Dare Stone revisited: Not a hoax after all?

“In 1937 a stone with several lines of inscription carved into it was found by Louis Hammond, who said he was just a tourist from California. While looking for hickory nuts off U.S. 17, he had found the stone in the woods near Edenton, not far from the Chowan River, about 65 miles west of Roanoke Island. Seemingly carved at the behest of Eleanor White Dare, daughter of Governor White, it told of a horrific Indian attack in 1591 that wiped out most of the Lost Colony, including Virginia Dare, first English child born in North America.

“Scholars have dismissed the stone as a forgery, but a closer look shows it might well be what it purports to be: a last message from Eleanor Dare and the Lost Colony…. It tells a credible story that coincides with the sources left about the Lost Colony.”

— Condensed from “The 1937 Chowan River ‘Dare Stone’: A Re-evaluation” by David La Vere, professor of history at UNC Wilmington, in the North Carolina Historical Review (July 2009).

25 thoughts on “Dare Stone revisited: Not a hoax after all?”

  1. Brief bio of Lewis Hammond, discoverer of the Dare Stone

    Lewis Albert Hammond was born 29 July 1882 near Ludington, Michigan to William P. Hammond and Nellie Hutchinson. William was from Canada and Nellie from Michigan.
    Lewis Hammond did two tours in the U. S. Army from 1902-1908. On 15 Jan 1908 he was discharged at Alcatraz Island, California.
    He married Hilda Albertina Raab on 12 Sep 1909 in Santa Clara, CA. His name on his marriage license in spelled Lewis Elbert Hammond. This may be where the ‘E’ in his name (erroneously) comes from.
    In 1918 he was living in Stanislaus Co., CA and working for the Pioneer Fruit Co. His wife Hilda was living in San Francisco at the time.
    He was divorced by 1920 and living in a lodging house in Richmond, Contra Costa Co.
    By 1930 he had moved to Eureka, CA and had remarried the widow Anne Florence Barlow (nee Sherman) whom he had met in Richmond.
    He was still living there in 1942. He was employed as a laborer at the construction company Mercer Fraser.
    He died 17 Jan 1956 in Memphis, TN and is buried at the Memphis National Cemetery. (He may have been receiving veteran’s care there.)

    Lewis may have had personal reasons for lying low in the 1930s. On the 1920 San Francisco census his first wife Hilda stated that she was divorced, while at the same time Lewis was living in a boarding house in Contra Costa county. He had two underage children at the time. It’s possible that he was trying to avoid child support and may have wanted to avoid publicity. This may explain why he was vague, if not outright lying, about how best to contact him. At the time, he gave Alameda General Delivery option as the best way to reach him even though he was living far up the coast in Eureka.

  2. What I’ve not seen offered or questioned is what Mr. Hammond would have been doing in eastern North Carolina, especially given that he’d been barely eking out a living on the west coast?
    Even if he had interest and could afford the extravagance of a cross country sojourn (remember this was in the 1930’s), why would he end up off road along the Chowan River. The site where the stone was supposedly discovered is/was no where near tourist related points of interest.

  3. Regarding what Bob Foster above gives as the bio of Lewis Hammond….how would you know that these different instances are all the same man? Lewis Hammond is a common name. You could be siting several different men of the same name.

    Would Lewis Hammond have been capable of imitating Early Modern English and know the Ye used for “The” in Early Modern English? Scholars in the 30’s didn’t even know that usage. The recent expert who looked at the stone said that this appeared genuine. I think it unlikely that someone who was not an expert in Early Modern English and also not a Historian could have faked this stone.

  4. Again regarding the Bio of Lewis Hammond that Bob has presented….. There was a Lewis Hammond born around 1893 in Michigan, living in CA with a wife Hilda in 1920. This man had 5 Hammond children all born in the early 1900’s. Was this same man in the service and prison too all while fathering these children?

