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The Dare Stones

By T. Mike Childs
NC Government & History Library, 2013.

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The front of the first Dare Stone, aka the Chowan River stone. Image courtesy of Brenau University, Gainesville, Ga.The Dare Stones are a series of forty-eight rocks chiseled with messages purporting to be those of the survivors of the famous Lost Colony of Roanoke, gone missing between 1587 and 1590. The rocks, discovered over a period from 1937 to 1940, tell a dramatic tale. The stones are also a definite hoax. Except… the first stone holds the tantalizing potential of being genuine, with as yet no way to prove it true or a hoax.

The first stone was found in the summer of 1937; a California tourist named Louis Hammond showed up at Emory University in Atlanta, saying he found the stone off a then newly opened stretch of Highway 17 near Edenton, North Carolina while hunting for hickory nuts. After much examination by intrigued professors, the text on the stone was deciphered as (flour was used to make the writing more visible):


[Side 1]:

Ananias Dare &
Virginia Went Hence
Unto Heaven 1591
Anye Englishman Shew
John White Govr Via


The back of the first Dare Stone, aka the Chowan River stone. Image courtesy of Brenau University, Gainesville, Ga.



[Side 2]:

Father Soone After You
Goe for England Wee Cam
Hither / Onlie Misarie & Warre
Tow Yeere / Above Halfe Deade ere Tow
Yeere More From Sickenes Beine Foure & Twentie /
Salvage with Message of Shipp Unto Us / Smal
Space of Time they Affrite of Revenge Rann
Al Awaye / Wee Bleeve it Nott You / Soone After
Ye Salvages Faine Spirits Angrie / Suddaine
Murther Al Save Seaven / Mine Childe /
Ananais to Slaine wth Much Misarie /
Burie Al Neere Foure Myles Easte This River
Uppon Small Hil / Names Writ Al Ther
On Rocke / Putt This Ther Alsoe / Salvage
Shew This Unto You & Hither Wee
Promise You to Give Greate
Plentie Presents



The tale on the stone is by "EWD," none other than Eleanor White Dare, daughter of the colony's governor John White, and mother of Virginia Dare, the first English child born in America. It describes the colonists moving further inland shortly after governor John White departs for England. They suffer misery and war with the local tribes, and their numbers are reduced by illness even more until only 24 are left. After a ship is spotted, the Indians turn against them and attack, killing all but seven of the remaining 24, including her husband Ananias and her daughter Virginia. The seven buried their dead, carved a tombstone for them, and recorded their woe in stone, and asked Governor White to handsomely reward any "salvage" (i.e., savage) who brought him the message.

The Emory professors published an article in the May 1938 issue of the prestigious Journal of Southern History. Emory history professor Dr. Haywood J. Pearce, Jr. became a firm believer in the stone's authenticity. He persuaded his father, Dr. Haywood J. Pearce, Sr., to buy the stone from Hammond. Pearce Senior was the sole owner of private school Brenau College in Gainesville, Georgia (now Brenau University), where the stones still reside. Pearce Junior led a search for the second stone mentioned in the text, but found nothing. Knowing the second stone would authenticate the first, solve its mystery, and rewrite history, the Pearces offered a $500 reward.A photograph of professors (l to r) James G. Lester, Haywood Pearce, Jr., and Ben W. Gibson examining the first Dare Stone. Image courtesy of Brenau University, Gainesville, Ga.

Enter Bill Eberhardt, a stone cutter from Fulton County, Georgia. In the summer of 1939, he claimed to have found the second stone, engraved with the names of 17 deceased English colonists. He claimed to have found it near Pelzer, South Carolina, showing the Pearces the site. In fact, he said he had found thirteen stones there, and provided them. It was only the beginning. All in all, Bill Eberhardt provided the Pearces with 42 stones, all forgeries, for which he was paid a total of about $2000. A few others were provided by Eberhardt's cohorts. These stones indicate the survivors journeyed southwest from the Edenton, N.C. area through South Carolina to Georgia. Eleanor and the six survivors found refuge with friendly Cherokees in "Hontaoase." Eleanor married an American Indian chief in 1593, gave birth to his daughter Agnes, and finally died in a cave on the Chattahoochee River near present-day Atlanta in 1599.

The Dare Stones had become news. Investigative reporter Boyden Sparkes published a damning exposé in the April 26, 1941 Saturday Evening Post magazine, claiming the whole thing was a hoax. Problems with the stones included anachronistic language, a consistency of spelling atypical of the time, and even hidden acrostics. The names of the colonists did not match any other existing records. Investigating Eberhardt, Sparkes found he had sold forged Indian relics before.

When Pearce confronted Eberhardt, Eberhardt tried blackmailing Pearce by forging another stone with the inscription "Pearce and Dare Historical Hoaxes. We Dare Anything." If Pearce didn't pay him $200 for it, he'd turn it over to the Saturday Evening Post and admit to faking the stones. To his credit, Pearce went to the newspapers and admitted being duped. The story topped the headlines of the May 15, 1941 Atlanta Journal.

Professor Pearce's career suffered. The Dare Stones were kept in storage and ignored by Brenau College as an embarrassment, popping up occasionally, such as an appearance on a 1979 episode of Leonard Nimoy's television series In Search of...

But the first stone, also known as the Chowan River stone, is completely different from the others, in the type of rock, the writing style, the usage of words, and the fact that it had nothing to do with Bill Eberhardt. If a hoax, it is a superior one requiring a level of scholarly knowledge such that no reputable scholar with the ability would risk their career in the attempt. The Chowan River stone has been tarred with the same brush of "hoax" as the others and lost in the scandal and hubbub, but it remains as much a mystery as the Lost Colony itself.


