Eleanor White Dare (c.1568 – c.1599?) of Westminster, London, England, was a member of the Roanoke Colony and the daughter of John White, the colony's governor. While little is known about her life, more is known about her than most of the sixteen other women who left England in 1587 as part of the Roanoke expedition. She married Ananias Dare, a London tiler and bricklayer. It is known that she gave birth to Virginia Dare, the first child of English parents born in North America, on August 18, 1587, shortly after their arrival, and that, along with everyone else in the "Lost Colony", she disappeared while her father went to get supplies back in England.
In her 2000 book Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony, anthropologist Lee Miller speculates that Eleanor and the other members of the Roanoke Colony were religious Separatists who left England at a time when the political climate in England was dangerous for such religious dissidents. She suggests that this might be why the colonists, two of whom were pregnant women and several of whom were parents with young children, were willing to undertake the dangerous journey to Roanoke Island with low supplies and at a time England was on the verge of war with Spain. The colonists, including the women, signed a petition urging White to return to England for supplies, even though he was reluctant to leave his daughter and granddaughter. Miller suggests that this democratic action would have been typical of a religious Separatist group.
John Smith and other members of the Jamestown Colony sought information about the fate of the colonists in 1607. One report indicated that the Lost Colonists took refuge with friendly Chesapeake Indians, but Chief Powhatan claimed his tribe had attacked the group and killed most of the colonists. Powhatan showed Smith certain artifacts he said had belonged to the colonists, including a musket barrel and a brass mortar. The Jamestown Colony received reports of some survivors of the Lost Colony and sent out search parties, but none were successful. Eventually they determined they were all dead.
However, in her 2000 book Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony, Miller postulated that some of the Lost Colony survivors sought shelter with a neighboring Indian tribe, the Chowanoc, that was attacked by another tribe, identified by the Jamestown Colony as the "Mandoag," but whom Miller thinks were actually the Eno, also known as the Wainoke. Survivors were eventually sold into slavery and held captive by differing bands of the Eno tribe, who, Miller wrote, were known slave traders. Miller wrote that English settlers with the Jamestown Colony heard reports in 1609 of the captive Englishmen, but the reports were suppressed because they had no way to rescue the captives and didn't want to panic the Jamestown colonists. William Strachey, a secretary of the Jamestown Colony, wrote in his The History of Travel Into Virginia Britania in 1612 that, at the Indian settlements of Peccarecanick and Ochanahoen, there were reportedly two story houses with stone walls. The Indians supposedly learned how to build them from the Roanoke settlers. There were also reported sightings of European captives at various Indian settlements during the same time period. Strachey wrote in 1612 that four English men, two boys, and one girl had been sighted at the Eno settlement of Ritanoc, under the protection of a chief called Eyanoco. The captives were forced to beat copper. The captives, he reported, had escaped the attack on the other colonists and fled up the Chaonoke river, the present-day Chowan River in Bertie County, North Carolina.
The Chowanoc tribe was eventually absorbed into the Tuscarora. The Eno tribe was also associated with the Shakori tribe and was later absorbed by the Catawba or the Saponi tribes. From the early 17th century to the middle 18th century European colonists reported encounters with gray-eyed American Indians or with Welsh-speaking Indians who claimed descent from the colonists. In 1669 a Welsh cleric named Morgan Jones was taken captive by the Tuscarora. He feared for his life, but a visiting Doeg Indian war captain spoke to him in Welsh and assured him that he would not be killed. The Doeg warrior ransomed Jones and his party and Jones remained with their tribe for months as a preacher. In 1701, surveyor John Lawson encountered members of the Hatteras tribe living on Roanoke Island who claimed some of their ancestors were white people. Lawson wrote that several of the Hatteras tribesmen had gray eyes. Some present-day American Indian tribes in North Carolina and South Carolina, among them the Coree and the Lumbee tribes, also claim partial descent from surviving Roanoke colonists. A non-profit organization, the Lost Colony Center for Science and Research, has launched a Lost Colony DNA Project to test possible descendants.
Eleanor Dare stones
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From 1937 until 1941, the so-called "Dare Stones" were in the news. The two carved stones were allegedly found in northern Georgia and the Carolinas. The first bore an announcement of the death of Virginia Dare and her father, Ananias Dare, at the hands of "savages" in 1591.
Later stones, brought in by various people, told a complicated tale of the fate of the Lost Colony. The stones were addressed to John White and signed with the name of Virginia's mother, Eleanor, and called for revenge against the "savages" or gave her father the direction taken by the survivors. A stone dated 1592 indicated the survivors had reached a sanctuary in the Nacoochee Valley area and lived there in "primeval splendor." Another stone, dated 1598, indicated that Eleanor had married the "king" of the tribe, while another said she bore the chief a daughter, that the tribe was furious, and asked for White to send the infant girl to England. A stone dated 1599 announced Eleanor Dare's death and said she had left behind a daughter named Agnes.
Professor Haywood Pearce Jr. of Brenau College (now Brenau University) in Gainesville, Georgia, believed in the stones, and his views won over some well-known historians, according to contemporary press accounts. But a 1941 article by journalist Boyden Sparks in The Saturday Evening Post attacked the story, pointing to improbabilities in the stones' account and producing evidence that the "discoverers" were hoaxers. Pearce and the other scholars were not implicated in fraud, and no legal action was ever taken, but all of them renounced belief in the stones. Sparks theorized that the fake was inspired by the 1937 publicity in North Carolina surrounding the 350th anniversary of the Lost Colony.
Today, Brenau keeps the Dare Stones as a sort of 20th-century media curiosity but generally does not display them or publicize their existence. The stones have a few supporters today, most notably Robert W. White, whose book A Witness For Eleanor Dare insists they were genuine and that criticism of them was false.
- Miller (2000), p. 51
- THE LOST COLONY: Roanoke Island, NC ~ Packet by Eric Hause: Articles about the Outer Banks NC and the Mainland
- Stick (1983), p. 222
- Miller (2000), p. 250
- Miller (2000), p. 242
- Miller (2000), pp. 257, 263
- Miller (2000), p. 257
- Miller (2000), p. 263
- Miller, Lee, Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony (2000), Penguin Books, ISBN 0-14-200228-3
- White,Robert W., A Witness For Eleanor Dare (1992), Lexikos, ISBN 0-938530-51-8