    According to official literature: “In mid-September, 1937, L. E. Hammond, a small produce dealer of Alameda, California, was touring in North Carolina. He wanted hickory nuts. On a causeway by a swamp about three miles from Edenton, North Carolina, he stopped his car. This swamp, until the causeway was built shortly before, had been as inaccessible as any jungle. About a quarter of a mile in the woods, on the east bank of the Chowan, the tourist stumbled over a rock slab. It bore an inscription. ….. In November, 1937, he came into Atlanta, in search of a translator. Chance brought him to Emory University. ”

    So this explains why Hammond was in the area. AND his middle initial was “E” since there exists signed documents by him showing that.

    Why would a man of that time fake a stone with such intricate small letters, knowing the particulars of Early Modern English? I would think not that many people then knew the story Roanoke like we do today. After the first stone was mentioned in the press is when the copy cat stones appeared.


  5. Pam V, Alcatraz wasn’t a prison until 1934, before that, it was a Military installation. the Bio indicates that’s where he was discharged from the Army, not that he was imprisoned there.

  6. I want to believe the First Stone is authentic. My problem is that this belief bumps up unavoidably against the little we know about Louis Hammond who found it. Kudos to Bob Foster for finding as much info as he did. Nearly all of it seems credibly to point to the same guy until he ends up in Memphis, TN. Not impossible but it doesn’t feel right to me.
    Hammond’s story about vacationing in NC and going into a swamp due to a sudden yen for hickory nuts just doesn’t sound right. There’s still a Depression going on and this laborer in his late 40s goes cross-country all the way to NC for a vacation? If he was visiting relatives or looking for work, then maybe I’d buy it.
    I suggest someone else found the rock and brought it to CA where Hammond stole it from this person and then contrived a narrative that required him to travel 3000 miles, but he figured it’d be worth it.
    Who originally found it, I couldn’t say. I might speculate it was someone well enough off that they saw the stone as purely a collector’s item. How did Louis get wind of it? Again, I can only speculate, but maybe it was someone highly placed in the construction co he worked for.
    And there’s all kinds of reasons why this hypothetical person wouldn’t want to step forward once all the controversy hit the papers —–smuggling historical artifacts across state lines, etc.

  7. Even though the second and subsequent Dare Stones are known fakes (different linguistic patterns, tool marks, etc.), the first stone does appear to be genuine from all accounts. Given that,
    has anyone ever attempted to find the “small hill four myles east” upon which the 17 victims are supposedly buried with
    the “names writ al ther on rocke”? Is there a small hill near
    Edenton? From the maps and photos, Chowan County looks like a swampland . . . maybe “The Creature from the Black Lagoon”
    would be a better bet as a point of interest. Hmmmm?

  8. And no one bothered to consult a geologist to examine the first stone and attempt to find the area where it came from?

    Anyone done a mitochondrial DNA check on some of the indigenous residents compared with other materinal DNA from Mrs. Dare?

    Lot of questions left unanswered . . .

    By the way, why would the colonists have had a 3mm chisel which would have been required to carve the original stone? 3mm does not sound really practical for survival or construction in that era.

  9. Why does one find it odd that a fruit farmer from California would be in the southeast? A number of fruits such as peaches and nuts such as hickory are grown in both places. SE peaches taste much better than cAlifornia

  10. Ted Hammond He may have been visiting relatives do to we have family in that area. or so I am of the understanding. that my family may have been in the area in the late 1600’s.

  11. This man Hammond “discovered” this stone at a time when there was a huge amount of interest in the story. How convenient, just weeks after President Roosevelt had visited Roanoke Island.

  12. I watched the story of the Dare stone on the History Channel today. It was the first time I’d ever heard of the Roanoke Island story; L.(A?)E. Hammond sure found something of interest to those trying to find the lost colonists. The copper mining pits of the area where E. Dare might have found the stone she carved with the information about her circumstance were exciting to learn about. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s Copper Country/First Mining Rush of America began on the ancient PreColumbian mining pits there; the copper so pure (mass) there none compares around the world. It has been found far away from the Copper Country. Amygdoloid required heating and stamping after it was taken from the mine, so if the Indians of those early days wanted the copper from those mine rocks they needed laborers to pound it out of the rock. I can totally believe those lost colonists were enslaved to free the copper in order to increase trading advantages. Ancient miners, I’ve read, left the Upper Peninsula pits during the winter months. The copper was so pure up there it was not necessary to heat and stamp what was taken out. Virginia would have allowed the copper mine activities to continue all year-long, and taking the colonists to work the rocks must have seemed a good idea. The English had a lot of copper mining know how, but did the Indians know that? Doubt it, but what a coincidence of “meeting.”

