A Pretty Chapel

In 2010, archaeological excavations located the first substantial church built at Jamestown. It was here that Powhatan’s favored daughter, Pocahontas, married John Rolfe in April 1614. Captain John Smith described an earlier crudely-built church as “a homely thing like a barne, set upon Cratchets.” After that that church was destroyed by fire in January 1608, it was replaced by the recently rediscovered church in the spring of that same year, as documented by Secretary of the colony William Strachey: “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…”

Archaeological excavations unearthed the remains of a large post-in-ground building, which was identified by the spacing of several major structural posts matching the dimensions of the church recorded by Strachey. This location also matches Strachey’s description of the church as being positioned in the midst of the fort. A 1608 Spanish spy map shows a small cross-like symbol positioned in the same location as this earthfast structure, yet another indication that this was the 1608 church.

Four grave shafts have been uncovered positioned in the eastern end, or chancel, of the structure, the place traditionally reserved in Anglican Churches for the burial of high-status individuals. Additional analyses have identified these men as early founders of Jamestown: Reverend Robert Hunt, Captain Gabriel Archer, Sir Ferdinando Wainman, and Captain William West.

 

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