Friday, March 26, 2010

John Clayton's Office

This week's Gazette Journal has a fascinating article about an archaeological dig going on here in Mathews near downtown Dutton, home of Dutton post office and *_________.

* Insert sounds of crickets here, followed by the lonely howls of a wolf, because there's not much more to Dutton than Route 198 and some pine trees, which by the way also describes the rest of Mathews County, give or take a few convenience stores and several thriving herds of killer fiddler crabs.

The front-page article begins:

Tucked away in the northwest corner of Mathews County, an archaeological gem is being uncovered that is of great historical significance to Gloucester County history, the region’s colonial period and much more.

Hmmm. I imagine it's also significant to Mathews County, no? For now we're not talking about the fact that Mathews was once part of Gloucester, and this site has to do with Gloucester Court House. We're merely talking about how if something of significance is happening in the northwest part of Mathews County--that was once Gloucester County--and a train leaves Gloucester County traveling 30 miles per hour towards the Clayton archaeological dig in Dutton, does it technically wind up in Mathews County or Gloucester County, and how many of you wish you were flinging your bodies across those train tracks rather than going any further with this ADD-generated sentence?

"Archaeologists Bob and Lisa Harper, co-directors of the project, began an in-depth study of the site, which served as Gloucester County Clerk’s office between 1720 and 1773 under the direction of John Clayton. Pete and Barbara R., owners of the property, had questions about the archaeological potential of the property after finding exposed foundations in their yard."

If like most of the planet you're unfamiliar with John Clayton, don't worry. The only reason we around here recognize the name is because Rte. 14 is named for him, and some of us pass a historical marker 4,000 times a day so many times that we consider John a member of the family. That historical marker on Route 3/Windsor Road says:

John Clayton: One and a half miles north is the site of his home “Windsor” where he developed an excellent Botanical Garden. He was first president, Virginia Society for the promotion of useful knowledge, and clerk of Gloucester County from 1722 until his death in 1772. His Herbarium Specimens, some still preserved in the British Museum, were the basis of “Flora Virginia,” compiled by Gronovius with the collaboration of Linnaeus and originally published at Leyden in 1739.

The Gazette article continues (and I'm paraphrasing):

The Harpers recently conducted a five-year-long dig of Clayton’s home, just a mile from the site of Old Office...Clayton, a botanist, stopped by the Old Office each day to check things over while his assistant clerk wrote most of the form manuscripts by hand daily.

...Harper said 17th century artifacts have been recovered from the site. Four are copper-alloy buckles, of English manufacture, and dated between 1630 and 1650 A.D. Another is an offset strap bar for a sword belt...

...According to Harper, the Old Office is one of the most significant archaeological sites in Virginia today. "When one considers that the Old Office is a multi-component site that encompasses the entire gamut of occupation, from pre-contact Native American to 1900 farmsteading, and with a public building site, it is without parallel in the Middle Peninsula for archaeological exploration," he said.

Harper said that an 18th century clerk’s office is so rare, that only two have ever been explored unaltered in the whole of Virginia archaeology. Both sites, he said, post-date Old Office by almost a century.

All this is going on right down the road in downtown Dutton?

Who knew.

Tell me anything you know about John Clayton, his memorial highway, botany or archaeology. Or, just tell me what your plans are for the weekend.

Happy Friday.


Ann Marie said...

well for the weekend I plan on recovering from the torture chamber I am visiting at 1 pm today to do something about the torture I have lived with for two years now. (not referring to the thighs that rub together)
I plan on walking tomorrow morning first thing cause I don't have to worry about children and school buses and all of that.. then I plan on nothing.. complete nothingness.. take it as it comes!

Caution Flag said...

Chauffeuring children so that they social lives don't suffer,

an iced capp from Tim Horton's

trying a new church

making sure no one steals the new rocking chairs from my porch.

Mental P Mama said...

