What Happened to The Lost Colony? It's an Old Mystery to be Solved
July 13, 2021
By Chelsea Reed
If you’ve ever visited the Outer Banks, you might have heard about The Lost Colony. It’s an outdoor drama that performs each summer at the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site near Manteo, NC. The mystical woods and Old World charm of the theater attract thousands of visitors. But what’s most intriguing is the play is about an old English colony that went missing, never to be seen again.
Yes, you read that right…an entire colony of people disappeared. Just like that.
How could 117 New World settlers disappear? Well, researchers are scouring for answers. We’ll share some of the most popular (and entertaining) theories.
When the Lost Colony was established in 1587 the Anglo-Spanish war heated up. At that time, England and Spain were bitter enemies. Historians surmise Spaniard colonists from Florida could have captured or snuffed out their New World opponents.
Some theorize that the colonists built a ship and tried to return home to England... but got lost at sea or overwhelmed by a storm. If this is true, they could have easily passed the Bermuda Triangle. It’s a large region in the Atlantic Ocean bordering Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and Miami. Alas, poor colonists.
Theory #3: They Perished by Disease or Famine
Many historians had proposed the idea that disease or lack of supplies wiped out the colony. Govorner John White returned to England to arrange a replenishment of supplies. But England’s war with Spain delayed the plans. That would force the colony to survive the wild New World with meager resources.
Theory #4: Native Americans Attacked Them
Powerful Powhatans in the north and hostile Secotans to the west kept the colonists busy. Much was at stake in defending their new home. John White recorded that the Secotans killed colonist George Howe in 1585. With their home field advantage, this fierce tribe could have easily wiped out the colony.
Theory #5: They Lived the Good Life with Friendly Tribes
Not all Indians were hostile to the colonists. Chief Manteo of the Croatoans became a powerful ally. When John White returned to Roanoke three years later, he found a tree carved with the word “CROATOAN.” He later wrote, “I greatly joyed that I had found a certain token of their being at Croatoan where Manteo was born ....” The Croatoans lived on Hatteras Island. White tried to sail there but was sadly prevented by a storm. He returned to England, never seeing his colony again.
In 2020 the Croatoan Archeological Society dug up thousands of English and Native American artifacts in Buxton, NC! English tools, turtle bones, deer bones, and pig’s teeth revealed the colonists and Croatoans lived the good life on Hatteras. English pottery shards were also found in an old Bath, NC settlement. The colonists may have parted ways and settled in both places. Is the mystery finally solved? Historians are finding out!
From a mysterious colony to Hatteras beaches, you can see more art inspired by the Outer Banks! Seaside Art Gallery’s Outer Banks Squared - The Art Show is happening right now. Every piece is a convenient square size for easy decorating. Take a look online now, or visit the Gallery to witness their beauty before they’re gone!
Chelsea Reed is a copywriter who writes winning content, articles, blogs, and websites from her base in North Carolina. She might not be building sandcastles or swashbuckling with pirates these days, but the Outer Banks beaches continue to keep her young at heart.
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