In a ceremony at the Historic Jamestowne National Park on Jamestown Island at 3 PM on Monday, April 18th, a dozen members of the Cypher Society, a group comprised of former members of the College’s Board of Visitors, unveiled a new plaque honoring the tomb and the life of the College’s founder and first President, the Reverend Dr. James Blair.
Part of the inscription on the new plaque reads “Funding for the restoration of the tomb… was provided by the Cypher Society, a group of former members of the Board of Visitors of the College of William and Mary, in honor of Dr. Blair having served the College for fifty years as its primary founder and first President.”
Blair’s recently renovated tomb was unveiled in a ceremony in April 2007, after the Cyphers took it among themselves to restore the tomb after they noticed it in deteriorating condition several years before. The restoration of Blair’s tomb also coincided with the increased tourism of the historic national park due to the 400th anniversary of the landing at Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America, in 2007.
A representative of the Cypher Society gave remarks in which he thanked James Blair for his contribution to the world of education in the New World, as well as the former Board of Visitors who make up the group. Recalling his time on the Board, the representative said that “there were dormitories that were expanded, there were buildings that were built.” Relating it to the history of Dr. Blair and the College, he said “A lot of times, people look at James Blair and they say that he was bigger than life. He went out and he did a great thing. And all of us, in our small part, we have all done something that we [could] to make sure that the College is a special place that we still love.”
After his comments, the new plaque honoring Blair, as well as his wife Sarah who his also buried on Jamestown Island, was unveiled to applause from the members of the Cypher Society. Also on the newly unveiled plaque is an inscription from a book entitled “Old Churches, Ministers, and Families of Virginia,” by William Meade and published in 1857, which highlights the then already-deteriorating state of the tombs of Mr. and Mrs. Blair.
After the unveiling of the plaque, Bill Kelso, who famously rediscovered where the original fort was, in addition to numerous other historic finds on the island, spoke to the group. He opened with a question that he did not know the answer to that he posed to the Cyphers: why was Blair buried on Jamestown Island instead of on campus or in Williamsburg. The Cyphers answered that he specified it in his will. Kelso then spoke briefly about Blair’s tomb, and the general work with archeology at the Historic Jamestowne site that he is involved with. Understanding the legacy of Blair and his College, Kelso ended his talk to the Cypher Society with a “Go Tribe!”