John Hartwell Cocke II was born to John Hartwell Cocke I and his wife, Elizabeth Kennon, on September 19, 1780, at Mount Pleasant in Surry County. He lost both of his parents between the ages of eleven and twelve, and when he was fourteen, he was sent to Williamsburg, where he became a student at the College of William and Mary. At first, Cocke received room and board in the home of Colonel Champion Travis. Later, he resided with a Mr. Moore. He occasionally returned to Surry and participated in fox hunts at Cabin Point, but as a teenager and young man, he seems to have spent much of his time in Williamsburg. The estate accounts maintained by his uncle, Richard Cocke VI, document the expenditures that were made on his behalf for items such as shoes, clothing, books, and incidentals, and for pocket money. In September 1801 John Hartwell Cocke II attained his majority. It was then that his name commenced appearing in Surry County’s personal property tax rolls and in other public records. On November 23, 1802, he was among those recommended – and accepted – as justices of Surry County. His brother-in-law, Nicholas Faulcon, was then Surry’s Deputy Commonwealth Attorney and Nicholas’s brother, John Faulcon, was Clerk of Court (Surry County Will Book 1 [1792-1804]:379-415, 517-521; Personal Property Tax Lists 1801; Order Book 1801-1804:15, 26; Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 3) .
It is uncertain when or how John Hartwell Cocke II first became acquainted with Anne Blaus Barraud, the daughter of Dr. Philip Barraud of Norfolk. However, as Dr. Barraud was a physician who formerly practiced medicine in Williamsburg and at the public hospital, the young couple may have met while John was a college student. A letter John wrote to Anne from Swann’s Point on April 15, 1802, suggests that they already had formed a romantic attachment. He told her that, “We have been continually frolicking since the arrival of the Byrds in the neighborhood and my House having been the chief scene, has kept me from writing to you” (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 3).
As the months went by, the relationship between John Hartwell Cocke II and Anne Barraud seems to have become increasingly intense. In July 1802 he began purchasing building materials, such as new flooring, that would enable him to have his home repaired or remodeled. Then, on November 25, 1802, he told her that he would like to come to Norfolk before Christmas, “but it will be impossible to leave my carpenters, bricklayers, and a thousand other businesses to which my attentions will be absolutely necessary to get the affairs of my house in such forwardness as to make it tolerably comfortable by Spring.” He added that “When I left Norfolk, I had hopes that I should have a home by Christmas that I could ask you to share with me immediately but I am afraid my utmost exertions will not make it fit for us this winter” (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Boxes 3 and 4). Despite this delay, Anne and John were married in Norfolk on December 25, 1802. She was four years his junior (Cocke and Cocke 1967:62; Cocke Family Papers MS 2433 Box 31) .
The newlywed Anne stayed behind in Norfolk for a month or so, but by early March 1803, had joined her husband in Surry County and was living at Four Mile Tree, sharing the home then occupied by Nicholas and Sally Cocke Faulcon. Afterward, the Cockes went to Bremo. Personal correspondence suggests that Anne and John moved into their own home at Mount Pleasant sometime after May 14, 1804, when she was at Four Mile Tree, but before July 6, 1804, when she wrote a letter from Mount Pleasant (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 4).
As John Hartwell Cocke II matured, he seems to have become increasingly interested in agriculture and in managing the land and livestock that he had inherited. On July 4, 1800, he purchased a gray Medley mare and a Diomed filly from George Ruffin. A year later, he bought a horse from his uncle,William Taliaferro (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 2). Cocke may have begun experimenting with plant propagation around 1801, for a memorandum of apples grafted that year refers to the varieties “on the north side of the asparagus” (Lowry’s large apple, crabs, New York pippin, golden wildens, June apples, New England apples, Joilases, Abrahams, and Gregories) and “those on the east side of the walk” (cheese apples) (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 3).
On August 28, 1801, Nicholas Faulcon, who was still living at Four Mile Tree, sent a letter to John Hartwell Cocke II, who was visiting Bremo. He said that the corn crop at Mount Pleasant had been somewhat improved by the recent rain and that the corn at Swann’s Point corn was as good as the tobacco . Faulcon reported that the wheat Cocke had intended to use for grazing was coming up well, but added that “the lot by the Smith’s shop is not yet quite fallowed.” He said that next week, he intended to have the wheat trod out at Mount Pleasant and recommended that Cocke have a “short” (abbreviated) corn crop there next year. Nicholas Faulcon said that Lynne Thompson (probably the Mr. Thompson who was the overseer at Swann’s Point in 1798) had told him that Cocke had instructed him to clear out the meadow (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 2).
