This Day in History… August 18, 1587

Birth of First English Child in America  

U.S. #796

U.S. #796

On August 18, 1587, Virginia Dare was born at Roanoke Island (present-day North Carolina). However, little of her life after that is know due to the mysterious disappearance of the entire colony.

In the late 1500s, Europeans eagerly sought to establish colonies in the New World (North and South America). British colonists sent by Sir Walter Raleigh made their first attempt in 1586, but returned to England due to lack of food and fights with the Native Americans.

The British made a second attempt the following year, setting sail from England on April 26, 1587. This group differed from the last in that it included women and children. The 150-plus colonists reached Roanoke Island on July 22, and immediately began building their homes.

Among those that made the voyage were Governor John White, his daughter Eleanor, and her husband Ananias Dare. Pregnant during the journey, Eleanor gave birth to a baby girl on August 18, and named her Virginia. She was the first of two children known to be born in the colony.

As the colonists struggled to establish their homes, they begged Governor White to return to England for supplies. He reluctantly left on August 27, and planned to return in one year. However, England’s war with Spain delayed White’s trip back by three years. By the time he returned to Roanoke, all of the colonists had disappeared from the area.

Some buildings were collapsed and others were taken down, which led White to believe they didn’t leave in a hurry. Before he left, White instructed the colonists to carve a Maltese cross on a nearby tree if they had to leave by force. Since he didn’t find one, he believed they left of their own will. The only clues they left behind were the world “Croatoan” carved on a post and “Cro” on a nearby tree. White took this to mean that they had relocated the Croatoan Island (present-day Hatteras Island) but he was never able to search there.

Virginia Dare and the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island remain a mystery today. Most believe the colonists were taken in by a Native American tribe, but no one knows for sure.

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