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The Lost Colony Research Group

Genealogy ~ DNA ~ Archaeology




January 2012


When he was a small boy two peculiarly carved stones had been found. One, placed on the floor of his father’s mill on Ball’s Creek, which flows into the Chattahoochee, became an object of common remark. People who brought grain to the mill always said the stone bore “Indian writing.” Jett couldn’t remember what became of those two stones, but I. A. Turner, a neighbor in those days, remembered that when the mill had been torn down, the stone had been thrown into a ditch. Turner found it after a month of hard searching. Not only Jett but several old-time residents identified this find as the stone that had lain on the old mill floor.

The Pearces could make out: “anye Englishman Shew John White Eleanor Dare & Salvage kinge ha.” The rest was broken off.

Jett remembered the second stone had been brought from the river by his brother as part of a load of stones. Broken in two by his father, half was placed in an unmortared pillar under a barn about forty years ago. It seemed almost hopeless to search. Nevertheless, the effort was made.

The farm of Mr. Jett’s father had been purchased by a cousin, Henry Campbell. He was enlisted and the half was found in a ditch near where the barn had stood. The other piece was found by Mrs. Jett in an old tool chest left fifteen years with her family near Jonesboro, Georgia. After all these years, the two halves fitted together unmistakably and the Pearces finally were able to decipher: “Father wee dweelde in greate rocke (v)ppon river neere heyr Eleanor Dare 1598.”

On the stones found the previouis August and September, Professor Pearce deciphered: “Father skew moche mercye tow greate salvage lodgement Ther King hab mee tow wyfe sithence 1593” [1595] “Father hab mercye” [1595] “Father I hab dowter heyr al save salvage king angrie” [1595]

Pearce is not sure whether this means the Indians had desired a male infant or whether they resented the relationship.

“Father sithence 1593 wee hab mange salvage looke for you” [1598] “Father I beseeche yov hab mye dowter goe to englande” [1598] “Father some amange vs pvtt manye message fo yov Bye Trale” [1598] “Father I -hab moche svddiane sickenes” [1599, fixing the year Eleanor Dare died] “Father hab salvage shew yov greate rocke bye trale” [1599]

This is probably the last signed by Eleanor Dare, corroborating an earlier find.

The “greate rocke bye trale” seemingly was a cave about a quarter of a mile from the riverside where many stones were found. Search inside on a wall revealed this inscription: “Eleanor Dare Heyr sithence 1593.”

The order of the finding does not correspond to the chronology of the story. This, of course, added to the difficulties of Professor Pearce’s labor.

Meanwhile Eberhardt, searching incessantly, found a few more stones. William Bruce, of Fulton County, a hauler of stones for Atlanta contractors, found a stone. Later he found another.

With these the odyssey was gratifyingly complete. Some recorded the deaths of William Wythers, Robert Ellis, Henry Berry, Thomas Ellis and James Lasie. These, with Eleanor Dare, accounted for six of the seven who survived the South Carolina massacre. Ellis and Wythers were listed by Governor White as “boys.” Apparently they reached manhood among Indians.

A stone found by Bruce was dated 1599. It said: “She (w) (J) oh (n White) eleanor (Dare) dye februa(ry) dowter name Agnes heyr.” There was a poignant change here; it was signed, not by Eleanor Dare, but by Griffen Jones, identified by Pearce as the probable carver of all but the first stone.

The entire post article can be found here:

The article goes on to expose what they believe was an elaborate hoax involving the Drs. Pearce and Eberhardt.  I must admit, the seemingly happenstance finds of so many stones seems more than a happy coincidence.  On the other hand, if those stones are authentic, perhaps it took the $500 reward to make people sit up and take notice, and to make Mr. Eberhardt interested enough to go searching.

Additional information, both pro and con, can be found here:

In 1940, the Drs. Pearce invited a committee of 34, headed by Samuel Eliot Morrison of Harvard and president of the American Antiquarian Society, historians, educators and scientists to meet at Breneau to examine the 48 stones.  The list of names and their credentials is impressive.  The committees reported in the Atlanta Constitution that "the preponderance of evidence points to the authenticity of the stones commonly known as the Dare Stones."  It's difficult to believe that any group of scholars would be a party to a fraud, and it's also difficult to believe that counterfitters would not give themselves away with 48 separate opportunities to do so.

