Uncovering America's Heritage... Coin by Coin
1937 Roanoke Island, NC, half dollar
Gather 'round, children, for Goldie's coin of the month. There's a mystery of history behind this half dollar. This coin came out in 1937 on the 350th anniversary of the "lost colony" of Roanoke Island. The island was part of the Virginia colony then, though now it's part of North Carolina.
In 1585, the English explorer Sir Walter Raleigh sent men to Roanoke Island to build a fort, but they didn't stay. Two years later, Raleigh sent not only men, but women and even children to settle on the island for good. The first English child born in an American colony was born that year and named Virginia in honor of her birthplace.
Life in the wilderness was hard, and diseases spread easily. After about a month at the new settlement, John White, the leader, went back to England for more supplies. He was planning to be gone for only a few months, but England was at war with Spain. Three years passed before he could return.
When White and his crew got to the island, there was not a soul around. The houses were falling down and overgrown with weeds. Everyone had disappeared! The only clue they found was the word "Croatoan" carved in one of the posts of the fort, maybe as a sign.
There was a tribe nearby called the Croatoans, and White went to ask them about the settlers. But bad weather forced them to turn their boat around. Raleigh, of course, was hoping that the settlers were still alive, and the settlers of nearby Jamestown searched for them too. But that was twenty years later, and the men, women, and children of the 1587 colony were never seen again. The Lost Colony.
Today on Roanoke, Fort Raleigh has been rebuilt and the "Lost Colony" is a historic site. An outdoor theater has presented the story of the colony every summer since 1937, when our Roanoke coin was produced. The coin's final design was approved in December of 1936.