Money set aside to dig up grave

Published 7:56 pm Tuesday, January 21, 2020

By Frederic Lee

Staff writer

The Smithfield Town Council approved funds in the amount of $35,000 dedicated to the hunt for the grave of the town’s founder — Arthur Smith IV — on Jan. 7. 

The efforts to locate the gravesite will take place at Windsor Castle Park and will include coordination between the town and the Isle of Wight County Museum, according to officials. 

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While Smithfield Mayor Carter Williams said there’s a tombstone located at Windsor Castle Park that likely belongs to Smith because of the expensive material that the tombstone’s built from — slate — the only way to definitively know is to test the DNA of the remains with an organization such as the Smithsonian Museum. 

A living member of the Smith family would then have to be tested in comparison with the findings, according to Williams, who added that town officials were currently in talks with one member about the prospect. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Isle of Wight County Museum Director Jennifer England said it was too early in the process to have a definitive plan in place or where the funds will go. She added, however, that the process may include additional ground-penetrating radar methods to map out the extent of the gravesite, located on the brink of Cypress Creek at Windsor Castle Park, about 200 yards northeast of the Windsor Castle Park manor house. 

While Williams has his eye on one grave in particular, it’s possible that Smith might be located in one of the other graves that were recently located at the park, he said. 

A ground penetrating radar survey at the park — conducted by Tim Horsley, managing director of Horsley Archeological Prospection, LLC — showed 40 possible gravesites located in the roughly 1,500 square foot area where two marked tombstones and a footstone sit. 

First steps of the location process may include additional survey work to clearly mark out boundaries of the cemetery area itself, according to England, adding that Town Council was still in the process of laying out actual next steps. 

On partnering with the Smithsonian Museum to identify Smith from the remains, England said that officials with historic St. Luke’s Church and Museum, which has many marked gravesites, have successfully used the organization in the past to achieve the same ends. 

The cemetery at the church is the oldest open cemetery in Virginia, and has marked graves dating back to 1767, information courtesy of the museum. 

The Virginia Department of Historic Resources must sign off on a project to excavate a grave via permit, and the decision is based on factors such as the state of the human remains and family consent, according to a report on the project provided by the town. 

Tax credits realized from the Windsor Castle Park restoration project, which wrapped up a few weeks ago, resulted in over $200,000 that could be the source of the $35,000 that Town Council approved for the project, according to Williams. 

The great-grandfather of Arthur Smith IV was the original owner of the property where the Windsor Castle manor house now sits, occupied by the Warraskoyack tribe prior to that, according to information provided by the town.