In September 1937, a man named L.E. Hammond was walking alongside the Chowan River, just west of Edenton, North Carolina. He stumbled upon something interesting.
It was a flat slab of stone with words engraved upon it. It was a message, addressed to John White, dated 1590. He was the Governor of Roanoke and the man who had traveled back to England for supplies. He was also Virginia's grandfather.
The etchings announced the death of Ananias Dare and his three year old daughter Virginia 'at the hands of savages'. It was signed Eleanor Dare and demanded that her father avenge her family.
Hammond took the stone to Dr. Haywood Pearce of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, who paid $1,500 to keep it. There was soon publicity about the find, as it provided the biggest clue yet to the Fate of the Roanoke Colonists. A newspaper story called for any further stones.
They came. Forty-eight of them in all, with their owners receiving payment for them to be passed to Dr Pearce. For a while, it was believed that every stone was genuine and they told the whole story in jig-saw fragments.
Most of the colonists died in attacks by native tribes, but some escaped. Eleanor Dare was amongst them and she was the author of every message carved into the stones. They headed west, until they fell in with a friendlier first native tribe. Eleanor married the chief and had another daughter named Agnes.
However, a journalist named Boyden Sparkes, from the Saturday Evening Post, was less convinced and he did some digging of his own. He proved that everyone who had produced a stone was either related to each other or else attended the same church.
The 'Dare Stones' were immediately declared a hoax, but for the first one. L.E. Hammond was a native of California and, insofar as Sparkes could ascertain, had no links with the area nor the other people with stones.