Could the Roanoke settlers have joined up with the Chesapeake
 The Secotan were one of eight
groups of American Indians which were dominant in the Carolina
Sound region, between 1584 and 1590, with whom the English
colonists had varying degrees of contact.
 Despite the deception, Chief
Manteo was later granted the title of baron, the Lord of Roanoke
and Dasamongueponke - the first peer created by the English in
A detailed set of features & king lists focussing on
these complex peoples.
Sir Walter Raleigh's cousin, Sir Richard Grenville,
attempts to found a colony on Roanoke Island when he lands more
than a hundred men there. Grenville departs, promising to return
the following Easter.
By June the colonists have become impatient waiting
for Grenville's return, and they take ship with Sir Francis Drake,
who by chance has called at Roanoke. Grenville arrives two weeks
later with a further fifteen colonists. Leaving these fifteen on
Roanoke, as a sort of 'advance party', Grenville again departs for
England for reinforcements.
On 26 April Governor John White leaves Portsmouth
with three ships, bound for the New World. He arrives at Roanoke on
22 July, accompanied by one hundred and seventeen new colonists,
including his pregnant daughter Elinor and her husband, Ananias Dare.
Their baby - Virginia - is born on 18 August, the first English child
to be born on American soil.
The plan is to collect the fifteen original colonists
from the previous year, and then make their way to Chesapeake, to the
north, the intended site for the new colony. All that White's party
find of the fifteen colonists are the bones of one man. The settlement
has been partially destroyed, and what buildings remain are overgrown,
perhaps indicating some sort of conflict with native Indians, before
a hurried withdrawal. Any thoughts of a swift removal to Chesapeake
are dashed by the refusal of the colonists' Portuguese pilot - their
nautical leader - to continue the journey. Taking one ship, he
It is too late in the year to start planting and
the colonists have to rely on the generosity of the native Indians.
However, the local natives, disgusted and appalled by the behaviour
of the previous settlers (presumably the fifteen-strong 'advance
party') have moved inland. White quickly makes contact with friendly
natives led by Chief Manteo, who explains that the lost fifteen had
been killed by hostile Secotan,  Aquascogoc, and Dasamongueponke
warriors, choosing a time and place of attack 'of great advantage to
On 8 August 1587, White leads a dawn attack on the
Dasamongueponkes which goes disastrously wrong. White and his
soldiers enter the Dasamongueponke village in the morning 'so early
that it was yet dark'. They savagely attack a group of hitherto
friendly Indians (probably Croatoan or Roanoke), killing one and
wounding many, including the weroance, Menatonon. 'We were
deceaved', White later claims in his journal, 'for the savages were
our friendes'. Henceforth relations with the local tribes would
steadily deteriorate. 
Governor White leaves one ship with the colonists,
instructing them to ferry groups of settlers to Chesapeake. He tells
them to maintain a group of twenty-five on Roanoke and to leave a
message providing details of where they have gone, should they all
He tells them to leave a cross next to their
message, should there be danger. Governor White takes the third ship
and returns to England for supplies, promising to return as soon as
The Roanoke Colony, located on the large island to the lower
centre-left of the illustration, was founded in 1586, but by
the following year it had failed
After a good many delays, Sir Walter Raleigh manages to get Governor
White aboard the Hopewell for a return to Roanoke in March.
White arrives at Roanoke in August, only to discover that the colonists
are not there.
There are no signs of violence, and there are
no dead bodies.
On a tree at the entrance to the palisade is carved
the word 'CROATOAN' - the name of an island some fifty miles to the
Another tree has the first three letters, presumably
of the same word 'CRO'. There is no sign of a cross which, together
with the lack of any signs of fighting, suggests to White that their
withdrawal had been peaceable. Governor White, no doubt anxious
about his daughter's whereabouts, wants to sail to Croatoan Island
immediately, but the weather turns against them and the Hopewell
slips her moorings and begins to drift. Due to these hazards, the
short trip to Croatoan is never made and by 24 October, Governor
White is back in Plymouth.