During April 1801 Cary Wilkinson (the overseer of William Lee’s Greenspring Plantation in James City County) was paid for providing medical treatment to those enslaved by the Cockes, some of whom reportedly were at Swann’s Point. John Schammel endorsed the list of medical tasks performed by Wilkinson (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 3) . Between April 1802 and June 26, 1804, John Hartwell Cocke II made an agreement with Cary Wilkinson and Charles H. Graves, who agreed to provide medical treatment to the enslaved persons at Mount Pleasant and Swann’s Point (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 4). This demonstrates that as soon as Cocke came of age, he assumed responsibility for the enslaved individuals he had inherited .
By January 1, 1802, John Hartwell Cocke II had left Bremo and returned to Surry County. He then executed a contract with Blanks Moody, who agreed to oversee Cocke’s workers at Swann’s Point and to manage Mount Pleasant whenever Cocke was absent. Blanks Moody and his family were to reside at Swann’s Point. Cocke was to provide the Moody household with meat, bread, and some fresh meat. Blanks Moody also was to have a young enslaved child to serve as a house servant and he was to be provided with a woman to cook meals and an old man to work in his garden. Moody was permitted to keep a brood mare at his employer’s expense. John Hartwell Cocke II a greed to pay Blanks Moody $200 a year to work as his overseer (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 3). Personal property tax lists indicate that Moody was a free white male of tithable age, who owned a horse but had no enslaved persons (Surry County Personal Property Tax Lists 1800-1803).
By December 14, 1802, John Hartwell Cocke II had decided to hire Thomas Maddera to oversee his farming operations and those enslaved “upon the plantation known by the name of Mount Pleasant.” Maddera was to keep “all the keys of the plantation,” distribute all of the corn given to those enslaved, to measure the meal that came from the mill, attend to the livestock (including work horses, cattle, and hogs), keep the plows in good repair, and take care of all tools. Cocke, in return, agreed to see that Maddera’s clothing was laundered and mended and promised to pay his wages before December 3, 1803(Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 3). 64 It was a typical overseer’s contract. John Hartwell Cocke II seems to have taken a more active role in managing the agricultural operations at Mount Pleasant and Swann’s Point after he married and settled in Surry County.
On December 9, 1803, Dr. John Minson Galt of Williamsburg sent a letter to John Hartwell Cocke II. He said that when he had visited Mount Pleasant, Cocke had mentioned his intention of growing the plant known as “The Pride of China” for use in feeding his sheep. Galt added that:
It did not occur to me then to recommend to your notice the cultivation of Scotch Broom, which affords an ample food for between two or three summer months for sheep and Hogs, it affords an abundance of flowers which those animals devour greedily – it fattens them fast & comes early, & will last til the wild fruits are ripe, such as mulberrys [sic], Blackberries & Hurtle berries – after that the Chinquapin succeeds – this added to the others will give them a Succession of food for Ten months in the year [Tyler 1920-1921:246].
Galt then indicated that he had sent Cocke “seed sufficient to plant all your hill sides that you do not mean to cultivate in grain.” He said that the source of the seed wasMr.Lucas’s land inWarwickand that it was originally planted as a hedge by an old Englishman. Galt said that Scotch Broom sometimes lay dormant for several years before germinating but would come back year after year, effortlessly. He pointed out that the plant’s roots were fibrous and were a good deterrent to erosion (Tyler 1920-1921:246).
As noted above, on November 25, 1802, John Hartwell Cocke II told his future bride that he would like to visit her before Christmas, “but it will be impossible to leave my carpenters, bricklayers, and a thousand other businesses to which my attentions will be absolutely necessary to get the affairs of my house in such forwardness as to make it tolerably comfortable by Spring.” He added that he had hoped to have a suitable home for her by Christmas, but feared that wouldn’t be ready “this winter” (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 3).
