Twenty-two years before Jamestown and 37 years before the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts, Sir Walter Raleigh scouted possible sites for an English colony in North America in 1584. Naming the land Virginia after Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen, he chose Roanoke Island off the coast of present-day North Carolina.
The first attempt to settle there (1585-86) was quickly abandoned. A group of 110 men, women, and children sailed for Roanoke in the following year. The colony's leader, John White, returned to England for additional supplies but did not return until 1590 because of the war between England and Spain. He found no trace of the colonists, and the only message left what the cryptic word "Croatoan" carved on a wooden post.
It is most likely that the small settlement was overrun by local tribes, but to this day, no one has explained the meaning of "Croatoan" or found definitive evidence of the fate of the Roanoke colony.