“In no State is it unlawful for Mongolians [Asians] and Indians, Negroes and Mongolians, or Negroes and Indians to intermarry. The only exception to the last is that in North Carolina it is unlawful for Negroes to intermarry with Croatan [later Lumbee] Indians or to go to the same school with them. To this statute hangs a beautiful historical tradition….
“All that is left of Virginia Dare and the Lost Colony is this tradition supported by the presence of Indians with fair skin and eyes, and the statute of North Carolina that the blood of these early settlers shall not be further adulterated, by miscegenation, with the blood of the Negro.”
— From “Race Distinctions in American Law” by Gilbert Thomas Stephenson (1910)
In this letter the Pembroke town council explains to Atlantic Coast Line why its new station needs to include three waiting rooms rather than two (1913).
“The most famous ghost that is said to haunt the shores of North Carolina and pop culture in equal measures is the spirit of Virginia Dare… the New World’s first Christian ‘wild child.’ The sweet babe likely never survived infancy, but her name is immortal.
“She has been the subject of numerous romance and supernatural novels, including the rather cringe-inducing 1908 book ‘The Daughter of Virginia Dare,’ where Virginia is revealed to be the secret mother of Pocahontas (a later 1930 novel would in contrast place Virginia in a love triangle with John Smith and the teenage Pocahontas)….”
— From “Roanoke: The Real History of the Lost Colony & How Its Legend Haunts Pop Culture” by David Crow at Den of Geek (Sept. 20)
Indeed, “American Horror Story: Roanoke” is only the latest modern knockoff of the Lost Colony story. What would “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” have been without it?
“In the hands of its literary interpreters, the Roanoke colony… became the literary property of post-Confederate nostalgia, the ‘lost colony’ linked symbolically to the ‘lost cause.’
“In an 1866 novel called ‘Roanoke; or, “Where Is Utopia?” ‘ Calvin H. Wiley, who had been superintendent of public schools in Confederate North Carolina, set the colony’s descendants in a place where ‘the wild and restless demon of Progress has not yet breathed … its scorching breath on the green foliage of nature,—filial reverence, parental tenderness, conjugal fidelity, neighbourly kindness, and patriotic integrity.’
“In 1875, an anonymous ‘M. M.’ published a story in Our Living and Our Dead, a North Carolina magazine dedicated to Confederate nostalgia and anti-Northern fomentation, in which Indian magic had turned Virginia Dare into an enchanted white doe who haunted the coastal forests for a century and witnessed the Indians’ ‘extinction, and the wide occupation of their forfeited patrimony, by that superior race, the Anglo-Saxon, with their bondsmen, the sable African, the red man’s inferior.’ M. M.’s Virginia Dare also prophesied the Civil War as a national disaster: ‘divided, brave brothers fall beneath the yoke of despotism.’ ”
— From “The Earliest American Heroine” by Duke law professor Jedediah Purdy in the New Yorker (Oct. 10)
— Vietnamese-American writer sets latest novel in Boiling Springs, peoples it with Virginia Dare, Wright Brothers and slave poet George Moses Horton.
— Fog of war hinders recount of state’s Confederate dead.
— Student paper at N.C. State emphasizes importance of campus history, such as “old rumors that our rivalry with UNC-Chapel Hill started when UNC students urinated in the old well in Yarborough Square.”
— Ceremony at recently discovered Surry County slave cemetery honors “Bob and Jacob, Melissa and Isabelle and Charles, Sarah and Delsie.”
— Before Rupert Murdoch took over, how many Wall Street Journal stories did you see datelined Cherokee?
In the July 2009 North Carolina Historical Review, David La Vere, professor of history at UNC Wilmington, argued for taking seriously the “Dare Stone” found near the Chowan River in 1937:
“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….”
Now Dram Tree Books in Wilmington has published Dr. La Vere’s “The Lost Rocks: The Dare Stones and the Unsolved Mystery of Sir Walter Raleigh’s Lost Colony.”
I asked him whether the stone might yield its secrets to modern forensic science.
“The Stone’s language has been examined many times,” he replied. “I had an Elizabethan scholar look over the language. He went in with the idea to discredit and came away amazed how it all fit Elizabethan English. He was particularly interested in the word ‘salvage’ (for savage) which was used in English (from the Italian word for forest) during only a few years…. The Lost Colony fit in with that period.
“I don’t know when the physical aspect of the stone was examined last. In the 1980s it was looked over, but they found they could not come to any new evidence on it. It still looks like a chisel did it. The problem was that it was ‘corrupted’ from the time it was found — gone over with a wire brush, pencils and nail. New techniques would entail destroying parts of the stone, and Brenau [University, where it resides] doesn’t seem willing to do that.
“So it could be real, or it could be a good fake.”
Paging Sam Spade….