Tagged with Archaeology:

Artifacts displayed in Bealeton

October 26, 2007

Fauquier times-Democrat (with permission) WEEKEND — lst Year, No. 43 – Friday, October 26, 2007 – Warrenton, Va.

An exhibit on the Elk Run Anglican Church Site preservation project in southern Fauquier County is currently on display at the Bealeton Library, 10877 Willow Drive North, (540) 439-9728.

The exhibit includes photos, a small case displaying some of the artifacts found at the site, and a 10-minute documentary, “Finding Our Foundation: The Preservation of the Elk Run Anglican Church Site.”

In the documentary, Ed Dandar, chairman of the Elk Run Church Site Preservation Committee, founded in 1999, and Jackie Lee, a volunteer historian, explain the history of the site.

The church began as a wooden structure in the 1740s and was later rebuilt in brick with a four-foot-wide stone foundation. The unearthed foundation revealed the church was built in the form of a Greek cross.

The church congregation declined after the Revolutionary War, and, once abandoned in the early 1800s, local villagers used its fallen bricks, wood and stones in the building of their homes. The site was overgrown until recently, and the church’s foundation and artifacts were hidden from view for about 200 years.

By the time the site’s historical marker was dedicated in 2000, colonial church historian Carl Lounsbury of the Williamsburg Foundation said, “I am deeply awed by all of you for creating history here.”

The documentary shows the church site being excavated by volunteers, many of whom have ancestral ties to the area. Under the direction of archaeologist John Eddins, himself a volunteer, teams have discovered many artifacts, including hand-wrought iron nails, earthenware, window glass, prehistoric arrow-heads and a prehistoric quartz scraper.

The committee is raising funds to convert the dig site to a historic church park. Plans include outlining the foundation with a colonial brick walk-way, building a year-round shelter for public viewing of a segment of the church foundation, and erecting interpretive signs.

Copies of “Finding Our Foundation” were donated to the library and to the county’s elementary schools. The library’s copy is available to check out. The committee also has an extensive Web site that includes historic maps, photos of the site and artifacts, and genealogical information.


Historic Park Effort Needs Your Help

January 31, 2007

The Fauquier Times-Democrat, Wednesday, January 31, 2007 (with permission)

The discovery of Fauquier County’s first Anglican Church, built in the 1750s, began in 1998 when a neighbor began clearing brush on the Church site at Elk Run, Virginia. Less than a year later, members of St. Stephen’s Church in Catlett, St. James’ in Warrenton, and County volunteers began to uncover the remains of what was the first brick church in Fauquier County’s mid-1700s frontier.

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.

Eight years later in October 2006, the all-volunteer archaeological field work was completed. It revealed through 54 separate excavations and discovery of numerous artifacts that the 1750s church was a substantial brick building shaped like a Greek cross. It is regarded as the founding Church of Hamilton Parish. Of further significance was the discovery of a cemetery adjacent to the original edifice. Elk Run’s first minister was the Rev. James Keith (circa 1742-1751), grandfather of Chief Justice John Marshall.

Work to convert the site to a Historic park has begun. Our goal in 2007 is the creation of a landscaped historical park that will include: (1) outlining the original foundation on the surface with Colonial-style bricks, (2) building a protective shelter over a corner of the foundation for year-round viewing, (3) placing archaeological and cemetery information interpretative signs for visitors, (4) installing split-rail fencing for cordoning the parking area, (5) placing benches for visitors to rest and meditate, and (6) planting shrubbery. Once completed, we will apply for Virginia Landmark status and then the National Register of Historic Places, pending available funds.

We are renewing our fundraising effort so as to achieve our Historic Park goal. We appeal to you for help in establishing and preserving this remarkable treasure. Financial donations and or materials for the Historic Park will be greatly appreciated. Every contribution is important. Checks may be made payable to “Elk Run Church Site Preservation Fund” and sent in care of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 8538 Greenwich Road, Catlett, Virginia 20119. Donations are tax deductible.

