Podcast Episode 58 – The Lost Colony at Roanoke Island

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The Lost Colony of Roanoke Island was an early attempt by English settlers to establish a permanent colony in North America and was established in 1587 on Roanoke Island, off the coast of what is now North Carolina, by Governor John White and around 120 settlers.

Shortly after arriving, Governor White returned to England to secure more supplies and support for the colony. However, due to various reasons such as a war with Spain, White was delayed in his return for three years. When he finally returned in 1590, he found the colony abandoned with no trace of its inhabitants, except for the word “Croatoan” carved into a tree.

The fate of the Lost Colony has been a subject of debate and speculation for centuries.


The Lost Colony

Jenn: That is super interesting. Andy Griffith started out acting in the lost Colony play. No way. 

That is super neat. It’s a prestigious place to 

Scott: act. Yeah. So I didn’t realize that. Again, this is, me just not being an east coaster by nature.

, and not growing up out here, but I, I work with people you know, that are from North Carolina and they’re like, oh yeah, Las Colony, Virginia Dare I, I grew up learning about all that stuff. . But that’s super interesting that that he started there. Yeah. That’s what a cool, what a neat piece 

Jenn: of history. 

Scott: welcome to Talk With History.

I’m your host Scott here with my wife and historian Jen. Hello. On this podcast, we give you insights into our history inspired world travel’s YouTube channel journey, and examine history through deeper conversations with the curious the explorers and the history lovers out. 

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[00:01:12] The Lost Colony and Virginia Dare

Scott: Now what’s our topic for our audience tonight? 

Jenn: We’re talking about the Lost Colony, a Roanoke and the first child born to the colonists was a girl.

Scott: That’s right. Virginia Dare, Virginia Derrick. Now. For the people who didn’t pay attention to history class in high school and in college. You tell me about the lost colony because you, you make it sound like these people got here before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. 

Jenn: Yeah. And this would be a great, like drunk history because it’s really awesome.

So this is Jamestown is 1607, Plymouth is 1620. This is happening in 1580s. Yep. Right now. It’s not the first colony really here in America. Cuz you got St. Augustine in 1565. Mm-hmm. So what’s happening is the Spanish are settling in Florida. In 1565 and starting to build up their Navy and starting to find gold and starting to find resources, and Queen Elizabeth is made aware of the power that the Spanish are getting from their American colony from Sir Walter Raleigh.

He approaches her and says, the Spanish are really getting a lot of stuff over there. We should get over there. Maybe if we put a colony a little north of Florida, they, they at first wanted to go to the Chesapeake. Maybe we can commandeer those ships. Maybe we can stop those ships. 

Scott: She’s trying to, basically trying to convince the queen Hey, let me get out there, do a little swashbuckling and I’ll 

Jenn: bring you back some cash.

Yeah. And she’s oh yeah, I do see them getting some resources and they are becoming a world power that I gotta kind of watch and be nervous about. If you think you can do this Raleigh go for it. I’ll support you. Yeah. And so in 15 to 85, They make their way to what is present day North Carolina to Roanoke Island.

And Roanoke is, if you go to the outer banks, there’s these kind of islands that are basically thin islands on the outer banks in North Carolina, and there’s an inlet between two of them that’ll take you into a closer in island. And that’s Roanoke. So it’s not an outside island like Hatteras. But it’s more inland.

[00:03:35] 1585 Roanoke

Jenn: And so in 1585 he gets there. He sees the first peoples that are there that they encounter the Algonquin.

Mm-hmm. And it’s really a friendly exchange. They. Are, they’re amazed to learn about each other. They’re amazed to learn each other’s culture. They trade, they learn. And so what is interesting is there was this mutual friendly relationship and. They build earthwork. So they dig in and they build some earthworks there.

They build some forts there. Now these are just men that came over from England and they draw pictures of the Algonquin and they take one of them with them, man, Mateo, to come back with them and they go back to England with him. A year later in 1587, another group of men come to Roanoke to the fort.

Bring man Mateo back, the algon corner there. And what happens this time is winter comes upon them and they, start to get hungry. Yeah. They want the Algonquin to trade with them, the Algonquin of trying to feed their own people. And the British get upset and they attack them and kill some of their leaders.

And the Algonquin fight back and kill some of them. Well. The English are kind of just hunkering down when Francis Drake kind of comes up the coast and sees them and says, would you like to come back? You need a ride back to England? They’re like, yeah, let’s all go back to England. So they take them back to England, but Raleigh doesn’t wanna give up.

Riley is we really have to establish a colony. We need to bring men and women. We need to start to build homes. We need to establish a colony in Roanoke. So he enlists John White to become the first governor of Roanoke and John White gets together a group of people to go out to Roanoke Island, and I think it’s 80 men, 17 women, and 10 children.

One of those children is John White’s daughter, Eleanor White, and she’s married to Anais Dare. 

