The Dare Stones
By T. Mike Childs
NC Government & History Library, 2013.
The Dare Stones are a series of forty-eight rocks chiseled with messages purporting to be those of the survivors of the famous Lost Colony of Roanoke, gone missing between 1587 and 1590. The rocks, discovered over a period from 1937 to 1940, tell a dramatic tale. The stones are also a definite hoax. Except… the first stone holds the tantalizing potential of being genuine, with as yet no way to prove it true or a hoax.
The first stone was found in the summer of 1937; a California tourist named Louis Hammond showed up at Emory University in Atlanta, saying he found the stone off a then newly opened stretch of Highway 17 near Edenton, North Carolina while hunting for hickory nuts. After much examination by intrigued professors, the text on the stone was deciphered as (flour was used to make the writing more visible):
Ananias Dare &
Virginia Went Hence
Unto Heaven 1591
Anye Englishman Shew
John White Govr Via
Father Soone After You
Goe for England Wee Cam
Hither / Onlie Misarie & Warre
Tow Yeere / Above Halfe Deade ere Tow
Yeere More From Sickenes Beine Foure & Twentie /
Salvage with Message of Shipp Unto Us / Smal
Space of Time they Affrite of Revenge Rann
Al Awaye / Wee Bleeve it Nott You / Soone After
Ye Salvages Faine Spirits Angrie / Suddaine
Murther Al Save Seaven / Mine Childe /
Ananais to Slaine wth Much Misarie /
Burie Al Neere Foure Myles Easte This River
Uppon Small Hil / Names Writ Al Ther
On Rocke / Putt This Ther Alsoe / Salvage
Shew This Unto You & Hither Wee
Promise You to Give Greate
The tale on the stone is by "EWD," none other than Eleanor White Dare, daughter of the colony's governor John White, and mother of Virginia Dare, the first English child born in America. It describes the colonists moving further inland shortly after governor John White departs for England. They suffer misery and war with the local tribes, and their numbers are reduced by illness even more until only 24 are left. After a ship is spotted, the Indians turn against them and attack, killing all but seven of the remaining 24, including her husband Ananias and her daughter Virginia. The seven buried their dead, carved a tombstone for them, and recorded their woe in stone, and asked Governor White to handsomely reward any "salvage" (i.e., savage) who brought him the message.
The Emory professors published an article in the May 1938 issue of the prestigious Journal of Southern History. Emory history professor Dr. Haywood J. Pearce, Jr. became a firm believer in the stone's authenticity. He persuaded his father, Dr. Haywood J. Pearce, Sr., to buy the stone from Hammond. Pearce Senior was the sole owner of private school Brenau College in Gainesville, Georgia (now Brenau University), where the stones still reside. Pearce Junior led a search for the second stone mentioned in the text, but found nothing. Knowing the second stone would authenticate the first, solve its mystery, and rewrite history, the Pearces offered a $500 reward.
Enter Bill Eberhardt, a stone cutter from Fulton County, Georgia. In the summer of 1939, he claimed to have found the second stone, engraved with the names of 17 deceased English colonists. He claimed to have found it near Pelzer, South Carolina, showing the Pearces the site. In fact, he said he had found thirteen stones there, and provided them. It was only the beginning. All in all, Bill Eberhardt provided the Pearces with 42 stones, all forgeries, for which he was paid a total of about $2000. A few others were provided by Eberhardt's cohorts. These stones indicate the survivors journeyed southwest from the Edenton, N.C. area through South Carolina to Georgia. Eleanor and the six survivors found refuge with friendly Cherokees in "Hontaoase." Eleanor married an American Indian chief in 1593, gave birth to his daughter Agnes, and finally died in a cave on the Chattahoochee River near present-day Atlanta in 1599.
The Dare Stones had become news. Investigative reporter Boyden Sparkes published a damning exposé in the April 26, 1941 Saturday Evening Post magazine, claiming the whole thing was a hoax. Problems with the stones included anachronistic language, a consistency of spelling atypical of the time, and even hidden acrostics. The names of the colonists did not match any other existing records. Investigating Eberhardt, Sparkes found he had sold forged Indian relics before.
When Pearce confronted Eberhardt, Eberhardt tried blackmailing Pearce by forging another stone with the inscription "Pearce and Dare Historical Hoaxes. We Dare Anything." If Pearce didn't pay him $200 for it, he'd turn it over to the Saturday Evening Post and admit to faking the stones. To his credit, Pearce went to the newspapers and admitted being duped. The story topped the headlines of the May 15, 1941 Atlanta Journal.
