Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Famous Infants in History: Virginia Dare - The First Child of the New World

Blogger: Amber Schamel

Baptism of Virginia Dare,
, 1880 Public Domain

Our next subject in our Famous Infants in History series leads us to the mysterious Roanoke colony in what is now North Carolina. The mystery and skepticism shrouding the "Lost Colony" is vast, and has become the subject of countless works including books, plays, movies, poems, songs, and yes, conspiracy theories. So it is quite possible that you have already heard the name of this famous infant: Virginia Dare.

The tale begins in London with Virginia's parents. Eleanor White, daughter of John White, married a bricklayer named Ananias Dare at St. Bride's Church in London. When Eleanor's father planned the expedition to found "the Cittie of Raleigh", both she and her husband joined. Eleanor was pregnant at the time. It is amazing to me that a pregnant woman would make such a dangerous journey, but she must have been a woman of great bravery, or of great optimism, hoping for a better life for her family.

John White was commissioned by the original founder of the Roanoke colony, Sir Walter Raleigh, to make a second attempt at establishing a city there. The first colony had failed due to lack of supplies, and hostilities with the indigenous people. The men that had remained to await supplies sailed with Sir Francis Drake back to England in 1586, abandoning the Colony. Raleigh was determined to make a second attempt. The fleet set sail on May 8, 1587.

Ken Lund from Reno, Nevada, USA,
CC BY-SA 2.0

Eleanor, who would have been six months pregnant at the time, sailed aboard the flagship Lion, which was captained by her father, and piloted by Simon Fernandes. The intention was to establish the colony at Chesapeake Bay, however when the party landed at Roanoke on July 22, Fernandes insisted that the colonists remain on Roanoke, and they never reached their final destination.

Shortly after they disembarked, one settler was killed by Native Americans while searching for crabs alone. The settlers realized they would have to mend relations with the indigenous people if they stood a chance at making the colony successful. The main tribe that they were able to negotiate with was the Croatan. Remember that name, because it is important later.

On August 18, 1587, Eleanor gave birth to the first English child to be born in the New World. She named her daughter Virginia,since at that time, the land was considered part of the Virginia territory. The child was baptized and deemed the "first Christian born in Virginia."

Nine days after the birth of his granddaughter, John White was persuaded by the colonists to return to England for more supplies. That is the last time he would see his daughter, his son-in-law, or his newborn granddaughter. 
The discovery of the abandoned colony, 1590
Public Domain

White's journey to England did not go as planned. Unforeseen obstacles, including war, kept him away for about three years, though he tried desperately to return to the colony. When he finally returned in 1590, there was no one left.

Before his departure in 1587, White had left instructions for the colonists to carve a Maltese cross in a tree if they were forced into departure. They found no such cross, instead finding the word "Croatan" engraved in a tree. The buildings were dismantled, which indicated that their departure had not been sudden. Because of these clues, White deduced that his family and the other colonists were safe, having moved to Croatan island, where they had stayed before, and had befriended the native tribe. He planned to search for them on the island, but a massive storm came up, and his men refused to risk a search party. Thus, the settlers, including three-year-old Virginia Dare were never found.
Roanoke Commemorative Coin, 1937
Public Domain

Virginia has become a prominent figure in American folklore, and monuments have been built in her honor. However, what she represents varies greatly between different groups. To some, she represents innocence, new beginnings, hope, or adventure. To others, she is a symbol of mystery. Unfortunately, some have also seized upon her as a symbol of white supremacy and keeping North Carolina "white" or predominantly people of European decent.

One thing we know for certain, Virginia Dare was the first English child to be born to colonists in the "New World", and she was the first child to be depicted on United States currency with the 1937 commemorative coin.


Two-time winner of the Christian Indie Award for historical fiction, Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for travel, history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call "historical fiction at its finest".

She lives in Colorado Springs near her favorite mountain, in a small “castle” with her prince charming. Between enjoying life as a new mom, and spinning stories out of soap bubbles, Amber loves to connect with readers and hang out on Goodreads with other bookish peoples.

Amber is a proud member of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association. Visit her online at www.AmberSchamel.com/ and download a FREE story by subscribing to her Newsletter!


  1. Thank you for posting! I can't believe that if these people survived, no one has come forward to claim the lineage!!

    1. Isn't that interesting? Such a mystery. Thanks for stopping by, Connie!