Sunday, August 22, 2010

Virginia Dare or The Birth of a Nation, Baylus Brooks

Born 18th August 1587

A tiny mewling baby all red and splotchy

And already fiercely independent.

What joy filled their hearts as her cries

Drifted on the scented air.

So many hopes and fears swaddled tight,

One small bundle with the future of a nation

Grasped briefly in her chubby pink fingers.

What became of Virginia Dare

And the others of the "Lost Colony"?

How long did they search

With no trace ever found.

Only the grey eyed Indians

Perhaps held the key.

How long did she live?

Such an heroic name for little Virginia Dare

One name remembered amongst a multitude

Of others long forgotten.

Today, we set fair for Roanoke… to the beginnings of the story that holds a nation spellbound in wonder. For us, the “great mystery” only requires evidence to prove that it was no mystery. And our efforts over the many years (months for myself) have gained great riches! But, Anne and Dawn (and eventually me) came to Manteo today to promote our endeavors, yes, but mostly to honor the birthday of Virginia Dare, daughter of Ananias and Eleanor Dare, first English child to be born in what is now the United States. It occurred on Roanoke Island right here in North Carolina.

The festivities at the Lost Colony Theater grounds were to begin at 11:00 a.m. Where was I? Touring the island of Roanoke. For me, it was my first visit. Arriving at 8:30 a.m. I had plenty of opportunity to visit the Roanoke Festival Park first and tour the Elizabethan-era remake of a type of English ship that brought our colonists from England to these shores. The facilities that made this ship are located on the island as well.

I stayed long enough to watch a harquebus being fired from the deck of the ship. This was a deck-mounted affair (as opposed to shoulder-mounted) that was quickly reloadable through the use of a removable powder canister that could be refilled and reloaded in short order. The smoke and roar was not bad compared to its bigger brothers and sisters usually kept below on the gun deck.

I also had a chance to stop in at the Outer Banks History Center, a part of the North Carolina Division of Archives and History. There are several good Hatteras collections that will require our close attention. Sarah, a curator at the center, gave me some excellent research tips on Hatteras history and previous work.

I also stopped by the Settlement Re-enactment to speak with the blacksmith, who worked in an old wattle and daub type structure very similar to what the colonists would have used. While I was there, I drilled him on what modifications he thought that the colonists might have made to their structures after having moved off the island, possibly incorporating Algonquian building techniques as did the Jamestown colonists after realization that the wetter weather made that necessary. They covered their homes in tree bark to make them more weatherproof.

I also spied a nice set of armor to go with my new red leggings. Nice!

From the Festival Park, I arrived just after 11 to find Anne and Dawn hard at work. They were already set up with various potsherds of both Indian and English manufacture, all found mixed at the same level on Hatteras Island, near Buxton. There were also deer bone that Anne will tell you proves that there was plenty of food to support the mere 100+ colonists of 1587.

Our intrepid archaeologists also found a half-naked Algonquian man to “talk” to. Yeah, right! I did notice that there were no half-naked Algonquian females around. Hmmmph! Good girl, Dawn, keeping your hands carefully crossed in front of you like that.

Well, I’m not a half-naked Indian, but somehow I managed to get between the gals. This was a great opportunity for me because I have never met these two great researchers. We have spent the summer communicating by email and I have hundreds of emails to prove it. A lot of progress has been made too. I’m looking forward to the digs in November and April to find what we have spent the past few months theorizing and maybe learn from my partners a little about archaeological work and methods.

After packing up for the day, Anne and Dawn decided to give me a tour backstage of the Lost Colony Theater. Here’s what it looks like when no one is around. But, there are more goodies in the back…

They decided to make a brief stop to vandalize a local tree before moving on, however.

The crew was preparing for that night’s performance as we arrived and we toured the grounds. Luckily, they knew these guys and we didn’t get thrown out!

We even got into the costume department and even the makeup. Of course, we didn’t get to be in the play but you can’t have everything. I even have a really good 16th-century English accent… at least the guys at the Settlement said so. They were well-practiced with theirs.

 here be ye props… I’ve been looking for a chair just like that for my living room, too.

Well, it’s been a great trip but, I had to be off to get ready for school. My wife and I both start this week. So, these two will watch tonight’s play and then sit around in their hotel room and, as Bobbi wistfully recalled, speculate on what happened with those abandoned colonists that we now know so well:

I remember my first time at that cast party sitting looking over the water and watching a shooting star. What must they have thought when they saw them too? Did they think they were omens that they were going to be rescued, or relieved, or maybe just visited by people from England with news of their families? Did they see John White's boats in the 1590 trip sail by Croatoan Island and was that smoke a desperate signal? Did they follow the ships to Roanoke as quickly as they could, only to discover they were too late? Did they know how close they were to rescue or replenishment?