Scott: One of the interesting things too, ? So this whole lost colony area, it, it’s a national park. , they’ve got a great little center that kind of tells the whole story. Mm-hmm. There’s a little theater. We sat there with kids and one of the cool things. That I actually kind of liked. They had this room off to the side near the theater where it was playing.

We show it in the video. There’s like kind of shadows, silhouettes Yes. Of the Queen and what I think was maybe Sir Walter Raleigh at one point. Yes. And then someone else, so you could kind of see him trying to convince the queen. So that was neat. I used that in the video, kind of, kind of drive home a point.

But one of the, the things that I really liked with, that you pointed out was they showed a map where all these settlers were. In the, in London. In London. Mm-hmm. So they, they actually show you what parts of London where Sir Sir Walter Raleigh lived and then basically where he recruited from? Yes. From around the, the greater London area.

Got him on a ship and said, Hey, let’s go, settle the new world. Mm-hmm. Probably with, with promises of, I don’t know the, the new land, milk and honey. And gold, know, and then they, then they, then they ventured their way out. 

Jenn: Yes. So they hit lands in July of 1587 and, We, and I’ll tell you why we know all of this as a fact.

And then Virginia Dare is born August 18th, 1587. Yeah. Which means 

Scott: his, which means John White’s daughter came over while she was pregnant. While she 

Jenn: was pregnant. Yeah. And she was heavily pregnant when they hit land. She’s baptized two days later on August 20th. And they find the Old Earth works that had been left by Sir Walter Raleighs, which are still there.

They’re still there, and they kind of fix up the fort and they, they build the homes for people and they’re, they’re starting to kind of get the lay of the land. And the algonquin’s still kind of mad at them. Yeah, but they’re, they’re working it out, they’re trying to work it out, but they realize.

Fall is coming, winter’s coming that they don’t have enough supplies. So they ask their Governor, John White to go back to England and bring back supplies. And he’s hesitant, but of course he’s absolutely, we want him brothers calling to work. 

Scott: He just wanna leave him there. I mean, his daughter’s there and his grandfather granddaughter, 

Jenn: she’s young, couple months old.

Yeah. And, but he does, he goes back to England. The unfortunate circumstance that happens is England goes to war with Spain. Yeah. As 

Scott: soon as like John White gets over there and they, he shows up and he’s Hey, I got a couple things I need. They’re like, hang on a second. We just got into a war with Spain.

Yeah. And we 

Jenn: need every ship. So including that one 

Scott: you just came on, including that one you just came back on. Give me that ship there, John 

Jenn: White. We gotta go fight the Spanish. And so John White spends the next three years trying to get a ship and that’s another, the conversations in the silhouettes.

Yeah. You see in there. Yeah. Is he’s pleading with everybody to help him find a ship to get back to the colony. And he eventually does, but it’s three years later. Yeah. And he actually lands. On Roanoke, on Virginia Deer’s birthday, her third birthday, August 18th, 15, 90 and. Nobody’s there .

[00:08:58] Losing the Lost Colony

Scott: They had kind of worked out a system Yes. That, said where they basically told him like, Hey, if we have to leave, here’s what we’re gonna do. 

Jenn: So there was discussion about leaving because they couldn’t find the resources there. And if you go to Roanoke, you’ll see it’s an island. Yeah. So there’s there’s no fresh 

Scott: water.

There’s no fresh water. No. There’s no rivers 

Jenn: running through there. There might be some game, but not probably limited. Yeah. And so, Initially wanted to land in the Chesapeake, like I had said. Like they wanted, but their, their pilot of their ship had taken him further south. Yeah. And then he said he was afraid to go up to the Chesapeake, cuz he thought a storm was coming in.

So they had always talked about maybe going up to the Chesapeake. So that was one option. They had also said we might go further inland from Roanoke into North Carolina. That was another option. And they had always talked about going down to. Croat. Yep. And Croat is Modern Day Hatteras, so that’s on that outside islands a little bit more and that the CRO and Toan people live there.

So when. John White gets to the fort and everything has been taken down. It’s not as if this was a burned down. Everything had been taken down and moved and left so people were taking all their resources and in the middle of the fort on a post was the word carved into the post CRO Croton.

The whole word, and then on a tree closer to the edge of the water was c r o. Yep. Like someone was gonna carve croton, but they carved c o and then that was on a tree and on in the fort was the post. So there are theories of what happened to the lost colony. Did everybody, were they attacked by the Algonquin or any other First peoples And they were all killed and massacred.

But again, John White found no evidence. Destroying of the, the area. And there were no graves found. No bodies found, no graves found. People talk about disease to disease, come in and wipe them all out again. No graves found. Yeah, no homes are left behind. So more than likely, people believe that they did move and.

Of one of those three places. They went up to the Chesapeake to where maybe where the Jamestown colony was, was founded, eventually inland to North Carolina 

Scott: or South, and, and he eventually tried to go to those spots. So he 

Jenn: tried to go to cro because that’s where they said they were going. That’s Hatteras.

