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On this Day in 1590, Roanoke Colony Governor John White returns from England to find all of the colony’s 100+ inhabitants disappeared

August 18, 2023

|Recurring Event (See all)

An event every year that begins at 12:00 am on day 18 of August, repeating indefinitely

On this day in 1590, John White, the governor of the Roanoke Colony, returned from a supply trip to England to find that all of the colony’s 100+ inhabitants had disappeared. The Lost Colony is still one of the great unsolved mysteries of American history.

Though White found remnants of the colonists, such as maps, armor, and furnishings, there was no sign of a struggle. The only clues were the letters “CRO” and “CROATOAN”, which were carved into a tree and wooden stake respectively. “Croatoan” is believed to reference either the nearby Croatoan Island (current-day Hatteras Island) or the Croatan tribe. There are speculations that the settlers joined with the Croatan tribe or perished in a new location.

Whatever the case, we will never know for sure – White’s travels were sidetracked by a storm and he was unable to seek out the colonists, including (most tragically) his own wife, daughter, and grandchild, Virginia Dare.

Did you know? The colonists may have been forced inland by a drought in 1587 – tree rings from 800-year bald cypress trees in Virginia have suggested that both the Roanoke and Jamestown colonies faced the worst droughts in the region’s history from the period 1185-to 1984.

The Lost Colony, State Archives of North Carolina


August 18, 2023
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