are initially good. The Roanoke and Croatan tribes both prove
to be friendly to the British, and representatives from their tribes sail back to England with
John White and are introduced to Queen Elizabeth’s court. These men would be given the English names
of Wanchese and Manteo, with Manteo becoming the first baptized Protestant Native American. Unfortunately back in the new world, the commander
of the British garrison quickly soured relations with other native tribes, and led two separate
campaigns against native villages within a matter of months. Having thrown the proverbial stone into the
hornet’s nest, the British fort soon found itself under constant attack, and when Sir
Francis Drake passed by the area on one of his explorations of the New World, the men
in the fort rushed to the ship to be rescued. So great was their haste to board that they
left three men behind who had been on an expedition out in the woods. When the British finally returned back to
the colony later in the year they discovered the fort completely abandoned, and the three
men who had been left in the woods were nowhere to be found. Sir Richard Grenville, who had been in command
of the first expedition, then decided to leave another fifteen men behind to guard the remains
of the fort, he gave them two years worth of provisions and then promptly left for England
again. It was at this time that John White made landfall
in Roanoke, hoping to link up with the fifteen men who had been left behind two years earlier. To the surprise of nobody, the men were missing
and they too would never be heard from again, having likely been killed by the natives. Despite the hostile locals, ship Captain Simon
Fernandez nonetheless forced the colonists to stay where they were, and nine days after
landing colonist George Howe was killed by American indians while crabbing along the
shore. White did not wish to further antagonize the
locals however, and he went to great lengths to repair relations. He did this by using Manteo to help him make
peace between the colony and the Croatans, who lived nearby on Hatteras Island. Unfortunately though Wanchese had soured on
the British during his time in England, and saw the future arrival of British colonists
as an invading force- legend says that he had participated in the attack on the fifteen
men left behind the second time on Roanoke. Needless to say, relations with the locals
were tumultuous, though the Croatans proved friendly enough thanks to Manteo’s intervention. Where the previous two colony attempts had
failed though, the third began to flourish. Rather than bringing along employees or military
troops, White had brought families who had a personal stake in the land they were fighting
to cultivate. The success or failure of the colony would
mean their own personal success or failure, and thus they had ample motivation to make
the attempt work. Soon, the first English baby born in the new
world arrived, when on August 18th, 1587, Virginia Dare was born to Eleanor Dare and
Ananias Dare, John White’s daughter and her husband. The colonization attempt was hopeful, and
things seemed to be going well enough. There was one major problem though – the colonists
had arrived too late to plant crops and were in dire need of fresh supplies. In order to secure the colony’s future, John
White left the New World behind to sail for England, hoping to be back by the new year
with supplies. Yet when he arrived back home in England,
John White returned to a world on the verge of war. England was facing off against the Spanish
Armada, and every available ship was needed to fend off the far superior Spanish navy. For three long years White was unable to return
to Roanoke, but finally in 1590 he made the voyage back across the Atlantic. Upon his arrival White was initially hopeful,
from a distance he could see that housing had been established, and the protective walls
made of pines had been repaired. He became worried as they neared the shore
though, when he saw no signs of activity or smoke from fires. As his rowboat made landfall his worst fears
were confirmed- the colony was abandoned. The entire fort was overgrown with grass and
weeds, and guns lay strewn about throughout the village. Chests within which valuables were kept and
had been hidden in holes in the ground, were broken open and their contents of precious
books, pictures and personal belongings lay spilled across the floor. Curiously valuables such as jewelry had been
left behind, as had been all the extremely valuable guns and farm equipment- whatever
had happened to the colony, looting by natives seemed to be improbable. White had instructed his colonists to leave
behind a sign in case of emergency, a cross carved into a tree. Instead of the cross though White would famously
discover two other carvings- the first being the letters C, R, and O etched into a tree,
and another being the full word “CROATAN”. Upon discovering the carvings, White believed
that the settlers had been forced to abandon the colony and moved with Manteo’s people,
the Croatans, on Hatteras island- a theory he was unfortunately not able to prove when
an approaching storm forced him to set sail back to England. With failing health, White never got a chance
to return and rescue his colonists, and he died three years later. Theories abound as to what fate befell the
colonists, but most believe that John White’s original hunch that the entire colony had
moved to Mateo’s people are probably correct. This is because as part of White’s secret
code, the colonists were to etch the location of their travel in case they had to leave
due to an emergency, and the addition of a cross would signal that the move was in response
to a dire emergency. The word Croatan was however discovered carved
into the wood of a defensive palisade that had been erected to supplement the colony’s
defenses, meaning that the colonists had clearly been under some threat and preparing for attack. In 2013 an expedition to the native american
settlement on croatan island discovered the remains of a European rapier along with the
barrel of a gun, lead shot, scraps of copper, and a piece of drawing slate with a lead pencil. This would lend a great deal of credence to
the theory that the colonists had simply moved south with the Croatan people and assimilated
into their population. In the 1700s the discovery of Native Americans
with gray eyes who claimed to have been the descendants of white settlers helped to confirm
the original version of events. While the British artifacts could very well
have been the results of trading with english colonists later on, the discovery of buried
trash pits also lends credence to the theory that the Roanokan settlers made their move
here rather than starve alone in the cold winter or face innumerable hostile tribes
alone. The trash pits showed an abrupt change in
diets from fish and turtles to deer and birds, which could hint at the natives hunting using
European guns which the colonists provided. Despite hostilities against the first two
settlements, native tribes were well known to be extremely accepting of outsiders, and
over the centuries of the New World’s colonization, many former English colonists who joined with
native tribes refused to return home and chose to stay with their tribes. The theory that the Roanokans had simply been
absorbed into the Croatan tribe is the most likely to be true, and the most plausible,
while other theories claiming that they were simply massacred could also be true but is
more unlikely. Had there been a massacre then upon White’s
return there should have been remains to be found, and yet White and his men discovered
none. The disappearance of the colony of Roanoke
is likely far more mysterious than it ought to be. All the evidence points to the fact that the
colonists simply faced starvation and hostile neighbors, and so they moved to the only friendly
tribe in the area, and made their home with the natives there. Wild theories however continue to abound,
and our favorite, as usual, involves aliens because of course it does. In the alien theory the entire colony- to
a man- was abducted by aliens. During our own investigation into the alien
theory on Roanoke we were unable to discover any plausible motivation for why the entire
colony was spirited away by alien forces, and whatever the alien’s motivations it was
definitely not because human brains are delicious to eat. So rest easy and don’t worry because the mystery
of Roanoke is nothing more than a bunch of settlers deciding to move in with friendly
natives rather than face starvation, and definitely not that they were abducted by brain-eating
aliens from the Zeti Reticuli star system. Trust us, there’s no pending alien threat
to harvest your tasty, delicious brains and to get your mind off it you should go camping
alone in the wilderness and tell no one where you’re going. What do you think happened to the lost settlers
of Roanoke? Let us know in the comments! And as always if you enjoyed this video don’t
forget to Like, Share, and Subscribe for more great content!

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