We send in advance our deep appreciation for your support in preserving Fauquier County’s heritage at Elk Run. Your contribution will help to secure the rightful place of Elk Run Church in the history of Colonial churches in Virginia.

Accompanying photos shows a top-down photo of the completed Elk Run Church archaeological dig and an artist rendering of what the completed Historic Park would look like when completed.

A timeline of significant events, photos, artifacts, cemetery findings, and future plans for the Elk Run Church Historic Park can be found on our new Web Site.

Further information can be obtained by contacting Ed Dandar by email efdandar@us.net or telephone (703-791-6158).


Volunteers Work Hard

April 21, 2006


Field workers take photos through a mapping grid used to help record detailed measured drawings of the church foundation. Another worker records excavation unit wall information as part of the final documentation of the site.



Key 2006 Goals

January 21, 2006

Key 2006 goals include completion of last year goals: (1) finishing Foundation Units’ Archaeological Measurements, (2) completing layout of new Archaeological Interpretative Sign, (3) determining the best all-weather enclosure design for Unit #14, and (4) begin converting the “dig site” into a Historic Park.


Site Closes for Another Winter

December 20, 2005

Weather delays precluded completion of final measurements of the dig site. The measurements will be completed in spring 2006.

On December 20, 2005, the Dig Site was closed.

By the end of 2005, a total of 54 excavation units were uncovered and artifacts removed for further processing.


Elk Run ‘Dig’ to Become Historic Park

October 12, 2005

A PARK: The site of Elk Run Anglican Church will become a historic park later this fall.

Fauquier Times Democrat – October 12, 2005 (reprinted with permission)

By Edward F. Dandar

The archaeological research project at Elk Run Anglican Church is nearing completion. The all-volunteer, community project has been underway since 1999.
Volunteers have worked on Saturdays, in good weather in spring, summer, and fall to help expose the foundation of the church and dig controlled excavation units for recovery of colonial artifacts and building materials.
On weekends during the winter months, they have work¬ed to clean and identify the artifacts recovered from the site.


Settlers first arrived in the Elk Run area between 1715 and 1719. By the time that Hamilton Parish was established in 1730, there were several hundred people living in the Elk Run vicinity of Virginia.
A wooden chapel is believed to have already existed by the 1740s, when Prince William Minute Books make note of road repairs being done in front of the “Elk Run Chapel.”
The chapel preceded the pre-Revolutionary brick cruci¬form structure that was built there in the late 1750s. The first rector of the Elk Run church was the Reverend James Keith, a native of Scotland, who from the 1740s until 1751. Rev. Keith was the grandfather of Chief Justice John Marshall, born not far away at Germantown.


To preserve the site for posterity, a preservation committee – led by St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Catlett, and in collaboration with St. James’ Church in Warrenton and ecumenically with other churches in the region – initiated the project.
The group has sought to raise funds through appeals to residents, organizations and businesses to support the research and the eventual development of the site as an historical park.
Neighbors and nearby residents, including members of the A. W. Patton family, have been especially helpful in these efforts.
Over the last five years, 54 controlled excavation units have been laid out and excavated under the supervision of our volunteer archaeologist, Dr. John Eddins.
A digital survey of key excavation unit points was accomplished in 2004 and final excavation unit measurements will be completed this fall. To date, found artifacts include handmade nails, ceramic dish fragments, 18th and 19th century coins, and Indian arrowheads dating back 4,000 years or more.


The transition of the “dig site” into an historic park will happen later this fall.
The park will have the original four foot wide foundation outlined on the surface with colonial bricks, to reflect the actual size of the church. A designated section of the
church foundation has been selected to be enclosed with a plexiglas-like material for year-round viewing once the site is converted into a historic park.
The accompanying overhead-view of the church foundation indicates how the surface may appear, once park landscaping is completed. This photograph was made possible by Virginia Dominion Power.
Over the next few months the volunteers will help finish up the excavations and detailed documentation of the remains of the church. We will also begin back-filling the site, preparing a report and historical tourism pamphlets, landscaping the site, and developing permanent historical displays.
Volunteers are welcome to assist, and financial donations and or materials for the historic park are greatly appreciated. For more information visit the Web site.

