Early Origins: The Pace And Perry Plantations

Richard Pace

Richard Pace, a carpenter from Wapping, Middlesex, England, married Isabell (Izabell) Smyth at St. Dunstan’s, Stepney, in Middlesex. Together, the Paces immigrated to Virginia sometime prior to 1616. Therefore, they were so-called “ancient planters,” people who came to the colony before the May 1616 departure of Sir Thomas Dale. On December 5, 1620, the Paces were granted 200 acres of land on the lower side of the James River that they developed into a plantation they called Paces Paines.1 The Paces’ property abutted west upon John Burrows’ plantation, which eventually became known as Four Mile Tree.2 Thus, the Pace acreage encompassed the western part of the tract now known as Mount Pleasant, which also comprised the westernmost part of the much larger Swann’s Point plantation. An Indian named Chanco, who was living in the Pace household and had been converted to Christianity,3 told Richard Pace that the Natives were planning to attack. Pace quickly rowed his boat across the river to Jamestown where he alerted the authorities. Thanks to Chanco’s warning and Pace’s timely action, lives were spared that otherwise might have been lost when the Natives made a carefully orchestrated attempt to drive the colonists from their land.

In the wake of the March 22, 1622, Indian uprising, Richard Pace and his household moved to Jamestown Island, where they lived for several months. They may have taken refuge in the home of William Powell, Richard’s friend and business associate, who lived in the New Towne, just west of Orchard Run. In a petition that dates between October 1622 and January 1623 Richard Pace asked permission to return to his plantation on the lower side of the James River, indicating that he had “bestowed great cost and charges upon building ther.” He said that he intended to fortify his plantation and strengthen it with “a good company of able men.” Virginia Land Office records reveal that Pace also had a financial interest in a plantation that Captain William Powell intended to establish on the Chickahominy River. Pace apparently died sometime after January 1623 but before February 16, 1624, when a census was made of the colony’s inhabitants. He was survived by his widow, Isabell, and a son named George. Official records dating to May 1625 indicate that Richard Pace had, for a time, served as the overseer of Captain William Powell’s plantation on the lower side of the James River, but had left that post in order to seat his own land. By February 16, 1624, the widowed Isabell Smyth Pace had married her neighbor, ancient planter William Perry, and once again was living in Jamestown (McCartney 2000:III:259, 278; Kingsbury 1906-1935:III:555, 682; Hotten 1980:175).

In February 1624, when a census was taken of the colony’s inhabitants, a group of thirty-two settlers, clustered together, were described as living “Over the River,” an area that research indicates was located across from Jamestown and just west of Gray’s Creek. They included John Burrows and John Smith, who later purchased Burrows Hill, along with John Proctor and his wife, Alice, whose plantation in the corporation of Henrico, near the head of the James River, had been attacked during the 1622 Indian uprising.4 In early February 1625, when more explicit demographic information was compiled, Burrows, Smith, and the others at Burrows Hill were listed separately from those in residence at Paces Paines. 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.5 Phettiplace Close and Daniel Wattkins had one house and also were well equipped to defend themselves. Thomas Gates and his wife and partner William Bedford shared one dwelling and Francis Chapman lived alone in a house. The Gates and Chapman households, like the Proctor and the Close-Wattkins households, were well armed and had protective body armor (Hotten 1980:179; 231-232, 266; Meyer and Dorman 1987:38-39).

If fortifications were present at Paces Paines in February 1625, they were not listed in the muster. However, as the Proctor household had two large weapons, their dwelling may have been reinforced or outfitted with palisades so that it could serve as a rallying point, should the settlers need to defend themselves (Appendix A). In May 1625 when a list of patented land was sent to England, Richard Pace was credited with 200 acres of land within the corporation of James City, acreage described as already “planted” or seated (Hotten 1980:270).

In October 1627 Mrs. Isabell Perry was assigned some land on Jamestown Island in what was known as the Governor’s Garden: acreage that she was obliged to develop within three years or face forfeiture. Three months later she obtained from Richard Richards and Richard Dolphenby 100 acres that adjoined the east side of Paces Paines, the land originally patented by ancient planter Francis Chapman. In September 1628 Isabell repatented her 100 acre share of Paces Paines plus the 100 acres formerly owned by Chapman. Her land abutted west upon Burrows Mount and east upon the property then belonging to her son, George Pace, who had inherited his late father’s residual acreage associated with Paces Paines. In September 1628 George Pace, as the late Richard Pace’s son and heir, received a patent for 400 acres “at the plantation called Paces Paines.” It was then noted that his land abutted west upon that of his mother and east upon the acreage formerly owned by Francis Chapman but then in the possession of George Pace’s stepfather, William Perry. George Pace’s 400 acres were comprised of the 100 acres his father had claimed as an ancient planter, plus another 300 acres to which he was entitled on the basis of headrights (McCartney 2000:III:259, 278; Nugent 1969-1979:I:10; Patent Book I Part I:62, 64; McIlwaine 1924:63, 65).