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During the 1580s, the English made several unsuccessful attempts to establish a colony in America. Then, in July 1587, a group of English men and women landed on Roanoke Island off the coast of what is now North Carolina. Their leader was John White. Later that year, White sailed back to England for supplies. But John White was delayed in England. He could not return until 1590. He came back with five ships and more English men and women who wanted to live in the colony.
By the time John White’s ships returned, the colony had vanished. All of the houses were taken down. The settlers left no trace of their whereabouts –except for one small clue. The word “CROATOAN” was carved into a post of the fort. John White walked around the ruins, trying to figure it all out. Before he left for England, his daughter had given birth to a baby named Virginia – the first European baby in the New World. What had happened to his daughter and grandchild? He walked pensively along the shore. Before he left he had buried some personal items in a chest in the dirt. Someone had found the chest and taken all of its contents. John White noticed that the colonists’ little boats, once used for fishing and exploring, were also gone.
What could Croatoan possibly mean? Croatoan was a nearby island with its own group of Native Americans. What could have happened? Even today, no one knows the answers to these questions. The colony was abandoned and no more English settlers arrived until 1607, when Jamestown was established.