On Thursday, May 9, 2019, the Germanna Foundation officially opened its new Hitt Archaeology Center as part of its Fort Germanna Visitor Center complex in Locust Grove, Virginia, between Culpeper and Fredericksburg, VA. Hundreds of members, friends, and supporters from the local area, across the nation and even in Germany and the UK were able to watch the ceremony in person or via our first live video feed of an event on our Facebook page. Those who attended the ceremony included distinguished guests from the:
- National Park Service
- Virginia Department of Historic Resources
- Office of Senator Bryce Reeves
- Members of the Board of Supervisors of Orange, Culpeper, and Spotsylvania counties
- Culpeper Town Council
- Orange County Chamber of Commerce
- Orange County Tourism
- American Battlefield Trust
- Fredericksburg Area Museum
- Friends of Wilderness Battlefield
- Cedar Mountain Battlefield
- Museum of Culpeper History
- Fauquier County Historical Society
- Fairfield Foundation
- James Madison Museum
- James Madison’s Montpelier
- Menokin Foundation
- Gunston Hall
- Stratford Hall
- National Order of the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe
- Society of the Cincinnati
- George Washington Foundation
- George Washington’s Mount Vernon
- University of Mary Washington
- Virginia Commonwealth University
- Germanna Community College
- Russell and Joan Hitt
- Members of the Hitt family
The building will be the space for cleaning, cataloging, and storage of artifacts from archaeological work at the five historic sites the Germanna Foundation stewards: Fort Germanna, Virginia Lt. Gov. Alexander Spotswood’s Enchanted Castle manor, Salubria Manor, Siegen Forest, and the Revolutionary-war era Peter Hitt Farm.
This new facility is made possible by a generous gift from Russell and Joan Hitt, who were present at the ceremony along with their family members.
In January 2018, Mr. Russell Hitt provided funding and technical support for a new archaeology facility to further the expanding mission an archaeology work being done. This building grew out of the need for laboratory and artifact storage space for an ever-expanding archaeology program at Germanna. A ground-breaking ceremony took place during the October 2018 Germanna Foundation Board meeting and the Harman Construction Company began work immediately after to create this new space for researching Germanna’s past.
Those who spoke at the ribbon-cutting ceremony were:
- Timothy Sutphin, Executive Director of the Germanna Foundation
- J. Marc Wheat, President of the Germanna Foundation
- Raymond ‘Skip’ Poole, Germanna Foundation Trustee and Time Capsule Chairman (a time capsule was placed in the walls of the building, to be opened 50 years from now)
- Robert Jolley, Virginia Department of Historic Resources
- Dr. Eric Larsen, Germanna Foundation Archaeologist
The Germanna Foundation wishes to acknowledge and thank Russell and Joan Hitt for their generosity and support. Without this, the Hitt Archaeology Center, nor the Germanna Foundation would be where it is today.
Remarks made by J. Marc Wheat, President of the Germanna Foundation:
Ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of the Board of Trustees of the Germanna Foundation, I welcome you to one of the most important days in the life of the foundation since its founding on March 14, 1956.
Today we dedicate the Hitt Archaeology Center, generously donated by Russell and Joan Hitt. Russell and Joan have been friends of the Foundation for two decades, and have been friends and sources of inspiration for me and my family across those decades. Advice and outlook on life that they have given my wife Marie and I are shared at the dinner table, and are influencing the rising generation in the lives of my two children.
The Hitt Archaeology Center is designed and built to carry forward the mission of the Germanna Foundation for the next hundred years to tell “America’s story of liberty through the frontier experience of her settlers and descendants using archaeological, historical, and genealogical research and interpretation.”
The importance of this place in the history of America will be better understood as our archaeological exploration and historical research programs continue apace. As our friend Frank Stringfellow Walker has said, when the English arrived at Jamestown in 1607, they were stuck on the beaches for a century before Alexander Spotswood’s energetic governorship planted a group of German-speaking colonists at Germanna on the westernmost frontier of the British Empire in 1714.
Frederick Jackson Turner’s frontier thesis and Bernard Bailyn’s Atlantic history are sometimes thought of as dueling interpretations of the development of the American character. Happily for Germanna, this place is used an example to support both schools of historiography, and is a key reason for it being a National Historic Landmark.
Dr. William Kelso, the world-renowned archaeologist knighted by the Queen for having rediscovered the fort at Jamestown, has written of this site,
“I have always thought the Fort Germanna/ Enchanted Castle site ranks among the most significant historical archaeological sites certainly in Virginia and arguably in the nation.”
I want to add with pride that Dr. Kelso has recently joined the Board of Trustees of the Germanna Foundation, to help us be wise stewards of our archaeological riches and to help us utilize the Hitt Archaeology Center to its best advantage.
The stewardship of gifts by the Germanna Foundation has given me a glimpse of how our time is redeemed. For the cost of two transatlantic postage stamps, a gift was generated by Ernst Flender that enabled our predecessors to buy 270 acres of the original settlement.
In 1969, one hundred acres of that patrimony was in turn given to create the first campus of Germanna Community College. The Germanna Foundation trustees and I are very honored to have with us on this auspicious day Dr. Janet Gullickson, President of Germanna Community College, and the entire Germanna Community College Board. Thank you, Dr. Gullickson and ladies and gentlemen.
My predecessors tried to buy the Fort Germanna / Enchanted Castle archaeological site in 1955, but it took us two generations until we were successful in acquiring it in 2013 so that we could start our archaeology program and train the next generation of archaeologists to better understand America.
The message that Russell and Joan Hitt are communicating to future generations through their beautiful gift of the Hitt Archaeology Center echoes from our own experience and the words of Reinhold Niebuhr:
“Nothing is worth doing that can be achieved in our lifetime… nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history… nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone…”
The colonists who settled here on the frontier in two main groups in 1714 and 1717, and the relatives who came later to settle further west, left a legacy of confidence toward the future and a joy of exploration that is part of the American DNA.
Fifty years ago this year, one of those Germanna descendants, Buzz Aldrin, stepped foot on the moon. Fifty years from now, as the Hitt Archaeology Center reaches middle age and the time capsule sealed in its protective walls is opened, maybe we will receive greetings to this 350-year-old frontier site from donors living in a permanent settlement on the new frontier of Mars.
Perhaps one or two of these colonists on Mars will return from their New World to the Old, meet our successors on this very spot, and be reminded of the words of T.S. Eliot,
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
May God bless you all, the Hitt family, the Germanna Foundation, and this country we love.
The Germanna Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization chartered in 1956 to preserve the heritage of the earliest organized settlements of Germans in colonial Virginia in 1714 and 1717, and tells America’s story of liberty through the frontier experience of her settlers and descendants using archaeological, historical, and genealogical research and interpretation. Become a member or make a tax-deductible donation to support our mission.
- Fort Germanna Visitor Center, Museum & Genealogy Library
- Hitt Archaeology Center
- Germanna Memorial Garden
- 170-acre Siegen Forest Hiking and Nature Trails
- 1714/1717 Fort Germanna archaeology site
- Lt Gov Alexander Spotswood’s Mansion ‘Enchanted Castle’ archaeology site
- Historic 1757 Salubria — Georgian-style manor house
- Revolutionary War-era Peter Hitt Farm
- Maintaining a genealogical database with over 120,000 records
- Publishing The Germanna Record series with 21 volumes