Henricus Historical Park is endeavoring to find the original site of the Citie of Henricus. An early theory was that the original site—as it probably stood at the narrow part of the land in the curve of the James River at Dutch Gap—was probably demolished in the digging of the Dutch Gap Canal by Union General Benjamin Butler during the Civil War in 1864. Other theories included the thought that the site stood at a different spot or near a different bend in the river. Several test pits were dug over the Park more than 10 years ago, but yielded very little. Our current archaeological work is due to an extensive look at maps and existing records that indicate that the original site of the fort itself might still be present, but perhaps buried deep beneath the soil that was excavated during the digging of the Dutch Gap Canal — under the present location of Henricus Historical Park.
Work began about four years ago and has grown to include GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) testing to locate building walls underneath the soil; test trials to locate these have begun. A partnership with Longwood University’s Department of Anthropology is ongoing.
So far, early GPR readings have hinted at potential walls located deep beneath the surface. Test pits have so far revealed only mixed era materials of both early Virginia Indian and possibly of late colonial era and of Civil War materials. Nothing yet has been found “in situ” or in its original place.
Why are we looking for the Citie of Henricus? Its place in early American history is an important one. It was possibly the site of much of what happened with early American government, economic development, of Indian and English interactions and by important figures in history – Pocahontas, Powhatan, Sir Thomas Dale, Alexander Whitaker. Being able to pinpoint its original location will help to firm up its existence and its importance – to add to the history of the Age of Exploration and the development of the American experience.
Today, we are continuing our search for Henricus; we also provide public education regarding Archaeology: our Archaeology Spring Break Camp, our middle school program People in Environment, our inclusion of the archaeological method in our teacher training sessions on primary sources and through our yearly Archaeology Lectures. Currently, three staff members, including a trained Field Archaeologist, are leading this joint effort with Longwood University.