In the late 16th century, England's Queen Elizabeth I granted the rights to Sir Walter Raleigh to send 100 plus people to establish a permanent English colony on Roanoke Island just off the coast of what is now North Carolina.
In late 1587, mayor John White sailed back to England to gather supplies and more colonists, he left behind 15 of his own men, who were never heard from again.
These colonists were ill prepared and not particularly clever, because, although they depended upon the local Indians for food, they also antagonized the Indians by such tactics as kidnapping them and holding them hostage in exchange for information. Unfortunately for the colonists, who were desperately in need of supplies, Grenville's return was delayed. because war between England and Spain broke out. The Queen conscripted all available ships to face the Spanish Armada.
After the war, John White sailed back precisely three years later to the colony to find it completely deserted, the only sign of the colonists, 90 men, 17 women and 9 children, were the letters CRO carved on a tree and the word CROATAN carved on one of the palisade’s entrance posts.
The word was the name of a local Native American tribe living close by.
There was no other hint or evidence as to what happened to the colonists. An extensive hunt for the missing colonists took place on the surrounding islands and the mainland, to no avail. There were no signs of the missing colonists.
To the current day, historians and scientists explore this mysterious incident. There are many theories as to what really happened to the colonists. This research includes standard archeological methods to DNA testing of all identifiable relatives. Still, no answers have been developed. Hypotheses include that the settlers were killed or enslaved by the Native Americans, or tried to sail back to England on their own and fell into the hands of the Spanish, only to meet a bloody end.
There are still no proven clues as to what happened to the colonists of Roanoke.