  13. The question has been asked why Lewis Hammond is buried in Tennessee. This question was actually answered in the original comment made by Bob Foster in his brief bio of Lewis Hammond made on October 28, 2015, stating that Memphis,Tennessee is where Lewis A. Hammond is buried, in the The Memphis National Cemetery, a cemetery for military veterans. Hammond was 72 when he died on 17 Jan 1956.
    “Burial in a national cemetery is open to all members of the armed forces who have met a minimum active duty service requirement and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.”
    Also located in Memphis is the Memphis VA Medical Center where he may have received veteran’s care.

  14. I am anxious to speak with Bob Foster (author of above comments). I am Joseph McDonald. I can be reached at 910/281-5272, 910/315-1233, or joemc@mindspring.com. Thanks to anyone who can help me get in touch with him.

  15. My wife was just watching a show about the original “Dare stone”. They sampled the stone & it was shown NOT to be from that area. They conjectured (reaching in my opinion) that it was a “ballast stone” from a ship. Well first off, these were the first English to colonize on the coast 65 miles away. Where/how would a “ballast stone” from a ship come from in unexplored territory? I have a real problem believing these colonists. Trying to survive & carrying what they could as far as provisions & needed possessions. Would lug an about 20 pound rock 65 miles & several days. “Oh gee we might need a big rock”? LOL Also if they had been attacked recently. I’d be hot footing it out of the area. Not taking the time to sit down & carve the story into a rock. Why would there have been “ballast stones” at Roanoak in the first place or up this river anyway? A ship “in ballast” is an empty ship. The stone’s weight is needed to balance the ship when empty. Only removing those stones weight to be replaced by some type of cargo. The colonists & their provisions & possessions would have been the “cargo”. They would have needed to put ballast ON the ship to return to England not unload it. I just find the story full of holes in logic. Like Swiss Cheese LOL But all these guys keep saying “why would he create such a hoax?” They completely miss the power of ego. Getting his 15 min. of fame. That maybe he could parlay somehow into money. It was at the height of the depression you know. the the question above about “Ye” being used? Well all you have to do is read the King James version of the Bible. That was the predominant Bible at that time. It’s full of ye & thine & thou etc. & thought to be “old timey” ways of saying things. Like “Ye Old Tavern” “ye” being both you & the in usage.

  16. Greetings —
    For someone to discover ‘Dare stones’ in Georgia on first and even second glance defies logic. While the first stone may be authentic, the remaining stones have fallen into the category of myth and hoax.
    As for the fate of the Roanoke colonists — disease, starvation and cannibalism, and inter-marriage with a local tribe all seem plausible. Discovery and destruction by the Spanish, while probable, doesn’t appear plausible since no bodies were discovered and the defenses of Jamestown were removed, not destroyed from an attack.
    Further, John Smith, learned that Wahunsenacawh who was the chief of the Powhatan confederation had killed the colonists since they had allied themselves with enemies of the Powhatan. Smith did not pursue revenge/justice based on common sense — there were more Indians than English AND the English needed the food and supplies the Indians could provide.
    (Woke) Disney notwithstanding, John Smith was not tall, blonde and blue eyed. He was short, bearded and had facial scars from years as a mercenary. Pocahontas/Matoaka (Little Flirt) was 11 or 12, bald (no head hair) and the dress custom was nude from the waist up. The settlers set up Jamestown on a brackish tidal river — good for fishing but not for use as a water suppy. Had the colonists cleared land and planted crops, they would have had sufficient food sources. Instead, the ‘gentlemen’ sought Indian gold and gemstones. Smith wrote to England and requested no more gentlemen but yeoman farmers. This situation also led to the dictate, no work then no eat — 2 Thessalonians 3:10 and John Smith, Jamestown 1608.
    But returning to Roanoke, has anyone thought of researching river beds and coastines in the mid-1500s vice trying to travel on existing rivers/coasts? Has anyone studied the patina of the first stone?
    What is the geological origin of the first Dare stone?
    As Carl Sagan is often quoted, ‘Extra-ordinary claims require extra-ordinary proof.’
    Why would the Roanoke colonists take time to carve a stone with as much detail as depicted and there not have a blow-out or mistake or missed hammer strike? Why would they have carved a tree with a message that the natives could deface?
    Did the Roanoke settlers not know of the previous attempt at settlement and the hostility of the Secotan Indians in 1585 from the Walter Raleigh attempt at establishing an English foothold in the New World?

