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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.

            

Site Documentary Develops

June 24, 2007

On May 20, 2007, work on the Elk Run Church Site Video Documentary continued with the taping of the Aquia Church 1740’s Heritage Day Service which included some re-enactors that was used in part of the documentary. Documentary interviews continued on May 27 and June 4, 2007.

On June 24, the Elk Run Church Site Video Documentary was completed and shown for the first time on June 26 at the Conference in Williamsburg, Virginia on “Legacies and Promise: 400 Years of Anglican/Episcopal History.” The Video Documentary by Sarah Gulick and Professor Erdeljon of Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia, and presentations by Ed Dandar, Project Manager, and Archaeologist, Dr. John Eddins, were well received by the audience.

Top-Down Photos Taken

September 24, 2005

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

    

At Fauquier Church Site, Unearthing a Colony’s Past

August 9, 2004

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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.

                

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).

            

Chain of Title Researched

April 20, 2002

The Chain of Title research was completed in the Spring of 2002 and can be viewed by clicking here.

Circa 1750 Anglican Church Hidden Under Earth for 170 Years

April 9, 2002

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Pottery Fragments found at Elk Run

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Archaeologist John Eddins Records findings in a controlled excavation unit.

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Petrone & Associates use remote sensing technology to identify possible burial sites in the Elk run cemetery.

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Finding all of the corners of the foundation was the key to confirming rumors that the Elk run Church was indeed a cruciform design.

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Soil is carefully sifted so that tiny artifacts are not overlooked.

From The Virginia Episcopalian, April 2002 (with permission)

By Ed Dandar and Nancy Jenkins

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.

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. Until now, the only recorded description of the church was made by Bishop Meade who, in 1857, wrote that it was “a substantial brick church, cruciform, I believe. I am not certain that the roof was on it when I first saw it in 1811. Its walls continued for many years after this and I saw them gradually disappear during my annual visits to the conventions.” The Elk Run Church Site Preservation Committee, led by St. Stephen’s, Catlett in collaboration with St. James, Warrenton, is leading the archaeological effort to preserve this colonial church site. In June of 1999, Ned Browning, the owner of the property and descendant of the first rector Keith, approved of the preservation plan and donated the land to St. Stephen’s.

By exposing 95% of the intact foundation, 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.

Both Aquia and Elk Run Churches were built in the 1750s but while Aquia is still an active church today, Elk Run was abandoned sometime after 1806. After abandonment, the church fell into decay and some of its brick and wood was carried off for use in other structures. What remained fell into the earth and was eventually buried beneath pasture and cedar trees. Until now, the church foundation and artifacts had been hidden from view for about 170 years.

Community volunteers under the direction of volunteer archaeologist Dr. John Eddins, dug a total of 27 controlled excavation units between April 2000 and November 2001. Findings are plotted on a grid to help track their spatial relationships within the site. To date, found artifacts include handmade nails, ceramic dish fragments, 19th century coins and Indian arrowheads dating back 4000 years or more.

The team’s speculation about an adjacent cemetery was confirmed in December of 2000 with the discovery of the first grave. 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.

At the dedication of the historical marker in 2000, colonial church historian Carl Lounsbury of the Williamsburg Foundation said “I am deeply awed by all of you for creating history here. History is ambivalent. There are facts, but facts are useless until you make something of them. We know, and we knew for a long time, that there was an Elk Run Church and we had an idea that it might have been cruciform, but it is thanks to you and all your volunteers that have actually turned this into a reality. It will then integrate into a public memory of this place. It can only grow as time progresses.”

Using their knowledge of period architecture and the provided by the archaeology team, the Williamsburg Foundation will provide a computer drawing of how the church probably looked. The Preservation Committee is already raising funds to convert the property into County Historic Park Site where visitors can learn about the colonial church. To this end, they will soon outline the surface of the foundation with colonial brick.

The Committee also has an extensive Web site which includes historic maps, photos of the site and artifacts, and genealogical information. Contributions for this effort can be mailed to the Elk Run Church Site Preservation Committee, 8538 Greenwich Road, Catlett, Virginia 20119.

Ed Dandar is the Chairman of the Elk Run Preservation Committee and a member, of St. Stephen’s, Catlett.

            

First History Sign Installed

October 7, 2000

On October 7, 2000, the first Interpretative Sign frame for the history of Elk Run Village was installed.