Unfortunately, following that, World War II was upon the country.  The elder Dr. Pearce died in 1943 and the hill, without ever being completely excavated, was once again sold.  The stones themselves began their life in the basement at Breneau, where they still remain, taken on occasional road trips to speaking engagements.

If these stones are frauds, they are indeed a massively coordinated fraud, almost as amazing in scope as if they had been true.  If these stones are genuine, we're looking in the wrong location for the colonists.  Furthermore, we probably won't find them. 

If there were 7 who left Pelzer, SC, which included Eleanor Dare and 5 males whose deaths were thereafter recorded, that only leaves one colonist, unnamed, presumed alive in 1599, with the Indians on the Chattahoochee River near Atlanta.

Perhaps some of the colonists, particularly the males, settled down with nice Native women near Roanoke Island or on Croatoan where they said they were going, and never left on the trek that, if the stones tell the truth, would take them to Pelzer, SC and beyond.   

The Inglis Fletcher Dare Stone Letter  

Baylus Brooks, in his search for historical information having to do with the Lost Colonists happened across a letter to Inglis Fletcher.  This letter was donated to ECU as part of the Inglis Fletcher Papers upon her death by her family and is now in the ECU Special Collections which can be seen at the link below.

Jennifer Sheppard was kind enough to transcribe the typewritten letter so that we can share it with you here today.

How did Inglis Fletcher get involved with the search for the Lost Colonists?  The North Carolina Writer's website provides us with this from her biographical information:

"The great-granddaughter of a man from North Carolina's Tyrell County, Inglis Fletcher was born in Alton, Illinois. She spent the first half of her adult life with her mining engineer husband in northern California, Washington State and Alaska, once moving twenty-one times in five years. She had already published two successful novels by 1934, when a search for information about her Tyrell County ancestors piqued her interest in North Carolina's early years. She spent the next six years researching, writing, and editing Raleigh's Eden, an historical novel about Albemarle plantation families from 1765 to 1782. Between its publication in 1942 and 1964, she produced an additional eleven novels which eventually became known as the Carolina Series, covering two hundred years of North Carolina history from 1585 to 1789. Her established working pattern was to spend one year researching and one year writing each volume.


Inglis Fletcher was a firm believer in extensive research for her novels, so committed to accuracy that she would not begin to outline her plots until she was steeped in details of everything from historical events to what people ate and wore. Her favorite characters and their descendants reappeared from book to book, taking part in intricate plots, wild adventures and love stories that blended with actual past events and personages. When Raleigh's Eden was criticized by native Tar Heels for historical "errors," she publicly countered all accusations with documented quotations."

Inglis Fletcher wrote the book "Roanoke Hundred" in 1948.  You can see more about her and a list of her books which are still available today at this link:

Her research into the Lost Colony attracted the attention of Florence Rohr, a teacher who had worked with the Drs. Pierce at Breneau and who had been lecturing about the Dare Stones.  Aside from the Drs. Pierce themselves, and of course, Bill Eberhardt, she may have been the closest to the stones, their study and the unfolding saga of events.  Here is her letter to Inglis Fletcher.

Address:  Care Betty Tillotson,

St. Andew’s School,

Middletown, Delaware.


February 13, 1949


My dear Mrs Fletcher:


            I came very near writing, “My dear Inglis Fletcher”. It does seem almost instinctive to omit the “Mr.” or “Mrs.” when the addressee has reached the rank of the immortals.  Your place among them seems pretty well assured now with  “Roanoke Hundred”.  What a wonderful book that is!  I enjoyed every word of it. And all the time I felt its kinship to my favorite novels of Sir Walter Scott. And sometimes I thought of “Gone With the Wind”. In your handling of infinite detail it reminded me of “Anthony Adverse”.  It is truly a great book, and I am so proud that a woman has written it.