  17. When time travel is invented someone can go back and find the truth. For the present time we need to go over ever square foot of Roanoke Island with a good metal detector and ground penetrating radar. Some of the local Colleges and Universities could make this their class project. I want to know the truth.

  18. The first stone was reported in 1937 by Louis E. Hammond, who claimed to have found it near the Chowan River. On November 8, 1937, Louis E. Hammond visited Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, with a 21-pound (9.5 kg) stone, asking for help to interpret the markings on it. Hammond claimed to be a California tourist traveling the country with his wife. He said he found the stone in August 1937 by the east bank of the Chowan River, in Chowan County, North Carolina.

    Coincidentally, Virginia Dare and the Lost Colony were in the public eye in 1937. August 18, 1937 marked the 350th anniversary of the birth of Virginia Dare. In fact, the Fort Raleigh historic site, the state, and town of Manteo were preparing for a visit from then President Franklin Roosevelt on August 18 to mark the anniversary.

    Hammond took the stone to Emory University, just outside of Atlanta. Dr. Heywood Pearce, a historian at Emory, initially examined the stone and believed it to be authentic. Hammond asked for $1000 for the stone. The University declined his offer, but Pearce reached out to his father, Haywood Pearce, the President of Brenau College in Gainesville, GA for assistance. Pearce and Hammond returned to North Carolina, near the point where Hammond found the stone, but could not pinpoint the specific location of the finding.

    Hammond was said to be returning to his California home. Pearce mailed Hammond a check for $1000. No one was ever able to locate him again. The inability to locate Hammond was one of the reasons doubters used to question the authenticity of the stone.

    A case of mistaken identity? Louis E. Hammond is the name of the man who first found the Dare
    stone in August of 1937. While efforts to locate him were unsuccessful, Lewis Albert Hammond
    has become the face of Louis E. Hammond. https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Hammond-7011
    It is possible today to find several Louis E. Hammond individuals living variously in Los Angeles and San Francisco in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

    1. The authenticity of that stone, commonly referred to as the Chowan River Dare Stone, has remained an open question since its appearance in 1937. Carefully researched and documented, this book finally provides conclusive evidence that the Chowan River Dare Stone is a clever 20th century fraud. In doing so, the book also tells the fascinating story of the Dare Stone and exposes the orchestration of the hoax and its shadowy perpetrators.

  19. Well, I certainly have a number of problems with the first stone. First, the timing of the find. The same summer that the play opened? Second, the message on the stone. It’s great if you were trying to find an answer to the question of what happened to them. Doesn’t make much sense to me. If I had written the message, it would have been “here we are, come save us”, not what had happened to us. That wouldn’t have mattered to the writer at the time. Third, that stone would have had to have lain in that swamp/woods for 340 years? Dead trees, falling leaves for all that time and it still was visible laying on the top of the ground? I doubt it. Fourth. I live across the sound from Edenton, in Kill Devil Hills, and the stone says the Indians saw a sail, got panicked, and killed most of them. You could see a sail on a ship that size for 10 miles. More than enough time to move what ever people you had back 50 feet from the shore. Most places, that would have been as good as 20 miles. As far as killing them goes, what would be the point in killing part of them and not all of them. Kill all, dump them in the marsh and go about your business. The Indians would be in more danger leaving some alive than killing them all.

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