All posts by sleuthboss

First enslaved Africans arrive in Jamestown, setting the stage for slavery in North America

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/first-african-slave-ship-arrives-jamestown-colony

On this day in 1619, “20 and odd” Angolans, kidnapped by the Portuguese, arrive in the British colony of Virginia and are then bought by English colonists. The arrival of the enslaved Africans in the New World marks a beginning of two and a half centuries of slavery in North America.

Founded at Jamestown in 1607, the Virginia Colony was home to about 700 people by 1619. The first enslaved Africans to arrive there disembarked at Point Comfort, in what is today known as Hampton Roads. Most of their names, as well as the exact number who remained at Point Comfort, have been lost to history, but much is known about their journey. 

They were originally kidnapped by Portuguese colonial forces, who sent captured members of the native Kongo and Ndongo kingdoms on a forced march to the port of Luanda, the capital of modern-day Angola. From there, they were ordered on the slave ship San Juan Bautista, which set sail for Veracruz in the colony of New Spain. As was quite common, about 150 of the 350 captives aboard the ship died during the crossing. Then, as it approached its destination, the ship was attacked by two privateer ships, the White Lion and the Treasurer. Crews from the two ships stole up to 60 of the Bautista’s slaves. It was the White Lion which docked at Virginia Colony’s Point Comfort and traded some of the prisoners for food on August 20, 1619.

READ MORE: Details of Brutal First Slave Voyages Discovered

Scholars note that the arrivals were technically sold as indentured servants. Indentured servants agreed, or in many cases were forced, to work with no pay for a set amount of time, often to pay off a debt and could legally expect to become free at the end of the contract. Many Europeans who arrived in the Americas came as indentured servants. Despite this classification—and records which indicate that some of them did eventually obtain their freedom—it is clear that the Africans arriving at Point Comfort in 1619 were forced into servitude and that they fit the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ definition of enslaved peoples.

The arrival at Point Comfort marked a new chapter in the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, which began in the early 1500s and continued into the mid-1800s. The trade uprooted roughly 12 million Africans, depositing roughly 5 million in Brazil and over 3 million in the Caribbean. Though the number of Africans brought to mainland North America was relatively small—roughly 400,000—their labor and that of their descendants was crucial to the economies of the British colonies and, later, the United States.

READ MORE: How Slavery Became the Economic Engine of the South

Two of the Africans who arrived aboard the White Lion, Antonio and Isabella, became “servants” of Captain William Tucker, commander of Point Comfort. Their son William is the first known African child to have been born in America, and under the law of the time he was born a freeman. In the coming decades, however, slavery became codified. 

Servants of African origin were oftentimes forced to continue working after the end of their contract, and in 1640 a Virginia court sentenced rebellious servant John Punch to a lifetime of slavery. With fewer white indentured servants arriving from England, a racial caste system developed and African servants were increasingly held for life. In 1662, a Virginia court ruled that children born to enslaved mothers were the property of the mother’s owner.

As cash crops like tobacco, cotton and sugar became pillars of the colonial economy, slavery became its engine. Though the slave trade was outlawed in 1807, chattel slavery and the plantation economy it made possible flourished in the South. The 1860 census found that there were 3,953,760 enslaved people in the United States, making up roughly 13 percent of the total population.

The conflict between abolitionists and those who wanted to preserve and spread slavery was a major catalyst in the outbreak of the Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln formally freed enslaved people in the South with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, although it was not until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865 that slavery was totally abolished in the United States.

READ MORE: The Last American Slave Ship

In the end, 246 brutal years of slavery had an incalculable effect on American society. It would take another century after the Civil War for racial segregation to be declared unconstitutional, but the end of state-sanctioned racism was by no means the end of racism and discrimination in America. Because it became a crucial part of the culture and economy of early America after its introduction in Jamestown, slavery is often referred to as the nation’s “original sin.”

