MANTEO, N.C. — Thousands of Outer Banks visitors this summer will spend an evening getting a history lesson at the outdoor theater where “The Lost Colony” is produced.
If they pay attention, they’ll leave the drama knowing plenty about Virginia Dare, the first English baby born in the New World. She disappeared — like the rest of the Roanoke Island settlement — in a mystery that remains unsolved.
What the theatergoers won’t learn is that had the little girl been born just a week or so later, Dare County might have been Harvie County instead. Had that been the case, there likely would be no Virginia Dare Memorial Bridge, no Virginia Dare Trail.
Those, too, might have carried the Harvie name.
Virginia Dare was born Aug. 18, 1587, less than a month after the settlers of what became known as the Lost Colony arrived. A short time later came another baby, the only other known to have been born in the colony.
To say that he or she has been forgotten would be an understatement. The child’s sex isn’t known. Nor is his or her first name, assuming he or she was given one. Only the surname “Harvie” survives in records.
That hasn’t provided “The Lost Colony” much to work with, so it’s no wonder that baby No. 2 hasn’t had much of a role in recent incarnations of the drama.
Baby Harvie has appeared sporadically over the past 50 years and was last portrayed in 2012, said associate producer Lance Culpepper. In one version, the child’s mother went mad, repeating the line “My baby,” Culpepper said.
All paper trails lead back to John White, the governor of the expedition and Virginia Dare’s grandfather, for documentation on the Harvie baby’s existence. Before he departed Roanoke Island in late August 1587 to fetch supplies from England, White recorded the birth of the baby, according to an online history by the First Colony Foundation. The mother and father were possibly Dyonis Harvie, an assistant to the governor, and Margery Harvie; both were listed as part of the colony.
However, records don’t confirm that the two were the baby’s parents or that the man and woman with the same last name were married, said Jami Lanier, cultural resources manager for the National Park Service and the group of Outer Banks sites that includes Fort Raleigh, the location of the colony.
“Not much is known about them,” she said.
Dyonis may be related to London merchant James Harvey, who is buried at St. Dionis Backchurch in London, said Phil Evans, president of the First Colony Foundation. The name Dyonis is rare enough for a possible connection, he said. Harvey was an ironmonger, or the equivalent of a hardware merchant, he said.
Theories on what happened to the colonists range from intermingling with Croatan Indians on Hatteras Island to dying of starvation, disease or an attack by the natives.
Virginia and the Harvie child may have grown to adulthood.
A map at the British Museum in London shows a small patch placed at the west end of the Albemarle Sound covering a landmark possibly related to the Lost Colony. Archaeologists had already found ceramic pieces from the 16th century in that area.
On the other hand, researchers are still trying to solve the mystery of a stone found in 1937 near Edenton, N.C., with an old English inscription supposedly attributed to Eleanor Dare, the mother of Virginia. It says Virginia and Eleanor’s husband, Ananias, were killed and buried in 1591 four miles east of where the stone was found. It also says there would be a stone at their burial site. It describes sickness, battle and misery for the colonists. Brenau University in Gainesville, Ga., houses the stone now.
“I think it is real,” said Fred Willard, president of the Lost Colony Center for Science and Research.
He continues a search for the burial stone.
The colonists’ fate may never be known.
White was not able to return to Roanoke Island until 1590 on the third birthday of his granddaughter. He found the word “Croatoan” carved into a fort post and the letters “CRO” carved into a tree. Nothing else indicated what had become of the colony. White returned to England, never to see Eleanor or her baby again.
Virginia did live on as the founding spirit of Dare County, formed 280 years later.