In grade school, Americans are told a very basic story of Roanoke colony. A group of colonists arrive in the New World and establish the colony. The first American of English descent is born there: Virginia Dare. Due to England's war with Spain, supply ships fail to make it to the colony for some time, and when the colony's founder John White finally returns, all the people have vanished. There is no note, except for the word "Croatoan" carved in a post. White, Dare's grandfather, has lost his colony.

My question is, what primary sources do we have about the colony other than the physical post with the engraved word?

  • I'm wondering if any new evidence has been uncovered - the answer is from over 5 years ago. Mar 16, 2018 at 4:48
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    Yes - I remember that a new map had been uncovered strongly suggesting that they had moved upriver. For some reason the map had been covered over in subsequent generations. I don't have the time to look for a source right now, but....
    – MCW
    Mar 16, 2018 at 10:20
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    above mentioned link. The Wikipedia page on Roanoke explains further.
    – MCW
    Mar 16, 2018 at 12:20
  • @LarsBosteen Supposedly new evidence found by the Croatoan Archaeological Society shows that the colony was taken in peacefully by the Croatoan tribe and moved to Hatteras Island. Aug 17, 2022 at 5:48

1 Answer 1


Here's what evidence they had:

  • The word "Croatan" carved into a post of the fort
  • The word "Cro" carved into a nearby tree
  • All the houses and fortifications had been dismantled (They weren't destroyed)
  • They didn't carve a Maltese Cross into any tree (John white instructed them to do so, if they were forced to move)

Because there was no cross, John White took this to mean they had moved to "Croatoan Island" (a.k.a. Hatteras Island).

Also, Thomas Harriot, an employee of Raleigh, worked with White to explore the area of Roanoke and plan out the voyage. Harriot wrote about the fauna/flora in his report A Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia. But what is most important about that report is that he wrote about the native Americans in the Roanoke area. He wrote that the relations between the Roanoke Indians and the English settlers were mutually calm.

That is all that is known. It is still a big mystery.

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