Vol. 1, Issue 29, December 2, 2003
Lost Colony of Roanoke Found Alive and Well
In a finding which has stunned American historians, the fabled "Lost Colony" of Roanoke island has been located in Virginia, putting to rest centuries of speculation as to the colonists' fate.
"I am absolutely delighted to learn that we have a new and potentially lucrative tourist attraction," said Virginia governor Mark Warner. "This is a real shot in the arm, let me tell you."
The lost colony was founded in 1587 by settlers from England on the island of Roanoke, off the coast of what is now North Carolina. Three years later, the colony was discovered to have been abandoned with no trace of what had happened to the settlers. Subsequent expeditions searched for years without success, and the mystery has fueled the careers of many historians and archeologists since. Most recently, it was theorized that severe drought doomed the colony, as deduced from tree ring climatology.
"Well, we sure did have fun reading all those reports," said Tom Ferrell, mayor of the town of Rowanoke. "Especially the tree-ring one, that was quite inventive."
Apparently, the colonists relocated in 1588 as a joke on colony leader John White, who sailed back to England for supplies and found the settlement abandoned upon his return. They moved approximately twenty miles inland and changed the spelling of their town from "Roanoke" to "Rowanoke", and have been living peaceably there ever since. Today, the town is much the same size as it was in 1587, though it now looks much like any other small Virginia town, right down to the Piggly Wiggly store.
"Apparently, the town was pretty isolated in the 17th century, and by the time other settlers happened upon Rowanoke, North Carolina had been settled for years, and no one realized that the town had been there since 1588," said William and Mary history professor Clarence Thames. "The townspeople knew everyone was looking for them, but apparently kept quiet because of some kind of wager."
"Honestly, we didn't think it would be so hard," said Ferrell. "I mean, we only changed one letter of the name." Curious to see how long it would take their erstwhile governor - or indeed anyone - to find them, the townspeople began a betting pool on the date when they would be discovered.
Apparently, one of the original settlers, Mary Sorrel, correctly guessed that it would take 416 years to identify the colony; her descendant, Lucy Sorrel, will collect a total of $512 million in winnings.
"Let's hear it for compound interest!" beamed Sorrel.