of Virginia in Elizabetian Gardens
granddaughter of Governor John White, Virginia Dare was
the first child born of English parents in the new world.
The child’s mother was White’s daughter Eleanor. Her
father, Ananias Dare, served as one of the Governor’s
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’’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
all-night trip down the Pamlico brought the group to
Manteo’s village at Hatteras. There, the colonists were
accepted into the tribe as brothers and sisters.
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.
the tribal medicine man, was one who was greatly smitten by the
maiden’s charms. Though Virginia was kind to him, it was clear
that Chico’s 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.
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.
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.
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.’’
it may be, but this tale has survived in one form or another since
the earliest recorded history of North Carolina. The story’s
long life certainly gives good cause for wonder.