The Dare Stones are a series of forty-eight rocks chiseled with messages purporting to be from Eleanor White Dare providing information about the survivors of Sir Walter Raleigh’s Lost Colony who disappeared from Roanoke Island between 1587 and 1590. The stones, discovered between 1937 and 1940, tell a dramatic tale, much like chapters in a book. Unfortunately, those chapters don’t interweave with credibility. All of the stones, except the first stone, are believed to be fraudulent. The first stone may be authentic. It’s different from the rest. After reading the story, you be the judge.
The first stone, known as The Dare Stone, was found in the summer of 1937 by a tourist named Louis Hammond under somewhat suspicious circumstances during the time that the Lost Colony play was being introduced on Roanoke Island. However, the stone might be original, despite the circumstances. If it is, it’s the find of a lifetime.
The Lost Colony Research Group was fortunate to have The Dare Stone with us a few years ago at a symposium and were able to photograph the stone up close and personal.
Dr. Jim Sutherland of Breneau University provided an excellent lecture along with a translation of the contents of the stone.
This stone is the original Dare Stone, found on the banks of the Chowan River about 6 miles from Edenton, NC.
The translation provided by Dr. Sutherland is provided below.
It is generally believed that if indeed this, the original Dare Stone is a legitimate find, this stone was likely not carved in this location, but may have been sent with a Native runner who might have been headed for Roanoke Island, but was captured or killed and never made it to Roanoke.
However, as with everything else having to do with the Lost Colony, the mystery only deepens.
The stone said that the location of the graves was four miles “easte this river” upon a small hill. If the stone was going to Roanoke, why would it give these directions?
The stone had wound up with Dr. Pearce of Breneau (then College) University and his son Dr. Pearce of Haywood University. They did some research and discovered that chisels and mallets were among the supplies listed for the Lost Colony voyage, so this stone being authentic was a possibility.
They began an extensive search for “the hill” in the proximity of where the stone was found, but had no luck. Becoming discouraged, they offered a $500 reward for anyone finding a stone that might be connected. Then, as they say, is when the trouble began.
In April of 1939, William “Bill” Eberhardt of Fulton County, Georgia was traveling in South Carolina, had a flat time, changed it and used a stone he picked up in the red clay ravine near the road for a jack stand. When finished, he noticed some writing chiseled on it. Returning to the ravine, he found 12 more similarly inscribed. The location was a hillside in Greenville county, 12 miles below Greenville, on the Saluda River.
Bill Eberhardt was not a cultured man. He was described by a reporter as a single man in his mid-30s who lived alone in “an unpainted two-room cottage whose windows are draped with tar paper and whose floors are covered with soiled clothes, empty tobacco sacks, and remnants of the night before’s meal. He rolls his own cigarettes, reads back issues of newspapers and roams the woods…”
Elsewhere it was hinted at that he might have been a stonecarver, but with his schooling that lasted “only a short time,” which turned out to be through third grade, where would be get the knowledge to inscribe old Elizabethan English in old Elizabethan letters?
Each of the subsequent stones contained a message, as follows:
1. Front – Heyr laeth Ananias & Virginia Father salvage mvrther Al save seaven names writen hery mai God bah mercye Eleanor Dare 1591
Back – Sydnor Boane Wigan Birge Polle Carewe Bowman Spague Ruckers Bolitoe Smythe Sakeres Holborn Winget Sloate
Edge – Father wee goe sw
2. Front – 5 lae hyre mrd bie Inde 1589
Back – cy(r)v ane lae 200 se
3. Front – 7 lae hyre mrd bye Inde 1589
Back – cy(r)v ane Iyh(r)e 200 e se
4. Front – hyre lae Jvan Moleye Mulgrave ane childe 1589.
Edge – Mrd Bye Inde loke I myle
5. Front – Jeyr laeth nolan Ogle & wyfe
Upper edge – 1590
Side – mvrthed bye salvage
6. Front – Fathe r looke two ba rke of tr ee certan signe am ang tham Eleanor Dare 1591
7. Front – salvage mvrther John Sampson William Sole Petter little John Farre Taylor Myllet haris 1591
Back – Henry Mylton John Breden Toppon Darige John-son Tydway 1591
8. Front – Heyr laeth lewes Wotton 1591
Back – salv age Murther Henry Rufoote Rogers
9. Front – Heyr laeth Richard Kemme Jame Hynde
10. Front – Heyr laeth Daniel Bagby hee mvrther bye salvage 1591
Back – Fovre lae Heyr They Die of moche miserie
11. Front – Heyr salvage murther samuel To Thill wyfe& cherl 1591
12. Front – Heyr laeth Dyonis Harvie wyfe & dowt er
Back Will Dye spendlove 1591
Edge – Mvrthed bye salvage
13. Front – Father wee goe sw with fo vre goodli e men the yr shew m oche mer cye theyr ar god sovldi ovus theyr s saide theyr br owt vs tow you Eleanor 1591
Edge – with mocha labovr wee pvtt certain names heyr
If this is true, these stones tell of the murder of an additional 15 colonists, including Ananias and Virginia Dare, buried on this hillside near present day Pelzer, SC. These stones have become known as the Pelzer Stones.