Edward F Dandar, of Nokesville, is the chairman of the Elk Run Church Site Preservation Committee.


Top-Down Photos Taken

September 24, 2005


On September 24, 2005, top-down photos of the entire archaeological site for the Archaeological Interpretative Sign was completed.


Elk Run Dig Nears Completion

May 9, 2005


The Historiographer of the National Episcopal Historians and Archivists and The Historical Society of the Episcopal Church (reprinted with permission)
May 2005 – Vol. XLIII No. 2

Diocese of Virginia

What began as an attempt to clear brush uncovered the remains of what is believed to be the first brick church in the mid-18th century frontier of Fauquier County, Virginia. The Elk Run Anglican Church was built sometime in the late 1750s. It served as the mother church for Hamilton Parish, and its first rector was the Rev. James Keith. Today, the Preservation Committee, let by members of St. Stephen’s, Catlett, in collaboration with St. James’, Warrenton, is leading the archaeological effort to preserve the site.

Ned Browning, a descendant of Pastor Keith whose family acquired the church site in the 20th century, donated the land with the ruins of the church to St. Stephen’s. After his death in 1999, Edward F. Dandar, Jr., a retired Army colonel and St. Stephen’s historian, took charge of the excavation.

Over the past five years, 54 controlled excavation unites have been laid out and excavated under the supervision of volunteer archaeologist, Dr. John Eddins. Units #53 and #54 will be completed this summer. A digital survey of key excavation unit points was accomplished in 2004 and final excavation unit measurements will also be completed this summer. To date, found artifacts include handmade nails, ceramic dish fragments, 18th- and 19th-century coins, and Indian arrowheads dating back 4,000 years or more.

The all-volunteer archaeological team has confirmed that Elk Run Church was a rare Greek cross structure with roughly equal-sized extensions on all sides. The transition of the dig site into a historic park will happen later this fall. The original four food-wide foundation of the church will be outlined with Colonial bricks to reflect the actual size of the church. A designated section of the foundation has been selected to be enclosed with a Plexiglas-like material for year-round viewing once the site is converted into a park.

The Preservation Committee needs community volunteers this summer to complete the archaeological work. The site offers a unique opportunity not only to participate in “digging up some history,” but also to learn some fundamentals of archaeological work. Local citizens, church youth groups, Boy and Girl Scouts, 4H Club members are invited to participate in the project. The volunteers meet every Saturday during summer and fall, weather permitting.

For more information about this work, check out the Web site.


Reopening the Site in 2005

May 7, 2005


On May 7, 2005, the Church Dig Site was reopened.

Key goals for 2005, include: (1) finishing Foundation Units’ Archaeological Measurements, (2) completing excavation of Units #53 and #54, (3) taking top-down photo of entire site for Archaeological Interpretative Sign, (4) finalizing all-weather enclosure design for Unit #14 so contract can be initiated so that year-round viewing can occur, and (5) and begin converting “dig site” into a Historic Park.

Elk Run Volunteers clean and prepare excavation units for final measurements.



At Fauquier Church Site, Unearthing a Colony’s Past

August 9, 2004


The Washington Post – Monday, August 9, 2004 (reprinted with permission)

By Lila Arzua

Working smoothly and systematically, a dozen volunteers carefully unearthed the remains of an 18th-century church in Fauquier County. Several knelt on the ground and used sharpened trowels to expose the stone foundation. Others collected the loosened dirt and sifted it in search of artifacts, using a special high-powered magnet to separate out earth-encrusted relics.
Finds were methodically placed in plastic bags and labeled with the precise location of each discover.

Despite its regimented approach, the team of excavators at the Elk Run Anglican Church site is an unusual one. Only one member is a professional archaeologist; the rest are passionate amateurs.

