The August 24, 1587 baptism of Virginia Dare, the first Christian born in the New World. Image courtesy of the North Carolina Office of Archives and History, Raleigh, NC.
On August 18, 1587, Virginia Dare was the first European Christian to be born in America. Her mother, Eleanor White Dare, was the daughter of John White, the governor of what became the “Lost Colony” of Roanoke Island. Ananias Dare, Virginia’s father, was one of Governor White’s assistants.
On what is now called the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Sir Walter Raleigh established three separate colonies at Roanoke Island. In 1587, the third and final settlement, consisting of 120 men, women, and children, was sent to Roanoke Island under the leadership of John White. Less than a month later, Eleanor Dare birthed her first child. She named her Virginia because the child was the first Christian born in the colony of Virginia. The August 24 baptism, however, was the second one observed in the colony. The first occurred eleven days earlier; Manteo, and Algonquian Indian convert to Christianity, was christened and recognized as the colonists’ friend.
Exactly what happened to Virginia Dare is unknown. When Governor White returned to Roanoke Island in 1591, there was no trace of the colony or its inhabitants. Today, on Roanoke Island, North Carolinians celebrate annually the birth of Virginia Dare.
Alex Matthews Arnett, Story of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, 1933) and William S. Powell, North Carolina Through Four Centuries (Chapel Hill, 1989).
By Richard Carney, North Carolina History Project
See Also:Related Categories: Colonial North Carolina