Goodnight, Virginia Dare! We’ll get together again next year. Maybe by then, we’ll have some news of your grandfather, John White. Maybe we’ll even know you a little better as well. Whatever we find, I’m sure we’ll have fun doing it! As for ye rest, Fare thee well, ye lubbers!

Baylus Brooks

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Virginia Dare Birthday Celebration August 18th

Waterside Theatre Presenting These Entertaining Productions in 2010!

Virginia Dare Faire

Virginia Dare Faire on Roanoke Island

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Virginia Dare Faire: Happy Birthday Virginia!!!

Tomorrow is the big day!!!

Virginia Dare Faire

Celebrate Virginia Dare’s 423rd birthday at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site on Roanoke Island. Attend a full day of free activities for the family that include make and take crafts; games; entertainment; activities; free cake and ice cream. Reserve your seats early for the evening performance of The Lost Colony that cameos infant actors as baby Virginia—ticket charges apply.

We are very fortunate to have two representatives, Anne Poole and Dawn Taylor, who will be staffing a DNA testing booth. We expect to have photos soon.

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Memories, author Jeri Evans

The story of the Lost Colony has become part of the fabric of my family history. Oral history passed along from previous generations tells the story of the colonists, celebrates the birth of Virginia Dare and hints at a possible link between their fate and our beginnings. Our family has been celebrating their lives through story-telling prior to the beginning of the outdoor drama and by embracing the live performance once it became a reality.

Home base for my family is Washington County, NC, on the south shore of the Albemarle Sound, approximately 50 miles west of the Outer Banks. As a child growing up in the 1950’s, I traveled with my family on many trips to the Outer Banks and Roanoke Island. Our typical excursion was just for the day but at least once a year there was an over-night stay in order to see the Lost Colony drama.

Our family was large and we generally attended the Lost Colony as a group. I loved the play and was always eager to attend the performance. At that time, the entrance to the historic site was flanked by two large wooden towers placed there to create the impression of entering an actual fort. Riding through the entrance towers was very impressive to a small child with a large imagination. There were also log houses and a church on the site that were built based on an assumption of what the colonists may have created. All towers and other structures have long since been removed as they were not original to the site.

We would time our arrival at Fort Raleigh in the late afternoon. We’d purchase tickets upon arrival and set up our picnic area to enjoy a homemade dinner before the play began. There was usually time available for my cousins and I to visit the theatre before dinner. The stage and sets were open and we would play on the set acting out our version of the drama and taking turns pretending to be the main characters. The youngest cousins were always Virginia Dare by default because they could fit into the cradle. Members of the cast would occasionally stop and visit with us as we played.

At dusk we would proceed into the theatre and that’s when, for me, the magic began. The pathway to the theatre led through the oaks which had been shaped by coastal winds, twisted and bent at odd angles with long low branches that crossed over our heads. Lighting was provided at ground level but on both sides and above us it was dark. The entrance into the theatre was a replica of a wooden fort with double gates cut into the center of the structure. Once in the theatre, we always made our way to the right to seats in the middle of the right side section. The seating consisted of rows of benches with no backs and no cushions. The play began with haunting organ music that echoed across the theatre and a choir began singing a hymn. The narrator appeared to the left, illuminated by a spotlight and began the story of Raleigh’s colony. The organ music lingers in my memory, the sound gave me chills as a child and I confess I miss that sound when I attend the performance today. I was fascinated by the Indians and no matter how many times I’d seen the play, I was always startled when the Indians jumped out from the side stages and ran through the audience with their weapons, shouting their war cries. I laughed at the antics of Old Tom and Agona and wished Ananias Dare had been given more of a hero’s role in the script. Watching the colonists line up and begin their final march was always a poignant moment. I would try to imagine myself in their place and realized how frightened I would have been, and how brave they had to be, to march out into the unknown. I loved the sight of the English flag flying as they left the fort and the final stance of John Borden with Eleanor Dare holding little Virginia.

We were always quieter leaving the theatre than we had been on arrival. The story was powerful and thought provoking even for children. For me, seeing the play always increased my desire to determine if the fate of the colonists was part of our personal family history.

Is there a Lost Colonist in my family tree? Maybe, maybe not – that connection hasn’t revealed itself but that doesn’t diminish my commitment to the search for answers.

The Lost Colony story, both the actual historical event and the fictionalized Paul Green creation, hold a special place in my heart. We’re fortunate that this historical site has been preserved for future generations. I believe the search for physical evidence and the fate of the colonists will eventually be revealed through archaeological research and DNA testing.

