So Long, Roanoke!

Can’t win ‘em all. On 19 June 1586, colonists at Roanoake in modern-day Virginia packed it in and went home with Sir Francis Drake after failing to establish a permanent colony on the island.

The original settlers were part of an expedition that set out from Plymouth, England in April 1585. The ships involved were supposed to explore the North American coastline, which they did, though they managed to upset some of the Roanoake locals when they accused natives of the village of Aquascogoc of stealing a silver cup. Never mind that the accusation makes little sense, since Native Americans had very little use for silver at the time; the village was burned to the ground and resentment started to seethe. Despite this, Sir Richard Grenville, chose to leave Ralph Lane and 107 men to establish a colony at the north end of Roanoake Island. Grenville and the remaining men headed back to England for more men and supplies.

The settlers built a fort and started exploring the area. However, they were short on supplies and Grenville failed to arrive when he was expected. And the pissed-off natives finally mounted an attack, which the settlers managed to repel. Still, things weren’t looking too good. In June, Sir Francis Drake swung by on his way home from the Caribbean and offered to take the colonists to England with him. They agreed, taking along tobacco, maize, and potatoes to show the English. The relief fleet arrived at the abandoned colony shortly after their departure.

Roanoake seemed to be somewhat cursed. The men from the relief fleet all died or disappeared, and a group of 115 colonists led by John White vanished completely (and famously) in 1588, becoming known as the Lost Colony of Roanoke (though they probably weren’t lost at all; it’s likely they all decamped to the nearby island of Croatoan).

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