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Surry County, VA

The James River Institute for Archaeology, Inc., has been conducting long term archaeological research at Mount Pleasant in Surry County since the summer of 2001. Mount Pleasant was first settled by the English in 1620 as a plantation called Pace’s Paines and was continuously inhabited, in the 17th century the property was controlled by the Swann family and throughout most of the 18th century it belonged to the Cocke family, notably John Hartwell Cocke, the builder of Bremo.

The current owners wished to restore the plantation to its appearance ca. 1800, though the only surviving structure from that time is the main house. Accordingly JRIA was employed to conduct historical research, and archaeological surveys and excavations to locate features contemporary with the house, as well as earlier archaeological remains.

To date, JRIA has conducted a complete survey of the approximately 300 acres that included controlled surface collection of the agricultural fields and shovel testing in the woods. The survey discovered the main site of the 1620 Pace’s Paines settlement, the core site and three post-in-the-ground buildings of an expansive and dispersed transitional farm dating from ca. 1670-1730, and two probable 18th-century quarter sites. More intensive testing in the yard immediately surrounding the house uncovered a late 17th century cellar that may have been a store, two first period dependencies dating to ca. 1730, four second period dependencies dating to ca. 1800, and the remains of a formal terraced garden. Excavation of one-half of the garden revealed an unusual design with rectangular planting beds and border beds. The terraced garden was constructed during the major renovation of the plantation ca. 1800. JRIA also excavated the late 17th-century store and ca. 1800 kitchen and smokehouse prior to their reconstruction.

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