Alexandria’s Christ Church

One of the places that Jeff took us during our tour of Alexandria was the historic Christ Church on North Washington Street.

According to many sources the church (circa 1771) and cemetery (circa 1766) are among the city’s oldest historic landmarks. One regular church attendee was George Washington; apparently his family pew is still preserved inside.

A plaque outside the church reads: “May 9, 1798. Having been proclaimed a day of fasting and prayer by the president of the United States because of the danger of war with France, George Washington attended in this church the proclamation sermon preached that day by Reverend James Muir, D.D.”

The City of Alexandria conducted an archaeological dig of the cemetery the 1980s [link no longer available]. During the dig archaeologists discovered lots of teeth and soil stains. This is typical of what remains from burials from this time. What was also discovered was how much change happens to a graveyard over hundreds of years; many of the remains that were found had no grave markers and those markers that were found had no bodies underneath them.

According to the City of Alexandria website [link no longer available], there are at least 396 unmarked 1787 to 1796 graves; 174 of these were for children. An additional 540 later unmarked graves remain a mystery because of missing burial records, misaligned headstones, missing headstones and wacky grave placement (in the early days graves weren’t dug in a straight line like they are now a days).

I find this kind of thing fascinating and spent many years studying Historical Archaeology in university; along with osteology (the study of skeletal remains).

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