Summer of Discovery at Elk Run

September 6, 2000

From The Fauquier Times-Democrat, Wednesday, September 6, 2000 (with permission)

By Edward Dandar

It was one year ago last month that members of the congregation of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Catlett were convinced that the site of the old Elk Run Anglican Church – the colonial “mother church” of the Episcopal churches in this region – should be saved.

The late Edward Parry Browning, III, a descendant of the Rev. James Keith, its first minister, donated the 100 ft. x 100 ft. lot to St. Stephen’s Church to be preserved as a historic site.

Since that time, a number of preservation tasks have been accomplished.

Beginning in late April 2000, a group of volunteers, assisted by volunteer archaeologist, Dr. John Eddins, has engaged in archaeological excavations at the site of the old Elk Run Church.

The dig participants have opened 19 excavation units of varying sizes, exposing sections of the stone foundation of the church, including a number of interior and exterior corners.

Much has been learned about the ancient church, and others like it. Historic documents and recent excavations have indicated that the Elk Run Church was a cruciform or cross-shaped building.

The relative positions of the exposed interior and exterior foundation corners as well as the uncovering of the entire south transept segment of the Church foundation validates the unique Greek-cross shape of the church.

At least two other 18th century pre-Revolutionary Anglican churches in northern Virginia, the Aquia Church and the Abingdon Church were built with cruciform plans.

Of the two, only Aquia Church is a true Greek-cross church, a variant of the cruciform shape with symmetrical and equally sized extensions on all sides. Rough measurements taken thus far of the uncovered Elk Run Church foundation strongly indicate that it is a smaller, but Greek-cross structure.

Both the Aquia and Elk Run Churches were built in the 1750s. While Aquia is still an active Church in Stafford County, Elk Run Church was abandoned sometime after 1806.

We are learning more about the fate of Elk Run Church. After abandonment, the building fell into decay, and the brick, wood, and other materials that made up the church were carried off for use in other structures in the area.

What remained fell into the earth and was eventually buried beneath pasture and cedar trees. The Church foundation and other artifacts have been hidden from view for about 170 years.

The main goal at this point in the project is exposure of the entire foundation, including the main walls, the North and South Transepts, any entrances, stairways, and other architectural features.

The excavators are also trying to recover any artifacts that would illustrate activity inside and outside the church. In many parts of the site, this has proven more difficult due to the amount of rubble from fallen walls, tree roots and other disturbances.

Historical research documentation submitted by the Preservation Committee to the Virginia Board of Historic Resources was approved in mid-June for an Elk Run Anglican Church Site Historical Highway Marker. A community ceremony is planned at the Elk Run Church Site for 21 October at 11 AM.

Our continuing research strongly indicates that a cemetery may have been adjacent to the Elk Run Church.

Permission to conduct archeological work on the adjoining property to confirm the existence of the cemetery has been granted by the property owners, William C. and Jacqueline E. Patton of Elk Run, Virginia. Archaeological search for the cemetery will begin later this fall.

Meanwhile, the elder Pattons, A.W. and Pheobe Patton, have given permission to the Preservation Committee for parking on their property across the road from the Church Site to accommodate parking for the highway marker dedication.

GROWING INTEREST

Artifacts uncovered thus far include: pieces of glass from the church windows, plaster fragments from the interior walls, locally made bricks of different color and composition, a large assortment of hand-made nails, broken ceramic dish fragments, a few pre-historic arrow heads, an 1841 dime, and buttons from possibly Colonial-era clothing.

All will eventually be cleaned and labeled and made available for display throughout the community.

Local citizens, Church youth groups and members, Boy Scouts, 4H Club, high school and college students, recent graduates, and out-of-state visitors have participated in this community historical project.

Others wishing to assist at the Elk Run site dig on Saturdays may call St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church Office at (540) 788-4252 to leave their name and phone numbers.

Additional project information, initial church foundation measurements, color photos of ongoing archaeological fieldwork and key events can be found at our new Web site address.

The site’s new Web master is David Buckwalter, a graduate of Liberty High School and a first year Freshman at Penn State University. Buckwalter has added some new features to help users navigate through the site’s holdings, including new information on genealogy discovered through Committee research, and the addition of some useful external links.

Donations to support and sustain this preservation effort can be mailed to Treasurer, Elk Run Church Site Preservation Fund, 8538 Greenwich Road, Catlett, Virginia 20119.

                    

Guest Historians Visit

August 30, 2000

On August 30, 2000, Carl R. Lounsbury and two associates from The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation visits the Elk Run Church Site to discuss its significance and contribution to Virginia’s Colonial Church History.