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Celebration of History Preservation Effort

September 12, 2009

The highlight for the Elk Run Church Museum this year was its participation in kicking-off southern Fauquier’s “Tour in Time” Celebration. This event initiated a day-long celebration of the settlement of Fauquier County as part of the County’s 250th Anniversary.

It started with a 9:30 am Ribbon Cutting at the Museum and focused on what the Elk Run Church Site Preservation Committee, and the Community at- large, had accomplished thus far in preserving this historical landmark. A re-excavated segment of the 250-year old Church foundation was show-cased within the Museum itself.

The all-day Elk Run celebration included 1700’s Music, Colonial Life Demonstrations, Period Re-enactors, Fauquier Indian Artifacts, Germantown Exhibit, Living Historians, and history Authors.

Morning refreshments were provided by St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church Women, and the local Elk Run Store sold lunch items and drinks. During the day school busses moved visitors from Elk Run to Mary Walters Elementary School where there was 1800’s and 1900’s Exhibits, also connected with Goldvein for their exhibits, and then back to Elk Run.

Guests included Supervisor C. Stribling and descendents of the first minister of the Elk Run Church, Reverend James Keith (1744-1752), and other notables. A financial gift was provided by Supervisor Stribling on behalf of the County Supervisors that will enable the Committee to install the much needed wall insulation and T-111 panels. Future donations will be used to complete the Museum history wall panels which have already been drafted.

The Elk Run Church Site volunteers need your financial support in order to achieve this important Historic Park goal. We appeal to you for help in establishing and preserving this remarkable treasure.

Your gift will help us reach our goal and secure the rightful place of Elk Run Church in the history of Colonial churches in Virginia. 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, VA 20119. Donations are tax deductible.




Electric installed and more

September 6, 2009

We got a lot done again this past week. The electric was installed, passed initial inspection, and power turned on for our 12 Sept celebration.  Ed will pick up a temporary occupancy permit this coming Tuesday.


Becky Garber, one of our long-time archaeological assistants, got the excavated foundation completed Sunday, including painting the top interior concrete rim of the foundation a brown color that will match the dirt in the lower excavated unit.


The temporary wood rails on the handicap ramps were completed and Karl Hertag rounded and sanded the edges Saturday morning.

A White Primer has been applied to all of the outside trim and Porch area and gives the building a fresh completed look. A finish coat will need to be applied after the 12 Sept event.

Matthew Gulick removed the remainder of the debris but some more stone dust needs to be placed on our entrance path and handicap parking area.

A Handicap Parking Sign has been provided by Home Depot, Manassas and will need to be installed early this week after Handicap Parking area is completed.

Windows inside and outside still need to be cleaned, screens installed, and some touch up painting to be done inside before Wednesday.

Sarah Gulick is completing the cover for the 12 Sept Program and it will be filled with a lot of good information on Elk Run.

Donations are still greatly needed and my thanks to those who have been able to contribute and/or assist us with this effort thus far. Every little bit helps.

Our largest remaining expenditures continue to be the bricklayer’s final payment, including additional cost for installing the brick columns. The next and largest cost remaining is that of completing the preparation of the framing and display of our history items estimated at $3,000 to $3,500. The last item will be the purchase of an exterior Interpretative Sign frame ($410) for Archaeological work done there between1999-2006 and preparation of the material for the sign display (about $900).

Those of you who are able to attend this Saturday’s function please let Ed Dandar know. We look forward to seeing you!


Museum and Park Impacted by Funding Shortfall

August 5, 2009



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.


Help Us Finish the Elk Run Project

July 14, 2004

The Fauquier Times-Democrat, Wednesday, July 14, 2004 (with permission)

It all began in 1998 when a neighbor started clearing brush from the Elk Run property. Less than a year later, members of St. Stephen’s Church in Catlett began to uncover the remains of what is believed to be the first brick church in Fauquier County’s mid-1700s frontier.