            My purpose in writing you is twofold: first, to express my appreciation for your magnificent contribution to American literature; second to talk to yoy (sic) about a matter that is very much on my mind, and one which is likewise in the field of your greatest interest, that is, Raleigh’s “Lost Roanoke Colony”.


            Have you any theory as to why it is that those who should be most eagerly interested are usually among the first to denounce as fake and fraud any evidence that may be discovered unexpectedly, purporting to throw light on puzzling questions of history?  You know this story of the Drake Plate (of 1586)   How the men who discovered it were ridiculed, and proclaimed suckers, or deliberate fakers, by the intellectual who should have been most interested.  You remember it was a simple layman, who asked a simple question, and thereby produced indisputable proof that the plate was genuine.  Then, we have the case of the Kensington Stone.  Lest you may not have seen this article in the November 1948 issue of Readers’ Digest, I am enclosing it with this (the word artie appears here but is struck through) letter.  Here there was the same mockery. The same derision for the man who discovered it and believed in it.  Among these who were quick to ridicoule (sic) were officers of the Smithsonian Institute.  They seem lately to have undergone a change of heart, for now, it seems, they “have placed the stone among its greatest treasures”.  They have also received back the Lindberg plane, which twenty-five, no, nearer thirty, years ago they exiled to England.


            Is this quick act of repudiation promped (sic) by a desire to to (sic) protect their own positions of impeccable authority, so that, just in case the discovery may prove to be a fraud, these authorities may be among the first to say, “I told you so”?


            Nearly two years ago I came to your home, Bandon, with a group of teachers from the St Helena Extension of William and Mary College in Norfolk.  You received us most graciously, and autographed your books that we had brought with us.  At that time I told you that in response to many requests that came to Brenau College, I had been lecturing on “The Dare Stones” in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, and even in Vermont, so great was the interest expressed.  I made no effort to prove that the stones were authentic, but I presented all the reasons that seemed good to me for believing that they might  be genuine.  I also presented reasons that might indicate that they were not genuine.


            It had happened that I was visiting at Brenau when the first of these stones was brought to Dr. Haywood J. Pierce, President of Brenau, and later I knew every detail of the discovery, knew all about the subsequent search that he instituted, and saw every one of the thirty-three stones that were finally collected.


            In the last summer that Dr. Pearce was alive, he invited archaeologists, and historians from all over the United States to come to Brenau as guests of the college to study with these stones which are still in the Brenau College Museum.  Thirty-seven men came from colleges and universities widely scattered. They remained three or four days, and studied the stones carefully.  Before they left they drew up a document, asking the privilege of going on record as believing in the authenticity of these stones, at least most of them.  Thirty of the thirty-seven men signed it.  Rather brave of them, wasn’t it?


            As I traveled from place to place, I discovered a peculiar animosity in some quarters.  I tried to explain that D. Pearce was not trying to prove that the stones were genuine, but rather to leave nothing undone to find out whether they might be genuine.  He was a man of rare intellectual integrity, and I am absolutely sure that he had no ulterior nor (sic) selfish motive in pursuing this study. So I was shocked when I discovered on visiting the pageant on Roanoke Island, that someone among the actors and actresses there had written a comedy entitled, “Dr. Pearce and His Rocks”, and had put it on for their amusement.  Nothing in story of the Dare Stones could possibly have detracted from interest in the Roanoke pageant, rather should have added to that interest for the play as presented on Roanoke Island ends just where the story of the Dare Stones begins.


            Sometime later in the summer, not many months before Dr. Pearce died, a newspaper reporter a Jewish gentleman I think he was, (I forget his name) came to Brenau, saying that he had been sent by the Saturday Evening Post.  He was received as a guest at Brenau, and entertained there for a week.  Dr. Pearce was too ill to do very much for the reporter, but he had his son, Dr. Haywood Pearce Jr., place himself at this man’s disposal.  Young Haywood showed him all of the stones, told him all that he knew about them, and drove him all over the adjacent country to the three spots where the stones were supposed to have been found. 