Old Ironsides earns its name

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/old-ironsides-earns-its-name

During the War of 1812, the U.S. Navy frigate Constitution defeats the British frigate Guerrière in a furious engagement off the coast of Nova Scotia. Witnesses claimed that the British shot merely bounced off the Constitution‘s sides, as if the ship were made of iron rather than wood. By the war’s end, “Old Ironsides” destroyed or captured seven more British ships. The success of the USS Constitution against the supposedly invincible Royal Navy provided a tremendous boost in morale for the young American republic.

The Constitution was one of six frigates that Congress requested be built in 1794 to help protect American merchant fleets from attacks by Barbary pirates and harassment by British and French forces. It was constructed in Boston, and the bolts fastening its timbers and copper sheathing were provided by the industrialist and patriot Paul Revere. Launched on October 21, 1797, the Constitution was 204 feet long, displaced 2,200 tons, and was rated as a 44-gun frigate (although it often carried as many as 50 guns).

In July 1798 it was put to sea with a crew of 450 and cruised the West Indies, protecting U.S. shipping from French privateers. In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson ordered the American warship to the Mediterranean to fight Barbary pirates off the coast of Tripoli. The vessel performed commendably during the conflict, and in 1805 a peace treaty with Tripoli was signed on the Constitution‘s deck.

When war broke out with Britain in June 1812, the Constitution was commanded by Isaac Hull, who served as lieutenant on the ship during the Tripolitan War. Scarcely a month later, on July 16, the Constitution encountered a squadron of five British ships off Egg Harbor, New Jersey. Finding itself surrounded, the Constitution was preparing to escape when suddenly the wind died. With both sides dead in the water and just out of gunnery range, a legendary slow-speed chase ensued. For 36 hours, the Constitution‘s crew kept their ship just ahead of the British by towing the frigate with rowboats and by tossing the ship’s anchor ahead of the ship and then reeling it in. At dawn on July 18, a breeze sprang, and the Constitution was far enough ahead of its pursuers to escape by sail.

One month later, on August 19, the Constitution caught the British warship Guerrière alone about 600 miles east of Boston. After considerable maneuvering, the Constitution delivered its first broadside, and for 20 minutes the American and British vessels bombarded each other in close and violent action. The British man-of-war was de-masted and rendered a wreck while the Constitution escaped with only minimal damage. The unexpected victory of Old Ironsides against a British frigate helped unite America behind the war effort and made Commander Hull a national hero. The Constitution went on to defeat or capture seven more British ships in the War of 1812 and ran the British blockade of Boston twice.

After the war, Old Ironsides served as the flagship of the navy’s Mediterranean squadron and in 1828 was laid up in Boston. Two years later, the navy considered scrapping the Constitution, which had become unseaworthy, leading to an outcry of public support for preserving the famous warship. The navy refurbished the Constitution, and it went on to serve as the flagship of the Mediterranean, Pacific, and Home squadrons. In 1844, the frigate left New York City on a global journey that included visits to numerous international ports as a goodwill agent of the United States. In the early 1850s, it served as flagship of the African Squadron and patrolled the West African coast looking for slave traders.

In 1855, the Constitution retired from active military service, but the famous vessel continued to serve the United States, first as a training ship and later as a touring national landmark. 

Bill Clinton is born

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/bill-clinton-born

On August 19, 1946, William Jefferson Blythe III is born in Hope, Arkansas. His father died in a car accident before he was born, and young Bill later took the last name of his stepfather, Roger Clinton. In 1992, Bill Clinton would be elected as the 42nd president of the United States.

By his own account, Clinton was inspired to enter politics after meeting President John F. Kennedy at the White House as a high school student. He attended Georgetown University and won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford in 1968, then received a law degree from Yale. In 1974, Clinton lost a bid for Congress in Arkansas’ Third District. He married fellow Yale Law graduate Hillary Rodham the following year; their daughter Chelsea was born in 1980.

Clinton was elected Arkansas attorney general in 1976. In 1978, at the age of 32, he became the youngest governor to be elected in the United States in four decades. Though he lost his first reelection campaign in 1980, he regained the office four years later and was reelected comfortably three more times. In 1992, he won the Democratic nomination for president. In a campaign that revolved largely around economic issues, Clinton’s youth and the promise of change won over many voters, propelling him to victory over the incumbent George H.W. Bush and upstart third-party candidate Ross Perot.

