It Takes a Village, and Sometimes Jody’s Office, to Tell The Dare Stone Story

When temperatures on the Brenau Gainesville campus smolder into the 90s, it can mean only one thing: It is time to film the latest installment in the continuing saga of Brenau’s famous Dare Stones. Although this year’s version is not as big a production as last year’s, which aired nationwide in the fall as a two-hour special on the cable network History, essentially the same core crew showed up again this week to begin work on a segment that is planned for possible fall broadcast. We can’t tell you a lot about it at this time because it is secret. We will say, however, that it features the university’s plans to pick up on some earlier historical, geological and architectural research into the origins of the original Dare Stone.

Schrader on camera in his office explains to the Vieira brothers the geological nature of the first stone which he says should drive future inquiries.
Schrader on camera in his office explains to the Vieira brothers the geological nature of the first stone which he says should drive future inquiries.

For those not in the know, the original stone, purportedly containing a hand-carved message from colonist Eleanor Dare, surfaced in the late 1930s bearing possible chiseled-in-stone evidence regarding the fate of the so-called “Lost Colony” that disappeared from Roanoke Island on the North Carolina coast in the later 1580s.

The story last year – which included actors in 1930s attire, some arriving and departing in vintage automobiles, filmed on the hottest day of the year – focused in docudrama style on how Brenau came to own the first stone and its companions of dubious value and authenticity. It was a huge production. The front campus looked like a film set because it was. The final production you can see at https://www.brenau.edu/darestones/.

Let's do the science: Schrader and the company in a geology lab at the University of North Carolina in Asheville prepared for the real work of determining the origin of the initial stone.
Let’s do the science: Schrader and the company in a geology lab at the University of North Carolina in Asheville prepare for the real work of determining the origin of the initial stone.

That program, along with some extreme advances in geology and other research, convinced Brenau President Ed Schrader that the time could be ripe for the university to move beyond housing rocks valuable only as periodic cable TV curiosities and to lay out a plan for some serious and beneficial scientific and academic research. Schrader, who is a geologist-turned-university president, suggested something of a Mayo Clinic-type approach – bringing in people from a wide variety of academic, scientific and research disciplines to investigate the stones collaboratively rather than in one-off inquiries in their own fields of interest. The idea, as Schrader pointed out in an article in The Wall Street Journal earlier this year, is to keep the focus as much as possible on real science- and fact-based research instead of chasing diverse bits of unconnected “evidence” related to the host of myths and conjecture that have emerged.

However, TV’s still interested. Indeed, just as the History-sanctioned crew was scheduled to arrive on campus, we received a call from a producer of yet another program on another network who is interested in the Dare Stones as well.

The History production crew spent virtually the whole day Monday, June 20, in and around the president’s office. As the photos here suggest, you may have noticed. In addition to camera, sound, lighting and location personnel, we had a couple of producer/directors and the on-air “talent,” including the Massachusetts-based stone-cutting brothers Jim and Bill Vieira who were featured in last year’s program. Then, the next day the whole bunch – including Schrader and some of the stones – decamped for Asheville, North Carolina, for some pretty full days of shooting on Tuesday and Wednesday as the scientific analysis of the stones commenced.

We will provide details on the broadcast schedule, probably in mid to late fall, as we can.