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The Desertion of Roanoke

The Desertion of Roanoke

In 1587, a colony of 113 men, women, and children vanished from Roanoke Island. The English colonists who disappeared had remained on the island, situated off the coast of what is today North Carolina, while their governor, John White, sailed back to England to procure more supplies. When White returned in 1590, he found the settlement abandoned and overgrown.

Coming upon the deserted settlement, they found the letters "CRO" carved on a tree. In a wooden post that was new since White's departure, they found the word "CROATOAN" carved. The governor had allegedly told the settlers to leave that word if they relocated during his absence, and instructed them to carve a Maltese cross should the move have been made under threat.

One theory speculates they decided to settle inland along the Chowan River after navigating Albemarle Sound, located north and west of Roanoke. Still others assert that the colony headed to Croatoan, then intermarried with the tribespeople and eventually moved inland to become the Lumbee tribe. The Lumbee, centered far inland near the border between the Carolinas, is one of the largest Native American groups east of the Mississippi.


lane, ralph. "the colony at roanoke." [online]

miller, lee. roanoke: solving the mystery of the lost colony. new york: arcade publishing, 2001.

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