That’s a little bit further down of the outer banks. But again, a storm rolls in and there is still fear, right? Early navigation. 

Scott: Well, and, and one of the things you mentioned too was. I mean that that whole Hatteras area eventually became, known as the graveyard of the Atlantic.

Oh yeah. For a reason. Yes. Because people were constantly getting in shipwrecks out there because the sand bars were constantly shifting and changing mm-hmm. And all this stuff. So the fact that they could kind of get in and out as many times as these guys actually did, especially back then was actually pretty incredible.

Jenn: And so they, they don’t go south looking for them.

And John White has to go back to England, never. Comes back again, never able to come back again. Never able to find his daughter, his granddaughter. And no one knows what happened to the colony. It is the lost colony. Now you do get Sir Walter Raleigh, who will eventually go down to Hatteras and look for them.

Yep. But no evidence of the Lost Colony is ever found. So it’s just. An amazing story to tell and then to honor Virginia Dare, and this is, like I said, this is how we know all of this is because when John White came back, he was able to say, my granddaughter was born at Roanoke and we baptized her on August 20th.

And all of that history survives through him because if the colony was lost and he never came back, Then 

Scott: no one would’ve known. And even Virginia Dare, I mean, it’s, isn’t it like Dare County? Yes. That that’s down there. So, so all of these characters, and man, Mateo is the name of city, the name of the city.

Mm-hmm. So all of these historical characters I mean, they, they live on. Mm-hmm. And to, to this day, it’s, the city is still called Man Mateo. Mm-hmm. The county is still Virginia Dare County and visiting the park itself was actually kind of just a pleasant surprise, and one of the cool things that we saw at the theater was that plaque. 

Jenn: Yes. That Franklin Del Roosevelt. Watched a production of The Lost Colony on August 18th. It was like 1930 something, but that’s Virginia Day’s birthday. Yeah.

Scott: And so just the fact that F D R was there in Roanoke mm-hmm. At the Lost Colony. Watching a play of this I mean, this has been a part of American culture for, for quite, for forever, for 

[00:13:49] Virginia Dare

Jenn: us. Yeah. And the name Virginia Dare kind of lives on 

Scott: that I thought was kind of interesting. It, it kind of, it’s this name that has this kind of mystique to it.

Jenn: Yeah. It’s kind of used. For groups feminism, it’s used for rally cries. It’s, it’s, it’s kind of, it takes on its own meaning in different ways, but Virginia DE’s name has some symbolism to, I knew beginning fresh start something. It’s just very interesting that that name has gone on and even the garden there.

By the fort mm-hmm. Has a statue of a, what an adult Virginia dare would look like. Yeah. 

Scott: We didn’t end up going into the garden cuz it was a little pricey for a family of five. Yeah. But I apparently that’s one of those places where if you, if you live close to it, if you go during the holiday season, they’ll do like lights or Christmas lights or things like that.

So, it was like the Elizabethan Gardens or something. Mm-hmm. And then the town of Man Mateo was actually really nice. Yes. We went down there and walked around like you could probably spend an entire day there just walking around doing kind of the typical touristy things. And then there was a ship. Kind of, I don’t know.

It, it was a recreation of the same kind of ship, same kind of ship from the, that they would’ve brought over eighties. Mm-hmm. It was kind of parked across the way and we were down there relatively early in the 

Jenn: season. It’s very, Bo boutiques and stuff? Yeah, antique stores. And so you can spend a day in Man Mateo, and walk around and you can see the lost colony stage where they, they do a production of the whole Elizabeth, queen Elizabeth talking to Raleigh and the colonists coming over and their lives before they send John White back.

And then what could have happened to them. That production has been going on 

Scott: for, for, for a long time. And the, and the theater is neat. If you go back and watch our video. Because it, the setting behind it is basically the beach. Mm-hmm. Overlooking kind of the, the bay there across Yes. Where hat, where Hatter is, is, is across from there.

But. It was just a fun, a fun visit, an easy visit if you’re ever in that area. Easy to find. 

So for, for most people, the Lost Colony may evoke images of a TV show or a.

Travelers stranded on a desert island somewhere, you can just picture it in your mind. However, for those of you who study history, perhaps here with us tonight, you will know about the real life travelers. Travelers from England looking for a new life and new land of opportunities. And while we may never know what actually happened to those English settlers of the 15 hundreds, we can look back and appreciate the path they forged for those that came later and settled this great land that we now call home.

Thank you for listening to the Talk with History podcast, and please reach out to us at our website, talk with history.com. But more importantly, if you know someone else that might enjoy this podcast or this video, please share it with them, especially if you think today’s topic would enter us to friend, shoot ’em a text and tell ’em to look us up because we rely on you, our community to grow, and we appreciate you all every day.

We’ll talk to you next time. 

Jenn: Thank you. 

Published by Scott

The mountains are calling, let me grab a jacket and my kids.

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