The Elk Run Anglican Church was built sometime in the 1750’s. It served as the mother church for Hamilton Parish and its first rector, the Rev. James Keith, was the grandfather of Chief Justice John Marshall.

The Elk Run Church Site Preservation Committee, led by members of St. Stephen’s, Catlett in collaboration with St. James, Warrenton, is leading the archaeological effort to preserve this colonial church site.

Over the last five years, 50 controlled excavation units have been laid out and five remain to be excavated this summer. Volunteer archaeologist, Dr. John Eddins, completed the digital survey of key excavation unit points on July 10, and designated a section of the foundation to be enclosed for year-round viewing once the site is converted into a Historic Park. To date, found artifacts include handmade nails, ceramic dish fragments, 19th century coins and Indian arrowheads dating back 4000 years or more. Some of these artifacts can be viewed in a display case at the Old Jail Museum in Warrenton.

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. At least two other pre-Revolutionary Anglican churches in Virginia – Aquia and Abingdon – were built in the cruciform plan.

The Preservation Committee needs community volunteers this summer to complete the archaeological work. The Site offers a unique opportunity for citizens to not only participate in “digging up some history,” but also learn some fundamentals of doing archaeological work.

The volunteers meet every Saturday, weather permitting. Summer and fall “dig hours” are from 8:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. You can join them anytime during that period.

Participants should wear work clothes and hats suited to the weather, and bring gloves, kneeling pad, and a bag lunch. Tools, water, hot coffee, tea, and snacks are provided.

Local citizens, Church youth groups, Boy Scouts, 4H Club members, are invited to participate in this community historical project. The Dig Site is located 100 yards west of the intersection of State Route 806 and State Route 610.

The Elk Run Web Site has been recently updated and a new Homepage design implemented. The web site provides photos, research, genealogy information, historical maps, and progress to date.

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


Elk Run Church Goes High-Tech

March 8, 2000

From The Fauquier Times-Democrat, Wednesday, March 8, 2000 (with permission)

By John Toler, Times-Democrat Staff Writer

Although their project is deeply rooted in the 18th century, members of the Elk Run Church Site Preservation Committee are using 21st-century tools to keep the public informed and raise funds to finance their efforts.

A new Web site outlining the project, including photos, text and links to related Web sites and e-mail addresses, was recently brought online. The site address is: http://www.mnsinc.com/jhammond/final2.htm.

Ed Dandar, committee chairman, said, “The Rev. James A. Hammond, Rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Remington, made a major contribution of his time and talents in getting our Web site up and running.”

“Our first objective is to inform the public of our preservation effort and progress to date,” Dandar continued. “We also want to provide the status of our historical research effort and encourage support of our activities.”

Archaeological work at the site of Fauquier County’s first Episcopal church, which was the center of the village of Elk Run from about 1740 to 1776, began in earnest last summer. Following a winter hiatus, work will continue this spring. Photos of the work appear on the Web site.

Long neglected, the 100 foot by 100 foot plot was given to St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church near Catlett by the late Edward P. Browning, a descendant of the Rev. James Keith, who was Elk Run’s first rector.

Later this month, the committee will submit its application for a state historic marker for the site, which is located just off Elk Run Church Road. Dandar can be reached at his e-mail address, efdandar@us.net.


Elk Run Church Site will be preserved

October 20, 1999

Fauquier Times-Democrat, Wednesday, October 20, 1999 (with permission)

Last summer, members of the congregation of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church near Catlett, organized a committee to preserve the site of the old Elk run Church in southern Fauquier.

After conducting its initial research and accomplishing a number of its preliminary tasks, the committee is poised to commence its public campaign to raise money to begin the physical preservation work.

Richard Gookin, of Warrenton, has agreed to head the fund raising effort.


Built in the early 1740, Elk Run was the first Anglican Church established in the frontier of Northern Virginia. Until late in the 18th century, it was the center of the bustling village of Elk Run.

As growth spread westward and America won its independence from england, the church fell on hard times and was abandoned.

Eventually, only a pile of rubble remained, but it is still regarded as the “mother church” of all the Episcopal churches that were established later in the area.

