Past is Prologue

Clint Schemmer writes about history, heritage preservation and the American Civil War.  On Facebook: Past is Prologue  On Twitter: @prologuepast  ContactEmail Clint or call 540/374-5424.

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Kelly urges City Council to back Bell kiln excavation

MORE: Read more news from Fredericksburg

A potter, seated at the wheel, ‘throws’ a pot. The wooden instrument to the right is a wooden gauge used to throw to a set width and height. Standardization was important as stoneware was sold by the gallon and was produced in sizes from one pint to 20 or more gallons. A variety of hand tools, such as the thin, kidney-shaped ‘ribs’ hanging on the back wall were used to shape the contours of vessels. Efficient ‘repeat throwing’ was important in an era when a single craftsman might throw more than a hundred gallons of ware a day. (DESCRIPTION BY OLIVER MUELLER-HEUBACH)

Fredericksburg Councilman Matt Kelly shared this memo on Monday. It proposes that the city of Fredericksburg contribute some in-kind support to the archaeological investigation planned later this month at the recently discovered site of the Francis Hamilton Bell pottery and kiln.

The City Council is expected to consider the proposal during its meeting Tuesday night.


October 6, 2012

To: Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw

Members of the City Council

Beverley Cameron, City Manager

From: Matthew J. Kelly

Councilman, At-Large

Reference: Support for Kiln Site Dig


The remains of a kiln site have been located on the hardware site. Research has established that Francis H. Bell & Co. operated a stoneware factory on site during the 1830’s.  This is a significant find that has already attracted interest outside the area.

Kiln sites are a rare find. The excavation of the site will provide new insight into the history of Fredericksburg but also the history of ceramics in Virginia. This is an opportunity to showcase the city at least state wide.

The owners of the property, the Silver Cos., have given permission to allow the site to be excavated.  HFFI and Dovetail Cultural Resources Group are organizing the dig to occur later this month. The Department of Historic Resources has agreed to provide some financial support and some private funding has also been committed to the effort.

The Fredericksburg Area Museum and Cultural Center is donating an archaeologist to dig and a curator to possibly curate a temporary exhibition. Ferry Farm is also ready to donate some time and energy to the project.  This is a community effort.

The Silver Cos. has agreed that artifacts found on site under $10,000.00 in value will be considered city property. This will put the city in position to not only display the artifacts found or loan them out; but have access to all the research that is expected to be done on the artifacts.

Funding is limited so some in kind assistance is needed. I received a request for the city to provide a backhoe and operator to open up and later fill in the site.  The city has provided this support before in the case of the hotel site excavation.  The benefits of providing this support far outweigh the cost.


That the city provides a backhoe and operator for at least two days to open up and later refill the dig site.


The value of the service provided is approximately $1,500.00 based on National Construction Estimator.