The second Dare Stone, forged by Bill Eberhardt. Image courtesy of Brenau University, Gainesville, Ga.References:

La Vere, David. “The 1937 Chowan River ‘Dare Stone’: A Re-evaluation” North Carolina Historical Review 86, no. 3 (July 2009) 251-281.

La Vere, David. The Lost Rocks: The Dare Stones and the Unsolved Mystery of Sir Walter Raleigh's Lost Colony. Wilmington, N.C.: Dram Tree Books. 2010. (accessed March 15, 2013).

Sparkes, Boyden, "Writ on on Rocke: Has America's First Murder Mystery Been Solved?" The Saturday Evening Post. April 26, 1941. 9-11, 118, 120-122. (accessed March 15, 2013).

Additional Resources:

Haywood J. Pearce, Jr. "New Light on the Roanoke Colony: A Preliminary Examination of a Stone Found in Chowan County, North Carolina." The Journal of Southern History 4, no. 2 (May 1938). 148-163.

Taylor, Charles S./UPI. "Dare Stones: Hoax or Clue to Lost Colony?" Ludington Daily News. April 11, 1977. Google News.

Mineheart, Tom. "Dare Stones – real or not- may hold clue to Lost Colony" Associated Press. The Daily Item [Sumter, S.C.]. June 21, 1984. Google News.

Morrison, David. "Brenau's Pet Rocks." Brenau Window. Summer 2007. 20-23.

Powell, Lew. "Dare Stone: Does debunking need debunking?" North Carolina Miscellany (blog). North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. April 20, 2010.

"Dare we? New methods could untangle Brenau's rocks riddle." Brenau Window. Spring 2011. 14-15.

Dentamaro , Nick. "History Channel's 'America Unearthed' Segment Features Jim Southerland And Dare Stones." Brenau Update (blog). Brenau University. February 1, 2013.

Morrison, David."'Dare Stones' Authenticity Theories Rock On" Brenau Update (blog). Brenau University. February 6, 2013.

Brenau Staff. "Mile-Stones Anniversary." Brenau Update (blog). Brenau University. July 23, 2012.

Dare stones collection, 1937-1987. Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University Archives.

Stephenson, Robert L. "Report of Observations Regarding 'The Dare Stones'." Institute of Archeology and Anthropology, University of South Carolina. April 15, 1983.

Image Credits:

"Dare Stone (front)." Photograph. Courtesy of Brenau University, Gainesville, Ga.

"Dare Stone (back). Photograph. Courtesy of Brenau University, Gainesville, Ga.

"Brenau professor Haywood Pearce, Jr. center with Emory colleagues James G. Lester left and Ben W. Gibson." Photograph. Courtesy of Brenau University, Gainesville, Ga.

"[Dare Stone number two]. Photograph. Courtesy of Brenau University, Gainesville, Ga.

Origin - location: 



Roanoke: Search for the Lost Colony was a very good show! I grew up just a little up river from where the show says the 1st stone was found. It is true that you can find pottery and arrow heads with every scoop of dirt in that area. However, this could not be the place the stone was found as the area is not near hwy 17. So the location contradicts previous reports.
I think the 1st stone is real, but I have doubts it was found by Hammond in the area. I suspect he purchased it from someone that he met at the Lost Colony Play.. It is too coincidental that he comes to watch the play and on trip back, he stumbles across the stone while looking for hickory nuts...


White was unable to search more than 1 afternoon due to bad weather, it being late in the year, with onshore winds threatening to drive his ship aground. It appears like the colonists split up among several sites, one being near present day Buxton, another at Beech Ridge on the Alligator River, a possible site near Cape Henry in VA which Powhatan bragged about destroying to Captain John Smith of Jamestown, and the present day site at the mouth of the Chowan River. The peculiar "disappearance" is partly due to the 100 year vacuum in North Carolina settlement, which was primarily settled from Virginia by landless and illiterate folk from Tidewater Virginia. Whatever slim documentation they may have left concearning the lost colonists was probably lost in turmoil with native Americans.NCpedia


Aye, but John Smith seems a bit of a liar with his tales. I would take everything he has written down with a grain of salt.


Thanks for that info Bob,

You mentioned:

"a possible site near Cape Henry in VA which Powhatan bragged about destroying to Captain John Smith of Jamestown"

Can you give some sources for that, I'm very curious about it. I had heard that Powhatan attacked "a tribe" living near Cape Henry, in the present day location of First Landing state park (formerly known as Seashore st. park), but nothing more.


If, infact, the original first stone carving is held by Brunell University all these years, why haven't they gotten a carving tool of the 16th century that A. Dare might have had in the colony and that Eleanor would have had acess to. If the tool was used to carve a letter in a similar stone, it may verify, to an extent, the validity of the first stones carvings.


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.


Great work on tracking down L E Hammond. I had started to do a search myself after the History channel special on Roanoke: the Lost Colony last week. I thought the search for Hammond could have been done better and then I saw your post . I hope you let the producers of the show know about your findings


Hi all. Interesting comments. Bob, how did you track down that info about Lewis Hammond? Seems the show didn't do such a great job, but you did. Just wondering.


Agree that the America Unearthed show was very disappointing and irritating but I thought the special Roanoke: Search for the Lost Colony was very good. I thought having stone masons examine the stones was a great idea. I am puzzled by the fact that if a second fort was planned 50 miles ~ from the original site, why didn't John White go inland to search for the missing colonists?


I thought the 10/26/15 History Channel special was interesting and revealed more than the America Unearthed episode did. Mr. Wolter suggests that the 2nd - 48th stones are authentic, were as the stonemason Vieira brothers debunked this, by finding the drill impressions. I am curious as to what Mr. Wolters comments are about the new information. I also curious as to when this web site will update its information on the YE salvages.


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