The Lost Colony of Roanoke, North Carolina

The Lost Colony of Roanoke, North Carolina

Our story begins in 1584 when Queen Elizabeth I issued a charter to Sir Walter Raleigh to establish a colony in the New World. A total of four expeditions were launched under Raleigh’s auspices. In 1584, the first expedition identified Roanoke Island on the coast of what is today North Carolina as an ideal location for an English settlement. In 1585, a second expedition was launched to actually settle the Island. This expedition succeeded in building a fort and a separate small housing settlement, as well as a “science center”. Unfortunately, due to a lack of supplies and deteriorating relations with the Native Americans, a “holding force” of only fifteen men actually remained on the Island. A third expedition led by John White was launched in 1587 to once again attempt to colonize the New World for England.According to the surnames of those who made this voyage, it appears that White’s colony included fourteen different families. Four of the families contained a mother, father, and child. Six were unmarried [sic] couples. The four others were fathers and sons, who perhaps planned to have their families join them later. In all there were nine children and seventeen women, including John White’s daughter, Eleanor Dare, and son-in-law, Ananias Dare, soon-to-be parents of Virginia Dare. Seven of the women and three of the boys came without family attachments and were probably servants. Two Native Americans, Manteo and Towaye, who had traveled to England on the return of the first expedition, returned to Roanoke Island on this voyage. The remainder of the 110 colonists were men, one of whom was named Charles FLORRIE.

The colonists met in London in early spring of 1587 and left for North America on May 8th. They landed in St.Croix in June and then traveled to Puerto Rico. They finally arrived off the Outer Banks on July 16th. The original plan was to rendezvous with the fifteen men left from the second expedition and then continue on to the Chesapeake Bay area. However, they found the fort razed, the houses overgrown with melon vines, and no trace of the fifteen men except for the bones of one who had been murdered. For unknown reasons, instead of continuing to Chesapeake, the colonists remained on Roanoke Island.

Within days of landing, one of the men was killed indicating that the colonists were not taking proper precautions (given the apparent murder of the fifteen earlier colonists) and that the Native Americans were displeased with the English’s return. With a short growing season and insufficient supplies, the three ships returned to England on August 27 to gather more supplies and colonists. Unfortunately, it would be three years before White could return to the colony due to the impending war between England and Spain.

On the fourth expedition in August of 1590, no colonists could be found. John White wrote, “…a secret token agreed upon between them and me at my last departure from them; which was, that in any ways they should not fail to write or carve on the trees or posts of the doors the name of the place where they should be seated; …I willed them, that if they should happen to be distressed in any of those places, that then they should carve over the letters or name a cross + in this form; but we found no such sign of distress. And having well considered of this, we passed toward the place where they were left in sundry houses, but we found the houses taken down, and the place very strongly enclosed with a high palisado of great trees, with curtains and flankers, very fort-like; and one of the chief trees or posts at the right side of the entrance had the bark taken off and five foot from the ground in fair capital letters, was graven C-R-O-A-T-O-A-N, without any cross or sign of distress; this done, we entered into the palisado, where we found many bars of iron two pigs of lead four iron fowlers, iron locker shot, and such like heavy things thrown here and there, almost overgrown with grass and weeds…. I greatly enjoyed that I had safely found a certain token of their safe being at Croatoan, which is the place where Manteo was born, and the savages of the islands our friends.”

Source: Fort Raleigh Historic Resource Study, Chapter One: The Roanoke Colonies and Fort Raleigh, c. 1585-1590; Southeast Regional Office, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Atlanta, GA, 1991

What Happened?

There are numerous theories as to the fate of the Roanoke colonists. One theory is that all of the colonists were assimilated into local Native American tribes. This theory is supported in part by the fact that numerous Native Americans of the Lumbee tribe have the same surname as the English colonists. However, FLORRIE is not a surname found in this tribe. In an attempt to confirm or discredit this theory, Patrick A. Payne is conducting a DNA research project amongst descendants of the Jamestown colony and Native Americans. If you would like to know more about this project, check out Patrick’s Lost Colony Project page.Another theory is that the men were massacred by the Native Americans and that only the women and children were assimilated.

Another theory is that ALL the colonists were massacred.

Another theory is that the colonists may have moved to the Chesapeake Bay area and assimilated with those Native Americans. (I have my doubts about this one since the 1607 Jamestown colonists were unable to find any of the Roanoke colonists despite efforts to do so only twenty years later).

Whatever the fate of these First English Americans, it is most likely that none of the current FLOREY‘s are descended directly from Charles. It may be possible, however, that he is a distant cousin through Jamestown connections.


It has been noted that many of the surnames which appear on the colonists list at Roanoke also appear at Jamestown. It has been surmised that these people may have been relatives. Referring to documentation found elsewhere on this website (G-Lines Intro), there are three possible FLOREY immigrants (George, John, John) who appear in Jamestown between 1606 and 1623.

Of interest at this point would be to find records in England of this Charles Florrie and his family and attempt to connect him to those early Jamestown settlers. A quick search on the Internet at Family Search for Charles FLORRIE in England yielded the following:

Charles FLORRY: Christening: 18 Nov 1569 Saint Clement Danes, Westminster, London, England

Parish registers, 1558-1948 Church of England. St. Clement Danes (Westminster, Middlesex)IF this is our Charles Florrie, he would have been 17 at the time he sailed for Roanoke.Also found at Family Search is a Joan FLORRY

Christening: 28 Jan 1571 Saint Clement Danes, Westminster, London, EnglandFather: John FLORRYParish registers, 1558-1948 Church of England. St. Clement Danes (Westminster, Middlesex)This could very well be the younger sister of Charles.Also found at Family Search is a John FLORRY

Christening: 17 Jul 1577 Saint Clement Danes, Westminster, London, EnglandFather: John FLORRYParish registers, 1558-1948 Church of England. St. Clement Danes (Westminster, Middlesex)This could very well be the younger brother of Charles.Also found at Family Search is a Philip FLORY

Marriage: 31 Jan 1568 to Katherin BAXWELL Saint Clement Danes, Westminster, London, EnglandParish registers, 1558-1948 Church of England. St. Clement Danes (Westminster, Middlesex)Or, this could be Charles’ father and motherAt Rootsweb is an Annis FLORRIE

Marriage: 9 Nov 1589 to Thomas BIRKIET Enfield Parish, Middlesex, EnglandAt this point, all of this is pure speculation. Anyone who is interested in exploring the First American FLOREY line should contact Donna O’Malley