Retired educators get glimpse of Gloucester’s buried history
Members of the Gloucester Retired Educators’ Association learned about many different facets of Gloucester history during the group’s meeting last Thursday at Timberneck Farm Estates.
Thane Harpole, archaeologist with the Fairfield Foundation of Gloucester, spoke to the group about the latest findings around Gloucester’s colonial courthouse and some of the other projects that are underway.
Harpole started out by showing the retired educators a slide of Gloucester Point, which was known in the colonial era as "Gloucester Town." He said this area of the county has remained the most heavily populated area since the 1700s. "It was well developed," Harpole said, "but not quite as extensive as Yorktown."
Moving north to Gloucester Court House, Harpole said less is known about how populated this part of the county was. Known as "Botetourt Town," he said much excitement was stirred up recently when three different foundations were found near the present-day colonial courthouse, which was built in 1776.
Harpole said he and fellow archaeologist Dave Brown were hired by the county to monitor the construction work going on around the court circle, to be on the lookout for artifacts that might be found in the area. "The first couple of weeks, there was nothing to talk of," Harpole said. "We thought we were getting off easy."
However, all of a sudden, one of the workers came across the side of what was found to be a 20’-by-16’ brick wall. Harpole said it was believed to be a pretty good-sized building for the time and expects it was either a house or a tavern.
He said the bricks are about three inches below the curbing that was installed around the court circle in the 1930s. "The wall goes underneath the curb straight to the courthouse," he said. "Then it stops just short of that building."
"Our best guess is that this building was gone prior to 1776 or was moved to build the (present-day) courthouse," Harpole added. He said the structure was made to hold weight and the bricks used for the foundation were wide and did not go deep into the soil.