The Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation board of trustees has established the Dr. William M. and Ellen B. Kelso Fund for Archaeology in recognition of Dr. and Mrs. William Kelso’s years of dedication to Jamestown over the past quarter-century. The discovery of the fort and subsequent excavations have forever changed what we know about our nation’s founding and earliest years. The fund will support continued archaeology and related scholarly research, as well as the preservation of James Fort structures illuminating the history that archaeology at Jamestown has revealed. In addition, the fund will enable Dr. Kelso to complete and publish his newest book, “Jamestown: Remains to be Seen.”
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As a graduate student at the College of William and Mary in nearby Williamsburg, Kelso was well aware of the story of the lost fort at Jamestown; but he was skeptical. Colony secretary William Strachey wrote that “a pretty chapel” stood “in the middest” of the fort. Based on the rationale “once sacred ground, always sacred ground,” Kelso theorized that a later church would have been built in the same place—near the center of the fort—and the ruinous, 17th-century brick church tower on Jamestown Island was his primary evidence.
On April 4, 1994, Kelso began the Jamestown Rediscovery Project. Within just three archaeology seasons, he uncovered enough evidence to prove the remains of James Fort did indeed survive on dry land near the church tower. In the incredible years of discovery that followed, he built a talented team of archaeologists, curators, historians, and support staff who have recovered and conserved more than three million artifacts and features.
While Dr. Kelso has spent innumerable hours in the field, always seeking to unearth more of Jamestown’s hidden secrets, his wife Ellen, affectionately referred to by staff and friends as the “Mayor of Jamestown,” has been equally committed to this special place. Her knowledge of Jamestown and its early settlers is as extensive as Bill’s, traveling alongside him and assisting on countless research trips both in the U.S. and abroad. For almost three decades, Ellen and Bill have devoted their life together to Jamestown.