The 411 on the beginnings of the 252

John White drawing of Pomeiooc village, from 1585 (Web photo)

As you may remember from your North Carolina history lessons, the first English attempts to establish a settlement in North America happened right here in the 252, on one of the barrier islands now known as The Outer Banks.

Sir Walter Raleigh sent three expeditions to Roanoke Island in the 1580s in an attempt to start a capital in "the new world" for England's Queen Elizabeth I.

The first group of men, who arrived in 1584, explored the North Carolina coast and established relations with the indiginous tribes the Croatoan and the Secotan. Leader Arthur Barlowe returned to England with Croatoans Manteo and Wanchese to report how fine the area was for a colony.

The second group of men, who arrived in 1585, included illustrator John White (who later was named governor of the colony) and mathematician/astronomer/naturalist Thomas Harriot. They built Fort Raleigh on Roanoke Island and made preparations for the first permanent settlement

However that group's governor, Ralph Lane, stirred up trouble with the native tribes. When Sir Francis Drake stopped by Roanoke Island in 1586 on his way back to England from the West Indies, the colonists begged Drake to take them home. Shortly thereafter, a ship carrying supplies for the colony arrived on Roanoke; the captain, discovering the fort empty, left 15 men behind to wait until more colonists could be recruited.

The third expedition, which arrived on Roanoke in the summer of 1587, included women. Eleanor Dare, John White's daughter, gave birth to Virginia, the first English child born in the new world, on Aug. 18, 1587.

Gov. White sailed back to England in late 1587 to ask for aid for the colonists. War with Spain delayed White's plans to return until the summer 1590. When he reached Roanoke on the date of his granddaughter's third birthday, Fort Raleigh was deserted. The only clue to the more than 100 colonists' whereabouts was the word "Croatoan" carved on a post. (There was some confusion about the message, because Croatoan was the name of an indigenous group who lived on Roanoke as well as the name of present-day Hatteras Island, 50 miles southeast of Roanoke).

A massive storm forced White to reboard his ship and set sail, preventing him from searching for the colonists. Likewise, a 1602 expedition to look for the colonists was cut short by a storm.

When the Jamestown, Va., settlement was established in 1607, efforts again were made to find out what had happened to the "lost colony." Captain John Smith (of Pocohantas fame) was told by Chief Powhatan that he personally slaughtered the surviving members of the colony because they had moved in with a rival tribe.

The Carte of All the Coast of Virginia, engraving by Theodor de Bry based on John White's map of the coast of Virginia and North Carolina circa 1585-1586. (Web photo)