On April 26, 1587, a group of brave settlers departed from England to establish a colony in Virginia. Among the colonists were 14 families, including 87 men, 17 women, and 11 children. The promised 500 acres of free land were a welcome incentive to the men and women who joined the group. Their destination was Chesapeake Bay. Unfortunately, their Portuguese navigator and pilot, Simon Fernandez, took them to Roanoke Island instead. Once Fernandez reached Roanoke he flatly refused to take them further, despite the orders he had received from Sir Walter Raleigh. By then it was July of 1587, and the settlers planned to remain at Roanoke until arrangements could be made to reach Chesapeake Bay.

What is commonly called the lost colony was not actually the first colony to inhabit Roanoke. In 1584, Raleigh sent Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlow to explore the new world and locate a place with a harbor that would be ideal for a colony. When Amadas and Barlow returned, they brought with them two Indians, Manteo and Wanchese, along with glowing reports of North America. The land they investigated was named Virginia in honor of Queen Elizabeth, who was known as the virgin queen. Raleigh dreamed of taking a group of English men and women to the new land. From the queen he received a seven year patent to establish a settlement in Virginia, but Raleigh himself did not guide it.

In 1585, the second voyage to Virginia began, this time to establish a long-term colony.  Sir Richard Greenville and Ralph Lane led seven ships and 500 men, many of whom were colonists. Ralph Lane served as governor. Regrettably, the Englishmen never tried to establish friendly relationships with the Indians. They brought the two captive Indians with them when they returned to Roanoke. While Manteo proved to be a good friend to the English, Wanchese remained loyal to his native tribe. The trouble began with a silver cup stolen by the Indians. Lane sent Amadas and a group of soldiers to the neighboring village, and they burned the houses and crops.

Many similar events took place over the next few months. The king of Roanoke, Winginia, gathered together the neighboring tribes and plotted to annihilate the invaders.  Learning of the plan, Lane decided to strike first. A night attack was organized—the soldiers were told to leave their shirttails out so they could recognize each other. In the following skirmish Winginia was slain, and the Indians were temporarily checked.

The situation might have escalated again if it had not been for the arrival of Sir Francis Drake in 1586. Supply ships were long overdue, and Drake offered to take the colonists back to England. Initially Lane and the settlers wished to remain, but when a dreadful hurricane hit Roanoke, they changed their minds. The storm seemed to Lane a judgment on them for their harsh treatment of the Indians. Lane and the colonists abandoned their fort and sailed with Drake. They arrived in England on July 27, 1586.

When the second colony arrived the following year, they began rebuilding the abandoned fort and houses left by Lane. Leading this group of men and women was John White, who had served as painter and scientific advisor for the first colony. This settlement was to be completely different from the previous attempt. Families had been selected instead of single men in the hopes that it would become a permanent home to the settlers.  Among the colonists were Governor White’s pregnant daughter, Eleanor Dare, and her husband, Ananais Dare.

All too soon hostilities with the Indians resurfaced. One of the colonists, George Howe, had gone fishing and was later found dead. The English retaliated by attacking a group of Indians at night. As it turned out, the Indians belonged to Manteo’s friendly tribe, the Croatans.

On August 18, 1587, Eleanor Dare gave birth to the first English child born in America.  The governor’s tiny grandbaby was christened Virginia in honor of her new home.  About a week later, Margery Harvie also gave birth to a baby.