The property was given to St. Stephen’s last July by the late Edward P. Browning, a descendant of the Rev. James Keith (1696-1753), the first rector. The gift was with the understanding that the 100-foot by 100-foot lot on Elk Run Church Road would be preserved for historic purposes.


“The preservation effort is being led the St. Stephen’s committee, in collaboration with St. James Episcopal Church in Warrenton and ecumenically with other churches in the region,” said Edward F. Dandar Jr., committee chairman.

According to Dandar, the required survey of the property has been completed, and research on the establishment of the church is ongoing.

Sources thus far include archivists in London contacted by committee member Michael Wade, and a request for assistance sent to historical researchers at the University of Virginia’s Alderman Library.

Also, members of the committee visited St. Thomas Episcopal Church (c. 1740) in Croom, Md. on Aug. 29 to get some idea of what the “cruciform design” Elk Run Church might have looked like.

Although St. Thomas was altered greatly over the years, Dandar said that committee members obtained much useful information from its historian, Frank Robinson.

As a result of that visit, Sarah Gulick, a young member of St. Stephen’s, prepared an initial artist’s rendering of what the Elk Run Church might have looked like. Her work will illustrate the fund rasing brochure that Gulick and Norman Williams are preparing.

High-tech research options are also beign considered. Dandar has contacted Geophysical Survey Systems Inc. to get an estimate of the cost of a “ground-penetrating radar survey” of the site, to accurately locate the old church foundation.

Pat Curry, an archaeologist working with the committee, will contact other similar companies for bids on the work.

Local historical research is being conducted by Jackie Lee, director of the Old Jail Museum in Warrenton, who is preparing a draft genealogy of the first Keith family. She is also trying to locate the Keith family Bible, thought to be in the hands of descendants still living in Virginia.

In addition, Lee has offered to contact the Virginia Historic Research Department to determine when the committee can apply for an official stat historic marker for the site.

With the site surveyed and property borders marked, the Virginia department of Transportation can begin work on the roadside pull-off soon, possibly as early as next week.

This was made possible through the efforts of Cedar Run Supervisor Wilbur Burton and Robert Flournoy, of Elk Run. Lane Metal Products of Bealeton has generously donated 50 feet of 15-inch culvert pipe.


Other assets planned for the site will include appropriate fencing and an interpretive sign explaining the significance of the church and outlining its history.

Dandar also plans to arrange for limited excavation of the site by college-level history students or archaeologists. He also hopes to publish a history of Elk Run.

But all of this will take time — and money. According to Dandar, completion of the basic preservation tasks is estimated to cost about $25,000.00.

Donations are tax-deductible. Checks can be made out and sent to: Treasurer, Elk Run Church Site Preservation Fund, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, 8538 Greenwich Rd., Catlett, Va. 20019.



Elk Run Church site will be saved

August 25, 1999

The Fauquier Times-Democrat, Wednesday, August 25, 1999 (with permission)

By John Toler, Times-Democrat Staff Writer

Through the generosity of an out-of-town landowner and the efforts of the congregation of St. Stephen’s Episcopal church near Catlett, the site of historic Elk Run Church will be preserved forever.

The chain of events began last December, when a neighboring property owner cleared the overgrown, 100-foot square property of trees, brush and debris.

Others living nearby complained to authorities that the site of Fauquier’s first Episcopal church — built around 1740 — should not have been disturbed, and that perhaps graves on the property had been desecrated.

The matter was investigated by the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office, and when the accusations could not be proven, the case was closed.

But the incident generated great interest in the site, which was owned by Edward Parry “Ned” Browning, of Winchester, a descendant of [The] Rev. James Keith (d. 1751), the first rector of Elk Run Church.

When contacted about the controversy, Browning was troubled by what had happened there, and expressed the desire to donate the property to a group or organization that would preserve the site.

