For 400 years, it’s been called, “The Lost Colony.” There are plays dedicated to its story. But what if it was never lost at all?
“I didn’t know that we were going to find what we found. That blew me away,” said Scott Dawson, the president of the Croatoan Archeological Society.
Dawson has studied the plight of the colony extensively.
The story begins in 1593 when England’s Queen Elizabeth I grants much of the land on what is now America’s east coast to her friend, Sir Walter Raleigh by “royal prerogative.”
Raleigh then sends a man named John White to establish a community on Roanoke Island which White attempts to do over a series of four trips between 1583 and 1590.
White left in 1587 for another set of provisions and anticipated returning to Roanoke the following spring. But due to the war between England and Spain, they didn’t return until 1590.
When they returned, they found the settlement empty and the word “Croatoan” carved on a tree. Many people have interpreted that to mean the English were slaughtered by the local Croatoan Indians.
Dawson seriously doubts that.
“I felt like that was insulting to that tribe because they showed all this love and charity and got no credit at all,” he said. “It’s absolutely ridiculous that they’ve been reduced to a mysterious word on a tree.”
To know what most likely happened, you have to know the rest of the story as Paul Harvey might instruct us.
“If you know about the first three voyages, which always get left out, the English and the Secotan were at war,” said Dawson, referring to the tribe of Native Americans who lived on the mainland near Roanoke Island.
“The English actually murdered their chief under a flag of truce and kidnapped people and beheaded people and burnt a village to the ground,” Dawson said.
So when Governor John White didn’t return to the colony for three years, Dawson says common sense told those he left behind to move to a place that was more hospitable.
“In 1585, when they got in trouble on Roanoke Island, they’re getting food from the Croatoan. That’s the only food you’re getting. You might as well just go there. And then you can spot your ships from Hattaras,” Dawson said.
Is that what really happened to the Lost Colony?