JAMESTOWN — The Historic Virginia Land Conservancy (HVLC) held a reception at the Church on the Main, 2604 Gilbert Loop, on Sept. 23 to celebrate the preservation of a Colonial Era church and cemetery that was almost lost to land development several times over the last several centuries.
HLVC’s Executive Director Patrice Sadler gave a brief timeline of the historic site and its development as a landmark. She was followed by James City County Supervisor John J. McGlennon and archeologist Alain Outlaw.
The Church on the Main was first constructed around 1750 and it served as the replacement Anglican Church after its predecessor on Jamestown Island proved too difficult to access when the James River flooded the surrounding roads.
The Church was an important landmark during the American Revolution as it marked the right flank of the British army during the Battle of Green Spring in July of 1781.
In the years after the Revolution, the Church and cemetery that contained over 200 graves were gradually abandoned. By the 1850s, the church building was torn down and the property converted into farm land.
In more recent history, the land immediately surrounding the Church on the Main was built up into the Pointe at Jamestown subdivision.
During his remarks, Outlaw noted that it was a miracle that in the many decades of farm work that was done on that site, the graves and remnants of the church were not completely destroyed.
When Outlaw began conducting archeological studies in the area around the Church in 1975, there was no visible evidence to suggest that there was anything of historic significance. What he did have were colonial documents and maps that made reference to the structure and cemetery.
In the years since, the land has yielded several discoveries, including that of Patriot soldier who was killed in action during the Battle of Green Spring.
In 1999 the site came under the protection of the HVLC. Since then, Outlaw and a group of volunteers, including local Scout Troop 103, have worked to beautify the area while also calling attention to its historical significance by placing historical markers and arranging for the sites regular maintenance with James City County.
Since concluding the archeological studies on the site, the HVLC has overseen the placement of the markers designating where the foundation of the church was/is. It also installed benches in a church configuration, which has allowed the site to play host to weddings and other community gatherings.
“In the early years is was very physical work to recapture this property from obscurity and neglect,” Outlaw said to the crowd. “Clearing brush, literally blazing trails, building bridges with numerous Eagle Scout and community service projects. With that work done, we can no focus on maintenance and community education.”
For more information on Historic Virginia Land Conservancy and its various projects click this link.