Roanoke Colonies Research Newsletter
Volume 8, Numbers 1 & 2 (November 2002/ May 2003)
A New Website on the Eleanor Dare Stones
A web site about one of the more highly questioned but vastly interesting aspects of Roanoke colonizationrelated studies has appeared. The Virginia Dare Stone <http://www. a n g e l f i r e . c o m / e g o / i a m m a g i /DARE_INDEX.htm> has been put on the World Wide Web by Stephen Horrillo. The main feature of the web site is pictures of the first of the so-called Dare Stones, found between 1937 and 1940, which has on it an inscription supposedly from Eleanor Dare to her father, John White, telling of her whereabouts and also reporting the death of her husband, Ananias Dare, and her daughter, Virginia Dare. What Horrillo adds, however, are pictures of a stone that appears to be an exact twin of this first stone, and which Horrillo says he has in his possession.
The first stone was found in 1937 near the Chowan River near Edenton, North Carolina, by a man named L. E. Hammond. Hammond took the stone to Emory University, where it was examined by a group of scholars, especially Haywood J. Pearce, Jr., who taught history at Emory and was also vice president of Brenau College (now Brenau University) in Gainesville, Georgia, where his father was president. The rock was soon taken to Brenau, and the Pearces offered a reward for any further rocks that might be found. Several rocks turned up in western South Carolina and northern Georgia, some 400 miles away from where the first stone had been located along the Chowan River.
For many people, the stones were discredited, through Boyden Sparkes’ article in the Saturday Evening Post, “Writ on Rock: Has America’s First Murder Mystery Been Solved?” (26 April 1941: pp#s?). However, some people think that the first stone might be legitimate because it is different in form and location from the others, which were the main focus of Sparkes’ article.
Horrillo’s pictures of the own stone in his possesion show a stone that does match the one shown in the Saturday Evening Post, the same stone that is owned by Brenau University. Horrillo does not give much information about his stone on his web site. However, he does provide a bit about provenance of his stone in postings he made to various Usenet newsgroups in December of 1999 and again in October of 2002 along with email correspondence with the Roanoke Colonies Research Office. Horrillo says that he inherited the stone from his grandfather, who found it under his trailer office somewhere in New York about fifty years ago. Horrillo’s grandfather offered to sell the stone to the Smithsonian Institution, but the directorsof the Smithsonian requested that he donate it because they do not buy artifacts. Horrillo’s grandfather held onto the stone until his death in 1992.
One clue about a possible source for Horrillo’s stone comes from a 1987 article in the Atlanta Journal andConstitution. Gerdeen Dyer, in “The Dare Stones Mystery” (19 April 1987: M6), notes that “replicas of some of the stones were featured in Georgia’s exhibit at the New York World’s Fair in 1940.” Soon after the World’s Fair the stones began to be seen as a hoax and, therefore, the replica stones would have lost their value. Given that his stone was found somewhere in New York, it is possible that Horrillo has the copy of the first stone used at the World’s Fair, but without further examination, it is impossible to know.
In addition to pictures of the stone, Horrillo also includes Sparke’s article; a chapter from the book A Witness for Eleanor Dare, by John W. White (San Francisco: Lexikos Publishing, 1991) that counters Sparke’s article; and a clip from the 1977 episode of the TV program In Search of . . . concerning the Dare Stones.
Discussions of the stone were held on several Usenet lists that Horrillo posted to, including <soc.history.ancient>, <sci.archaeology.moderated>, <sci.lang.translation>, and <soc.genealogy.britain> in October and November 2002. Archives of <soc.genealogy.britain> (under the names Alt-Genealogy-L, Genbrit-L, and Old-English-L) are available on the World Wide Web through RootsWeb.com. <Soc.history.ancient>, <sci.lang.translation>, and <sci.archaeology.moderated> archives are available through Google’s “Groups” category. Among the headings for these postings are “Who Can Translate Old English?” and “Website of Virginia Dare’s ‘alleged’ Tombstone is Up.” In addition, there were some 1999 discussions on newsgroups such as <alt.usage.english>, <sci.archaeology>, <soc.history.medieval>, and <alt.history>, whose archives are available through Google’s “Groups” under headings such as “How To Sell and Authenticate Virginia Dare’s Tombstone.”