Virginia Dare, The White Doe

On August 27, 1587 Governor John White sailed form Roanoke Island to return to England for supplies. He left behind the first settlement in the new English colony of Virginia, consisting of eighty-nine men, seventeen women, and eleven children. One of those children was his own granddaughter, the first English child to be born in the New World — Virginia Dare. None of these colonists were ever seen again by English eyes.

White had intended to return to the Roanoke colony the next year, but the threat of Spanish invasion with the great Armada of 1588 and the constantly-shifting politics of the Elizabethan court delayed White's return until 1590. When he arrived, he found the colony abandoned, the only clue to the fate of the colonists being the word CROATOAN carved into a tree. This was the name of a nearby island, the home of the english-speaking Croatan Indian Manteo. Manteo and another Croatan, Wanchese, had journeyed to England in 1584, returning with the reconnoissance expedition for the colony. White was unable to make a thorough search of the islands, due to the threat of a large storm and the growing impatience of a captain eager to turn south and hunt for Spanish treasure ships. By the time of the next attempt at Colonization in 1608 at Jamestown, the fate of the Lost Colonists had already become the stuff of legend.

One of these legends that has been told time and again on the North Carolina Outer Banks follows the sad, strange fate of that first English child born on New World soil.

According to the legend, Wanchese was fearful of the threat posed by the Englishmen and plotted with a nearby tribe to lead a sneak attack against the colonists. Fleeing for their lives, the colonists were gathered together by Manteo to escape and join his tribe. It was Elanor Dare, the mother of Virginia, who had the foresight to carve their destination in a tree, with her husband dead of an indian arrow at her feet and her precious child clutched into her arms.

But a good number of the colonists did escape, and they lived peacefully with the Croatan Indians. Young Virginia Dare grew to be a beautiful maiden, whose natural grace and virtue made her and example to all who knew her, colonists and Indians alike. As she became a young woman, she naturally attracted the attentions of suitors. Among these young men were the noble Okisko, and a jealous sorcerer named Chico.

Chico was the first to offer his hand to the young Virginia Dare, but the maiden refused his advanced. Enraged, he used his dark arts to curse the girl, and transformed her body into that of a snow-white deer.

The mysterious white doe was often seen on Roanoke, sadly walking through the now-overgrown and decaying houses built by her people. The story of this beautiful, elusive creature soon spread to all the tribes on the islands.

Now, Okisko, Virginia Dare's other suitor, figured that this white doe had shown up about the same time Virginia Dare had gone missing. Reckoning that his rival in love was a pretty hand at the dark arts, it didn't take him long to figure out that this white doe was his own beloved. Seeking the help of a friendly sorcerer, he learned how to make a magic arrowhead from the mother-of-pearl lining of an oyster shell that would undo the curse.

But Wanchese had also heard of the white doe, and in a bid to prove his worth as a warrior he vowed to kill the rare creature. To this end, he pledged to use a silver arrowhead given to him by Queen Elizabeth when he had been in England.

Okisko and Wanchese, unknown to one another, both tracked the white doe for weeks — one pledged to return her to her true form, the other sworn to bring her death. And as it happened, they came upon the deer at the same hour of the same day, as she was drinking from a still, deep pool in the forest. Okisko saw his beloved, Wanchese saw his prey, and at the same time they both released their arrows. At the same time, both their arrows hit the heart of the white deer, Okisko's undoing the enchantment and Wanchese's bringing death.

Seeing what he had done, Wanchese fled the island in fear, but Okisko sadly carried the body of his beloved to the old fort built by the colonists and buried her at its center.

But soon by that pool where Virginia Dare died, a new vine sprung up, whose grapes were sweeter than any tasted before but whose juice was a red as blood. This was the scuppernong, the grape from which the first North Carolina wines were made.

Stop Reading Here if You Don't Want to Know if the Legend is True or Not

Virginia Dare was the first English child born in the New World. According to legend, she was transformed into a white deer by a sorcerer.