Archaeology Blogs

DHR, Jamestown Rediscovery, and Germanna Foundation Conduct Field Investigation at Little Fork Church in Culpeper County

Little Fork Church survey

By Brad McDonald | All photos courtesy of the author.


In March 2023, DHR completed an archaeological investigation at the Little Fork Church located near the village of Rixeyville in Culpeper County. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969, the church is one of the few remaining examples of a house of worship from the colonial period in the Virginia Piedmont. Although the current structure was built between 1774 and 1776, church records indicate this locale was used for religious purposes as far back as the 1730s.


The historic church is characterized by an 80-foot-long rectangular plan constructed of Flemish-bond masonry walls with a hipped roof. The building retains a high degree of exterior and interior architectural integrity and is maintained today by an active Episcopal community in the area. The recent survey effort at the church consisted of a small archaeological investigation within an open field to the east of the churchyard. The goal was to locate artifacts and subsurface cultural features that may be associated with the historic occupation of the property, as well as evidence of earlier occupation by Native American tribal communities during the prehistoric period.



In addition to the shovel testing survey, the research team employed the use of ground-penetrating radar (GPR) technology to identify and locate potential cultural features within various areas of the property. Given the potential for unmarked burials in the churchyard and other sensitive features, GPR survey offers a non-invasive way to pinpoint specific locations of significant archaeological deposits. These deposits denote areas to avoid or save for a more focused archaeological investigation in the future. GPR survey for this project was completed in the field to the east of the church as well as within the churchyard itself.



DHR staff who assisted with the project included: Mike Clem (Eastern Region Archaeologist), Joanna Wilson Green (Cemetery Archaeologist), Jess Hendrix (Tribal Outreach Coordinator), Brad McDonald (Easement Stewardship Archaeologist), and Karri Richardson (Easement Program Specialist). Given the scale of this investigation, DHR also collaborated with the staff of Jamestown Rediscovery and the Germanna Foundation to complete the survey effort.


Little Fork Church
Brad McDonald (DHR) conducting GPR survey in the east field.

From Jamestown Rediscovery, David Givens (Director of Archaeology), who is an expert in the use of GPR technology for archaeological applications, led the remote sensing portion of the survey. While data collected over the two-day investigation is still being processed, David’s expertise proved to be an excellent educational and training opportunity for the other members of the project team. From the Germanna Foundation, Dr. Eric Larsen (Director of Archaeology), Kelly Arford-Horne (Archaeology Site Director), and Mariana Zechini (Staff Archaeologist) provided invaluable assistance with the shovel testing program. DHR wishes to thank everyone from Jamestown Rediscovery and the Germanna Foundation that assisted with this effort. The project would not have been the success it was without their help.


Lastly, a special thanks to Rev. Stacy Williams-Duncan, Don Stockton, and the entire Little Fork Church community for their knowledge, support, and hospitality (and food!) during the fieldwork and throughout the planning process, which began in August 2022, the time the project was first conceived. It was a pleasure to work with such a talented team of researchers and to meet the stakeholders of this project who are part of the church and local community. We look forward to continuing to work with Little Fork Church as they develop their long-term plans for the property.

Little Fork Church
Little Fork Church in Culpeper County.

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