A list of the building materials that John Hartwell Cocke II purchased from Schammel and McIntosh indicates that from July through September 1802 he bought 543 feet of plank, 160 feet of scantling, 64 feet of plank, and 512 feet of flooring plank. Then, on July 23, 1803, he purchased 7 planks that were 16 feet long and 13 ½ inches wide and 1 inch thick, plus 16 pieces of heart pine plank that measured 15 feet long by 4 inches wide and were 4 inches thick. He bought addition pieces of plank in July and in November 1803 procured a substantial quantity of flooring plank (53 pieces that were 16 feet long and 6 ½ feet wide (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 4). 65
An account of the supplies 66 purchased for use by builder Isaac Lever and his crew and a list of the tasks that they performed reveal that prior to December 4, 1802, the workers had mended two upstairs fireplaces and two that were downstairs and that they had laid four hearths and mended some plastering. Then, on March 26, 1803, Lever billed Cocke for whitewashing two upstairs rooms; installing lathing under the stairs and circle; putting in moldings; hanging shutters at four windows; applying chair and wash boards, beading, and other trim in the dining room; lathing and finishing the dining room ceiling; leveling and mending joists; and mending the lathing in the little passage above and below. During April 1803 Lever and his work crew bricked the top of the well; built casings for two closets in which shelves were installed, and underpinned the storehouse. They also put two coats of plaster on the walls in the little passages upstairs and down, in the dining room, in the large passages upstairs and down, and in the upstairs closets. They installed lathing in the ceiling of the large passage upstairs and mended the ceiling of the large passage downstairs; they also mended its end and put up strips. They put up lathing in the parlor and in the storeroom ceiling. May 1803 brought installation of the sleepers and floor in the cellar; making a table and supporting sleepers; laying a hearth and mending its back; “straightening [the] arch” in a chamber; constructing four cellar windows and a cellar door and steps; making a dressing table, altering some closet shelves and a room upstairs; mending the plaster in an upstairs room; and applying whitewash to the closet, upstairs room, the little passages upstairs and down, and the ceiling of the dining room (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 3) (Appendix E).
Isaac Lever and his men’s work continued through the summer and into the early fall. In June 1803 he charged John Hartwell Cocke II for making a ceiling in the storeroom and laying its floor, installing some shelving, casing a door that led from the chamber into the storeroom, and piecing the floor. Lever’s work crew also made what was described as an “outside room” and fabricated the sashes and casing for two eight-light windows. They constructed a pair of steps and 26 feet of box and cornice. During July Lever’s crew made some shingling, eight window cornices, and a pair of shutters for windows. They also put up a shelf in the storehouse; built a necessary house; made a safe; and finished and hung the door that led from the dining room into the little passage. August brought the making of a fan and some sashes for Swann’s Point, but no work was done during September, perhaps because of Isaac Lever’s illness. 67 In October 1803 a brick kiln was erected and brick was burned. In November there was a flurry of activity. It was then that the kitchen, dairy, and smokehouse were underpinned, a kitchen chimney was erected, and an arch was built in the smokehouse. Lathing and plaster were applied to the cellar ceiling and stairway and plaster was applied to the parlor, closet and entry. Beading also was put up in the parlor and shelves were installed in the closet. The dairy received a ceiling and a door and casing were built. Weatherboarding, shingling, lathing, and 24 feet of box and cornice were made. The smokehouse was repaired and a wall was built for the ash house. Thirty panels of post and railing and a gate also were fabricated (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 3).
By the end of December 1803 Isaac Lever and his men seem to have finished their work, or nearly so. It was then that Lever presented John Hartwell Cocke II with a bill for building a kitchen that measured 42 feet by 16 feet. He charged for framing, weatherboarding, and shingling, and listed sums that he attributed to joists, sleepers, and partitions. The list of building materials and tasks reveals that the kitchen had four dormer windows and a brick and tile floor and passage. During construction, Lever and his men planked up a partition, made four doors and casings, and four window frames. They also fabricated sashes that had 36 lights and saw that they were glazed. They made the casing and fitting for one door and laid a floor that was 12 feet by 16 feet. They also made 44 feet of wash boards and 84 feet of box and cornice and installed lathing in the kitchen’s upper story. John Hartwell Cocke II did not settle the bulk of his account with Isaac Lever until April 1806, by which time the builder was dead. In fact, as late as January 1, 1810, Cocke paid off a note he owed to Isaac Lever( Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Boxes 3 and 10). This was two years after the Cocke household had vacated Mount Pleasant and moved to Bremo.