Professor Pearce's career suffered. The Dare Stones were kept in storage and ignored by Brenau College as an embarrassment, popping up occasionally, such as an appearance on a 1979 episode of Leonard Nimoy's television series In Search of...
But the first stone, also known as the Chowan River stone, is completely different from the others, in the type of rock, the writing style, the usage of words, and the fact that it had nothing to do with Bill Eberhardt. If a hoax, it is a superior one requiring a level of scholarly knowledge such that no reputable scholar with the ability would risk their career in the attempt. The Chowan River stone has been tarred with the same brush of "hoax" as the others and lost in the scandal and hubbub, but it remains as much a mystery as the Lost Colony itself.
La Vere, David. “The 1937 Chowan River ‘Dare Stone’: A Re-evaluation” North Carolina Historical Review 86, no. 3 (July 2009) 251-281.
La Vere, David. The Lost Rocks: The Dare Stones and the Unsolved Mystery of Sir Walter Raleigh's Lost Colony. Wilmington, N.C.: Dram Tree Books. 2010. http://books.google.com/books?id=6XyW01Qg7LMC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false (accessed March 15, 2013).
Sparkes, Boyden, "Writ on on Rocke: Has America's First Murder Mystery Been Solved?" The Saturday Evening Post. April 26, 1941. 9-11, 118, 120-122. http://www.angelfire.com/ego/iammagi/dare_writ_on_rocke.htm (accessed March 15, 2013).
Haywood J. Pearce, Jr. "New Light on the Roanoke Colony: A Preliminary Examination of a Stone Found in Chowan County, North Carolina." The Journal of Southern History 4, no. 2 (May 1938). 148-163. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2192000
Taylor, Charles S./UPI. "Dare Stones: Hoax or Clue to Lost Colony?" Ludington Daily News. April 11, 1977. Google News. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=7M5OAAAAIBAJ&sjid=J0oDAAAAIBAJ&pg=7268%2C717290
Mineheart, Tom. "Dare Stones – real or not- may hold clue to Lost Colony" Associated Press. The Daily Item [Sumter, S.C.]. June 21, 1984. Google News. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=xZYiAAAAIBAJ&sjid=yakFAAAAIBAJ&pg=1394%2C9196203
Morrison, David. "Brenau's Pet Rocks." Brenau Window. Summer 2007. 20-23. http://artsweb.brenau.edu/BrenauWindow/Summer2007/BrenauSum07c.pdf
Powell, Lew. "Dare Stone: Does debunking need debunking?" North Carolina Miscellany (blog). North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. April 20, 2010. http://www.lib.unc.edu/blogs/ncm/index.php/2010/04/20/dare-stone-does-debunking-need-debunking/
"Dare we? New methods could untangle Brenau's rocks riddle." Brenau Window. Spring 2011. 14-15. http://artsweb.brenau.edu/BrenauWindow/Spring2011/Spring11_darestones.pdf
Dentamaro , Nick. "History Channel's 'America Unearthed' Segment Features Jim Southerland And Dare Stones." Brenau Update (blog). Brenau University. February 1, 2013. http://update.brenau.edu/2013/02/01/history-channels-america-unearthed-segment-features-jim-southerland-and-dare-stones/
Morrison, David."'Dare Stones' Authenticity Theories Rock On" Brenau Update (blog). Brenau University. February 6, 2013. http://update.brenau.edu/2013/02/06/dare-stones-authenticity-theories-rock-on/
Brenau Staff. "Mile-Stones Anniversary." Brenau Update (blog). Brenau University. July 23, 2012. http://update.brenau.edu/2012/07/23/mile-stones-anniversary/
Dare stones collection, 1937-1987. Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University Archives. http://findingaids.library.emory.edu/documents/eua0071darestones
Stephenson, Robert L. "Report of Observations Regarding 'The Dare Stones'." Institute of Archeology and Anthropology, University of South Carolina. April 15, 1983.
"Dare Stone (front)." Photograph. Courtesy of Brenau University, Gainesville, Ga. http://window.brenau.edu/articles/brenaus-pet-rocks/
"Dare Stone (back). Photograph. Courtesy of Brenau University, Gainesville, Ga. http://window.brenau.edu/articles/brenaus-pet-rocks/
"Brenau professor Haywood Pearce, Jr. center with Emory colleagues James G. Lester left and Ben W. Gibson." Photograph. Courtesy of Brenau University, Gainesville, Ga. http://window.brenau.edu/articles/brenaus-pet-rocks/
"[Dare Stone number two]. Photograph. Courtesy of Brenau University, Gainesville, Ga.
15 August 2013 | Childs, T. Mike