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Virginia Dare



Statue of Virginia in Elizabetian Gardens


The granddaughter of Governor John White, Virginia Dare was the first child born of English parents in the new world. The childs mother was Whites daughter Eleanor. Her father, Ananias Dare, served as one of the Governors assistants. Virginia was born on August 18, 1587, days after the colonists arrival on Roanoke Island. Her baptism on Sunday following her birth was the second recorded Christian sacrament administered in North America. The first baptism had been administered a few days earlier to Manteo, an Indian chief who was rewarded for his service by being christened and named Lord.

When Governor White was forced to return to England for supplies, Virginia Dare was less than a month old, and he left with heavy heart, never realizing that he would never see her or any of the other colonists who remained behind again. Leaving the new world and his family behind must have been difficult for White. 

A secret code had been worked out, that should they leave Roanoke Island, they were to carve their new location on a conspicuous tree or post. If the move had to be made because of an attack, either by Indians or Spaniards, they were to carve over the letters or name a distress signal in the form of a Maltese cross.

Three years to the month later, White returned to find the word Croatoan without any cross or other sign of distress. To this day, no one is certain were the lost colony went, or what happened to them.

The White Doe

Many tall tales have evolved from the misty curtain drawn about the Lost Colony. Virginia Dare is the subject of a particularly poignant story which has many variations. According to the legend, there was an attack by hostile Indians on the Roanoke colonists. Chief Manteo, returning from a fishing expedition, saw the raid in progress. By using a secret tunnel, he was able to lead all the inhabitants safely to nearby canoes. 

An all-night trip down the Pamlico brought the group to Manteos village at Hatteras. There, the colonists were accepted into the tribe as brothers and sisters.

The fair-skinned, blond Virginia Dare was from the beginning a wonder to the Indians. As she grew in stature and years, many braves paid court for her hand in marriage. The fair girl loved all the people, both Indians and white, but was not yet ready to choose a mate.

Chico, the tribal medicine man, was one who was greatly smitten by the maidens charms. Though Virginia was kind to him, it was clear that Chicos ardor was not being returned. Finally, in a fit of passion, Chico vowed that if she would not marry him, she would have no man. Calling upon the power of the sea nymphs, Chico lured Virginia to Roanoke Island. Stepping ashore, she assumed the form of a snow-white deer.

Soon, it was whispered that a white doe was the leader of all the deer of Roanoke Island. Wherever the remarkable creature went, all others followed. Many great hunters tried to slay the mystical creature, but no arrow seemed to find a mark. As time went by, the white doe became a legend as well as a great challenge.

Finally, a great hunt was organized, and all the young braves of noble blood vowed their efforts. Many prizes and honors were to be awarded the victor. Young Wanchese, son of Chief Wanchese, who had traveled to England, had in his possession a silver-tipped arrow presented by Queen Elizabeth to his father. He believed it had magical powers and would bring him the quarry he sought.

As fate would have it, Wanchese did indeed sight the snow-white doe and, taking careful aim, loosed his deadly missile. The silver tip succeeded where all others had failed, and the deer fell to the ground. The young brave rushed forward to claim his prize, but all joy fled and was replaced by dismay as he heard the deer whisper with her last breath, faint but clear, Virginia Dare.

Fanciful it may be, but this tale has survived in one form or another since the earliest recorded history of North Carolina. The storys long life certainly gives good cause for wonder.