Part Two: And now for the rest of the story
In 1937, only three months after performances of the outdoor drama, “The Lost Colony” was begun in North Carolina, a California produce distributor claimed to have found an ancient inscribed stone near Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina. It appeared to be the burial marker of Ananias and Virginia Dare. A cache of stone tablets were found in a cave in the Nacoochee Valley of Georgia that also seems connected with the Roanoke Colony. Eventually, 48 stones with Elizabethan inscriptions were found between the Nacoochee Valley and Roanoke Island. Some seem authentic. Others are questionable, or even obviously faked.
The Eleanor Dare stones marked a trail leading from Roanoke Island, North Carolina to the Nacoochee Valley in the mountains northeast of Atlanta. According to the stones found in the cave in the Nacoochee Valley, Eleanor had married a Creek Indian chief there and born more children before dying. The last tablet stated “Eleanor Dare dye February1599.” It was signed by a fellow survivor, Griffin Jones.
A team of professional archaeologists, geologists and historians, led by Samuel Elliot Morrison, journeyed to Gainesville, GA, the home of Brenau College then declared all the stones in the college’s collection to be authentic. Dr. Haywood Pierce at Brenau became an intellectual celebrity. North America’s early history had been changed. Brenau College then started its own outdoor drama on the Roanoke Colonists. That’s when the trouble began.
The sponsors of the original outdoor drama in North Carolina were furious and began a campaign to declare the Dare Stones to be frauds. Eight more stones, with far less authentic inscriptions, turned up. An inscription was carved on a boulder near the Chattahoochee River then sprayed with purple dye in an obvious effort to make it obviously appear faked. Academic rivals of Dr. Pierce posted letters to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which described him in most unflattering terms. The most common complaint was that it was illogical for a small party of terrified English refugees to march several hundred miles to an obscure location in Georgia. The objection back then seemed justified, but recent historic research makes a strong case for this long journey.
The Nacoochee Valley of Georgia
In 1941, critics accused Georgia economic boosters of planting fake stone tablets in the Nacoochee Valley cave to attract tourists. Until a highway was cut into this region in the 1940s, the most common way to reach the Nacoochee Valley from Atlanta was by railroad, that one had to share with flatbed cars heading into the mountains to fetch virgin timber. The valley was virtually unknown outside of Georgia until novelist Corra Harris wrote the novel, “A Circuit Rider’s Wife” in 1910. It was a fictionalized account of the early days of her marriage to a Methodist preacher in the Nacoochee Valley. In 1951 the book was made in to the popular movie, “I’d Climb the Highest Mountain,” starring Susan Hayworth and Bill Lundegun.
In his landmark 1873 book on the Southeastern Indians, Charles C. Jones, Jr. stated that during the nation’s first major gold rush, miners working at Senator John C. Calhoun’s claim on Dukes Creek in the Nacoochee Valley discovered the ancient ruins of a large Spanish mining village. Tools and weapons typical of the 16th and 17th century were found in the ground. They included a Spanish cigar mold.
Northern Georgia and extreme western North Carolina abound with legends of early French and Spanish explorers. Sixteenth and seventeenth century Spanish gold claim markers, weapons, armor and jewelry have been found at several locations in the Georgia Mountains. Despite this evidence, most Georgia archaeologists and historians remained adamant in their belief that no Spaniards had entered the mountains after Hernando de Soto skirted the northwest corner of the state in the summer of 1540. A Virginia historian was to force a change in that belief.
In 2003, Virginia author Brent Kennedy, published copies of official British colonial archives which gave eyewitness accounts of Spanish-speaking Jewish gold miners living in the Nacoochee Valley in the late 1600s. Already, a translation of the memoirs of French explorer, René de Laudonniére, by Floridian Charles Bennett, had described repeated French Huguenot journeys to the Georgia Mountains between 1562 and 1565 to obtain gold and copper from the Apalache Indians living there. In 2010 explorations by this author, supported by the late director of the National Park Service, Roger Kennedy, found an inscription carved in a stone at 5,400 feet elevation in the Great Smoky Mountains in the Ladino dialect (Sephardic Castilian) which memorialized a Jewish wedding held on September 15, 1615.
