HUNT FOR HISTORIC PLANTATION TURNS UP CIVIL WAR FORT INSTEAD
Archaeologists combing an historic site in the northern Isle of Wight County haven't found a sought-after 17th-century plantation.
But they have made several other discoveries, including an Indian village and relics from a Civil War fort.
The plantation may be the first English settlement in the county. Capt. Christopher Lawne built it in 1619, but it was abandoned less than a year later. If found, it would serve as a "time capsule," said Randolph Turner, director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources' Portsmouth Office.
Local historians estimate the plantation is on about 1,550 acres of land in the county's northern tip. A developer, VA Timberline of Richmond, plans to build a 155-home subdivision on the property. County officials required the corporation to conduct an archaeological survey before construction.
The survey began in January. Archaeologists dug holes every 50 feet on the land and screened the dirt for artifacts. They found the village, fort relics, two early 17th-century structures and other objects ranging from pottery shards to a hand ax, said Dawn Reid of Archaeological Consultants of the Carolinas Inc., the survey's senior archaeologist.
The Civil War fort, named Fort Huger, was at Lawne's Creek. It's visible as earthen hills buried under century-old vegetation. The findings have excited some local historians.
"We can learn about the art of earth fortification from Fort Huger and how Confederates defended the capital," said John Quarstein, Virginia War Museum director.
The developer has agreed to donate 21.5 acres of the fort site to the county, along with another 50 acres for a park. A decision has not yet been made on whether to send archaeologists back to the land for more excavations and analysis.
Historians still hope to continue searching for the plantation. Isle of Wight Historical Society members have told the county they want the development's remaining 950 acres surveyed. The land consists primarily of wetlands and other open spaces where no construction is planned.
Historical Society members also have expressed a desire to have another 41 acres of state land searched. The land is next to the planned subdivision.
Expanding the survey area, however, will depend on the county's budget.
"We have to balance our priorities," said Richard MacManus, who represents Smithfield on the county Board of Supervisors. "It probably will come down to cash flow."
From The New & Advance, Lynchburg, VA, submitted by Chadwic T. Anderson, Bedford, VA.
AS LAKE DRAINS, SECRETS REVEALED
As the hulking metal skeleton of a Volkswagen bug peered out of receding Prospect Lake last week, Frank Kazee found his 14th gun nearby.
As the lake is becoming sand, it is revealing a prospector's paradise of guns, knives, class rings, even small German cars.
City officials and amateur sleuths are scratching their heads, wondering how so much trash got to the bottom of a 50-acre lake last drained in 1953.
"There's shotguns and rifles and everything coming up at that lake," said Kazee, a Colorado Springs, CO, resident who has been prospecting the sand with his metal detector since 1969.
Kazee has discovered 14 shotguns, handguns and rifles at the Memorial Park swimming hole since the water started receding in 2002. The city is draining Prospect Lake and wants to patch its leaks and refill it by next year.
The serial numbers have been filed off some of the guns, likely used to commit crimes, and most are too old to work.
Most items sprawled across the lake were trash and junk that hasn't seen the light in decades: an ice cube tray; a 45 rpm record with its label missing; and lots of empty pulltab cans.
The most curious item is the Volkswagen, with its rusted top and broken front window protruding from the water near the east side of the lake.
From The Gazette, submitted by Cheryl Fealy, Las Vegas, NV.
ENGLISHMAN FINDS ANCIENT TRINKET WITH METAL DETECTOR
An ornate trinket found in an English field by a metal detecting enthusiast is probably the missing part of an ancient gold necklace at the British Museum.
But the museum dismissed widespread speculation recently that the ornament belonged to Boudica, a British warrior queen who led a failed rebellion against the Romans nearly 2,000 years ago.
The chunky 2-inch-wide ring, decorated with a swirling motif, was discovered last week by Steve Hammond, 65.
"I have been metal detecting for 30 years and this is the most fantastic thing I have ever found," he told the Daily Mail.
Photos of the trinket appeared to show it is the missing end-ring, or terminal, of a gold torque found in Sedgeford 39 years ago that now belongs to the British Museum, museum spokeswoman Hannah Boulton said. A torque is a twisted metal necklace worn by ancient Teutons, Gauls and Britons.
The British Museum has hundreds of torques similar to the broken one found in Sedgeford, which curators believe was buried around 75 B.C. It is 7.3 inches long and "particularly ornate," Boulton said.
From the Chicago Sun-Times, submitted by Bob Bolek, Hometown, IL.
MONUMENT HONORS "CAPTAIN" PORTWOOD
Page Portwood Jr. may have been a lieutenant, but you could call him "captain."
After all, as local residents Lynn Fox and Sam Jennings pointed out, John Sevier and Isaac Shelby reportedly told each soldier at the battle of Kings Mountain to "be your own captain."
Portwood fought not overseas in Iraq, but on American soil. He was a soldier in the 7th Virginia Regiment in 1792.
