LIFE

In 1587, 115 People Disappeared From Roanoke After Carving One Word Into A Tree

by Phil Mutz
Phil is an Editor at LittleThings. He loves writing and the outdoors. You can often find him at the movies or the park.

The story of the Roanoke Island colony, which is also famously known as the “lost colony,” is one of the most bizarre and fascinating ones in all of American history.

Like the unsolved murder at Greystone Mansion in the 1920s, the disappearance of the Roanoke Island colony is an unexplained mystery that experts are still trying to figure out today.

In 1587, a group of 115 settlers from England arrived at Roanoke Island, which is off the coast of North Carolina. The governor of the colony, John White, decided to return to England that year to replenish supplies.

However, a major war broke out in Europe, and White’s return to Roanoke was delayed by three whole years.

When John White finally did make it back to Roanoke Island, every last settler and every last trace of the colony had completely vanished without a trace.

The only thing that remained was a single skeleton, and a strange word carved into a wood post.

What happened to the people of Roanoke Island? How could an entire colony of people just vanish?

Scroll through to see more about this historical conundrum and what may be the answer to this 450-year-old mystery!

[H/T: History.comNew York Times]

Prior to leaving Roanoke for supplies back in England in 1587, Roanoke's governor John White was witness to a happy occasion: the birth of his granddaughter Virginia (who also happened to be the first English child to be born in America).

Prior to leaving Roanoke for supplies back in England in 1587, Roanoke's governor John White was witness to a happy occasion: the birth of his granddaughter Virginia (who also happened to be the first English child to be born in America).

But when White returned to Roanoke in 1590, the entire colony was gone, including his wife, daughter, and baby granddaughter Virginia.

But when White returned to Roanoke in 1590, the entire colony was gone, including his wife, daughter, and baby granddaughter Virginia.

Only two clues remained as to where the entire colony had gone: a single skeleton, and the word "Croatoan" carved into wood.

Only two clues remained as to where the entire colony had gone: a single skeleton, and the word "Croatoan" carved into wood.

What did the mysterious word mean? White and others knew that the word must be the key to solving this mysterious, and potentially tragic, disappearance.

What did the mysterious word mean? White and others knew that the word must be the key to solving this mysterious, and potentially tragic, disappearance.

Several possible explanations have emerged through 400 years of investigations...

lost colony of roanoke

Some think that the colonists found life too hard on the island and attempted to return to England, only to meet their untimely deaths at sea.

Some think that the colonists found life too hard on the island and attempted to return to England, only to meet their untimely deaths at sea.

Because the word Croatoan was the name of a Native American tribe that lived on an island south of Roanoke, some believe the members of the colony were killed or taken by Native Americans.

lost colony of roanoke

These theorists believe that the carved word was the colonists' way of letting others know what had happened.

These theorists believe that the carved word was the colonists' way of letting others know what had happened.

Others still believe that perhaps the colonists simply moved, though that doesn't explain the carved word or why they left no indication of where they were headed.

Others still believe that perhaps the colonists simply moved, though that doesn't explain the carved word or why they left no indication of where they were headed.

Today, experts believe that they may have finally found an answer. The New York Times reports that evidence may have surfaced connecting the Roanoke colonists to a site 60 miles west of the island in North Carolina.

lost colony of roanoke

Archaeologist Nicholas M. Luccketti told the Times, "I'm trying to make sure that I say this correctly. We have evidence from this site that strongly indicates that there were Roanoke colonists here."

lost colony of roanoke

Could that be the answer to this centuries old mystery? Could the colonists simply have moved inland to start over? But if so, why has it been so difficult to pinpoint exactly where they moved to?

Could that be the answer to this centuries old mystery? Could the colonists simply have moved inland to start over? But if so, why has it been so difficult to pinpoint exactly where they moved to?

This 425-year-old mystery continues to be a fascinating focus of investigation among experts. But the fact remains that no one truly knows what became of baby Virginia and the other 115 settlers of Roanoke Island.

The disappearance of the Roanoke Island colony remains one of America’s greatest and most interesting unsolved mysteries.

What do you think could be the answer? Let us know in the comments.

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