One of my favorite lines from the play is from Act II, Scene 5, spoken by John Borden:

“And down the centuries that wait ahead there’ll be some whisper of our name – some mention and devotion to the dream that brought us here.”
- Paul Green, The Lost Colony

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Virginia Dare Birthday Celebration August 18th

First Published August 18th, 2009

Roberta Estes and Anne Poole

Day 3 – August 18th – 2009 Tuesday


Little Virginia could never have imagined the impact she would have in a misty and uncertain future. We don’t even know that she even lived past a few days of age, so her future might have been very short. Then again, if she lived to a ripe old age, she could have lived to be 70 or 80 years old. In fact, the Lumbee have a story that tells us that Virginia Dare is buried in Robeson County. Is it true? Well, it could be, assuming of course that she lived. We do know from historical records that there were people living in the Robeson County area as early as 1654. A surveyor entered the area to survey and got himself run off by a group of people with guns. Seems they didn’t want the land they were living on surveyed.

But the Virginia Dare we are all familiar with is the child, the baby, born on August 18th, 1587, to her young mother, Eleanor White Dare, wife of Ananias Dare shortly after landing on Roanoke Island. A marker at Fort Raleigh today commemorates her birth, but looks for all the world like a tombstone.

The Virginia Dare Faire at Fort Raleigh is always free and fun. Today’s event included the Kitty Hawk Kite Company, face painting, a balloon artist, Pizza Hut with free samples, the cast cruising about in costume, singing, dancing, juggling swords, playing “old games” with visitors and more throughout the park. Of course, we had our table there among the festivities as well.

We were fortunate that 2 of our members, Aleda Bunch and Jeri Evans, joined Anne and I for the day. There were lots of questions to be answered as many people stopped by and we needed the help, but more importantly, we go to know each other and had a lot of fun. We were also pleased to discover that two couples came specifically to talk to our group, but most people had a more general curiosity.

Interestingly enough, one of the most interested individuals was a young tour guide who works at Fort Raleigh. He had excellent questions for us and made me wish it was the beginning of their season, not the end. I think though that the Lost Colony is now under his skin, so to speak, and he will carry it with him in many ways for the rest of his life.

Anne talking to visitors

I must say that I don’t think I’ve ever met a nicer group of young people. Most of the staff there consists of college students. All of them were friendly, polite and some were genuinely interested in our project. They smiled and were engaging and helpful. And I must add that most were dressed in stifling wool costumes, floor length, long sleeves, and they must have been miserably hot. We were sweating like faucets stuck “on” and we certainly weren’t in authentic period costumes. Bravo to them for their sunny dispositions!!!

We decided that everyone must want to be an Indian in the cast, because although Ananias Dare is clearly a “leading man”, the Indians are much more comfortable in their costumes. The Queen passed through and traditionally cuts the birthday cake for Virginia Dare, but surely no one wants to wear her wardrobe in hot sultry August in NC.

After the Faire ended, Anne and I visited with Doug Stover, the Cultural Resource Manager at Fort Raleigh. Said another way, Doug is the historian and a font on knowledge. Doug was very gracious and spoke with us along with curator, Jason Powell for quite some time. We’re very pleased to continue to work with Fort Raleigh and the National Park Staff.

Tomorrow we’ll be using another local resource, the Outer Banks History Center. While Fort Raleigh involves archaeology, the Lost Colony, military colonists and the later history of the property, the Outer Banks History Center is administered by the North Carolina State archives and includes information on genealogy and family histories. Anne and I are hopeful that we can find some information directly related to the early families on Hatteras Island. We have a “hot lead” to follow!

Tonight, we travel the road beside the swamp to the stop light at the intersection of the bouncing bridge, back to Manteo, through the tree lined streets with names such as Grenville, Amadas and Ananias Dare. We return to the Fort Raleigh, not as workers, but to attend the play. This is Anne’s 52nd year attending the Lost Colony play. She has missed a few years, but not many. Jeri Evans told me today that her parents were at opening night in 1937. We’ll be asking these ladies to share their very special memories with us in a future blog. Tonight, we’re just going to enjoy this year’s rendition of the play, always slightly different, always wonderful.

Two years ago, we were invited to a very special event after the play. It has now become a tradition that we look forward to every year. Traditionally, Virginia Dare’s birthday is either the last production or the next to last production of the play for the season. Dignitaries are present, of course, and there are special events and awards to the actors and crew who deserve outstanding merit.

One of the most special events is the cast party after the play behind the stage. The area behind the stage is directly on the sound. Parts of the stage are built on a deck that is extended over the sound, and the sand in front of the stage is truly beach sand. By the time the play is over, darkness has fallen and thankfully, the heat has diminished a bit. Volunteers and local businesses provide food for the cast, staff and volunteers, and everyone sits together at picnic tables, visits and of course eats wonderful home-made southern food. (Anne is taking ham, green beans (with bacon fat of course), potato salad (a southern must) and Scotch Cake (some kind of the most wonderful smelling chocolate concoction). Cast members have created their own entertainment, sing, dance, so skits and entertain themselves and others as well. They have become family, indeed, throughout the summer and although we were not family members, they welcomed us warmly into their world. What a beautiful end to the perfect day, looking over the sound, watching the stars, the moon rising over the water and knowing that whether the Colonists survived and moved on or died on Roanoke Island, we’re sharing the same sand, land and stars, a few generations and 422 years removed.

