Soon after the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA) acquired their portion of Jamestown Island in 1893, they protected the shoreline from further erosion, preserved the church tower, and excavated the church’s foundations. Once the Jamestown Committee had stabilized the tower, APVA founder Mary Jeffery Galt, Mary Winder Garrett, and Annie Galt led the excavations of the church and churchyard. That the first Jamestown excavations were led by women is particularly extraordinary for the late 19th century, when it was still considered socially unacceptable for women to even publicly advocate for an organization such as theirs.
A majority of the information learned about those previous excavations has surfaced during the course of Jamestown Rediscovery’s 2016–2018 church investigation. Archaeologists have found pencils from their notetaking, and even uncovered a 1901 time capsule left by the women for future excavators. (In honor of this find, a second time capsule was buried in the Memorial Church in 2019.) These women, although amateurs, were truly striving to understand the sequence of the churches that stood on this location. Archaeologists have found that much of what is described in the reports was left undisturbed, providing a chance for today’s researchers to study the evidence of the churches using modern techniques and technology. The Jamestown Rediscovery team has tested some areas of the church, but will also leave others intact for future archaeologists.