History of Roanoke Island

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History of Roanoke Island, NC

The following timeline outlines some of Roanoke Island’s most notable eras and biggest events, from the first settlement in the New World to the mystery of the Lost Colony. Roanoke Island comprises Fort Raleigh City, Manteo and Wanchese.

1584 – More than 100 men established a fort and settlement on the north side of the island. The following year, the land was abandoned due to weather conditions, poor relations with natives and limited resources.

1587 – One hundred seventeen English colonists left for the New World. They reached Roanoke Island in July. On August 18, Eleanor Dare gave birth to the first English-speaking child, Virginia Dare, in the New World. A week later, the newborn’s grandfather, Capt. John White, had to return to England for supplies.

1590 – Due to conflict in his native land, White didn’t get to come back to the New World until now. Upon his return, there wasn’t any sign of his family or the other colonists. The only remnants were letters “CRO” and “CROATOAN” carved into a tree and the side of the fort. To this day, no one knows what happened to these colonists. Today, these colonists are remembered through an outdoor drama coined “The Lost Colony.”

1600s – Roanoke Island was permanently settled.

1870 – Dare County was formed with the county seat and courthouse.

1873 – The government center became known as Manteo with the establishment of the post office.

1899 – Manteo was incorporated as a town.

1936 – Wanchese Fish Company opens in the Wanchese fishing village by W.R. Etheridge.

1937 – “The Lost Colony” is performed for its first audience. It is the nation’s premier and longest-running outdoor symphonic drama.

1960 – The Elizabethan Gardens formally opens in August 18 on the 373rd anniversary of the birth of Virginia Dare.

1984-1987 – Roanoke Island and Manteo become a fixture for America’s 400th anniversary. A replica Elizabeth II, similar to what the colonists arrived on, was constructed along the Manteo waterfront.

1984 – Her Royal Highness the Princess Anne attended the ship dedication.

1999 – Town of Manteo celebrated its 100th birthday.

2000s – A tract of land, named Site X, nearly 60 miles west of Roanoke Island uncovers artifacts that may related to the Lost Colony.

For more information on the area’s history, visit roanokeisland.net/history.