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Digging for buried history
Archaeological dig aims at re-creating farm where James Monroe was born

 Helen Marie Taylor and Lee Wouters walk on the property located near Colonial Beach.
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Date published: 7/8/2006

• Photos by REBECCA SELL

The Free Lance-Star

A RE-CREATION of James Monroe's birthplace in Westmoreland County will begin with shovel holes in the ground next month.

That's when archaeologists from the College of William & Mary say they will begin digging test holes in search of artifacts at the 70-acre site near Colonial Beach.

The test holes may help locate structures that were on the property when President James Monroe was born there in 1758, said G. William Thomas Jr., president of the James Monroe Memorial Foundation.

Archaeologists Joseph B. Jones and David W. Lewes met Thursday with Thomas and other foundation officials at the wooded tract south of Colonial Beach on State Route 205.

"It's a fantastic site," said Jones, director of William & Mary's Center for Archeological Research. "It's not as densely vegetated as we expected."

Jones was a member of the W&M archaeological team that explored the 550 acres of the George Washington Birthplace National Monument in 1997 and 1998. That work, he said, "will give us expectations of what we might find at the Monroe site just a few miles away."

Last year, the Monroe foundation signed a 99-year lease with Westmoreland County for 10 acres of the site where the foundation hopes to build a replica of the Monroe farm.

The county plans to develop a park on the rest of the property, complete with a small visitors center that will look like a brick tobacco barn.

Archaeologists in 1976 discovered the foundations of the modest house where the fifth president was born. A 19th-century etching of the house also exists.

Monroe lived there until he was 16. The school he attended was nine miles away. Future Chief Justice John Marshall was a classmate.

It was also in the Westmoreland woods where Monroe honed his skills as an outdoorsman that served him well as a soldier in the Revolution and later.

At 16, Monroe left his Westmoreland home to attend the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg. He never again lived in the county of his birth.

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