The 1608 church was a post-in-ground building measuring 64 feet by 24 feet. Named one of 2010’s 10 most significant archaeological discoveries in the world by Archaeology Magazine, the church was where Powhatan’s favored daughter Pocahontas married John Rolfe on April 5, 1614.

Captain John Smith described the church as “a homely thing like a barne, set upon Cratchets.” The church was constructed in early 1608 following a fire that devastated much of the fort, but this structure fell into disrepair during the severe winter of 1609-1610 known as the “starving time.” After the governor, Lord De La Warr, arrived in June 1610 and the colony began to stabilize, the church was restored. Secretary of the colony William Strachey documented it: “In the middest [of the fort] is a…pretty chapel…. It is in length threescore foot, in breadth twenty-four, and shall have a chancel in it of cedar….”

Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologists found the post-in-ground structure in the location Strachey described, and the dimensions of the archaeological footprint nearly matched his record of the building’s size. A 1608 Spanish spy map shows a small cross-like symbol positioned within James Fort in the same location as this earthfast structure, providing yet another indication that this was the church. Furthermore the presence of four graves in the building’s east end, or chancel, leave little doubt to the building’s identity.

The church stood until about 1617, by which time it was once again in poor condition. Between 1617 and 1619 Governor Samuel Argall had the inhabitants of Jamestown build a new church “50 foot long and twenty foot broad” to the east of the original 1608 church. Over the course of the 17th century several more churches would be built in this new location, to the east of the original 1608 church.

This illustration of the 1608 church hovers over the archaeological site of the church, excavated by Jamestown Rediscovery in 2011.

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