John White and his 117 colonists arrive at Roanoke island to try and establish a colony near Chesapeake Bay. They are sailing from Portsmouth, England.
Two years earlier, there was a failed settlement by Sir Richard Grenville. Which then John came to find that there was nothing there except for a one man's bones. John White leaves his people to gather more supplies. 6-8 months turned into 3 years. During this time period, the colonists might have had to look around the island for food while waiting for White to return.
The carving on the tree indicated that the colonists have moved to Croatoan Island. But when they arrived, they found Native Americans that didn't want to share the land. The Native Americans tried to hide bodies, unsuccessfully and 3 years is more than enough time to take down the colonists' houses. They could've even used the materials to make more of their own houses.