Press Release


Randolph-Macon College Students Conducting Archaeological Study at Patrick Henry’s Scotchtown

April 17, 2018

Public invited to attend weekend excavations taking place until May

HANOVER – Students from Randolph-Macon College are conducting an archaeological study of Patrick Henry’s Scotchtown in Hanover County this spring. Scotchtown is owned and operated by Preservation Virginia, a private, non-profit and historic preservation leader based in Richmond. Weather permitting, the archaeological excavations are open to the public and will take place around the property’s outbuildings and original 18th century driveway on April 20, 21, 27 and 28 and May 4 and 5. Patrick Henry’s Scotchtown is located at 16120 Chiswell Lane, Beaverdam, Virginia 23015. 

The students from Dr. Elizabeth Fisher’s archaeology class are focusing on test pits in front of the main house. Their goal is to identify the 18th century road to the house, fence lines and any possible outbuildings or gardens on the approach to the site. In addition to the on-site archaeology, Randolph-Macon College Professor Chas Gowan’s class will be creating an integrated electronic map of the property that will aid future dig locations.

“Preservation Virginia is excited to embark on this archeological exploration of the Scotchtown lawn in partnership with Randolph Macon College,” says Jennifer Hurst-Wender, Preservation Virginia’s director of museum operations and education. “We hope the discoveries will not only enhance our understanding of how this site was used, but also be an opportunity for visitors to be a part of history in the making as the archaeology students reveal layers unseen for hundreds of years.”

Thus far, the students have found bits of pottery, glass, nails and barbed wire. They have also uncovered what could be the 18th century road to the house.

“We started with our first pit [near the main house] and then moved to a pit behind one of the fences and almost immediately found what looks like a road,” says Rachael Smith, a senior archaeology student in Dr. Fisher’s class. “That was really interesting and kind of fun for a first day dig.”

According to Dr. Fisher, one of the class’ immediate goals is to isolate the bottom of the roadbed and find out when the road was constructed. Researching the origin of a piece of pottery found under the road could help the students determine the timeframe.

Previous archaeological excavations were conducted at Scotchtown between 1968 and 1987. They resulted in the reconstruction of several of the early 19th century outbuildings, including the icehouse, kitchen and law office.

“Whatever is uncovered will greatly add to the interpretation and our understanding of how Patrick Henry experienced his home,” says Wender. “We are dedicated to revealing more of this amazing site’s history in as many ways as we can, be that archaeology, outreach to descendants, archival research and more.”


About Preservation Virginia

Preservation Virginia is a private, non-profit organization and statewide historic preservation leader founded in 1889 that is dedicated to preserving, promoting and serving as an advocate for Virginia's cultural and architectural history.

About Randolph-Macon College
Founded in 1830, and ideally located in historic Ashland, Virginia, just minutes north of Richmond and 90 miles south of Washington D.C., Randolph-Macon College is a selective, co-educational, nationally-recognized liberal arts college with a mission of “developing the minds and character of its students.” The college achieves this mission through a combination of personal interaction and academic rigor. Enrollment is over 1,400 with a student-faculty ratio of 11:1 and an average class size of 15 students. Randolph-Macon College is known for its exceptional faculty, national and international internships, study abroad and undergraduate research opportunities and unique First-Year Experience and January Term programs. The college pledges a Four-Year Degree Guarantee for eligible students and also offers The Edge, a dynamic 4-year program aimed at helping graduates lead the pack when competing for jobs and applying to graduate schools. Randolph-Macon, the oldest United Methodist Church-affiliated college in the nation, is an NCAA Division III school and member of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) that offers 18 varsity sports.

Press Contact

Brittney Jubert, marketing manager, Preservation Virginia
804-648-1889, ext. 304

Anne Marie Lauranzon, director of marketing and communications, Randolph-Macon College