Although Isaac Lever was not included in Surry County’s personal property tax lists for 1802 or 1803, in 1804 he was identified as a free white male tithe and household head. He was then responsible for three white male tithes: himself, Eppm. Waggoner, and Wills Gray. He also paid taxes upon three enslaved persons who were age 16 or older, two horses, and a two-wheeled vehicle (Surry County Personal Property Tax Lists 1804). Isaac Lever’s absence from Surry’s personal property tax records except for one year suggest that he normally resided outside of Surry County. His name is not included in extant census records, which exist for the state of Virginia in 1810 but not 1800. Although Lever does not seem to have owned any real estate in Surry County, in 1809 his estate was credited briefly with 150 acres. As the acreage was not actually deeded to him or attributed to him or anyone else the following year, the possibility that his executor placed a lien upon someone’s property (perhaps John Hartwell Cocke II’s) until a debt was paid (Surry County Alterations 1809).
While Isaac Lever and his men were busy making improvements to Mount Pleasant’s main house, building a kitchen, and making improvements to the plantation’s other outbuildings, work was underway on other components of the domestic complex. When the newly married Anne Barraud Cocke wrote to her husband from Norfolk on January 18, 1803, she made reference to the poultry yard they were going to have at Mount Pleasant. She said that he hadn’t mentioned their “cow house” (dairy barn) but that the butter he had sent her was quite good. Sometime prior to March 2, 1803, Anne joined her husband in Surry County but took up residence at Four Mile Tree, then occupied by John’s brother-in-law and sister, Nicholas and Sally Cocke Faulcon. When Anne wrote to her parents, Philip and Anne Barraud, on March 2nd, she said, “I was never so industrious as I have been since I came here in my life. I have made two suits of window curtains consisting of four curtains each and have not yet trimmed [them].” She added that she had made six or eight white roses for use on a bed quilt. She indicated that she had undertaken the trimming of their new bed and window curtains and said that she was assisted by two maids, sister Polly, 68 and Nancy Moreland, “the housekeeper at Mount Pleasant” . Anne commented that the trim being used was much prettier than fringe and said that “We shall not want curtains until next winter as we will not be at home until late in the spring.” Anne told her parents that, “Mr. Cocke is so deeply engaged in planting an orchard by a mathematical rule that he is off directly after breakfast and sometimes does not return until night” (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 4) .
The Barrauds missed their newlywed daughter and on March 13, 1803,Dr. Philip Barraud wrote St. George Tucker that he saw “very plainly that this John Cocke will wean our Daughter from us.” He added that he had not believed that she would be satisfied to be away from them for five weeks “when she intended to have been gone a third of that time,” but he added that “the devil is in these young men for spoiling our children” (Tucker Coleman Papers Transcripts I:60).
John Hartwell Cocke II and wife Anne apparently visited Bremo shortly after she wrote to her parents. On April 20, 1803, Nicholas Faulcon sent word to John that his (John’s) new filly had raced against Magnet, another mare he owned. Both horses had participated in races at New Market and in Norfolk and had “run ‘round the ground” there at Four Mile Tree. By May 1, 1803, John and Anne Barraud Cocke had returned to Four Mile Tree . However, by August 5, 1803, they were back at Bremo. Sally Faulcon then sent word to Anne that Nancy Moreland had made a large quantity of pickles and preserves and that the peaches they had gotten from New Hope (a Faulcon property) were quite good. Sally added that “Your furniture looks very well” and asked Anne to tell John that his corn crop had been damaged by some strong wind but that “the garden looks well.” She said that Billy and Robin were still working in the yard, but that the builder “Mr. Leaver (Lever) has been sick ever since you left home, so you will conclude that your work goes on slowly” (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 4).
On August 22, 1803, Anne Barraud Cocke’s father told St. George Tucker that he had had two letters from her “since her arrival at their Plantation.” He added that “She seems fully engaged in making contrivances to be comfortable in this new settlement from whence they will travel, perhaps about this time to their Cousin Preston’s and from thence to Sweet Springs.” Dr. Barraud added that he feared that “her good husband’s health will require all the force of the Mountain climate to restore him” (Tucker Coleman Papers Transcripts I:61) .
