Photo:First Colony Foundation
The fate of the Lost Colony, vanished English colonists brought to Roanoke Island in the 1580's by Sir Walter Raleigh, has enthralled archeologists and historians for decades. Now, the First Colony Foundation, a preservation group for the area, has struck a land deal with the backing of the National Park Service, that will give researchers more time to unravel the story of what could have happened to the English settlers left there to start a life in America, and disappeared without a trace.
Dr. Eric Klingelhofer, Vice President of Research of the First Colony Foundation,says land and underwater investigation of what is believed to be the 16th century Roanoke settlement began when erosion threatened to wash away crucial evidence of the past. Klingelhofer says, "We started in October, 2006 at an area not far in from the coastline, on the north side of the island, within the park. We decided to begin our land operations because of the quite serious erosion taking place along the coastline there...at a place where some artifacts dated to the 1500's have been located." Klingelhofer says, "These are clues of the whereabouts and activities of the settlers."
Photo: State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh
WFAE in Raleigh reports that First Colony Foundation took out its first-ever loan to buy the coastal tract, where the only trace left behind by the 116 early English colonists was the engraved message, "Croatoan" on a tree, found in 1876. The settlement was forged in 1587 when they landed on Roanoke Island, which is now North Carolina, led by John White. White sailed back to England for supplies, leaving them there to start life in North America. White had to wait until after the war between Spain and England in 1590 before he could return, and when he did, the entire group was gone. Phil Evans, President of the First Colony Foundation, says Native Americans are a "hugely important part of the story." Evans says, "...that site can tell a whole century of North Carolina history from 1584 to the Tuscarora wars of the 1700's. It's a century of North Carolina history that's often forgotten..."
The Lost Colony Festival was held this past weekend in Windsor, NC. Billy Smithwick, the town tourism director says a Lost Colony visitor's center is likely after the state takes over the property later on. Describing the area as a sort of a time capsule, Smithwick says, "It's a little gift from heaven."