Dare Stones: 1587-1937

Dare Stones

“Ananias Dare & Virginia went hence vnto heaven 1591.”
 “Anye Englishman Shew John White Govr Via.”

“Father soone After yov goe for Englande we cam hither/ onlie misarie & warretow yeare “Above halfe DeaDe ere tow yeere moore from sickenes beine fovre & twentie/ salvage with mesage of shipp vnto vs/ smal space of time they affrite of revenge rann al awaye/ wee bleeve yt nott you/ soone after ye salvages faine spirts angrie/ suddiane mvrther al save seaven/ mine childe ananias to slaine wth mvch misarie/bvrie al neere fovre myles easte this river vppon smal hil/ names writ al ther on rocke/ pvtt this ther alsoe/ salvage shew this vnto yov & hither wee promise yov to give greate plentie presents E W D”

Dare Stone

Dare Stone

These words carved into a twenty-one pound granite stone appears to be the only record of what happened to Sir Walter Raleigh’s lost Roanoke Colony.

In 1587, an expedition departed from England bound for the Chesapeake Bay region of Virginia. Before arriving to the desired location, the leader of the expedition, Governor John White, appointed governor by Sir Walter Raleigh, landed on the outer banks island of Roanoke, in present-day North Carolina, to rescue a small band of men that had been left behind two years earlier by Sir Walter Raleigh. The expeditionary force of 107 men was to establish a fortification and town which more settlers would be brought.  The island was deserted. White found the remains of a fortification and a single bleached skeleton. There were no indications of what had happened to the party and  White’s assumption was that the fort had been attacked by local Indians.

The captain of the ship, Simmon Fernandez, carried 150 new settlers bound for Virginia.  He would later refuse to allow the settlers to re-board his ship. His reasons for not allowing this are unknown to history. White returned to England to acquire supplies and ships which could be used to feed and move the settlers to their original destination. He left behind 113 settlers on Roanoke including his daughter, Eleanor, son-in-law Ananias and his grand-daughter, who was born on the island August 18, 1587. Her name was Virginia Dare, the first English child born on North American soil. It was established between White and Eleanor that if they had to move, she would leave behind a message that would point the way to the parties’ location.  

Due to the ongoing war with Spain it would be three years before White could return to the settlement. He arrived to find the settlement abandoned. He surmised that it had been deserted shortly after his departure due to the weathering of the fort, collapse of the buildings and debris scattered around the settlement. Carved on a corner post of the fort, White found the single word Croatoan. He was somewhat confused by this. Did it mean that the settlers were attacked by the local Croatoan Indian tribe or had they departed for nearby Croatoan Island? Before White could dispatch a search party to Croatoan Island, a hurricane forced the expedition to sail for England. In 1602, another expedition was sent to Roanoke to investigate the disappearance of the settlers. Sir Walter Raleigh appointed Samuel Mace to lead the expedition and, as in the 1590 expedition, weather would drive the searches out of the area before any discoveries could be made. The fate of the “Lost Colony” of Roanoke would remain a mystery until 1937.

In September of that year Louis Hammond, a produce dealer, was hunting hickory nuts near Edenton, North Carolina. He stumbled upon a stone with a strange inscription that he could not identify. He took the stone to Emory University where it was examined by history professor, Dr. Haywood Pearce. Dr. Pearce identified the inscription as being Elizabethan English and determined that the stone was a written record of what had happened to the “Lost Colony”. The stone reads:

Anaias Dare & Virginia Dare went hence into heaven 1591
Any Englishmen, show John White, Governor of Virginia.

Dare Stone

Dare Stone

Father, soon after you went to England, we came here / Only misery & a war torn year / About half are dead for two years or more from sickness, we are four & twenty / Savage with a message of a ship was brought to us / In a small space of time they became afraid of revenge (by British) and all ran away / We believe it was not you / Soon after the savages, fearing angry spirits / Suddenly murdered all, save seven / My child, Ananias too, were slain with much misery / Buried all four miles east of this river on a small hill / Names are written there on a rock / Put this there also / Savage show this unto you & hither we promise you will give great and plenty presents Elenor White Dare

Over the next four years a total of forty-six stones were found in a line between Edenton, NC to an area southwest of Atlanta, GA, along the Chattahoochee River. Most of the stones were found along river beds. Chowan River, near Edenton, NC, Saluda River, near Greenville, SC and  Chattahoochee River, GA were three locations that yielded most of the carved stones which would be named the “Dare Stones”. The stones would tell a story of a long journey (500 miles) that would take nearly two years, during which, the Roanoke settlers were forced to leave the island to escape hostile native tribes. Aided by friendly natives, the party escaped north on the Chowan river where they encountered a hostile tribe who massacred over half of the Roanoke settlers. The remaining settlers escaped the attack and traveled southwest toward modern day Atlanta, GA.  It would be on the first leg of the journey, to the Saluda River, that Eleanor Dare lost her only daughter, Virginia, and her husband, Ananias. The party continued on the southwestern track, leaving stones along the way which gave accountings of different events and loss of life among the party and speaking of one native who had been sent back toward Roanoke to look for her father, Governor John White. Upon arrival to the Chattahoochee  River, the trail ends with one stone that reads:

“Father looke vp this river to great Salvage lodgement Wee pvtt moche clew bye wage / Father the salvage shew moche mercye Eleanor Dare 1591.”
Father look up this river to a great savage lodge/ We put many clues behind us / Father the savages show much mercy Eleanor Dare 1591

Debate over the legitimacy of the stones began almost immediately after the appearance of the first stone. Dr. Haywood Pearce, the custodian of the stones, believed that the stones were very real and through research and testing he would prove their authenticity. Dr. Pearce interviewed every person who came forward with the stones and would do comparison testing of the stones and their inscriptions. He would travel to the location of a stone’s discovery and do as much forensic testing as was technologically available to him and he spent a large portion of his time in the Edenton area searching for additional stones and clues. Dr. Pearce concluded that the stones were not a hoax perpetrated by a prankster or someone seeking money for the finds, as the stones were found in different places, at different times, by different people, none of which had any knowledge of Elizabethan English. He went on to surmise that these were the written words of Eleanor Dare however he believed that they were carved for her by a carpenter of the Roanoke colony, named Griffin Jones.