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Virginia Dare

virginia dare

Virginia Dare (born August 18, 1587, date of death unknown) was the first child born in the Americas to English parents, Eleanor (or Ellinor/Elyonor) and Ananias Dare.

 She was born into a short-lived colony on Roanoke Island in present-day North Carolina, USA. What became of Virginia and the other colonists has become an enduring mystery. The fact of her birth is known because the leader of the colony, Eleanor Dare's father, John White, returned to England to seek assistance for the colony. When White returned three years later, the colonists were gone.

During the past four hundred years, Virginia Dare has become a prominent figure in American myth and folklore, symbolizing different things to different groups of people. She has been featured as a main character in books, poems, songs, comic books, television programs and films. Her name has been used to sell different types of products from vanilla products to wine and spirits. Many places in North Carolina and elsewhere in the Southern United States have been named in her honor.

 

Historical explanations

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, historian Lee 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 who 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 Roanoake 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 maid 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. For four hundred years, various authors have speculated that the captive girl was Virginia Dare. When White left the colony in 1587, there were eighty-seven men, seventeen women and eleven children among the colonists. Virginia Dare was one of two infants born to colonists in 1587 and was the only female child in the Lost Colony.

 

Possible descendants

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. Today one group is known as the Haliwa-Saponi tribe. From the early 1600s to the middle 1700s 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 of Roanoke DNA Project, has launched a Lost Colony DNA Project to test possible descendants.

 

Eleanor Dare Stones

From 1937 until 1941, the so-called "Dare Stones" were in the news. The 48 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. Later stones, each addressed to John White and signed with the name of Virginia's mother, Eleanor, 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 Nachoochee 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 had borne the chief a daughter, the tribe was angry, 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 fakery 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.

 

Symbolism

In the more than four hundred years since her birth, Virginia Dare has become a prominent figure in American myth and folklore, representing different things to different people. A 2000 article in the Piedmont Triad, North Carolina News and Record noted that, for many Americans, particularly Southerners, she symbolizes innocence and purity, "new beginnings, promise, and hope" as well as "adventure and bravery" in a new land. She also symbolizes mystery because of her mysterious fate. For some residents of North Carolina, she has been an important symbol of the state and the desire to keep it predominantly European-American. In the 1920s, a group that opposed suffrage for women feared that black women would get the vote. One group in Raleigh, North Carolina urged "that North Carolina remain white ... in the name of Virginia Dare."Today Virginia Dare's name is used for the anti-illegal-immigration group The VDARE Project.

Some people also see her as a symbol of women's rights. In the 1980s feminists in North Carolina called for state residents to approve the Equal Rights Amendment and "Honor Virginia Dare."

Source: encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com


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