Anne Barraud Cocke was visiting her parents in Norfolk on January 9, 1804, when John Hartwell Cocke II sent word that “The domestic affairs under the indefatigable attention of Nancy Moreland have gone well.” He added that he was looking forward to seeing how pleased she would be with “the affairs of your poultry yard.” He said that “The chief objects of my attention in this department at present is the Hen House and the Turkey House. We are now busily engaged in building them. These together with a Grand chicken coop, goose pen, and pig sty will constitute the ornaments of your kitchen yard” (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 4). Anne may well have gone to visit her parents in December 1803 or January 1804 in anticipation of the birth of her first child, John Hartwell Cocke III, who was born on January 25, 1804. During their marriage, the Cockes produced several children, three of whom were born while Mount Pleasant was their home: John Hartwell (as noted above), Louisiana Barraud (born in 1806), and Philip St. George (born in 1809) . After the couple moved to Bremo, Anne gave birth to Anne Blaus (born in 1811), Cary Charles (born in 1814), and Sally Faulcon (born in 1816). It was the birth of daughter Sally that seems to have claimed Anne Barraud Cocke’s life (Miller 1978:19; Cocke and Cocke 1967:I:62; Cocke Family Papers MS 2433 Box 20).
Anne Barraud Cocke returned to Surry County sometime prior to May 14, 1804, but stayed at Four Mile Tree with the Faulcons. However, by July 6, 1804, she and John had moved into their home at Mount Pleasant. It was then that she wrote a letter to her father, Dr. Philip Barraud. A message sent to John Hartwell Cocke II by John Fuqua, the overseer at Bremo, suggests that Cocke was trying to improve that property at the same time he enhancing Mount Pleasant. Fuqua described what he was doing to fatten the livestock at Bremo and said that “The stone is nearly all ready for the house.” He added that he had been unable to find any apple trees to purchase (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 4). It is unclear whether John Hartwell Cocke II was intent upon maximizing his assets or whether he was looking ahead to the time when he would make Bremo his permanent home.
John Hartwell Cocke II continued to make improvements to Mount Pleasant and enhance its value. On February 26, 1805, while he was a county justice, he sought his fellow justices’ permission to relocate a part of the public road running through his property. It was then that Nicholas Faulcon, Benjamin E. Brown, Robert McIntosh, William Schammel, and Robert Watkins were designated to review the right-of-way of the new section of road Cocke proposed to build. Any three of the five were empowered to “view the road” and “report any conveniences or inconveniences.” The appointees acted quickly and on April 23, 1805, Nicholas Faulcon, Robert McIntosh, and William Schammel reported that they had considered Cocke’s proposal “to turn the public road running through his lands and which leads to the Ferry at Swann’s Point.” Cocke also had acted quickly, for the little delegation reported that he had “already put the new road in pretty good order” and said that they believed that “after a little more labor . . . it will not be inferior to the former” road. They noted that although the new section of road increased the distance to the ferry by 400 yards, many travelers “called at the overseers house, which is about 200 yards from the former road, whereas the new road passes close by it.” They concluded, therefore, that the traveling public was not inconvenienced by movement of the road (Surry County Order Book 1804:148, 186) .
On February 6, 1806, when John Hartwell Cocke II wrote to his wife, Anne, who was then in Norfolk, he said that all of her “orders” would be carried out at Mount Pleasant except “the planting of the trees,” which had to be postponed because the ground was frozen. He said that he had not yet received the ten ducks that she’d had sent to him by stage. He told her that her turkeys were doing well, but admitted that he had had one killed and cooked when he was entertaining Beverley Tucker as a dinner guest (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 5). On December 23, 1806, John paid William Hopkins ₤15 for “building the cow house” and for 11 days’ work and other services during Blanks Moody’s illness (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 8).
Some of John Hartwell Cocke II’s business records suggest that he had found it necessary to borrow funds to underwrite the cost of the improvements being made at Mount Pleasant. On December 18, 1803, he obtained $1,200 from John Faulcon, Nicholas Faulcon’s brother. Then, on June 26, 1804, he secured another $1,000. Finally, on March 7, 1805, he obtained another $300. Each time he borrowed money from John Faulcon, he signed an IOU (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 8). As there is no evidence that John Hartwell Cocke II repaid his creditor, it is probable that some or all of the debt was cancelled when Faulcon married his sister, Mary Kennon Cocke, who purchased Swann’s Point on July 25, 1809 (Surry County Deed Book 3 [1804-1811]:481, 499; Alterations 1810). It was after borrowing money from John Faulcon that John H. Cocke II paid Robert McIntosh for some plank and shingles and compensated William Hopkins, builder of the cow barn (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 8). By that time, some of these debts were six or seven years in arrears.
