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Labor Day Weekend, 2005

Fort Raleigh & The Lost Colony, Roanoke Island, Manteo, NC


About the Lost Colony and Fort Raleigh: There's not much here.  It's located on Roanoke Island in the town of Manteo; there's a theatre where plays re-enact the story of the Lost Colony, a walking trail which tells about vegetation and the colonists and a mound of dirt that supposedly is where the fort was (?) unsure if there was ever a wooden or other structure.  There is a visitors center which houses some information, costumes of the play and some examples of objects at the settlement as well as a sickle, believed to be the oldest Colonial artifact in the US.  Another building houses a children's activity center.  I am not sure if you can go in there any time or if you have to be part of a planned group.  So call ahead to find out.  


The Story of the Lost Colony: The story of the Lost Colony is part of American folklore. In 1584, explorers saw the land; they had been sent by Sir Walter Raleigh, to scout a perfect location for settlement. They returned to England a year later with two Natives of the Americas (Manteo and Wanchese).  This convinced Britain to settle in the "New World".  In 1857, more than 100 men, women and children journeyed from Britain to Roanoke Island on North Carolina’s coast and established the first English settlement in America. Within three years, they had vanished with a trace.

Queen Elizabeth, granted Sir Raleigh a patent to all lands he could occupy. She named the new land "Virginia", in honor of the Virgin Queen, and the next year, Raleigh sent a party of 100 soldiers, craftsmen and scholars to Roanoke Island. Unfortunately, too many "gentlemen" and not enough workers to hunt and fish and set up the new land were aboard.  Arriving late in the planting season, it was hard to subside on the site.  Supplies ran out. After squirmishes with the Indians, and several murders, a colonist named Eleanor Dare gave birth to a daughter she named Virginia, thus earning the distinction of being the first English child born on American soil. Ten days later, some of the colonists, including Governor John White, Virginia Dare's grandfather, decided to return to England for supplies. It was the last time the remaining colonists would be seen again.

Upon his arrival in Britain, White found himself trapped by the impending invasion of the Spanish Armada. Finally, two years after the defeat of the Armada, he departed for Roanoke Island. He arrived August 18, 1590 and found the Colony of Raleigh deserted, plundered, and surrounded "with a high pallisado of great trees, with cortynes and flankers, very fort-like". On one of the palisades, he found the single word "CROATOAN" carved into it, and the letters "CRO" carved into another nearby tree.

White knew the carvings were "to signifie the place, where I should find the planters seated, according to a secret token agreed upon betweene them and me at my last departure from them...for at my coming away, they were prepared to remove 50 miles into the maine". He had also instructed the colonists that, should they be forced to leave the island under duress, they should carve a Maltese cross above their destination. White found no such sign, and he had every hope that he would locate the colony and his family at Croatoan, the home of Chief Manteo’s people south of Roanoke on present-day Hatteras Island. Before he could make further exploration, however, a hurricane came, damaging his ships and forcing him back to England. Despite repeated attempts, he was never again able to raise the funding and resources to make the trip to America again.  The 117 pioneers of Roanoke Island had vanished into the great wilderness.

There are many theories as to what happened to them; from splintering off into two factions and traveling Southeast, to being slaughtered by Indians, to assimilating into the Indian culture.  Most scholars side with the assimilation theory.  One story shows the Powahtan tribe admitted to slaughtering the colony; but no signs of bodies, blood, or struggle was found at the site.  Bits of fragments turn up now and then on the site but not much. A button, a couple pottery shards.. little else except a ring, which was identified as belonging to the colonists, was found in one of the Indian villages, making the stories lead to the assimilation theory or the assassination theory. 

Hours: The park is open year round (except for Christmas Day) from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. During the summer when The Lost Colony outdoor symphonic drama is being presented, the visitor center is open until 6:00 p.m. The Lost Colony outdoor symphonic drama runs nightly (except Sundays) from early June to late August. Check with the visitor center for opening night/closing night dates. Cost: Free for Fort Raleigh but if you want to see the play, it's $20.00 for producer's Circle, $16.00 for adults, $15.00 for Seniors, $14 for groups of 20 ore more, $8 for children age of 11 and under. Regular admission children (11 and under) get in for half-price every Friday and Saturday. Children 11 and under are admitted free on Mondays with a full-price adult admission.

Food/Beverages:  NONE available; there is a water fountain near the ticket.

Restrooms: There may be one located in the visitor center as well as a water fountain.  There MAY be one located at the theatre and in the kids activity area (not sure).

Wheelchair:  Wheelchair accessible, also some inside the visitors center for use. Closed captioned film; no interpreters. Shopping: Small Gift Shop in the Visitors Center

Address/Directions: Take NC Highway 12 South to Kitty Hawk, NC. At Kitty Hawk, pick up US Highway 158 Bypass (East). Go through the towns of Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, and Nags Head. Continuing on the Manteo/Nags Head Causeway, you will cross over the Washington Baum Bridge to Manteo. Continue through Manteo, following Highway 64 Business West to the North end of Roanoke Island. Fort Raleigh will be on your right, approximately 4 miles North of Manteo. Turn right into Fort Raleigh and follow the signs to The Lost Colony parking area. Instructions needed as the place is difficult to find. Recommendations:  Take bottled water, good walking shoes, and bug repellant.  Wear appropriate clothing for outdoors/season.  Near the water, so often breezy.  There's nothing to see here to take photos of really, but some minor exhibits inside.  Don't need a lot of film. Boring for small children except in open common areas to run around.



Above: The theatre where plays are held on Fort Raleigh; no other structures besides visitors center on the premise to photograph.


Other Sites of Interest: (Play/Theatre)

Festival Park in Roanoke Island


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