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A feeding frenzy for archaeologists in downtown Charlottesville

About 10,000 artifacts were found at the site of Charlottesville's original tavern
Jeff Werner
About 10,000 artifacts were found at the site of Charlottesville's original tavern

Jack Jouet has been called the Paul Revere of the South. In 1781 he rode more than 40 miles to warn members of the legislature and the retiring governor, Thomas Jefferson, that British troops were planning to arrest them. The Virginians had already fled from Richmond to Charlottesville, where Jouet’s father ran a tavern called The Swan.

“Daniel Boone was part of this group, Patrick Henry, certainly Thomas Jefferson, so it was kind of a revolutionary who’s who,” says Jeff Werner, the city’s historic preservation officer.

“Remember the city was established in the 1760’s, so what’s being uncovered at that site. I’ve been referring to it as Charlottesville Day One.”

He’s been watching as a team of archaeologists began searching land near the old Swan Tavern site – looking for human remains. According to local legend, John Jouet was buried there. They did not find his grave, but Werner says they confirmed another bit of oral history.

“In 1808 or 1810 the barkeeper was murdered and thrown into the well. They found that well.”

And about ten thousand pieces of history from buildings and trash heaps on the site.

“The little orange flags people see when they go by, there’s 350 of them or more, and those represent something that has to be looked at,” Werner explains.

In addition to three paid experts, archaeologists from Monticello and a number of volunteers joined the hunt.

“Even when they hit the end of their contractual agreement with the county, the archaeologists felt this was such an important site that they actually continued working for several weeks voluntarily.”

They have now finished their work – leaving with 30 five-gallon buckets of artifacts, and Werner is seeking funds to study them and produce an in-depth report.

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief