Monday, August 25, 2008

Paces Paines; Where It Was and What's Doing There

Richard Pace was an ancient planter known in Jamestown annals as having warned of the devastating Indian raids of March 22, 1622. Early that morning, the Powhatans and their allies mounted a well-planned and coordinated surprise attack throughout the colony to drive the English from their ancestral homelands, which shattered a tenuous eight-year peace and left over a quarter of the settlers dead. The score of outlying plantations were decimated, but Pace’s alert spared Jamestown itself. In London, the effect of the assault on the colony was not unlike that of the terrorists’ plane crashes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon almost four centuries later.

Chanco, an Indian Christian convert, informed Richard of the planned attack during the night before. After preparing the defense of his plantation, "Paces Paines" (on the south side of the James River), he then rowed his boat two or three miles across the river to Jamestown with his wife, Isabella (also an ancient planter in her own right), son George and Chanco, where he delivered his pre-dawn warning.

Richard and Isabella Pace had patented 200 acres in 1620 (100 acres each, as ancient planters) and developed Paces Paines as a small, fortified settlement. He died c. 1623-4 and the plantation was acquired from her and her son by William Swann in 1635. Today, it’s “a part of the tracts of land known as Swann’s Point and Mount Pleasant, which boast a rich architectural history.”

Mount Pleasant was further developed in the 17th and 18th centuries and has been the focus of a restoration project by its current owners. They have had the counsel of Nick Luccketti, one of the original members of the Jamestown Rediscovery team and now a Williamsburg-based forensic archaeologist who runs the James River Institute For Archeology. Recent archaeological testing under Luccketti’s direction has the located the likely location of Paces Paines in a field northeast of the main house.

According to the Mount Pleasant Restoration website (click on the headline of this post), “Attributed to Paces Paines were four households, all of which were headed by ancient planters. They included John Proctor and his wife, Alice, and their three servants; Phettiplace Close and Daniel Wattkins and their two servants; Thomas and Elizabeth Gates and William Bedford; and Francis Chapman. The Proctors were credited with two houses and the members of their household were very well armed.”

The website has an extensive and detailed discussion of the background, status, progress and plans for the restoration, together with maps and photographs of this significant early American colonial landmark. Be prepared to spend some time at this interesting site.

The website also says, “The archaeological survey of Mount Pleasant has discovered one of the four Paces Paines’ sites in the downriver or east field. The artifacts collected from the site are the same types that have been excavated at Martin’s Hundred including clay tobacco pipe bowls (one with markings identical to a pipe from Wolstenholme Town), fragments of Rhenish stoneware Bartmann or “bearded man” jugs, Iberian costrel sherds, and pieces of Staffordshire butterpot.”

The context for Paces Paines’ history is also found on the research tab on the website at “Historical Background of the Mount Pleasant-Swann’s Point Tract, Surry County, Virginia,” by noted Jamestown historian, Mary W. McCartney, which also can be linked through the headline.


Anonymous said...

As a direct descendant of Richard Pace, I thank you for your efforts but am puzzled by your statement alikening the 1622 slaugher to the terrorist attacks in NYC. "Baffled" is probably a better description. While the Native Americans murdered the Colonists, I cannot possibly imagine how it can be alikened to violence due to religious extremism.

jimsonharvesteditor said...

“The effect of the assault on the colony” was widely and strongly felt in London, an extraordinary reaction including John Donne’s famous sermon on the “Flood of Bloud” and other well-reported expressions of shock (see Bernard Baylin’s The Barbarous Years, for example.) This effect stimulated a popularly supported and racially based objective of extirpating the attackers that is not unlike a result of 9/11. It also fomented a major change in Jamestown’s status; the revocation of the Virginia Company’s charter and creation of a royal colony.

Kathleen O'Laney (Pace) said...

I m also a direct descendant of Richard Pace and I think that what they are doing to restore this plantation is wonderful. I just hope that I am able to visit some day.

jimsonharvesteditor said...

Mt. Pleasant Plantation can be visited on group tours; go to
for info.

The site of Paces Paines is in a field some distance from the plantation; some Pace Society groups have received tours of it.