Issues that arose during the first two years of his administration—including an ethics investigation into the Clintons’ involvement with the Whitewater housing development in Arkansas and a bitter debate in Congress over Clinton’s health care initiative—helped fuel a Republican takeover of the Senate and the House of Representatives in the midterm elections of 1994. Nevertheless, the improving economic climate during Clinton’s presidency resulted in a low unemployment and inflation rate and a balanced budget (even a budget surplus), and in 1996 he became the first Democratic president since Franklin D. Roosevelt to win a second term in office.

In 1998, scandal erupted over Clinton’s alleged involvement with a young female White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. On the basis of an investigation by independent counsel Kenneth Starr, Clinton was accused of perjury and obstruction of justice over his repeated denials of the affair; he eventually apologized to his family and to the American public for his dishonesty. He became only the second U.S. president to be impeached by the House of Representatives, but was acquitted of the charges by the Senate in 1999.

Even throughout the tumult surrounding the Lewinsky affair, Clinton enjoyed high approval ratings at home. He was also popular on the world stage, confronting foreign policy challenges including war in Bosnia and Herzegovina; continuing hostility between Israelis and Palestinians; and Iraq’s refusal to comply with United Nations weapons inspections. He was praised for his peacemaking efforts in Ireland and Northern Ireland, and became the first U.S. president to visit Vietnam since the end of the Vietnam War.

After leaving the White House, Clinton remained active in global affairs and as a public speaker. He heads up the William J. Clinton Foundation, a philanthropic organization that has addressed issues such as HIV/AIDS and the environment. Meanwhile, his wife launched her own political career, winning election to the U.S. Senate from New York in 2000 and running her own presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2016. She served as secretary of state in the administration of Barack Obama.

“West Memphis Three” released from prison after 18 years

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/west-memphis-three-released-from-prison-after-18-years

On August 19, 2011, three men, Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, who were convicted as teenagers in 1994 of the murders of three boys in Arkansas, are released from prison in a special legal deal allowing them to maintain their innocence while acknowledging that prosecutors had sufficient evidence to convict them. Echols, 36, had been on death row, while Baldwin, 34, and Misskelley, 36, were serving life sentences. Collectively known as the “West Memphis Three,” the men had always maintained their innocence, and questions about the evidence used to convict them had persisted for years. Their case attracted widespread attention and the support of a number of celebrities.

In May 1993, the bodies of three 8-year-old boys, Christopher Byers, Steve Branch and Michael Moore, were found naked and hog-tied in a drainage ditch in a wooded section of West Memphis, Arkansas. Investigators initially had few solid leads; however, because the bodies appeared to have been mutilated, rumors circulated about a possible connection to satanic cult activities. A tip eventually led investigators to focus on the teenage Echols, a high school dropout who grew up poor, was interested in witchcraft and regularly wore black clothing. Then, Misskelley, an acquaintance of Echols, confessed to the murders following a lengthy interrogation by authorities, and implicated Echols and Baldwin. Described as having a below-average IQ, Misskelley provided information about the crime that conflicted in key ways from details known to the police, and he soon recanted his confession. Nevertheless, in February 1994, he was convicted of first- and second-degree murder, and sentenced to life in prison plus 40 years.

In a separate trial in March 1994, Echols and Baldwin were convicted of capital murder. During the trial, Misskelley refused to testify against the two, and prosecutors had no eyewitnesses or physical evidence linking Echols and Baldwin to the crime. Instead, the prosecution presented evidence that Echols, the alleged ringleader, read books about witchcraft as well as novels by Stephen King and Anne Rice, and said he was motivated to murder the boys as part of an occult ritual.

The case gained national attention with the release of the 1996 documentary “Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills,” which cast doubt on the men’s guilt. A movement grew to free the West Memphis Three, and celebrities including Pearl Jam front man Eddie Vedder, Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines and film director Peter Jackson (“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy) spoke out in support of the three men and helped fund a legal team to fight the convictions. In 2007, lawyers for the West Memphis Three said new forensic tests showed there was no DNA evidence to link the men to the crime.

