Shoreline holds secrets of region's distant past

Jack France’s store, Pool Side, in the Chesapeake Commons Center in Kilmarnock, is more than a store. Oh sure, it’s got every kind of spa and accessory you could want, but one shelf in his lighted display case makes his store part museum too.

A four and a half inch shark's tooth Jack France found buried in a Potomac beach.

In a bed of sand and neatly arranged is collection of what appears to be rocks and drift wood. But a closer look helps tell the history of the Northern Neck.

“When I was growing up we had a farm along the Rappahannock River. In the winter, when we would have really low tides, we would go out and dig for artifact,” Jack explained.

Jack said his family unearthed all kinds of treasures, mostly arrowheads and clay pipes from the Indian tribes that inhabited the area long ago. He got hooked as a youngster and it remains a hobby today. A resident of Westmoreland County’s Stratford Harbor, Jack now roams the Potomac beach below Westmoreland Park’s towering cliffs. On a recent weekend he found what he believes to be a whale vertebrae.

“If you look up at the cliffs, you can see several different layers of fossils. All kinds of creatures lived in this area thousands of years ago and their fossils can be found in those layers, which are probably the result of some cataclysmic event,” he said.

Among the items Jack has collected along the Northern Neck’s rivers over the years is a prehistoric shark’s tooth, which he calls “my jewel.” The petrified tooth measures four and three-quarters inches in length.

“You can just imagine the size of the animal that came out of,” he said.

His treasures also include an old English brick, dating from colonial times. Thinner and wider than modern bricks, Jack says thousands of them were brought up the Potomac in ships to build some of the early plantation homes in Virginia and Maryland.

Jack says amateur archeologists abound in the Northern Neck, and he always enjoys it when they drop by his store to swap stories and talk about recent finds. If you’d like to check out his collection, Jack says you’re welcome any time. Pool Side is open Monday, Thursday and Friday from 10 p.m. until 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.


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