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Movie Silent About Fate of Colonists

A photograph taken during the shooting of the film. Image from the N.C. Museum of History.On November 15, 1921, Governor Cameron Morrison and a host of other state dignitaries gathered in Raleigh for the debut of the silent movie about the Lost Colony called “The Earliest English Expeditions and Attempted Settlements in the Territory of What Is Now the United States, 1584-1591.”

Conceived as an educational tool, the film was produced on the Outer Banks and starred Dare County residents as Indians and English settlers.

Mabel Evans Jones, then the superintendent of the Dare County Schools, came up with the idea for the film, and was featured in it as Eleanor White Dare – the mother of the first documented English child born in the New World, Virginia Dare. Dr. William Horton of Raleigh portrayed John White, Eleanor’s father. The clergyman who baptized Virginia Dare was the Rev. R.B. Drane, the long-time rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Edenton.

The 46-minute, five-reel movie toured the state. It was the first silent movie produced in the state, and at the height of its popularity it was part of North Carolina’s official history curriculum for public schools.

Paul Green’s 1937 outdoor drama “The Lost Colony” was inspired in part by Jones’s film. For several decades the film was lost, but in 2011 a copy was discovered and digitized.

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