I love stuff like must be the southern girl in me...and I got nothin' else. Might go into NYC on Sunday for a little brunch. But I won't torture you with that;)

Mrs F with 4 said...

Well, I know more about John Clayton than I did five minutes ago!

The weekend? Well, it's my birthday, so the children are apparently planning something 'special'!

Anonymous said...

The only John Clayton I know or know anything about is John Clayton Miller the one from Port Haywood with 3 sisters and was in the same grade with your middle sis.

Anonymous said...

Hey anonymous, that's John Claiborne Miller (I probably spelled that wrong because I'm thinking of Liz Claiborne....his is probably Clayborn). I think he was named after his Dad. We "went together" for bit. Anyway....

This weekend middle sis is going to watch one of her tennis team's lines play tonight at 7pm. Then tomorrow doing the Easter Egg Hunt for the neighborhood kids. Then getting out in the great weather for the afternoon. Then going to see .38 Special play at Wild Bill's. Then on Sunday, playing tennis....unless it rains, which it probably will.

-Middle Sis

big hair envy said...

This weekend I am going to DIE knowing that Middle Sis is going to see .38 Special, and I am not:/

Trisha said...

I have no knowledge to share with you and I have no plans for the weekend. Maybe I will get outside and pull some weeds from my flowerbeds!

Daryl said...

"..promotion of useful knowledge.." I like that, its worthy of a sampler .. another ancient art no one cross stitches anymore .. today a sampler is most likely thought of as free test run of something from Sephora or Kiehls

WV: malinte .. Spanglish for what happens when lint goes rogue

Daryl said...

Oh and I am meeting the Duchess for brunch on Sunday!!!!

WV: waina .. do not waina, for we will all be together in a few months

Diane said...

I did not know those roving bands of fiddler crabs were killers. This cast a whole new light on my upcoming visit! They don't creep into bedrooms and serenade folks sleeping on daybeds do they?

Meg @ Soup Is Not A Finger Food said...

.38 Special? .38 Special??? Where are they playing??

I'll be covering for the hubs while he attends a work event early tomorrow morning... and Sunday's a big church day (Palm Sunday) and in between, probably watching a lot of NCAA Men's hoops. And, if it stays this freakin' cold, we'll build a fire in the fireplace.

Love the history lessons here!

Anonymous said...

Going to play Survivor....really. Hubby has a friend who puts on this great survivor game once a year with the bandanas, games and tribal council. Can't wait. Just hope I'm not the first one voted off!

Happy Birthday Mrs F with 4


Chesapeake Bay Woman said...


Anonymous said...

I could tell you some great stories about Cousin Octavia who grew up at the Office Farm! Maybe I'll get a chance to write you something soon!


Anonymous said...

Hi. I'm Bob Harper, the archaeologist working at Old Office. I found your site and appreciate your talking about the dig. Any chance to get someone to acknowledge John Clayton existed is my goal. We have tried to get Mathews County interested in the site, but many seem to feel that if it existed for Gloucester it can stay in Gloucester. Wish it was not that way, but we have offered tours to anyone in Mathews interested, to speak at the Historical Society and to loan artifacts to Mathews, but to no avail. We were however, the first speakers for the newly formed Archaeological Society of VA chapter in Mathews. We are just trying to keep the memory of John Clayton alive as he "laid the foundation for modern American botany." If anyone has questions or would like to see the site my emai is or you can call me at (804) 693 - 5076 or (804 694 - 4712. Thanks again, Bob Harper

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm one of the granddaughters of the Pete and Barbara R. mentioned in this article. :) Thanks for posting this! I've seen the excavation firsthand, and it's exciting to hear more people are expressing interest in Mr. Clayton and the site.

scott davidson said...

Very effective stylization of the attractive woman, absorbed in her sewing. Nice flowing purple cloth leading into the distance. Quite different, and somehow the same, as this woman resting from her sewing in a sunny garden, painted by American impressionist artist Frederick Carl Frieseke, The painting can be seen at, and ordered as a canvas print.