The Roanoke Colony on Roanoke Island in Dare County in present-day North Carolina was financed and organized by Sir Walter Raleigh.
It was to be a permanent English settlement in the Virginia Colony.
Groups of colonists were left to make the attempt.
The final group disappeared after a period of three years elapsed without supplies from England.
The mystery is still known as "The Lost Colony."
The end of the 1587 colony is unrecorded
Lead to its being known as the "Lost Colony“
Multiple theories on the fate of the colonists
Principal theory is that they dispersed and were absorbed by either the local Croatan or Hatteras Indians or Algonquian people
The evidence that some of the Lost Colonists were still living as late as about 1610 in Tuscarora country is impressive.
A map of the interior region of what is now North Carolina, drawn in 1608 by the Jamestown settler Francis Nelson, is the most eloquent testimony to this effect.
This document, the so-called "Zuniga Map", reports "4 men clothed that came from roonock" still alive at the town of Pakerikinick.
There were reports in London of Englishmen from Roanoke living under a chief called "Gepanocan" including four men, two boys, "and a young Maid" (Virginia Dare?) from Roanoke as copperworkers...”
The Lumbee, people living 250 miles to the southwest of Roanoke Island, were purported to be the descendants of some of the Lost Colony settlers.
Members of the Lost Colony had carved a single word into a tree: "Croatoan" (also spelled Croatan).
Despite John White's difficulty in locating the settlers, about fifty years later, the Croatan people were reportedly found to be practicing Christianity.
Their language is the English of 300 years ago, and their names are in many cases the same as those borne by the original colonists.
However, anthropologists believe that these particular oral traditions belong to families whose ancestors were Tuscarora peoples who had incurred devastating loss of life and land in the wake of the Tuscarora War in the early 18th century.
Anthropologists and historians contend that they may have joined with the migrating Hatteras of Roanoke Island.
A similar legend claims that the Native Americans of Person County, North Carolina, are descended from the English colonists of Roanoke Island.
Indeed, when these Indians were first encountered by subsequent settlers, they noted that these Native Americans already spoke English and were of the Christian religion.
The historical surnames of this group also correspond with those of the Roanoke Island settlers, and many exhibit Caucasian racial features along with Native American features.
On the other hand, some believe that the expedition was sabotaged from the beginning by Sir Walter Raleigh's rival at court, Elizabeth's "spymaster," Francis Walsingham.
Some think that the colony moved and was later destroyed.
When Captain John Smith and the Jamestown colonists settled in Virginia in 1607, one of their assigned tasks was to locate the Roanoke colonists.
Native people told Captain Smith of people within fifty miles of Jamestown who dressed and lived as the English.
Captain Smith was also told by Chief Powhatan, that he had wiped out the Roanoke colonists just prior to the arrival of the Jamestown settlers because they were living with the Chesepian.
Chief Powhatan reportedly produced several English-made iron implements to back his claim.
No bodies were found, although there were reports of an Indian burial mound.
Lost at Sea, Starvation
Still others speculate that the colonists simply gave up waiting, tried to return to England on their own, and perished in the attempt.
When Governor White left in 1587, he left the colonists with a pinnace and several small ships for exploration of the coast or removal of the colony to the mainland.
Another claim suggests that, with the region in drought, the colony must have suffered a massive food shortage.
There are those who theorize that the Spanish destroyed the colony.
Earlier in the century, the Spanish had destroyed evidence of the French colony of Fort Charles in southern South Carolina and then massacred Fort Caroline, the French colony near present-day Jacksonville, Florida.
"The Croatoan Project“ was an archaeological investigation into the events at Roanoke.
The excavation team sent to the island uncovered a 10 carat gold 16th century English signet ring, a musket flintlock, and two 16th century copper farthings.
Genealogists were able to trace a ring to "Master" Kendall who is recorded as having lived on Roanoke Island.
If this is the case, the ring represents the first material connection between the Roanoke colonists and the Native Americans on Hatteras Island.
In 1998 climatologists used tree ring cores from 800-year-old bald cypresses taken from the Roanoke Island area of North Carolina and the Jamestown area of Virginia to reconstruct precipitation and temperature chronologies.
They concluded that the settlers of the Lost Colony landed at Roanoke Island in the summer of the worst growing-season drought in 800 years.
"This drought persisted for 3 years, and is the driest 3-year episode in 800 years”
“ The Lost Colony drought affected the entire southeastern United States but was particularly severe in the Tidewater region near Roanoke"
The authors suggested that the Croatan who were shot and killed by the colonists may have been scavenging the abandoned village for food as a result of the drought