            The reporter then offered Haywood $350 to write the story for the Post.  This offer Haywood accepted and delivered the story before the reporter left.  In a few months this story appeared in the Post, and continuous (sic) with it, almost as if it were a part of Haywood’s story, this reporter wrote the crudest, rudest article I have ever read.  He referred to Dr. Pearce, who was a gentleman of rare dignity and scholarship, as “old man Pearce” and to his wife, who had extended hospitality as far as possible when her husband was ill, as “old lady Pearce”.  The reporter seemed to feel that he had refuted every possible claim that anyone might make supporting the authenticity of these stones.  To me his arguments seemed worse than superficial, there was a tone of malice, which suggested to me that he might have been paid to go to Brenau for the express purpose of smashing the whole story.  But, I asked myself, whose interests could possibly be served by such an attack.  When this story came out Dr. Pearce was too far gone to attempt any reply, and Haywood Jr. who is I believe, now teaching at Harvard, was I think, too disgusted to express further interest in the whole affair. 


            I had a copy of this issue of the Post, but, moving about, as I have in the last few years, I have lost it.  I am writing to the Post to-day for another copy of this issue.  I want you to see it.


            And then, because this story is in the field of your greatest interest, I should be glad to come to Edenton, to Bandon, if that should be desirable, show you all the pictures and information that I have, and tell you all that I know about this whole matter.  There are very few persons who know much more about it than I do.  I feel that I should like to do this for the sake of Dr. Pearce, for whom I worked, as teacher at Brenau, for six years, and whom I greatly admired and respected.  Dr. Pearce had the PH.D. and other degrees from German and French Universities, and Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard.  In his ideas of Education he was years ahead of his time.  It will interest you to know that he was the first college president in America to give credit on literary degree for work done in misic (sic) and the drama.  How he was persecuted by the National Educational Association!  Now every college and university in the U.S. gives this credit.


            It seems to me that you have a mind preeminently suited to research work, and I am deeply interested to know what reaction you would feel to a study of the facts that I could bring to you.  There are many questions aroused in my own mind that I can not answer.   


                                                Most sincerely yours,


                                                Florence M. Rohr. 


"The Lost Rocks" by David La Vere

"The Lost Rocks" is a book written by David La Vere about the Dare Stones.  David teaches American Indian History at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.  His book is available at major online bookstores, as well as in the used marketplace. 

David seeks, in his book, to sift through the various pieces of evidence to determine whether or not the stones were real, or elaborate fakes.  If they are real, they offer the answer to the oldest mystery in American.  If they are fake, they are one of the most elaborate hoaxes ever wrought, and managed to fool, or at least confuse a great number of very intelligent people for a long time.  In fact, the jury is still officially "out" on at least one of the stones.

The book begins by providing historical detail about the colonists and how the first stone was found, which we have already covered.  It also covers a great deal about the political background occurring at that time in North Carolina at the time that might have influenced the climate about the stones.  For example, the state and some groups desperately wanted an increase in tourism, and someone suggested that "stones" be found.  While I'm not going to delve into these factors, I do suggest that the book is a great read for anyone interested in the nitty gritty details of the saga of the Dare Stones.  It's a great mystery and well written.

The first problem with these multiple stones is that two of them, both purporting to be Virginia Dare's tombstone, found in vastly different locations, give different years of her death, one in 1591 and one in 1597.  The 1597 stone, found by a retired surveyor in response to the $500 reward offered, was quickly dismissed as a forgery. 

About this time Eberhardt arrived with another stone, this date being 1589, and he was pretty quickly dismissed by the Pierce's due to the fact that his date was both too early and in conflict with the already found 1591 tombstone date.  Not to be dissuaded, Eberhardt reappears a couple of week later....with....guess what....a stone with the names of seventeen colonists, including Ananias and Virginia Dare, and the date of 1591.  Now he had the Pierce's interest as this is more in line with what they were expecting....and they had told him so previously.

The next grouping of South Carolina stones gave the Pierce's pause. They contradicted some of the information on the original Chowan River Dare Stone which indicated that the colonists were there, or someplace nearby, in 1591. The South Carolina stones said they were there in 1589.  If so, what were they doing back on the Chowan in 1591? 