“You might find something no one else has and change something everybody else thought,” said 12-year-old-Melanie Fuechsel, a seventh-grader who hopes to become an archaeologist. As she sifted through loose dirt, she spotted what she thought might be a piece of quarts. Upon further inspection, the object turned out to be a fragment of a small coin – a Spanish real, minted in Seville in the 1730s.

Every Saturday during the summer, anyone who wants to can comb through the remains of Elk Run Anglican Church and participates in archaeological study usually reserved for experts.

“All the bits and pieces, the nails and the pottery, rubble and glass tell us the history about Colonial Virginia church life,” said Brenda Branscome, a former history teacher who says her interest in archaeology began years ago in the sandbox. She has spent three seasons digging at the site.

A number of the volunteers, in fact, are still in elementary school. On a recent Saturday, Richard Loving of Catlett brought a troop of Scouts, including his sons – Bailey, 9, and Marshall, 7 – and promised them a fishing trip after a morning of digging.
With his father’s help, Marshall concentrated on brushing the dust off a half-buried brick. Bailey, who had helped at the site before, chose his favorite task – pushing buckets’ worth of soil through the sifter.

“I get to play in the dirt,” bragged Bailey, pulling his arms from the mound of earth he was coaxing through a large square sieve. He proudly showed off a piece of glazed brick.

Elk Run Anglican Church was one of the earliest churches in the Piedmont area of Virginia. It was built during the 1750s, replacing a wooden chapel on the site. The first rector was the Rev. James Keith, who was the maternal grandfather of John Marshall, chief justice of the United States.

Ned Browning, a descendant of Pastor Keith’s whose family came to own the church site in the 20th century, donated the land and the ruins of the church to St. Stephen’s, an Episcopal church about 10 miles north in Catlett. Browning died of cancer in 1999. Edward F. Dandar Jr., a returned Army colonel and the historian of St Stephen’s, has been in charge of the excavation since.

Starting in late spring, Dandar dedicates nearly every weekend to managing the dig, taking off the waterproof tarpaulin that protects the site during the week, coordinating the corps of volunteers and cataloguing the finds, which have included pottery shards, 3000-year-old arrowheads and pieces of a German 18th-century porcelain jug. In the winter, volunteers pack the site with hay until the next digging season and concentrate on cleaning and identifying artifacts.

Since 2000, archaeologist John Eddins, 52, has donated his expertise to the excavation.

Eddins said that inviting volunteers from the community to help dig is becoming an increasingly popular way to pursue projects that don’t have funding. The trick, he said, is to make sure that the helpers, both young and old, are properly trained and monitored.

For example, at first it was difficult to discern what was foundation and what was the ruble around it. Volunteers were taught to use a specialized probe to gently tap away dirt and rocks to expose the original wall without destroying it.

“A lot of times, folks go out there and just dig, and the information isn’t recorded properly and then lost” at unsupervised digs, Eddins said.

While further study is necessary to determine the height and appearance of the church, Eddins and others speculate that is somewhat resembled Aquia Church in Stafford, another brick cruciform church that was build in the 1750s and remains open as an Episcopal church.

The group’s goal is to finish digging by October and then to get the permits necessary to uncover the graves in the adjacent cemetery and conduct DNA tests on some of the remains. The plan is eventually to build a historic park where church services might be held. Dandar envisions the outline of the foundation protected with a layer of Colonial bricks, with a corner section enclosed in Plexiglas-like material for the public to examine.

“It’s provided us with a living expression of faith that was here long before the Episcopal church,” said the Rev. Roma W. Maycock, who had been the rector of St. Stephen’s for 19 years. Working in gardening gloves and khakis, she has found her share of glass shards in the soil.

Maycock said that while the endeavor has strengthened an appreciation for the past among newcomers and longtime residents, sustaing the congregation’s interest – and drawing others to the project – has become a challenge as the years go by.
“We want things so fast in our society, it’s hard to have the patience required for thorough, diligent archaeology,” she said.