Near this location in 1901, Samuel H. Yonge, a civil engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, spearheaded the design and construction of a seawall/revetment that halted the rapid erosion and loss into the James River of the most historic part of Jamestown Island. His efforts saved large portions of the island including Jamestown Fort, making possible continued significant archaeological finds at Jamestown. Yonge located, unearthed, and published many of his findings on the Island. Another one of his achievements included the dredging of the James River from Richmond to Norfolk. He is buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.
The area of and around Jamestown is very historically important. However, the James River was quickly eroding the most historic part of Jamestown where historical celebrations would take place. During the Civil War, Confederate forces constructed earthworks around Jamestown and discovered pieces of armor and weaponry. Shortly after the
war, the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities began to explore foundations around the 22 & ½ acres of Jamestown that they owned. Samuel H. Yonge, a revetment’s engineer, proposed that the old Fort at Jamestown was buried in the very island that the river was eroding (Lindgren, Encyclopedia Virginia online).
In 1901, he supervised the construction of the concrete seawall that was built in order to prevent further erosion of the riverbank. Furthermore he located many archaeological discoveries such as the foundations of the country house, the Ludwell house, and the third and fourth statehouses. He also was able to save the Jamestown Fort. Yonge argued that the 1861 discoveries by Confederate soldiers indicated that the fort was
extremely close to Confederate earthwork at the end of the island (NPS, Jamestown National Historic Site). After his finds, he was able to use the evidence he had discovered and Yonge was able publish his work The Site of Old “James Towne,” 1607-1698, which is still in circulation today (NPS, Chronology of Archaeology). It is thanks to Yonge’s brilliant ideas that many historical buildings in Jamestown are still safe from erosion by the James River.
Lindgren, James M. “Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities.” Encyclopedia Virginia. Ed. Brendan Wolfe. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (Jan. 18, 2012). http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Association_for_the_Preservation_of_Virginia_Antiquities (accessed March 9, 2012).
Lindgren, James M. Preserving the Old Dominion: Historic Preservation and Virginia Traditionalism. Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, 1993.
Lindgren, James M. “‘Virginia Needs Living Heroes’: Historic Preservation in the Progressive Era.” The Public Historian 13 (1991 Winter): 9–24.
National Park Service. Chronology of Jamestown Archeology. http://www.nps.gov/jame/historyculture/chronology-of-jamestown-archeology.htm (accessed March 9, 2012).
National Park Service. Jamestown National Historic Site. http://www.cr.nps.gov/history/online_books/hh/2/hh2c.htm (accessed March 10, 2012).
Historical Marker “Samuel H. Yonge, Civil Engineer (1843-1935) V-440,” courtesy of Lindsey Smith, 2012.
“Map of James City,” APVA Preservation Virginia: Jamestown Rediscovery, www.apva.org (accessed May 2, 2012).
“The Site of Old James Towne,” Dancing Eye Books, http://dancingeyebooks.com (accessed May 2, 2012).
Department of Historic Resources link not available