Another stone was dated 1587 and had an arrow pointing southwest.  Knowing that both Mrs. Harvie and Eleanor Dare had given birth in August of 1587, and the colonists strengthened the fort (according to what White found in 1590), and were expecting supplies in the spring of 1588, this seems very unlikely, yet the stone begged for an explanation.

In 1940, new stones, beginning with stone 15, moved the colonists out of South Carolina into Georgia.  In one haul, Eberhardt showed up with 9 different stones.  By now, the total of stones was up to 23, plus the original Chowan River stone which bore no resemblance to the other stones.  There was also the issue of the names of some colonists on the stones which did not appear on John White's manifest.

Dr. Pierce decided that a possible explanation was that White had made an error on the manifest and that the first stone could be explained by the fact that Eleanor Dare, after Ananias and Elizabeth were killed in South Carolina on the Saluda River, had the original Chowan Stone carved as a message to her father and send it by friendly Indian messenger to be placed back at Roanoke.  The Indian made it as far as the Chowan River, was perhaps killed, and there the stone lay for the next three and a half centuries until it was found in the 1930s. 

The same year, 1940, Breneau wrote and produced a "romantic comedy" about the colonists and their trek through South Carolina into Georgia, ending on the Chattahoochee River.  Recall that the Lost Colony play by Paul Green had opened on Roanoke Island in 1937, the same summer that the first Dare Stone was found.

It was about this time that the Pierces undertook background investigations of the three men who had found all of the stones.  Louis Hammond found the Chowan River Stone, Isaac Turner found one stone and amazingly, all of the rest had been found by Bill Eberhardt.  Hammond has in essence disappeared and no one really tried to investigate him.  The investigators did little more than interview Eberhardt and Turner. 

The story needed an end.  It was left with Eleanor Dare and 6 other colonists living with a Cherokee King at Hontaoase town in the Nacoochee Valley in northern Georgia.  What happened to them? 

Not to leave the story untold, Eberhardt steps up to the plate once more and finds even more stones for the Pierce's.  One would think that by this time, even the most naive of people would be highly suspicious of this continued good fortune by Bill Eberhardt, and Bill alone.  And not only did he find stones, he found a lot of stones.

By October of 1940, just in time for the scientific conference to determine the authenticity of the Dare Stones, stones 25 through 47 had been found and added to the collection.  These stones detailed the deaths of the remaining colonists, including Eleanor Dare.  The last remaining colonist, the stonecarver himself, was purported to be Griffen Jones. 

The score at this point is as follows:

·        Louis Hammond of California found the first stone on the Chowan River in August 1937.

·        Bill Eberhardt of Atlanta found a total of 41 stones: 13 on the Saluda River in SC, 9 in Habersham Counthy, Georgia and 19 in Fulton County, Georgia near Atlanta

·        Isaac Turner of Atlanta found 3 stones, one on the Chattahoochee north of Gainesville, one on Ball's Creek at the Jett homestead when Eberhardt was with him, and part of broken stone 46, also with Eberhardt's involvement.

·        William Bruce found two stones in Fulton County.

La Vere totals the stones accounting for either 62 or 64 colonists, although only 51 names were mentioned.  The rest of the 117 colonists are unaccounted for.

On the last stones, Eleanor Dare marries the Cherokee chief and has a daughter, Agnes.  In the end, the fate of Agnes remains unknown, and of course that of Griffen Jones as well. 

What seems obvious, at least to me, as too much of a good thing, maybe wasn't.  At least one stone had lichen covering three letters.  Even the best forger wouldn't be able to do that.  And so, the scientists convened in the fall of 1940 to study the stones. 

In Pierce's speech at the conference, he gave the good, the bad and the ugly.  He said that no other evidence had been found, that there were no artifacts or anything else to support the stones, but he also said that the stones were in perfect harmony with history. 

Linguists, geologists and other scientists probed and testified, collaborating.  However, a bombshell was about to drop.  Eberhardt's shady past caught up with him.  He had been previously implicated in the selling of forged Indian artifacts. 