The local John Rice chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution has placed a gravestone at the cemetery where Portwood's grave is said to be located, the Hill Cemetery in a wooded area of South Clinton. Recently the monument was formally dedicated, and Portwood remembered with words and color guards, a current one and one reminiscent of the American Revolution.
The public is invited to visit the old cemetery located in South Clinton next to Bea J's Antiques, 511 Clinch Ave.
The Sons found out about Portwood through the man's many-times great-grandson, John Isaac Portwood died in April before his ancestor's marker could be placed.
The Sons chapter purchased the marker, a move that Jennings called "plain paid-out patriotism by the club."
Members of the local Sons chapter and Norris resident Nellie Harshbarger, dressed in period costume for the occasion, as did Fox, and Lloyd Farrar, gathered at the cemetery recently to work near the marker and an old gravestone.
The gravestone is located next to the marker, a gravestone that looks like a simple stone jutting out of a grave because of the effects of time and weather. The Sons said they think the stone could be that of Portwood's son, although it could be Portwood's grave itself. It is probably a Portwood, they said, calling attention to the other Portwood graves in the cemetery.
According to information handed out by Fox, Portwood was born in 1758 to Page and Ann Portwood of Fincastle, Virginia. He married Sarah Frost and the couple had five children, Micajah, Phebe, Nancy, Rachel and Richard.
Portwood was recruited to fight in the war at Boonesborough, Kentucky, by George Rogers Clark and became a sergeant after receiving special training. After serving through Clark's expedition, he served as a lieutenant in 1792. He was granted a pension in 1832.
Fox said Portwood's family said they always heard that he was called "captain," but no documentation could be found to support the higher military rank.
Portwood moved to Anderson County before 1802 because he is listed on the 1802 tax list. A major portion of South Clinton was the site of his farm, according to the Sons. Portwood died in January 1847 and the cemetery where he is buried is near his old home site.
From The Oak Ridger, submitted by John H. Wadsworth, Oak Ridge, TN.
BAG SLUNG OVER CONFEDERATE'S SHOULDER HOLDS UNION HISTORY
Confederate Pvt. Oscar Chappell didn't much care who owned the knapsack he found on a Virginia battlefield 140 years ago. He just needed something to carry his stuff.
But for his great-grandson, finding out the name of the Union sharpshooter who abandoned the bag after he was surrounded on Sept. 30, 1864, would be a fitting end to a remarkable tale.
The knapsack is one of just five known to remain. It was government-issued, cost $3.50 and belonged to a member of the Berdan Sharpshooters, a unit of elite marksmen, said David Moore, an amateur historian who has done extensive research into the group.
The knapsack has been in South Carolina's Confederate Relic Room and Museum since at least 1904, when Oscar Chappell donated it. But it got mislabeled and it was nearly a century before the group found out about it.
"Museums have large collections. Things get buried away or misidentified. Then the pieces get put together and you find an amazing relic like the one you have here," said Moore, an education professor at North Georgia College and State University.
The remaining mystery is who owned the knapsack. A name is stenciled in black letters on the inside flap, but it is illegible to the naked eye after decades of weathering. Chappell probably picked up the bag after its owner had cut the straps and run off, Moore said.
A NASA scientist who also is a historian interested in the Berdan Sharpshooters took infrared photos of the bag recently. The ink often used back then shows up better under the special light, Art Ruitberg said.
The results are promising. "Sgt." can be made out easily. Several other letters show up well under the light even before the pictures are put into a computer for further processing.
"You can't read the name directly, but if you go down the roster, you might be able to match it," Ruitberg said as he prepared to set up another camera to take more pictures.
Jim Chappell, 56, watched Ruitberg carefully. He still lives in his great-grandfather's house on 400 acres about 20 miles north of Columbia, and he even wrote a song about his ancestor based on stories he heard growing up.
But he hadn't known the knapsack existed until Moore called him several weeks ago.
Oscar Chappell enlisted in the Confederate army in 1864 at age 17. He was assigned to a unit of Confederate sharpshooters and found the bag in Jones Creek, Virginia, as his fellow soldiers tried to keep the Union out of Petersburg and Richmond, Jim Chappell said.
He kept the knapsack even after he was captured in April 1865 and put in a Union prison. Once he was released, he was taken to Charleston, about 100 miles from his home, according to Moore. The professor researched Oscar Chappell in his efforts to find out who owned the knapsack.
"Oscar walked home barefooted, carrying that knapsack," Moore said.
Moore and Jim Chappell have become fast friends in just a few weeks, even though one is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the other belongs to the Sons of Union Veterans.
"The respect between two people whose ancestors were adversaries has been very heartwarming to me," Jim Chappell said.
Chappell has invited Moore and his Union friends to his farm so sharpshooter re-enactors from both sides in the Civil War can camp and swap stories.
"It would be a neat thing for the fun and honor of ancestors to have a competition between Union and Confederate sharpshooters," Moore said.
From The Roanoke Times, submitted by Chad T. Anderson, Bedford, VA.