by Ben Steelman
David La Vere of Wilmington has received the 2009 R.D.W. Connor Award from the Historical Society of North Carolina. Named for the North Carolinian who became the first archivist of the United States, the award has been presented annually since 1953, honoring the author of the article judged to be the best in the preceding year appearing in the North Carolina Historical Review.
La Vere was honored for his paper “The 1937 Chowan River ‘Dare Stone’: A Re-Evaluation,” which appeared in the July 2009 issue of the Review.
The book reviews the history of a stone with peculiar carvings, discovered in 1937 in northeastern North Carolina, in a swamp about 60 miles from Roanoke Island. The inscription, in Elizabethan English, purports to have been by Eleanor Dare, the daughter of John White, governor of the famed “Lost Colony” of Roanoke Island, in 1591 — long after the colony had been “lost.” The inscription claims to report the deaths of Dare’s husband, Ananias Dare, and of her infant daughter, Virginia, at the hands of “savages” and claims that the surviving colonists headed inland.
In all, 47 other “Dare stones” were discovered across the Carolinas and Georgia, supposedly tracing the colonists’ path. The reports met with skepticism — reporters noted that the discovery conveniently fell on the 350th anniversary of the colony, just a short time before the premiere of Paul Green’s outdoor drama “The Lost Colony” at Manteo. Eventually, the later stones were exposed as a hoax. La Vere, however, argues that the original stone is substantially different from the later, fraudulent ones and that it could possibly be genuine.
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