In November the committee issued a statement in which they said that the "preponderance of evidence points to the authenticity of the stones", but they had concerns and made a list of recommendations and suggestions, which is summarized below:

1.  A search for graves, relics, and artifacts should be pursued.

2.  Fraudulent proposals connected to the 1937 "Lost Colony" play launch and with Eberhardt's sale of fraudulent Indian relics should be investigated.

3.  Complete check of words and phrases on stones for authenticity, in particular the suspect words "reconnoiter" and "primaeval" as to whether those words were in use at that time or whether they are contemporary.

4.  Check of dialect usage.

5.  Study of the forms of letters on the stones.

6.  Comparative study of names on the stones.

7.  Study of the stones as to the age of the inscriptions.

8.  Study of topographical and ethnological maps.

9.  Genealogical study of the White and Dare families as to the name of Agnes.

10.  Seeking cooperation and collaboration with other agencies and universities.

11.  Application for grant funding to do the above.

12.  If future stones are uncovered, that they be left where they are found so they can be evaluated. 

With only one or two exceptions, Eberhardt had ignored the repeated requests of the Pierce's to leave the stones where he found them and to take them to the stones.

Eberhardt continued to find stones and Dr. Pierce, anxious to move forward, not wanting to wait for the slow wheels of academia and believing that the stones are genuine, make the mistake of writing the story for the Saturday Evening Post, opening a can of worms he was never able to close again.

Pierce was crushed by the story run by the Post.  It wasn't anything like he had written.  His story was one of "mystery solved" and theirs was one of "hoax perpetuated." 

Not done yet, Eberhardt showed up with another stone in late 1941 but Pierce refused to purchase any more stones out of context.  He would only pay for stones left in their original setting.  Pierce was becoming more distrustful of Eberhardt because some of the information on the new stones was contradicting information on the previous stones.  It looked like someone was getting sloppy with their information and wasn't being careful.

Days later, Eberhardt shows up again, this time with word of a cave and an inscription in the cave, from Eleanor.  Dr. Pierce went to the cave, without Eberhardt, but with a geology professor.  Both declared the cave inscription a fake, but then the bottom fell out.  The geology professor, Dr. Gibson, discovered a glass bottle of sulfuric acid which had been used to smear on the rock to give it the appearance of age.  Pierce confronted Eberhardt.  The gig was up.

But that wasn't the end for Eberhardt.  He called Dr. Pierce Sr.'s wife and asked to meet with her.  At the meeting, he shows up with yet another stone, but this one was quite different.  It said "Pearce and Dare Historical Hoaxes.  We Dare Anything."

This was a blackmail attempt.  He threatened to turn this stone over to the Saturday Evening Post and admit faking all the stones, unless he was paid $200.  In order to entrap Eberhardt, Pierce paid him the $200, with a witness, requiring him to sign for the money, and then took the entire ordeal to the newspaper, exposing Eberhardt as a forger and the entire episode as a hoax.  On the front page  of the Atlanta Journal on May 15, 1941 the headline read "Hoax Claimed by 'Dare Stones' Finder in Extortion Scheme, Dr. Pearce Charges'.

Eberhardt, when finally located, told the story a bit differently.  He said he never faked the stones, only looked where the Pierce's had told him to. 

One thing is for sure, the second and subsequent stones were not genuine, regardless of how this hoax was perpetuated, by whom and with the assistance of whom.  Not for one minute do I believe that Bill Eberhardt with a third grade education was capable of composing Elizabethan English without some type of mentor.  All of that makes a wonderful mystery and great reading, but the important part is that those stones can be dismissed from consideration as part of the solution to the mystery of the lost colony.

What is not as clear is whether the first stone is authentic or not.  Louis Hammond was never found which seems a bit suspicious.  The stone has neither been authenticated or proven unreliable.  It was found "at the right time in the right place" to generate tourist interest for the Outer Banks and the new Lost Colony play, and there had been earlier discussion, and reports even of stones, as suggested "plants" to do just that.  But whether the Chowan River stone was part of an earlier hoax or whether it is the real McCoy remains part of the mystery of the Lost Colonists.


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