Perhaps because John Hartwell Cocke II and his wife, Anne, made Mount Pleasant their family home for the first few years of their marriage, very little descriptive information is available between 1804 and 1809. Anne occasionally went to Norfolk and John went to Bremo on a fairly regular basis. During John’s absences, his brother-in-law Nicholas Faulcon kept him informed about agricultural activities at Mount Pleasant and Swann’s Point.
During 1806 Blanks Moody (first hired in 1802) was overseeing John Hartwell Cocke II’s farming operations. In a book of plantation accounts that Moody maintained, he indicated that he had incurred expenses for horse feed, ferriage, purchases (nails, paper, shoe threat, weaving, salt, pepper, and thread), and for having tumbler wheels made. He also had had the well cleaned and had paid people for inspecting tobacco. Wheat apparently was raised upon the property, for on September 13, 1806, mill-owner William Coleman gave Blanks Moody a receipt for 208 bushels of wheat (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 5). Coleman’s Mill, which was located upon Mill Creek in James City County, and was a short distance north of Jamestown Island’s eastern end, had a bake house where ships biscuits were prepared. Coleman operated a merchant or toll mill, where grain could be ground into flour or meal in exchange for a portion of the finished product. Coleman’s Mill also functioned as a sawmill (McCartney 1997:259-260).
Personal property tax records for the period 1801 through 1809 reveal that John Hartwell Cocke II typically had between thirty and forty enslaved workers on his Surry County property, who were age sixteen or older, and ten or less who were under sixteen. Usually, his herd of horses, asses, and mules included fifteen to twenty animals. He owned both a riding chair and a chariot. In 1807 John Hartwell Cocke II was one of the three largest holders of enslaved peoples in Surry County. He was still in Surry when tax records were compiled in 1809, but was gone by 1810 (Surry County Personal Property Tax Lists 1801-1810) .
On November 11, 1808, Nicholas Faulcon, who was still living at Four Mile Tree, sent a letter to John Hartwell Cocke II at Bremo, reporting upon the agricultural operations at Mount Pleasant. He said that “Edwin 76 had the wheat and oat stubble taken off the lot between the landing and garden at Mount Pleasant before he sowed the wheat.” He said that he had saved seed from Cocke’s Cheese and Grigson apples and crab apples and would send it to him. Nicholas indicated that according to Edwin, John’s sheep were in good condition and his Washington ram was fat and in good fleece. Nicholas added that he hoped John would be successful in getting a stock of the Merino sheep that Thomas Jefferson had introduced into the Fluvanna area. He said that the horses Diomeda and Key Hole and the Buzzard filly were in good shape, but that the Wonder filly and Magnet 77 were thin. He said that he had instructed Edwin to have them stabled every night and to keep their stalls well littered. Nicholas Faulcon said that John Hartwell Cocke II’s gardener, Ned, had been ill and that neither he nor Robin had done much about Mount Pleasant’s garden lately, which was showing signs of neglect. Nicholas indicated that Robin claimed to have been spending much of his time “rubbing [polishing] the furniture in the house” and making shoes for the plantation’s enslaved peoples (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 7).
1807: Jamestown’s Bicentennial
In May 1807 a bicentenary celebration or jubilee was held on Jamestown Island, to commemorate the first colonists’ arrival. Although it is uncertain whether John Hartwell Cocke II and his family, or Nicholas and Sally Cocke Faulcon, were among the celebrants, anyone then present at Mount Pleasant or Four Mile Tree would have been keenly aware of the festivities then in progress almost directly across the James. One man who attended the “Jamestown Jubilee” said that an “immense assembly . . . converged on the plains of Jamestown.” He indicated that speeches were given by a number of distinguished citizens and some students from the College of William and Mary. Robert A .Anderson of Yorktown, grand marshal of the celebration, said that “a number of vessels were moored in the bay and thousands of people from Norfolk, Petersburg, Williamsburg and elsewhere assembled on the island.” Anderson indicated that a procession was formed and conducted to the churchyard, where Bishop James Madison “delivered an elegant and appropriate discourse.” A pamphlet prepared especially for the Jamestown Jubilee stated that a packet and schooner brought bands of musicians and a company of artillery (complete with cannon) to Jamestown Island. By May 12th, the beach in front of Jamestown was filled with visitors. Tents were erected where the military encamped. By dawn on May 13th, an estimated thirty-two sailing ships had dropped anchor and small boats were plying to and from the shore. The speeches prepared especially for the day reportedly were followed by an abundance of feasting and merriment (McCartney 2000:218).
