Monday, December 4, 2023

Colonial Williamsburg Archaeology Helps Oak Grove Baptist Restore Historic Cemetery

The steps at the bottom of this make-shift monument belonged to the original church site, according to Gary. (WYDaily/Gabrielle Rente)

ROCHAMBEAU DRIVE — Nestled in a shady grove of massive oak trees, a little cemetery humbly sits within eyesight of construction along Route 64.

Oak Grove Cemetery has sat in decay for decades, with the occasional dedicated volunteer from Oak Grove Baptist to come and maintain the gravesites. Trees were overgrown, many graves left unmarked. The site was lacking the attention it required.

Since early 2020, Colonial Williamsburg Archaeology has pitched in to help Oak Grove Baptist Church restore the property, installing a fence around the perimeter and mapping as well as recording every possible gravesite.

“It’s been very rewarding to work on this project,” said Director of Archaeology for Colonial Williamsburg Jack Gary. “It feels very good to be out interacting with the community.”

The land was bought by church members in 1901 and included a building where services were held. In 1914, the congregation moved to its current location off Waller Mill Road, but the cemetery was still used for burials.

In 1943, the federal government declared eminent domain over the land in order to develop Camp Peary. In 1975, the federal government and Colonial Williamsburg participated in a property swap for 213 acres in the area. The foundation later gifted the land, where the cemetery sits, back to the church, in 2003.

Click through the photo gallery for a closer look at Oak Grove Cemetery.


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