Happy birthday, Virginia Dare

Aug. 15, 2013 @ 09:14 AM

North Carolina’s most famous missing person just will not go away.

One main reason is the work of Chatham County’s Marjorie Hudson, an award-winning writer and teacher of writing.
Ten years after the publication of the widely praised “Searching for Virginia Dare,” that book is out again, this time revised to include reports of more travel and research relating to the Lost Colony.
When Hudson moved to North Carolina from the Midwest, she says that she had heard of Virginia Dare, “but I really had no idea of the weight and fascination the story would hold for me.”
Most folks who grow up in North Carolina hear about and remember the story of the first child born to English parents in America. Some even remember the date: Aug. 18, 1587.
Happy 426th Birthday, Virginia Dare!
She, along with her parents and grandfather, were part of the group of colonists on Roanoke Island sponsored by Sir Walter Raleigh. Virginia’s grandfather, John White, was governor of the small colony. His wonderful watercolors of the land and native peoples still show the world that surrounded little Virginia Dare. Shortly after Virginia’s birth, White returned to England to collect supplies for the colony. Upon his return three years later, all the colonists, including his granddaughter, had disappeared and become what we call the Lost Colony.
Ever since, people have sought to find out what happened to them, hoping to find some happy ending, especially for Virginia, the lost baby girl, the lost child.
In “Searching for Virginia Dare” Hudson collected the facts, the legends, and the speculation about the fate of Virginia and the other colonists. She became recognized as a go-to person for information about the Lost Colony. But, she says, “I knew I wasn’t done with this subject! There seems to have been an explosion of new research, and I guess I have been part of that. I visited the Elinor Dare stones in Georgia, tracked down Rosebud Fearing in Elizabeth City, I kept up with developments with recognition for the Lumbee people, I kept tabs on new archeological finds and research, and the Native American identity movement. I also traveled to Rome and uncovered more about the sculptor of the Virginia Dare Venus and her friendship with Nathaniel Hawthorne there, and I traveled to London and Oxford and was able to handle John White’s amazing paintings and maps and Thomas Hariot’s published work.”
“Searching for Virginia Dare” contains a lot of good history, but also some of Hudson’s fiction. Her very personal description of her journey reads like a memoir.
Hudson explains, “It comes down to this: I started with history, hit a wall, turned to fiction, then opened up to memoir. It became a kind of natural process in my note-taking, and an one point, I decided to include all the different layers, especially the personal story, because the Virginia Dare story has so many emotional ups and downs for me, and I guessed that others would respond to it that way too.”
Whatever its genre, “Searching for Virginia Dare” is a gentle and satisfying read, a must for those who care about North Carolina’s first lost child.

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Celebrate Virginia Dare’s birthday:
Wednesday at noon, Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh will host a Virginia Dare Birthday luncheon with Marjorie Hudson. To register, go to http://www.quailridgebooks.com/event/marjorie-hudson-virginia-dare-birthday-bash.

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. For more information or to view prior programs visit the webpage at www.unctv.org/ncbookwatch. Sunday's guest is Susan Woodring, author of “Goliath.”