John Hartwell Cocke II and his first wife, Anne Blaus Barraud, together lived in Surry County from early 1803 (moving into their home at Mount Pleasant around June 1804) until late summer-early fall 1809. However, personal property tax rolls reveal that by early 1810 they had made Fluvanna County their permanent home. On August 13, 1808, the couple conveyed lifetime possession of the southwest portion of their Surry County plantation, which they called “Swanns Point,” to Thomas and Margaret Schammel “for the better support of the Schammels and the survivor of them.” The land that the Schammels were allowed to use lay behind Mount Pleasant and abutted the boundary line that separated the Cockes’ property from Four Mile Tree. It also bordered a minor stream from which Jack’s Swamp emanated. The Schammells’ 200 acres was located inland, away from the Cockes’ frontage on the James River and encompassed “the piney old field called Jack’s,” perhaps a subunit or quarter of Mount Pleasant that had been entrusted to Jack, an enslaved man of John Hartwell Cocke I’s (Surry County Personal Property Tax Lists 1801-1810; Deed Book 3 [1804-1811]:454) . At this juncture, the nature of the relationship between the Cockes and the Schammels is unclear, although Thomas Schammell is known to have done some work for John Hartwell Cocke I, upon occasion and William Schammel had some business dealings with the family.
On July 25, 1809, John Hartwell Cocke II and his wife sold to Nicholas Faulcon (John’s brother-in-law and the husband of his sister, Sally) 1,127 acres on the James River. The property, whose purchase price was 1,850 pounds, was described as “part of the tract whereon John Hartwell Cocke [II] and wife now reside, called and known by the name of Swann’s Point” . Reference was made to the property’s common boundary line with Four Mile Tree, the public road to the Swann’s Point ferry, Jack’s Swamp, Hercules Neck, and Thomas Schammel’s property line. The same day that the transaction took place, Anne Blaus Baurraud Cocke signed a document in which she waived her dower rights in the acreage being transferred (Surry County Deed Book 3 [1804-1811]:477-479, 497-498). Through this deed, the western part of the Swann’s Point tract, the acreage that John Hartwell Cocke I had occupied personally and was known as “Mount Pleasant,” came into the possession of Nicholas Faulcon and his wife, the former Sally Cocke.
On the same day that John Hartwell Cocke II and his wife Anne Blaus sold the western part of their Surry County property to Nicholas and Sally Cocke Faulcon, they conveyed to John’s sister, Mary Kennon Cocke, a 1,130 acre tract “called and known by the name of Swann’s Point,” in exchange for 1,580 pounds. The land that changed hands was the eastern part of the land traditionally known as Swann’s Point and followed Gray’s Creek downstream “to its mouth and along the [James] river to the beginning,” the common boundary line it shared with the land just transferred to Nicholas Faulcon. Again, Anne Blaus Barraud Cocke waived her dower interest in her husband’s land (Surry County Deed Book 3 [1804-1811]:481, 499). Through this transaction, Mary Kennon Cocke (John Hartwel lCocke II’s younger sister, who was a single woman) came into legal possession of the eastern part of the Swann’s Point tract . It was then that the eastern and western portion of the ancient Swann’s Point tract again embarked upon somewhat divergent ownership traditions.
Although John Hartwell Cocke and his wife, Anne, had sold Mount Pleasant to Nicholas and Sally Faulcon in July 1809, the Cockes’ move to Bremo was piecemeal and spanned a considerable period of time. In fact, it took months, even years, to transfer all of Mount Pleasant’s enslaved workers and personal belongings to Bremo. Some of the Cockes’ household furniture also lagged behind, with the result that the Faulcons stayed on at Four Mile Tree until June 1813, sharing the home of the Browns, instead of moving to Mount Pleasant. This was almost four years after the Faulcons had bought Mount Pleasant.