In 2012 Georgia historian, Michael Jacobs, found sworn affidavits by two residents of Santa Elena, (Parris Island, SC) Pedro Moreles and Nicholas Burgiognon, which described repeated gold prospecting expeditions into the Georgia Mountains between 1566 and 1587. Burgiongnon was one of the few occupants of Fort Caroline, who was not murdered by the Spanish. He had been on the French expeditions to the Georgia Mountains. The affidavits also mention a great city built out of stone, named Copal, on the side of the highest mountain in Georgia. That could be the Track Rock Terrace Complex.
Most recently, Georgia colonial archives have revealed the existence of an odd “Indian” tribe in the region immediately south of the Nacoochee Valley, up until the time of the American Revolution. Georgia frontiersmen called them the Bureheron. That is very close to the pronunciation of the Frenchman, Burgiognon’s name. The members of this ”Indian” tribe had Portuguese, Spanish and Jewish Sephardic names and were enemies of Great Britain, unlike the Creeks and Cherokees.
Since it now seems quite probable that some French Protestant and Iberian Jewish gold miners were already living in the Nacoochee Valley at the time of the Roanoke Colony’s demise. The journey from the North Carolina coast to the Georgia Mountains makes perfect sense. These miners were hiding from Spanish military authorities and the Inquisition. They would be very inclined to protect a handful of English Protestants from the Spanish. Remember, at this time Spain and England were at war. Hundreds of ship-wrecked Frenchmen and Englishmen had been summarily executed by the Spanish because they were Protestants.
The curtain sudden falls on a Brenau College professor
In 1941, as a response to repeated complaints from some professors in North Carolina and Georgia, the Saturday Evening Post retained Boyden Sparks, an academic rival of Dr. Pierce, to investigate the Dare Stones. Sparks focused on the obviously faked stones and the criminal backgrounds of four men, who claimed to find these stones. He ignored the scientific studies of the Harvard investigative team and painted Pierce as a charlatan. A month later, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and America forgot the Dare Stones. Dr. Pierce’s academic reputation was ruined for life. Brenau’s version of the Roanoke Colony outdoor drama was terminated. For decades Brenau College hid the stones in shame. Every few years, the subject of the Dare Stones comes up. With manic fury, opponents do their best to squash new research.
A common modus operandi of academic feuds
The placing of fake or stolen artifacts into archaeological sites has occurred on several occasions in Georgia, when academic cliques were feuding. In 1969 a University of Georgia archaeology student secretly stole a stone hoe from storage boxes at the anthropology department’s lab then gave it to a student member of an archaeological team being directed by Dr. Arthur Kelly. His team was working at a 2,200 year old village and mound site named 9FU14 on the Chattahoochee River near Atlanta. The ancient village was further evidence in Kelly’s mind that agriculture and town living came early to the Creek Indians in Georgia; and that the Mayas explored Georgia. Kelly has finally been vindicated on all of his once controversial theories, 33 years after his death.
At the time, Kelly was in a bitter feud with an archaeological clique led by three professors at the University of Georgia’s anthropology department. They believed that all advanced, indigenous culture came from the Midwest, the Cherokees built most of the mounds in the Southeast and that no Mesoamericans ever visited North America. Some of Georgia’s most influential late 20th century archaeologists were student or junior faculty members of that clique.
As this author was sitting next to Sandtown Creek with a girl friend one Sunday afternoon, he was astonished to rise up out of the brush to see a car drive up to the 9FU14 mound. The driver cautiously scanned in all directions for onlookers, opened the gate of the fence guarding the mound, and pushed the stolen hoe blade into the mound.
On Monday the stolen stone hoe blade was “accidentaly” discovered. Both its discovery and the subsequent revelation of its origin were publicized to the hilt by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Dr. Kelly was eventually cleared of involvement with the artifact’s theft. However, like Dr. Haywood Pierce at Brenau College, Kelly’s reputation was ruined. He was forced to resign from being director of the University of Georgia’s anthropology department and was, somewhat, a broken man, thereafter. His theory on Maya exploration of the Chattahoochee River was squelched by the victorious clique for the next forty years. Some things never change.