With Spain having successfully established a colony in the New World in Florida, Sir Walter knew that if the English didn't respond and place their own colony in the new land with such a wealth of natural resources, Spain would be unstoppable as it gained control of more of the large land mass. So, Raleigh sought and gained approval to establish a colony farther north, in what today would be considered the upper southeast Atlantic coast on a tiny island called Roanoke. The final selection was, of course, only made by Captain John White as he approached, finding New Inlet and a passageway from the mighty Atlantic into the more protected waters behind the barrier sand islands directly on the coast now known as the Outer Banks. It was no easy task, navigating the sandy shoals of the North Carolina sounds, but he made it. Finding a forested island in the middle of the inshore sounds, White traversed it from south to north until finding an area of high land. It would be perfect, they could see in advance any Spanish incursion and would be high and dry from storm tidal flooding.
This was 1584 and while Sir Walter was successful in his initial venture, he was forbidden by the Queen from going himself. Some say she was "sweet" on him, others say she just wanted his excellent counsel always available at her side, but whatever the reason, he would never see North America. He would, however, before his untimely death lead an expedition to South America searching for gold, a search which would turn out to be unsuccessful and lead to his death.
The Roanoke colonists had a difficult time of it, their living accommodations were inadequate for extremes of weather and they had trouble growing their own crops. The local Roanoke Indians did assist them, but from time to time there arose conflict as would be normal between two cultures so vastly different. So, Captain White returned to England to gather more stores to bring back and returned in 1587. A large number of the original colonists had been ravaged by disease and even starvation and White found a much smaller group, so his supplies would last longer and the new added colonists could fill in some of the vacancies needed to keep the colony alive. White then returned to England on another resupply mission, right after the joyous occasion in August 1587 with the birth of the first English speaking child in America in August of 1587. Virginia Dare, the daughter of Ananias Dare and his wife would perpetuate the Dare name as it would live on as the name of county which would be the home for the site of "The Lost Colony" and most of the rest of the Outer Banks.
Fate was not kind to Captain White, for disaster struck the supply ship as it suffered great damage in a hurricane on the return voyage. By the time Captain White arrived again in 1990, the colonists were gone with very little evidence of what happened. There are many suggestions as to what happened but the bottom line was the Roanoke colony became known as "The Lost Colony" to this day and the outdoor drama of the same name, a classic written by Paul Green, is shown nearly every night each summer to this day as well.
So why, you might ask, do I offer this story on the eve of our celebration of national independence? Well, it's quite simple. Raleigh's dream, while unfulfilled, did not die, and even though he lost favor first with Queen Elizabeth I and later with King James I and was finally executed in the Tower of London, that dream became a reality approximately twenty year later with the successful colonization of Jamestown, about one hundred and fifteen miles north in Virginia. They picked this location because Captain White had learned from the Indians of the larger and deeper water entry into sheltered waters to the north. The Virginia Company was established by the Crown and in 1607, led by Captain John Smith with Captain Christopher Newport skippering the largest vessel, the Susan Constant, the new band of colonists passed through the open waters between the Virginia capes. They they landed at what would be named Cape Henry to give thanks to God for their deliverance.
They then re-boarded their ships and crossed the Chesapeake Bay, entered Hampton Roads and, passing what would become Newportes News Point (old English spelling), they headed off the starboard bow up the river named for King James and found Jamestown Island, where they began a settlement. And this settlement, to be followed by another one far to the north in Massachusetts in 1620, would begin the earliest days of what would become the American Experiment.
Times would be tough and progress would be slow, but ultimately sheer determination, willpower and the grace of God forged the makings of what would become the greatest nation on earth. And that nation, begun from this most humble start, is what we celebrate tomorrow. And dear Sir Walter, never knowing how accurate he would be proved to be, was one of the true unsung heroes of the American future. He died, but his dream indeed lived on.