Caswell Cemetery Dig April 2008  

Dr. Charles Ewen continues the search for the grave of Gov. Richard Caswell. Once permits are obtained, the archaeological dig will begin in the Caswell Family cemetery. Dr. Ewen is a professor of anthropology at East Carolina University. He and several of his students became involved in the quest for the Governors grave in 2000. Excavation of the Caswell Cemetery at Vernon Hall, turned up interesting artifacts, but not the Governor's final resting place.
This page will document the continuing efforts related to locating the grave of Governor Richard Caswell.

J Update
63 NEW PHOTOS taken by Susan Hoffman on May 14th, 2008

63 Photo Slideshow with larger photos

UPDATE May 15, 2008

Kinston Free Press
May 15, 2008 - 10:06AM
Jon Dawson, Staff Writer
Article reprinted with permission

Team unearths casket, leather piece at Caswell site

A team of archeologists Wednesday unearthed what is believed to be the grave shaft of Richard Caswell.

The diggers have been searching for Caswell's grave at the Caswell Historic Site on West Vernon Avenue this year. The hope is to honor North Carolina's first governor with a marker there, if Caswell is indeed buried there.
On Wednesday, all the team found was the remnants of a casket and a piece of leather.
Charles Ewen of the East Carolina University Department of Anthropology said the piece of the leather may be the remains of a Masonic apron. Caswell at one time was Grand Master of the North Carolina Masons.
Ewen also said the casket piece found was the bottom of the burial object.
Other groups involved with the dig include the ECU Maritime History program, the Queen Anne's Revenge Conservation Lab and the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Along with anthropologists and archeologists, Wednesday's event was attended by descendants of Caswell. Susan Hoffman of Virginia is a fifth-great-granddaughter of Caswell.
"I think it's about time," Hoffman said. "We want to honor him place a marker, but we can't do that if we don't know where he is."
Edward Williams of Raleigh is a fourth great-grandson of Caswell.
"The idea is to come up with an exact location so we can give him a proper burial," Williams said. "We'd like to erect a monument, but then you have to figure out who's going to pay for it."

Investigators will be looking for remnants of 18th century clothing or coffin hardware of the time. If any skeletal remains are found then DNA may be compared to that of Caswell's descendants.

Sheri Balko climbs out of a grave believed to be the burial site of Richard Caswell. (Janet Sutton/The Free Press)

J UPDATE May 12, 2008

  • Below is a message from Valerie with the Moseley Bright Chapter of the DAR.

Please let the Caswell family descendants know about the next scheduled archaeological phase. It will be Wednesday, May 14 beginning at 9AM. The grave willl be expanded toward the ditch area to allow for access without damaging anything in the grave pit. It will be opened in situ and any items found will be removed and placed in a water tank on loan from the Maritime Museum.

In addition to the ECU staff and students there will be staff from the Maritime Museum, the Queen Anne's Revenge project, and an independent cemetery removal expert who is a retired state archaeologist. There will be a barrier established around the grave pit for the safety of any observers. The pit is quite deep and if someone should loose their balance or the dirt sides should give way due to the weight of an individual they could be hurt and/or any artifacts in the grave could be damaged. Dr. Ewen is the archeology team leader so any questions regarding process or requests to cross the barrier should be directed to him.

I am very excited about this next, and hopefully final, phase of this part of the cemetery project. As Dr. Ewen is fond of saying "we are cautiously optimistic" that we will finally eliminate any doubt whether Governor Richard Caswell is buried in Kinston.

I look forward to seeing many of you next Wednesday.

Valerie Howell
Moseley-Bright Chapter, DAR

J UPDATE April 18, 2008 by Martha Marble

It was a long day but these things go slow.

4 graves were identified and if the picture taken in the early 1900's was correct they would be from right to left Susan Gatlin, Sarah Caswell, Gov. Caswell and Mary Caswell. Only one crypt was found and it was L shaped outlined in brick with no top. Whether there was originally a top is not known. Charlie's [Dr. Charles Ewen] assumption is this was Mary Caswell with one of her children but the bricks were VERY close together. The Gov. or a grave was right in front of the large marker many of you have seen. The assumed grave of Sarah was not taken down that far but there appeared to be no crypt as Mary's was very close to the top.

The dig concentrated on the assumed grave of the Gov. They went down about 1 1/2 feet to the original level of the ground and then took it another good 5 feet where they found nails. At the end of the day Charlie just dug a hole in one small area to see what would happen and then the glitch. He ran into the water table. He enlarged the hole just big enough to get his hand into and stated he felt what he thought was solid wood.

He can't go back tomorrow [Sat. April 19, 2008] but a couple of the students are going back and with equipment from the Regent of the DAR and are going to try and get enough water out of the hole to eyeball what is under the water. Then they will take it from there. If indeed it looks like solid wood, it is going to be awhile because this presents a lot of unexpected problems.

The city of Kinston (I don't unnderstand why) will have to be notified and conservation people will have to be consulted. Stay tuned for what happens tomorrow and hopefully round 3.

Susan talked with the Gov and his 2 wives a lot today so maybe they have listened that we really want to try and locate them. Brenda Stott and Ed Williams and his wife were also there all day.


J UPDATE April 19, 2008

Susan Hoffman Photos taken April 18, 2008
Jo Huettl Pictures taken April 19, 2008. No one other than ECU personnel were allowed in the hole once the planks were discovered.
  • In the one you can see the "hole" with the water in it...and
  • the other one is when they used the shop vac to get the water out...t

Hunting for Caswell
April 18, 2008
David Anderson- Staff Writer
The article reported on the dig, led by Charles Ewen and Megan Perry, anthropology professors at Eastern Carolina University. Dr. Ewen and Dr. Perry were assisted by several of their graduate students.

2000 Caswell Cemetery Dig at Vernon Hall
  • photos and excavation reports
Caswell Family Pages