I don’t know the first thing about Dare Stones. Let’s pretend that I have been approached by a person, an acquaintance of a friend, who will sell a Dare Stone to me for the low price of $400. I tell him I’ll get the money and geologist and meet him in eight hours. If the geologist says that the stone appears genuine, I will fork over the money.
I’m lying as much as he is. I have no intention of bringing a geologist, who will charge me $500 for two hours of work, instead I’m using my time to research the Dare Stones on the Internet, using Wikipedia as my primary source, and spinning off to other sources when it appeals to me.
I waste the first three hours reading about the Roanoke colony. Here are some points I think were important enough to write down:
1. In July of 1584, the English first made contact with the Croatan Indians on Hadderas Island. They took two of these Indians back to meet the Queen of England, an indication of an alliance between the Croatan and the English.
2. In 1586, the during the next expedition, the English had a falling out with another tribe and burn a village, but they remain friends with the Croatan.
3. In 1587, the famous colony was established at Roanoke, which is not far from Hadderas Island. Right away one colonist wanders off and gets bludgeoned to death by Indians. Concerned that they aren’t militarily strong enough, the colonists send their governor, John White, back to England to get help. The rest of the colonists, including White’s daughter, Eleanor Dare, are left to fend for themselves, which is odd enough, unless they still have the good will and support of the Croatan. If they must desert the colony, which is highly likely since they have limited food and hostiles are plaguing them, they are to carve their destination into a tree. They are to carve a cross below it if they are being forced out under hostile conditions.
4. A rescue party doesn’t get back to the island until 1590. Everyone is gone. “Croatoan” is carved into a tree. The camp has been orderly dismantled and removed. Oh my God, what a mystery, where could they have gone? Do you think they might have gone to Hadderas Island and the camp of their allies, the Croatan Indians? A hurricane drives the rescuers off before they can confirm that the colonists have joined the Croatan Indians.
5. In 1602, Sir Walter Raleigh, tries again to reach to Roanoke, but is driven off by another storm.
6. The next time we hear about the lost colony is from Chief Powhatan who tells John Smith, of Jamestown, that he wiped out the Roanoke settlers in 1606 because they had aligned with a recalcitrant tribe that refused to join Powhatan’s confederation. He showed Smith various English implements to backup his story.
7. Over the centuries, several local tribes have claimed that they are mixed blood descendents of the Roanoke settlers. Some of these tales are very convincing and a DNA project has been setup the try to confirm the stories.
Next we go the Dare Stones.
1.In 1937, The Lost Colony, a play by Paul Green, makes its debut. It later becomes the longest running outdoor play and is still a major attraction.
2.That same year, a man named Hammond sells the first Dare Stone to Haywood Pearce of Emory College for $1500, a wad of money at the time. The first stone is said to have been found within 65 miles of the Roanoke colony site. After that, a bunch of other stones are found by four individuals in Georgia. All of these are found in a relatively small area and the four finders know each other.
3.April 26th, 1941, Boyden Sparkes writes a damning article debunking the Dare Stones as absolute fakes.
4.In 1991, John White writes a book, A Witness for Eleanor Dare, where he debunks Sparkes debunking, and suggests that Sparkes drew some fast and furious conclusions about the stones.
At this point, I have about two hours to decide whether I want to spend $400 on a Dare Stone, which is a very cheap price compared to Pearce’s first stone. I don’t have the time or the money that Sparks, White, and Pearce had to chase down a bunch of experts and ask what they think of this or that aspect of the stones, and frankly, after each one has been debunked by the other, I’m not sure which set of experts to believe. I have to do it this on my own.
I decide that I want to know whether the inscriptions on the first stone compare favorably to the limited history I have of the colony. The stone says Eleanor’s husband and daughter were killed along with most of the settlers by 1591. This conflicts with Powhatan’s statement that he killed all (most) of them in 1606. Further Dare stones tell of a migration to Georgia. This tends to conflict, but not completely so, with the reports from East Coast tribes that they are descended from Roanoke colonists. The migration also conflicts with common sense. Why would they migrate away from friendly tribes toward the unknown? Can the Dare Stone story and the Native American legends both be true? Yes, but I think it is highly unlikely and better evidence will need to be uncovered before I can accept the stones. Meanwhile, there is a DNA project which seeks to test the theory that Roanoke settlers were integrated into local tribes.
Lastly, if Hammond had said that his grandfather or father had found the first stone twenty to fifty years before the Lost Colony play, and that the play jolted him into remembering the rock, then I would be much more accepting of it. But he claims to have found the stone at the same time a FICTIONAL play is making Eleanor Dare into a key player in the Roanoke colony. Play says she’s a key character; he finds a stone where she leaves an important message. That sounds more opportunistic than probabilistic. As I have said before, the discovery tales of fakes usually are implausible or downright impossible.
Oops, someone is at my door. I’m just going to sit here and act like no one’s home. Oh, there goes my cell phone; I’m not answering it either.
So what do I think really happened at Roanoke? Just as they were told to do, they carved the name of the place they went, Croatoan, the Croatan tribal camp on Hadderas Island. I think the very hurricanes that drove off rescue parties may have driven the Croatan tribe inland, at least for the short term. Whether because of hurricanes, or just mingling with allies, the Roanoke settlers were introduced to other tribal camps. As the hope of rescue diminished, the English intermarried, and spread among the Croatan and other friendly villages. Some of them were killed in battles against enemy tribes, hence Powhatan’s story.
Other interesting sources:
Archeologist speaks out about Scott Wolter
Lost Colony Play vs Lost Colony History