In the fall of 2010, the Arkansas Supreme Court ordered a hearing for Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley to determine if they deserved new trials. However, before the hearing took place, the trio’s lawyers and prosecutors in Arkansas reached a deal allowing the men to enter an Alford plea and go free. With this little-used legal tool, a defendant is allowed to maintain his or her innocence but plead guilty because it is considered in his or her best interest to do so.

In a statement following his release from custody on August 19, 2011, Echols said, in part, of the plea deal: “I have now spent half my life on death row. It is a torturous environment that no human being should have to endure, and it needed to end. I am innocent, as are Jason and Jessie, but I made this decision because I did not want to spend another day of my life behind those bars.”

Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita” is published in the U.S.

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/lolita-by-vladimir-nabokov-is-published

Vladimir Nabokov’s controversial novel Lolita is published in the U.S. on August 18, 1958.

The novel, about a man’s obsession with a 12-year-old girl, had been rejected by four publishers before G.P. Putnam’s Sons accepted it. The novel became a bestseller that allowed Nabokov to retire from his career as college professor.

Nabokov was born in 1899 in St. Petersburg, Russia, into a wealthy and privileged family. He lived in a St. Petersburg townhouse and on a country estate, and learned boxing, tennis, and chess. He grew up speaking both English and Russian, attended Cambridge, and inherited $2 million from an uncle. However, his family lost much of their wealth when the Russian Revolution forced them to flee to Germany. Nabokov earned money by teaching boxing and tennis, and creating Russian crossword puzzles. He worked during the day and wrote at night, sometimes in the bathroom so the light wouldn’t bother his family. He wrote many novels and short stories in Russian. In 1939, the tall, athletic scholar was invited to Stanford to lecture on Slavic languages. He stayed in the U.S. for 20 years, teaching at Wellesley and Cornell, and pursuing an avid interest in butterflies. (In fact, he was a research fellow at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology and discovered several species and subspecies of butterflies.) He and his wife, Vera, spent summers driving around the U.S., staying in motels, and looking for butterflies. The motels, the American landscape, and butterflies all figure prominently in various works.

Nabokov’s first novel in English was The Real Life of Sebastian Knight. His most successful books in the U.S. were Lolita and Ada (1969), a family chronicle about a childhood romance between two close relations, which becomes a lifelong obsession between the characters.

Nabokov and his wife returned to Europe in 1959, and he died in Switzerland in 1977.

George Washington signs Jay Treaty with Britain

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/george-washington-signs-jay-treaty-with-britain

On August 18, 1795, President George Washington signs the Jay (or “Jay’s”) Treaty with Great Britain.

This treaty, known officially as the “Treaty of Amity Commerce and Navigation, between His Britannic Majesty; and The United States of America” attempted to diffuse the tensions between England and the United States that had risen to renewed heights since the end of the Revolutionary War. The U.S. government objected to English military posts along America’s northern and western borders and Britain’s violation of American neutrality in 1794 when the Royal Navy seized American ships in the West Indies during England’s war with France. The treaty, written and negotiated by Supreme Court Chief Justice (and Washington appointee) John Jay, was signed by Britain’s King George III on November 19, 1794 in London. However, after Jay returned home with news of the treaty’s signing, Washington, now in his second term, encountered fierce Congressional opposition to the treaty; by 1795, its ratification was uncertain.

Leading the opposition to the treaty were two future presidents: Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. At the time, Jefferson was in between political positions: he had just completed a term as Washington’s secretary of state from 1789 to 1793 and had not yet become John Adams’ vice president. Fellow Virginian James Madison was a member of the House of Representatives. Jefferson, Madison and other opponents feared the treaty gave too many concessions to the British. They argued that Jay’s negotiations actually weakened American trade rights and complained that it committed the U.S. to paying pre-revolutionary debts to English merchants. Washington himself was not completely satisfied with the treaty, but considered preventing another war with America’s former colonial master a priority.

