By Phil Audibert
Orange County Review
July 20, 2011
This past Sunday, the Enchanted Castle site at Germanna was opened for the first time in 16 years so that descendants of the original German families who settled there could stand on ground where their ancestors lived and worshipped almost 300 years ago.
The visit to Governor Alexander Spotswood’s home site along the Rapidan River capped the annual pilgrimage to this area for the Memorial Foundation of the Germanna Colonies of Virginia Inc.
This year about 220 folks from all over the country came to the conference. According to one of the organizers, Steven Fishback, the annual gathering the third weekend of July was begun by his grandfather in the 1960s.
It is estimated that some 6 million Americans can trace their roots back to these original families.
According to Dr. Kerri S. Barile, Fort Germanna was built in 1714, shortly after the first of two waves of German immigrants came here to work off their indenture to Governor Alexander Spotswood.
Described as a pentagonal palisade, the fort was soon swallowed up by a grander construction project, a year after the second wave of Germans arrived in 1717.
This was the beginning of what was known as “The Enchanted Castle,” a 90′ X 40′ stone and brick Georgian mansion with as many as nine other dependencies attached to it.
“Huge; absolutely huge,” is how Dr. Barile describes it. She adds a small section of the palisade wall of the fort has been found underneath the castle foundation.
The town of Germanna was located nearby. It contained a church, a tavern, and, for awhile, the Spotsylvania County courthouse, until it moved elsewhere. By 1750, Germanna was all but abandoned, and fire had destroyed the Enchanted Castle.
Dr. Barile’s doctoral dissertation stems from the archaeological work she has done here. She says although only 10 percent of the area has been excavated, between 600,000 and 700,000 artifacts have been found.
No work has been done on the site since 1995. It has lain dormant, until this past Sunday, when Germanna Foundation conference goers saw it, many of them, for the first time.
The Enchanted Castle site is owned by the Commonwealth of Virginia and administered by the University of Mary Washington. The Germanna Foundation is in negotiations with the state and the university to acquire the title to the property.
Foundation President, Marc Wheat says the Enchanted Castle and surrounding Germanna settlement is the most important undeveloped archaeological site in the country.
Jamestown, Williamsburg and Germanna “are the three legs of the stool of the founding of America,” says Wheat.
Just recently, Wal-Mart announced plans to build a super store within a half mile of the site.
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