Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Original Structure and 23 Burials Discovered at First Baptist Church Excavation Site

First Baptist Church on Nassau Street Archaeology Project (WYDaily/Gabrielle Rente)
First Baptist Church on Nassau Street Archaeology Project (WYDaily/Gabrielle Rente)

COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG — Excavations are well underway at the site of First Baptist Church on the corner of Nassau Street.

It has been nearly a year since Colonial Williamsburg (CW) archaeologists have started their search for the church’s original pre-1818 foundation.

So far, archaeologists have found thousands of individual artifacts, including an inkwell, buttons, and pottery fragments. Also uncovered was the foundation to the 1856 church, last excavated in 1957.

Since then, the archaeological team, lead by CW Director of Archaeology, Jack Gary, have discovered 23 potential grave sites.

According to Gary, the grave sites, located at the edges of the excavation area, look like rectangular stains in the soil. The clay is a more yellow-orange color, which occurs when soil is dug up and then put back in the ground. The rectangles are also in various sizes, with the smaller ones indicating the possibility of a child burial.

While there are no permanent markers to suggest who might be buried in the plots, the location as well as oral history suggests that they were members of the church’s congregation.

“There still is a lot more work to be done,” Gary said. “We have not fully excavated the site, so the more we expand the area where we’re digging, we may find more burials.”

The team is currently working on a portion of brick paving that may be associated with original foundation. If parts below the paving are shown to date back to the 1700s, then it would suggest the paving is part of the original foundation.

While the remains of the church’s earliest structure have been uncovered, Gary said that they plan to use the total 18 months that have been allocated for the project.

“That’s the thing about archaeology,” Gary said. “You never know what you’re going to find.”

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