Browning, a former assistant superintendent of Public Schools for the City of Winchester, had deep roots in Fauquier, and had once taught here. He had acquired the small plot from his aunt, the late Mrs. J. K. Browning, several years ago.


Initially, interest in preserving the property was expressed by members of the Fauquier Historical Society and St. James Episcopal Church in Warrenton.

The county of Fauquier was contacted through Cedar Run District Supervisor Wilbur Burton, who worked with the county attorney’s office on the deed search.

However, it was the congregation of St. Stephen’s that finally acted on Browning’s generous offer.

Edward F. Dandar Jr., chief historian of St. Stephen’s, became intrigued with the site, and contacted Jackie Lee, director of the Old Jail Museum, and Richard Gookin, chairman of St. James’ History Committee, who had been working to find a suitable custodian for the site since the issue arose.

Dandar discussed the current options with Lee and Gookin, and visited the property with other churchmen of St. Stephen’s.

Although only a mound of dirt and broken bricks and a lone tree now mark the site, Dandar was convinced it should be saved.

He contacted Browning earlier this year, and presented a proposal for preserving the site.

After serveral discussions, Browning approved Dandar’s plan, and on June 27, ownership of the property was passed to St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.


On Aug. 18, about 20 people attended a meeting at St. Stephen’s to learn more about the project, and offer their help and support.

Now known as the Elk Run Project, the effort focuses on the agreement signed with Browning, and other ideas still under development.

The preservation effort will include fencing the property, applying to the Virginia State Historic Resources Department to have the property designated as an historic site, and installing a traffic pull-off on Elk Run Church Road.

It was announced that a bid of $600.00 for surveying the site had been received for consideration.

Research work into the early history of the church has been started by St. Stephen’s Historical researcher Micheal Wade, who has contact The Rev. and Rt. Hon. Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, requesting information on the early establishment and operation of the Elk Run Church.

Also discussed were fund raising options to provide for the purchase of the roadside marker, when approved (about $1100.00); landscaping; interpretive sign; and the culvert pipe for the pull-off.

Future plans include a minor excavation of the site by the students of a Virginia college or university.

While those in attendance had anticipated thanking New Browning for his gift of the property in person at the meeting, that was not to be.

Browning died Aug. 4 after a long battle with cancer, at age 58.

In both the opening and closing prayers, the Rev. Roma Maycock, rector of St. Stephen’s, praised Browning for his generosity, kindness, and appreciation of history.



Church site benefactor dies

August 4, 1999

Edward Parry Ned Browning III

Elk Run Church Site Benefactor, Mr. “Ned” Browning, III dies 4 August 1999.

After a long battle with cancer, former Winchester Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Edward Parry “Ned” Browning, III, 58, died on August 4, 1999. He was a benefactor of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Catlett, Virginia by deeding the Elk Run Church Site in Fauquier County, Virginia to the Church on June 23, 1999 to be preserved as a historical site and held in perpetuity.

Ned was a professional educator who was in public education for the right reasons. He had a high regard for the impact of education in the lives of children. Browning’s focus was all about education — both the students and the teachers. Winchester educators state that their school system’s powerful staff development program probably is one of Browning’s crowning achievements.

Ned was very civic-minded and cared for our community tremendously. He was just a very sensitive person. He’d show that in the way he formed his ideas and the development of the staff and administration of the schools. Colleagues stated that he was the energizing type. He loved academic challenges and was a lover of the language.

Ned Browning was born on July 15, 1941, in Winchester, the son of Edward P. Browning Jr. and Marion Barkley Browning. He married Elizabeth Dent on Nov. 27, 1964, in Waynesboro, Ga. Surviving with his wife are two sons, Edward P. Browning IV of Winchester and John D. Browning of Harrisonburg; a daughter, Sarah B. Boone of Boone, N.C.; two sisters, Roberta B. Mason of Lynchburg and Elizabeth K. Browning of Richmond; and two grandchildren.

Ned Browning was a descendent of the Rev. James Keith, first Rector of the Elk Run Anglican Church and maternal grandfather of Chief Justice John Marshall.