Uncovering the past
When they took possession of the site in 1999, it was simply a vacant lot with bits of old brick lying about. They had no knowledge or assurance that anything lay below the surface, nor could anyone be certain that the church was actually located there.
How do you preserve a church that no longer exists? Completion of the archeological excavation will see the project evolve into a park. A bricked walk way will outline the church foundation, giving the space back to the community as a place to learn, reflect, and enjoy a slice of Virginia and church history.
The discovery of Fauquier County’s first Anglican Church, built in the 1750s, began in 1998 when a neighbor began clearing brush at an empty lot at Elk Run, Virginia. Less than a year later, members of St. Stephen’s Church in Catlett and St. James’ Church in Warrenton and county volunteers began to uncover the remains of what they soon discovered was the first brick church in Fauquier County’s mid-1700s frontier.
Dr. John Eddins is the project archeologist – he volunteers his time to lead the dig and uses his vast historical knowledge to explain the significance of the discoveries made by excavating the first Anglican Elk Run Church and what they say about the past. Edward F. Dandar Jr. is the chief historian of St. Stephen’s Church and the project director for this project. His knowledge on local history and research findings help elaborate the significance of this project.
Eight years after the first brick was discovered, in October 2006, the all-volunteer archaeological fieldwork was completed. Until then, the church foundation and artifacts had been hidden from view for almost 170 years. Fifty-four separate excavations revealed a substantial brick building shaped like a Greek cross. The findings are plotted on a grid to help track their spatial relationships within the site. To date, artifacts found at the site include handmade nails, ceramic dish fragments, 19th century coins and Indian arrowheads dating back 5000 years or more.
The archeology team’s speculation about an adjacent cemetery was confirmed in December 2000, with the discovery of the first grave. Several months later, Pete Petrone, whose earlier team discovered an underground ship at the Great Pyramid in 1987, came to Elk Run and conducted remote sensing to determine the church cemetery boundaries, possible positions of burials within the cemetery, and areas that might have further archaeological significance.
[This has] provided us with a living expression of faith that was here long before the Episcopal Church.