None of the one hundred and seventeen men, women,
and children who are left on Roanoke in 1587 are ever seen again.
What became of them?
Three possible explanations have been proposed
to explain the disappearance of the Roanoke colonists.
The first is that they could have been murdered by Spaniards.
Florida was the northernmost Spanish possession at the time. The
Spanish governor, Pedro Menendez Marques, had heard rumours of an
English fort being built. Marques had seen the town of St Augustine
sacked by Sir Francis Drake, but as long as the English had no base
in the Americas, there would be some respite from their constant
depredations during the summer months.
A full-blown colony would mean that English fleets could winter
nearby; something the Spanish wished to avoid at all costs. Marques
could not have known that Drake merely stopped off at Roanoke to
remove the stranded Grenville would-be colonists. Nor did he know
of the second group of colonists left on Roanoke in 1587. Marques
was determined to discover what the English were up to.
In 1588, Vicente Gonzalez was sent northwards to scout the area. He
searched the Chesapeake Bay area but failed to find any trace of the
settlers, and on his return he chanced upon Roanoke Island where he
found a landing place and some barrels, but no fort and no settlers,
which meant that the colonists had already left, presumably having
left their 'CROATOAN' inscription, although why didn't Gonzalez find
that? If he did, why did he not call in at Croatoan to investigate?
After all, he would pass by that island.
On his return, Gonzalez discovered that Marques had learned
independently of the Roanoke colony and had received instructions
from the king of Spain to destroy it at his earliest opportunity.
The destruction of Roanoke never happened as the Spanish were too
preoccupied with fending off English buccaneers who were a constant
threat to Spanish treasure ships from the Caribbean. In light of this,
it seems unlikely that the Spanish were responsible. If they were,
it seems odd that such an event went unrecorded in Spanish historical
The second option is that they could have
been killed by Indians.
Governor John White had memories of the time of his first landing
in 1585, of the warm welcome and hospitality shown by the natives.
It is true to say that without the help of the Indians the colonists
would not have survived that first winter. The Indians helped them
to plant corn, gave them seeds, and showed them the best way to
catch fish. Because a silver cup went missing from one of the boats,
the settlers responded by burning a village and destroying a cornfield,
thereby repaying the Indians' kindness with hostility.
The then governor, Ralph Lane, on hearing a rumour that local chief
Wingina was planning an attack, made a pre-emptive strike on the
Indian village, killing the chief and all his counsellors. Perhaps
the 'Lost Colony' was destroyed as vengeance for these injustices?
However, before abandoning the Roanoke settlement, the colonists
did not mark a cross on either of the two inscriptions to indicate
danger, leaving only the enigmatic 'CROATOAN'. Did this mean that
they moved peaceably to that island? Did any of the settlers make
it to Chesapeake, missing Gonzalez's search party?
There is simply no evidence that the colony fell victim to native
The final option is that they could have
The most likely scenario is that the settlers probably did move
many of their number to Chesapeake Bay according to their original
plan, with possibly the last twenty-five making a trip to Croatoan
owing to some unknown circumstance.
This must have happened in 1589, the year after Gonzalez had made
his fruitless search of Chesapeake Bay, and the year before White's
return to Roanoke. This would account for there being no settlers
on either date, yet the inscription - 'CROATOAN' - would still
indicate their last movement.
During the intervening years between 1587 and 1607 the settlers
had simply become assimilated within the various tribal groups
who had taken them in, adopting their customs, dress, and culture.
They simply melted into the background. Ironically, the northern
group who, it is hypothesised, merged with the Chesapeakes,
almost certainly shared the fate of that unfortunate tribe when
the settlement of Skicoac was destroyed by Powhatan's warriors.
This would seem to be an entirely plausible reconstruction if
alien abduction and falling foul to Susquehannock cannibals
A month later, in May 1607, Jamestown was founded.
A second tree had the word 'CRO', now at the Lost Colony
theatre at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site
Governor Ralph Lane of Virginia (1532-1603), who perhaps
sparked a revenge attack on Roanoke