Historic Sites

Historical Locations

The Powhatan Creek Trail in James City County links to a number of historic sites along its path including the Tomb of the Unknown Patriot Solider of the American Revolution, the Church on the Main and Mainland Farm.

The path is accessible to walkers, joggers and bikers.

Tomb of the Unknown Patriot Soldier of the American Revolution

During the Revolutionary War Battle of Green Spring, which took place in the fields and woods near Church on the Main on July 6, 1781, American forces under the command of the Marquis de Lafayette engaged the army of British Lord Cornwallis. Surviving soldiers on both sides fought again a few months later at the decisive Battle of Yorktown, 16 miles to the east, which concluded with the British surrender on October 19, 1781.
Photos courtesy of Shellie Liebler
The human remains enclosed in the Tomb of the Unknown Patriot Soldier of the American Revolution were discovered in 1978 by archaeologists from the Virginia Research Center for Archaeology on the nearby Harris Plantation, three-quarters of a mile to the west of Church on the Main. It was there that the most intense combat action took place. The soldier was hurriedly buried where he fell, in a shallow pit, clothed in his waistcoat and breeches, but lacking a coffin. Based upon analysis of the bones by the Smithsonian Institution in 2015, this white male was between 23 and 28 years old. During his 37 year stay at the Smithsonian, it was revealed that based on stable carbon and nitrogen isotope values, revealing a corn diet, likely a northern states soldier. He was probably one of the 22 Pennsylvanians who died in the battle. The musket ball found above his right waist likely contributed to his demise. This Patriot represents all those unknown soldiers who died for Independence. 

The tomb has an inscription that reads:

Unknown Patriot Soldier
of the 
American Revolution
Fell at the
Battle of Green Spring
6 July 1781
Thou that Passest by
Tell them that Here
I Died for 

Thank you to Alain Outlaw and the James City County Historical Commission for their contributions to the Patriot Soldier of the American Revolution.

Church on the Main

Less than one mile to the east is the site of the Church on the Main, a brick Anglican church built by the 1750s to serve James City Parish as replacement for the church on Jamestown Island, which had become difficult for communicants to reach. The Rev. James Madison (1749-1812) was its best-known rector, serving the church from about 1777 until it fell into disguise after the American Revolution and the disestablishment of the Anglican Church. Madison became president of the College of William and Mary (1777-1812) and Virginia’s first Episcopal Bishop in 1790. By 1857 all aboveground traces of the church were gone.