The word Croatoan was one of the last messages left by a small group of English Colonists before they disappeared. In 1587 over 100 English people had begun new lives on Roanoke Island off the coast of present-day North Carolina

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United States Adventures in Time and Place Chapter 7


The word Croatoan was one of the last messages left by a small group of English Colonists before they disappeared. In 1587 over 100 English people had begun new lives on Roanoke Island off the coast of present-day North Carolina. Three years later, they were gone. Eight letters, which were carved into a tree, provide a clue to their whereabouts. But we still do not know what happened to them.

  1. Where was Roanoke located?

  2. What happened to the settlers?

By the late 1500s Spain claimed most of South America and North America. But other European countries ignored Spain’s claims to these lands. They too wanted to share in the riches of the Americas.

  1. What land did Spain claim?

England challenged Spain in several ways. English sea captains called “sea dogs” raided Spain’s colonies and seized its treasure ships. England also planned to plant colonies in North America. The English claimed a region north of Florida that was also claimed by the Spanish. The English called their claim the Virginia colony in honor of Queen Elizabeth I.

  1. What region did the English claim?

The early English colonists in Virginia faced many hardships. On their first attempt to start a colony in 1585, they returned home after one year. Colonists in England’s second attempt were never heard from again.

  1. Why did colonists return home after one year?

Sir Walter Raleigh was one of the first people in England who told Queen Elizabeth to begin a colony in North America. Elizabeth had made Raleigh a knight because of battles he had won for England in Europe. He was one of her most trusted advisers.

  1. Who gave Queen Elizabeth the idea for a colony in North America?

English explorers told Raleigh about Roanoke Island off the Atlantic Coast of North America. The island was “sweet, fruitful and wholesome,” they said. It was also in a location difficult for passing Spanish sailors to see. Elizabeth granted Raleigh a charter to establish a colony in Virginia. A charter was a document that permitted colonists to settle on land claimed by their ruler.

  1. Why would the English want to create a colony in a location difficult for passing Spanish sailors to see?

  2. What is a charter?

Roanoke, an Algonkian word, comes from the Roanoac people. They and the Hatteras and the Tuscarora lived on the Atlantic Coast. They built their villages along its many streams and rivers.

In 1585 the first English people came to Roanoke Island to start a settlement. They faced hunger and hardship. After a colonist killed the Roanoac’s leader, Wingina, the Roanoac stopped helping the English. The colonists soon returned to England.

  1. Why did colonists and Native Americans build settlements along streams and rivers?

  2. What are two hardships the Roanoke settlers faced?

In 1587 Raleigh again sent colonists across the Atlantic Ocean. He chose John White to be the colony’s governor. White, a skillful painter, had gone with the first settlers to Roanoke. While there, he sketched the Native Americans he met and drew pictures of plants and animals.

  1. How did People in England know what the Native Americans, plants, and animals looked like in Roanoke?

In July White and more than 100 men, women, and children landed at Roanoke. His granddaughter, Virginia Dare, was born after they arrived. Her family named the baby Virginia after the colony.

  1. What is the name of the first English child in America?

The Colonist asked White to return to England for more food and tools. White sadly bid farewell to the colony in 1587. He promised to return as soon as possible. He told the colonist to carve a message on a tree trunk if they should move. “Mark a cross if you are in danger,” he added.

  1. Why did White return to England?

White reached England in November to find the country caught by war fever. Spain was preparing an armada, or large fleet of ships, to invade England. Queen Elizabeth needed all her ships and sailors for the war. White would have to delay returning to Roanoke.

  1. Why did White have to delay returning to Roanoke?

Spain’s King Philip II wanted to punish England for attacking Spanish colonies and ships. In 1588 the Spanish Armada set sail for England. The “sea dog,” Sir Francis Drake, led the English fleet. England’s smaller, better armed ships darted around Spain’s larger, slower ships. The English set many Spanish Ships on fire. Then the weather took a bad turn. A violent storm pounded and sank much of the badly damaged Spanish Armada. The surviving ships fled home to Spain. The English celebrated an important victory.

  1. Why did King Philip II want to punish England?

  2. Why was England able to defeat the Spanish?

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