Ultimately, the treaty was approved by Congress on August 14, 1795, with exactly the two-thirds majority it needed to pass; Washington signed the treaty four days later. Washington and Jay may have won the legislative battle and averted war temporarily, but the conflict at home highlighted a deepening division between those of different political ideologies in Washington, D.C. Jefferson and Madison mistrusted Washington’s attachment to maintaining friendly relations with England over revolutionary France, who would have welcomed the U.S. as a partner in an expanded war against England.

Boston Celtics forward Larry Bird hangs it up

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/larry-bird-hangs-it-up

On August 18, 1992, celebrated Boston Celtics forward Larry Bird retires.

Bird was a high school basketball star in his native Indiana. After graduation, he received a scholarship to play for legendary coach Bobby Knight at Indiana University, one of the finest teams in the country. However, Bird was homesick and uncomfortable in the spotlight in Bloomington and left the school after one month. He returned to French Lick, his hometown, and eventually enrolled at the smaller Indiana State, far from a basketball powerhouse. There, Bird was a one-man offense, averaging 30 points per game as a sophomore, junior and senior. He led the Sycamores to an undefeated record in his senior season (1978-79) before losing to Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s Michigan State Spartans in the most viewed NCAA title game ever.

Bird entered the NBA in 1979 and had an immediate impact on the league, winning Rookie of the Year after leading the Celtics to a 61-21 record and first place in the Atlantic Division just one year after they went 29-53 and finished in last place. In his second season, Bird, playing alongside fellow future Hall of Famers Kevin McHale at forward and Robert Parrish at center, led the Celtics to an NBA title. They would win the championship again in 1984 and 1986, with Bird winning the Finals MVP each of those two years. He was the NBA regular season MVP three years in a row, from 1984 to 1986, and a first-team NBA All-Star nine times. In the process, he won legions of loyal fans in Boston and throughout the country. Bird was also recognized for his versatility on the court: He could pass, rebound, shoot from the outside and play tough defense. As his career progressed, though, Bird began to suffer from chronic back pain that, by the 1990s, limited both his playing time and his effectiveness.

The final triumph of Bird’s career came at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, his first Olympics and the first in which professional players were allowed to participate. The much-hyped U.S. “Dream Team,” which also included his good friend and rival Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley among other NBA greats, may have been the best basketball team ever assembled. They wowed the world with their amazing play, easily brought home the gold and appeared to have a spectacularly good time in the process.

In 1992, at the age of 35, Bird’s back condition finally rendered him unable to play. At an emotional press conference in Boston to announce his retirement, Bird explained, “The last couple of years have been very tough on me, on my back and on my body. It was very hard to deal with, day in and day out.” NBA commissioner David Stern released a statement that read in part “Quite simply, Larry Bird has helped to define the way a generation of basketball fans has come to view and appreciate the N.B.A. In the future, great players will be judged against the standards he has set, but there will never be another Larry Bird.”

Bird did not disappear from the NBA after his retirement from the court. He remained in Boston, working as a special assistant in the Celtics’ front office until 1997, when he was hired as head coach of the Indiana Pacers. In 1998–the same year he was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame–he led the Pacers to a 58-24 record, the best in team history, and was named NBA Coach of the Year. Bird later became the team’s president of basketball operations, a position he held until 2017. 

Hitler suspends euthanasia program

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/hitler-suspends-euthanasia-program

Adolf Hitler orders that the systematic murder of the mentally ill and handicapped be brought to an end because of protests within Germany on August 18, 1941. 

In 1939, Dr. Viktor Brack, head of Hitler’s Euthanasia Department, oversaw the creation of the T.4 program, which began as the systematic killing of children deemed “mentally defective.” Children were transported from all over Germany to a Special Psychiatric Youth Department and killed. Later, certain criteria were established for non-Jewish children. They had to be “certified” mentally ill, schizophrenic, or incapable of working for one reason or another. Jewish children already in mental hospitals, whatever the reason or whatever the prognosis, were automatically to be subject to the program. The victims were either injected with lethal substances or were led to “showers” where the children sat as gas flooded the room through water pipes. The program was then expanded to adults.

It wasn’t long before protests began mounting within Germany, especially by doctors and clergy. Some had the courage to write Hitler directly and describe the T.4 program as “barbaric”; others circulated their opinions more discreetly. Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS and the man who would direct the systematic extermination of European Jewry, had only one regret: that the SS had not been put in charge of the whole affair. “We know how to deal with it correctly, without causing useless uproar among the people.”

