Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What Really Happened to the Lost Colony?

UNC professor shares his theory

Staff Writer
Friday, February 22, 2008

BARCO — What really happened to the Lost Colony? That's a question that has baffled historians for more than 400 years. One University of North Carolina professor shared his theory as to what happened to the ill-fated colonists during a lecture Saturday, Feb. 16 at the Currituck Public Library.

In the last half of the 20th century historians have concluded that the 120 English colonists were either killed by American Indians, or that they left the island and joined various Indian tribes, said professor David La Vere, of UNC at Wilmington.

Historian David La Vere discusses his opinion of what happened to the Lost Colony during a forum held at the Currituck Public Library in Barco Saturday.

However, La Vere believes the colonists' disappearance was due to a combination of both beliefs. La Vere has devoted years to investigating the disappearance of the settlers, who in 1587 landed on the shores of Roanoke Island. Three years later the settlers had vanished and the only clue left behind was a mysterious inscription found on a tree. The vanishing settlers are remembered in history as the "Lost Colony."

Historians believe that the settlers were hindered by a bad drought, which made it difficult for them to grow crops, La Vere said. That's when their leader, Gov. John White, sailed back to England to get more supplies. White was unable to return to Roanoke Island until 1590, a delay that La Vere said he believes was due to England's politics and it's war with Spain.

When White finally made it back to Roanoke Island, all that remained of any sign of the settlers was the word "Croatan" inscribed on a tree. La Vere said he believes Croatan is a reference to an island of the same name near Buxton, where he believes about 20 of the settlers went after waiting as long as possible for White to return before giving up and leaving. At Croatan, the settlers would wait and watch for the return of supply ships. He said he believes the remaining settlers tried to make it north to Virginia in hopes of finding other white settlements, La Vere said.

While anthropologists, archeologists and other scientists are still studying disappearance of the Lost Colony, La Vere said he believes the 100 or so colonists who tried to reach Virginia mistakenly traveled up the Chowan River and were either killed or captured and put into slavery by the Mangoak Native American tribe.

"It makes most sense to me that the Mangoaks killed or captured the colonists," La Vere said.
He also said that he believes Croatan was friendly Indian territory, and the survivors of the group of 20 were probably adopted into Indian society, married and had children.

La Vere said there have been reports of blond-haired American Indians spotted in the early 17th century, but as of now, there is no information to confirm they were descendants of the Lost Colony.

La Vere has performed extensive research on American Indians who lived in parts of North Carolina and Virginia during the late 16th and early 17th centuries, and how they may have played a role in the colonists' disappearance. To help explain his theory, La Vere discussed the tribes that inhabited North Carolina's Albemarle and Piedmont areas, as well as the area known today as Chesapeake, Va.

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