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by Phillip W. Evans, 2006The "CRO" tree at the Lost Colony theater at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. Image courtesy of Flickr user Sarah Stierch.

CROATOAN was the sole complete word found on Roanoke Island by John White on 18 Aug. 1590 in his search for the English colonists, including his granddaughter Virginia Dare, whom he had left there three years earlier. White reported that the word in "fayre Capitall letters was graven" on one of the chief trees or posts of a palisade or stockade structure that had been built on Roanoke Island. Earlier in the day's search, White had seen the three Roman letters " CRO" carved into a tree on the bluff of the sound shore. In neither place did he discover a cross, the secretly agreed upon sign that the colony, now known as the Lost Colony, was in distress.

White's statements about the word and the absence of a cross indicate that he was comforted to find the word because he thought it was a "certaine token" or sign that the colonists had relocated to Croatoan, the principal town of the Croatoan (or Hatteras) Indians near Cape Hatteras. White recounted that the colonists had discussed leaving just such a message for him in 1587, although they had then considered moving 50 miles into the mainland rather than about 60 miles south to an isolated barrier island. White recognized Croatoan as the native town of the Indian Manteo, who made two trips to England in the 1580s and seemingly had embraced the English colonial efforts. (It is believed that Manteo's mother was a tribal monarch of the Croatoans.)

Ethnologists and anthropologists believe that the word "Croatoan" may have been a combination of two Algonquian words meaning "talk town" or "council town."


David B. Quinn, The Roanoke Voyages, 1584-1590 (2 vols., 1955).

Quinn, Set Fair for Roanoke: Voyages and Colonies, 1584-1606 (1985).

David Stick, Roanoke Island: The Beginnings of English America (1983).

Image Credit:

The "CRO" tree at the Lost Colony theater at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. Image courtesy of Flickr user Sarah Stierch. Available from (accessed June 12, 2012).


Origin - location: 



I can't believe what all I just read this is so amazing


the spanish invaded then tried to blame it on the native by scratching "CRO" on a tree


Even though this is very helpful, I would just like to say that this is still is a mystery


The were never lost. They were taken in by my ancestors. Virginia Dares gravesite is in Robeson County.


It is really interesting!


I Love the mystery


The disease infested europeans came to this land with it and probably got someone sick. They then murdered each of those europeans for going to a distant land with fake documents from incest lines of kings and queens.

After this, they wrote this, but the damage was done. The rat poison they brought over had already taken root. It’s been on this land since.


I've often wondered about the disappearance of the earliest settlers; the Roanoke Island settlers; the first group of 107: I know they returned to England, but the second wave of 117 settlers of men, women, and children who up and vanished is a mystery plus who carved the word 'Croatian' and why did they carve it plus what's significance of the word? Very perculiar, strange, queer, and inquisitive. . .?


That is a great question and one and peole have been trying to answer for a long time! This does not provide much information but I thought I would pass it along from the Roanoke Island Festival Park:

And a blog post from the North Carolina Museum of History:


Kelly Eubank

Government and Heritage Library


Thank you for this great resource! It helped massively with my term paper!

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