Finally, in 1941, Bishop Count Clemens von Galen denounced the euthanasia program from his pulpit. Hitler did not need such publicity. He ordered the program suspended, at least in Germany. But 50,000 people had already fallen victim to it. It would be revived in occupied Poland.

Soviet hard-liners launch coup against Gorbachev

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/soviet-hard-liners-launch-coup-against-gorbachev

On August 18, 1991, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev is placed under house arrest during a coup by high-ranking members of his own government, military and police forces.

Since becoming secretary of the Communist Party in 1985 and president of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1988, Gorbachev had pursued comprehensive reforms of the Soviet system. Combining perestroika (“restructuring”) of the economy–including a greater emphasis on free-market policies–and glasnost (“openness”) in diplomacy, he greatly improved Soviet relations with Western democracies, particularly the United States. Meanwhile, though, within the USSR, Gorbachev faced powerful critics, including conservative, hard-line politicians and military officials who thought he was driving the Soviet Union toward its downfall and making it a second-rate power. On the other side were even more radical reformers–particularly Boris Yeltsin, president of the most powerful socialist republic, Russia–who complained that Gorbachev was just not working fast enough.

The August 1991 coup was carried out by the hard-line elements within Gorbachev’s own administration, as well as the heads of the Soviet army and the KGB, or secret police. Detained at his vacation villa in the Crimea, he was placed under house arrest and pressured to give his resignation, which he refused to do. Claiming Gorbachev was ill, the coup leaders, headed by former vice president Gennady Yanayev, declared a state of emergency and attempted to take control of the government.

Yeltsin and his backers from the Russian parliament then stepped in, calling on the Russian people to strike and protest the coup. When soldiers tried to arrest Yeltsin, they found the way to the parliamentary building blocked by armed and unarmed civilians. Yeltsin himself climbed aboard a tank and spoke through a megaphone, urging the troops not to turn against the people and condemning the coup as a “new reign of terror.” The soldiers backed off, some of them choosing to join the resistance. After thousands took the streets to demonstrate, the coup collapsed after only three days.

Gorbachev was released and flown to Moscow, but his regime had been dealt a deadly blow. Over the next few months, he dissolved the Communist Party, granted independence to the Baltic states, and proposed a looser, more economics-based federation among the remaining republics. In December 1991, Gorbachev resigned. Yeltsin capitalized on his defeat of the coup, emerging from the rubble of the former Soviet Union as the most powerful figure in Moscow and the leader of the newly formed Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Roanoke Colony deserted

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/roanoke-colony-deserted

John White, the governor of the Roanoke Island colony in present-day North Carolina, returns from a supply-trip to England to find the settlement deserted. White and his men found no trace of the 100 or so colonists he left behind, and there was no sign of violence. Among the missing were Ellinor Dare, White’s daughter; and Virginia Dare, White’s granddaughter and the first English child born in America. August 18 was to have been Virginia’s third birthday. The only clue to their mysterious disappearance was the word “CROATOAN” carved into the palisade that had been built around the settlement. White took the letters to mean that the colonists had moved to Croatoan Island, some 50 miles away, but a later search of the island found none of the settlers.

The Roanoke Island colony, the first English settlement in the New World, was founded by English explorer Sir Walter Raleigh in August 1585. The first Roanoke colonists did not fare well, suffering from dwindling food supplies and Indian attacks, and in 1586 they returned to England aboard a ship captained by Sir Francis Drake. In 1587, Raleigh sent out another group of 100 colonists under John White. White returned to England to procure more supplies, but the war with Spain delayed his return to Roanoke. By the time he finally returned in August 1590, everyone had vanished.

In 1998, archaeologists studying tree-ring data from Virginia found that extreme drought conditions persisted between 1587 and 1589. These conditions undoubtedly contributed to the demise of the so-called Lost Colony, but where the settlers went after they left Roanoke remains a mystery. One theory has them being absorbed into an Indian tribe known as the Croatans.