Read all posts in the Trip to Roanoke series:

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Sunday, August 8, 2010

Did Sir Richard Greenville Leave the Ancestors of the Banker Ponies?


The Wild Bankers of Ocracoke Island

Legend has it that the "Banker" horses of Ocracoke were left by shipwrecked explorers of the 16th or 17th Century. European ships commonly carried livestock to the New World. If a ship ran aground near the coast, animals were thrown overboard to lighten the load so that the ship could be re-floated. The livestock were often left behind when the ship again set sail. Sir Richard Grenville's ship TIGER ran aground at Ocracoke Island in 1565.* There is speculation that he may have unloaded Spanish mustangs on the island.

Evidence also exists of a failed earlier Spanish colony further south along the Carolina coast in 1526. Their horses, if abandoned, may have slowly spread north to Ocracoke.
Banker horses have been documented on Ocracoke since the first European settlers came to stay in the 1730's. There have been as many as 300 horses on Ocracoke Island. They have played a major role in the island's history, serving residents as beasts of burden at work and at play, in beach rides and races.

The U.S. Life-saving Service used horses until 1915 for beach patrols and to haul equipment to and from shipwreck sites. The Coast Guard kept a small band of Banker ponies to patrol the beaches during World War II. For a period of the 1950's, islanders held annual July 4th pony "pennings". Horses and colts were rounded up and driven into the village to be corralled and then branded. Some horses were sold during the event.

Cont. here:

See also:

*With delays caused by the capture of a Spanish ship, the need to gather salt, and the purchase of supplies, the English finally arrived off Cape Fear on 23 June 1585. The next day they anchored and fished in the vicinity of present-day Beaufort Inlet. And finally on 26 June they reached Wococon on the Outer Banks. (It may or may not have been the present-day Ocracoke Inlet: inlets in this area open and close often and move continually.) On 29 June 1585 the Tyger ran aground at Wococon with the loss of most of the supplies on board.

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Review of Family Tree DNA’s Family Finder – Part I

July 19th, 2010

Since late 2007, several “direct-to-consumer” or “DTC” genetic testing products have entered the marketplace, many of which offered some degree of autosomal ancestry analysis (including 23andMe, deCODEme, and Pathway Genomics, among others).

In early 2010, genetic ancestry testing company Family Tree DNA announced that it would begin offering a new genetic genealogy product (see “Announcing Family Finder – An Autosomal Test From Family Tree DNA”). The new product, called “Family Finder,” is one of only a very few autosomal genetic genealogy tests available to consumers.

Continued here:

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Monday, August 2, 2010

Follow Newsweek Reporter as She Tries Out the Autosomal DNA Tests

You can even keep up with Mary Carmichael on Twitter if you want to.

DNA Dilemma: The FAQs

Some guidelines and details for my week-long project.

I’m trying to choose whether or not I want to take a direct-to-consumer genetic scan of hundreds of thousands of variants in my genome. Before we get started with the big questions, here are some basic queries that many consumers may have, as well as some information about myself and this project.

So how will this work, anyway?

I'm currently in possession of a direct-to-consumer genetic test—I just haven't decided if I'll use it. For three days this week, I'll pose a question a day to a variety of sources about the value of these tests. I'll post their answers on this site, along with my reaction. I'll also be soliciting opinions from commenters and people following me on Twitter. On Friday, Aug. 6, I'll evaluate everything I've learned and reveal whether I've decided to take the test.

Which DTC genetic testing kit did you buy?
Currently, there are two large, reputable companies offering scans of hundreds of thousands of genetic markers directly to consumers, the same ones that introduced the tests to the public, launching within a day of each other in 2007: 23andMe and deCODE. I don’t plan to reveal here which company’s kit I bought, because I don’t want to become a de facto ad for either company if I take the test. However, it’s worth noting that there are some differences between the firms. 23andMe charges a lot less, for instance—$499 for a health and ancestry scan, compared to the $2,000 price of the deCODEme complete scan—and tests for about half as many genetic variants, 550,000 compared to deCODE’s 1 million. Aside from the occasional embarrassing slip-up, 23andMe does a fine job of quality control in identifying genes. So does deCODE, which isn’t a testing company so much as a lab that happens to sell tests while producing a near-unrivalled body of genetics research. Both companies have also put a lot of effort into conveying their findings in innovative (if not always fully transparent) ways. They try to interpret their data with a lengthy report and continuous updates on the Web; deCODE’s service even links to the original research that underlies the test.

Continued here:

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