Graves at Williamsburg’s First Baptist Church Will Be Excavated

Virginia First Baptist ChurchWILLIAMSBURG, VIRGINIA—The Daily Press reports that the descendant community from the current First Baptist Church congregation voted unanimously to excavate three of the 41 grave shafts identified at the original First Baptist Church site, which is located on South Nassau Street at the edge of Colonial Williamsburg. The congregation was started by free and enslaved African Americans in 1776, and met at the site from 1818 to 1956, when Colonial Williamsburg was founded and the congregation moved to another location. One of the graves to be exhumed was marked with an upside-down wine bottle—the only grave marker found so far. Archaeologists will look for human remains, try to determine when they were buried, and if conditions allow, remove the bones for study at William & Mary to determine age at death, stature, injuries, illnesses, stresses, and places of origin. The researchers also plan to collect samples for DNA testing. Any artifacts recovered from the graves will be cleaned and catalogued at Colonial Williamsburg, and will eventually be reinterred along with the remains on the original site. To read about a community established by enslaved African Americans seeking their freedom, go to “Letter from Virginia: Free Before Emancipation.”


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