Data Limitations

Prior to Surry County’s establishment in 1652, the study area was part of a vast territory known as James City (Cittie). From 1619 to 1634 it was part of the corporation of James City, which spanned both sides of the James River and extended from Skiffs Creek (on the east) upstream to a point just west of the Chickahominy River’s mouth. The written sources for that period, though abundant, largely consist of records groups that pertain to the Virginia colony as a whole. From 1634 through 1651 the study area was part of James City County, the bulk of which antebellum court records were destroyed during the Civil War. For that reason, adjunct sources sometimes have been used to bridge gaps in official records.

Despite the fact that Surry County’s records essentially are intact, very few early plats and surveys were found to be included in the record books maintained by the various clerks of court. During the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, county clerks were given a lot of leeway when it came to deciding whether plats and surveys should be made part of their official records. Unfortunately, Surry’s pre-twentieth century clerks were not among those who made a point of maintaining such records. Surry also was not among the areas that drew the attention of military cartographers. As a result, the earliest dated detailed map that includes Mount Pleasant’s domestic complex’s structural and landscape features was made in 1872 by topographic engineers employed by the United States government.

It should be noted that despite Surry County’s records’ excellent state of preservation, the estates of the Mount Pleasant mansion’s late eighteenth and early nineteenth owners were not recorded in the county court as part of the probate process. This omission occurred because most of the plantation’s owners were people of substantial wealth whose ability to pay their debts was unquestionable. Therefore, they purposefully exercised their legal right not to have an inventory made of their personal property presented to the county court, opting instead to use the General Court. In fact, the Cockes and Faulcons specifically invoked that right. As a result, their household inventories were not recorded in Surry County. However, the discovery of a draft of John Hartwell Cocke I’s 1791 General Court inventory and a list of household items compiled by John Hartwell Cocke II’s wife, Anne, largely offset these omissions. The personal property tax rolls for 1815 also provide some useful information on Mount Pleasant’s taxable household furnishings at that point in time.