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The Lost Colony

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The Lost Colony

Jamestown is thought by most of to be the first colony in the New World but this is not the complete truth. Jamestown is considered our first successful colony; however it was not the first attempt at a colony. There were a few attempts to colonize the New World before Jamestown and one in particular that was the most mysterious is the Roanoke colony, also known as the Lost Colony. The colony got this name because the colonists that were there vanished mysteriously with no trace of what happened.

Sir Humphrey Gilbert and his half-brother Sir Walter Raleigh were both veterans of earlier colony efforts. In 1578 Gilbert managed to acquire a patent from Queen Elizabeth that would let him have exclusive rights for six years to find any land he chose and build a successful colony. After numerous setbacks Sir Gilbert led an expedition and took possession of land called Newfoundland. He then continued down the coast to set up a military post in hopes that it would one day become a profitable colony. Unfortunately for Gilbert, he ran into a storm and he was lost at sea. (1)

Undeterred by his brother's defeat the following year Walter Raleigh went back to Queen Elizabeth and obtained another six year grant similar to the one Gilbert had received. He sent explorers Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe to explore the island. They were the first to set eyes on the island and wrote glowing reports of Roanoke Island. When Amadas and Barlowe returned a year later with two natives, Manteo and Wanchese, all of Britain was excited with talk of the New World and its wonders. Raleigh went to the Queen and asked permission to name the island Virginia in honor of her, "the Virgin Queen" in hopes she would give him more money for the expeditions. She granted permission for Raleigh to use her name but no matter how much flattery he used, she would not give him the financial assistant he had hoped for. (4)

Reluctant to give up, he turned to private investors to finance another expedition. In 1585 his cousin, Sir Richard Grenville, was picked up to be the leader of a group to establish a colony on Roanoke. With him were 100 soldiers, craftsmen, and scholars to try and settle the colony. Under direction of Ralph Lane, the colony was doomed from the beginning.

The settlers had arrived late in the season which made it almost impossible to plant crops and supplies were depleting and to make things worse, Lane, a captain alienated the surrounding tribes and killed their chief over a stolen cup. After Ralph Lane and his men had had enough, they left the settlement and their fort not knowing that only a week later a supply ship from England had arrived. Finding the island deserted, the leader left fifteen men behind to hold the fort and went back to England for reinforcements. (4)

In England, on January 7, 1587, a document allowing a government body to be created was signed and passed. This body was named the Governor and Assistants of the City of Roanoke in Virginia. Jon White, a skilled illustrator and map maker, was appointed Governor. On May 5, 1587 Raleigh decided to try again and boarded 117 men, seventeen women, and nine children for a more permanent settlement and sent them to the New World. (3)

The original plan was to settle at Chesapeake Bay, but on July 22, 1587 the captain, Simao Fernandes, decided to drop everyone off at Roanoke instead of pushing further up the coast and wanted to keep going to hunt for Spanish shipping. Jon White had hoped that they would reunite with the fifteen other settlers that were left there previously. But to his surprise he found the bones of a man that had been slain by natives.

After a short period of time Fernandes decided that he had been there long enough and left. This created a dilemma for

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