Dr. Elmer Herd, writing in “The South Carolina Upcountry” says that these stones tell of a 350 mile trek begun by 117 settlers to the southwest through NC into SC. By the time they arrived, their numbers had thinned to only 24 and an additional 17 were killed and buried on the hillside. The 7 who were left, including Eleanor, then prepared to move further southwest with some Indian guides.
The Drs. Pearce in 1939 purchased the site of the hill, 16 acres, where they believed the graves to be located and intended to do “significant excavation”. They searched the ravine where the stones were found and concluded that the stones had probably originally been placed on the hillside and thrown into the ravine by men clearing the fields. They also had Bill Eberhardt thoroughly investigated and as a test, they offered him either the $500 in cash for a stone or $100 and half interest in the hill. This would be worthless to him unless indeed the stones were genuine, and he chose the $100 plus half interest in the hill. He later sold his half interest back to the Drs. Pearce for $1400.
In 1939 and 1940, Breneau College began a pageant portraying the Lost Colony and later history as revealed by the stones. In 1937, the Lost Colony play by Paul Greene had opened on Roanoke Island.
The next call received by the Drs. Pearce was from a Mr. Tuner in Atlanta who had found a stone as well.
During this time, an additional 34 stones turned up, many of them found once again by Bill Eberhardt who the Drs. Pearce had sent to search along the Chattahoochee River in Georgia. Other individuals with no apparent connection to Eberhardt also found stones, although later, some would allege that there were connections to Eberhardt.
These stones however were no place near the Saluda River, but instead were found on or near the eastern bank of the Chattahoochee River near Atlanta in a 40 mile stretch about 75 miles from the Saluda site. These additional stones told of the trek of Eleanor White Dare from Pelzer, SC to an Indian village on the Chattahoochee, her marriage to an Indian chieftain and her later removal to a cave near Atlanta, and then into Alabama.
These finds were not without controversy.
A 1941 Saturday Evening Post article famously claimed the stones were frauds.
Dr. Pearce wrote, on Breneau stationery, to the Saturday Evening Post who purchased his story and then performed additional investigative reporting. From the Post Article, we find the descriptions of the next set of stones:
After deciphering, the stones said: “Father looke vp this river to great Salvage lodgement Wee pvtt moche clew bye wage.” On the other side: “Father the salvage shew moche mercye Eleanor Dare 1591.”
The Pearces urged Eberhardt to redouble his searching in Georgia.
Thereafter he brought nine stones from a bend of the river about eighteen miles above Gainesville. One stone said: “Father looke 5 dae tow backe trale bvrie al vppon Hil neere river.” On the back: “Eleanor Dare 1591.”
Another stone said: “Father shew moche mercye tow salvage weste of hilwhere Ananias & Virginia slayne.” On the back: “Eleanor Dare 1591.”
A third said: “Father thee accvrse salvage of the easte they hab slayne Al save seaven Revenge Eleanor Dare 1591.” On the edge was: “Anania & mye dowter,” seemingly the ones to be revenged.
Other stones related this story: “Father day by day some amang vs endeavovr tow Reconnoittre For signe of yov Eleanor Dare 1591.” “Father wee goe tow greate Hontaoase lodgement ther king shew moche mercye Eleanor Dare 1591.” “Father it Has bene 5 yeeres sithence yov hab departe maie God brynge yov hither Eleanor Dare 1592.” “Father wee ben heyr 5 yeeres in primaeval splendovr Eleanor Dare 1592.”
Here the story seemed to end. The seven survivors had reached a peaceful haven among friendly savages; lived, in fact, in “primeval splendor” in this Nacoochee Valley area, a long-time seat of the Cherokees. A year had elapsed without much progress when the Pearces enjoyed a triumph. Up to this point the professor had been troubled by his own skepticism, as much as by that of others. What proof was there the stones had not been strewn over three states by some diabolical hoaxer? Then through the enterprise of Professor Pearce old Georgia farmers were found who had seen some of the stones half a century ago. They had always supposed the inscriptions were “just Indian writing.”
The fresh leads came through the appearance of T. R. Jett, of Henry County, Georgia. This was in a period during August and September, 1940, when twenty-two stones had been found by four different people along the Chattahoochee about forty miles from Gainesville to the south and about ten miles northeast of Atlanta. Mr. Jett had been reared there.
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”  “Father hab mercye”  “Father I hab dowter heyr al save salvage king angrie” 
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”  “Father I beseeche yov hab mye dowter goe to englande”  “Father some amange vs pvtt manye message fo yov Bye Trale”  “Father I -hab moche svddiane sickenes” [1599, fixing the year Eleanor Dare died] “Father hab salvage shew yov greate rocke bye trale” 
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 (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: http://www.angelfire.com/ego/iammagi/dare_writ_on_rocke.htm
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: http://www.angelfire.com/ego/iammagi/DARE_INDEX.htm
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.