Letters exchanged by Nicholas Faulcon and John Hartwell Cocke II reveal that despite Faulcon’s July 1809 purchase, he looked after Mount Pleasant and Swann’s Point for the next several years on Cocke’s behalf and often served as his legal representative. This raises the possibility that Cocke and Faulcon had fashioned an agreement whereby Faulcon paid for the property, at least in part, with the services he provided. It would have been a mutually beneficial arrangement, for the income yielded by Mount Pleasant would have helped underwrite the cost of Cocke’s ambitious construction activities at Bremo. It is also quite possible that both men had a serious shortage of disposable income. Also, both seem to have assumed a stewardship role in taking care of Swann’s Point for Mary Kennon Cocke while she was a single woman.
On September 15, 1809, Sally C. Faulcon, who was living at Four Mile Tree, sent word to John Hartwell Cocke II at Bremo, that he had “about 50 gallons of peach and apple brandy here” and that “Mr. Faulcon wishes to know what is to be done with it.” Four days later, Nicholas Faulcon sent word to John that “Your people are now engaged with your fodder which will require all their attention until it is secured.” He said that Edwin had arrived the night before and would be at Swann’s Point again around October 1st. Nicholas told John that he would attend to his request “respecting your colts” (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 8).
A partial list of household furnishings, compiled by Anne Barraud Cocke between 1809 and 1812, sheds a great deal of light upon her household’s material culture. The first part of the list includes the china that was on hand at Mount Pleasant in October 1808 and the linens that were in the family’s possession in October 1809. In 1811 she counted the linens again and noted that five pair of fine sheets had been made in 1806. In January 1810 and on November 13, 1810, she compiled lists of the table china “after breakage of 1809,” a probable reference to items that had been shipped from Mount Pleasant to Bremo. On January 4, 1810,Anne noted that she had “finished the red bed curtains.” The list of items attributed to the dairy and the kitchen provide an abundance of information about how they were furnished. It is probable that the kitchens at Mount Pleasant and Bremo were similarly equipped (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 8) (Appendix F).
On November 2, 1809, Nicholas Faulcon, who was living at Four Mile Tree, wrote a lengthy letter to John Hartwell Cocke II. He said that he was sorry to learn that John and his wife had become ill on their journey from Surry to Bremo. He said that he had transported John’s wheat to Richmond and sold it for him and he reported upon the agricultural activities at Mount Pleasant. He said that the wheat planted in the lot at Swann’s Point was sown in corn ground and that wheat had been planted at Swann’s Point in the Brick House Field. Nicholas also had had wheat sown in all of the high ground at Swann’s Point and some had been planted in ground where oats formerly had been raised. He indicated that Edwin Gray had had the wheat sown too thick and that he had spoken with Cocke’s workers about it. Speaking of Mount Pleasant, Nicholas Faulcon said that he needed to see that the corn was gathered before the wheat was sown. He stated that he had told Cocke’s “people” (presumably his enslaved laborers) to gather their master’s hogs and if they were large enough, to get them ready to be sold when the cattle were offered for sale. Nicholas expressed his hope that John would be down before his share of the sheep was sold. He made reference to a runaway worker named Billy and said that overseer Edwin Grayf ailed to follow instructions with regard to the management of Cocke’s enslaved workers. He said that Gray refused to listen even though he was given advice. John Hartwell Cocke II apparently gave Edwin Gray a strong rebuke, for on November 11, 1809, Gray sent a letter to Cocke, saying that he did not deserve the admonition that he had received. He made reference to something that had happened to a colt, but failed to describe the incident. In closing, Gray said that it probably was best for him to leave (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 8).
In 1810 when a census-taker visited the household headed by Nicholas Faulcon, Nicholas himself may have been away from home. The census-taker noted that the family included a free white female who was over the age of 45 and one who was under 45 (in all likelihood, Sally Cocke Faulcon). Also present were 33 enslaved persons. No free blacks were then part of Nicholas Faulcon’s household (Surry County Census 1810).
On May 14, 1810,Anne Barraud Cocke, who was visiting Nicholas and Sally Faulcon at Four Mile Tree, sent a letter to her husband. She said that she had had so much company since her arrival that she had had a shoat killed. She said that they dined upon bacon, beef, sturgeon, and sometimes pancakes and apricot tarts. They also had been enjoying peas. Anne said that Messers, Ritche and Hunt had visited Four Mile Tree the previous day, having stopped at Mount Pleasant in hope of seeing John. She said that because the weather had been cool, she was worried about her “poor turkeys,” which had hatched (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 9).
Many of the letters exchanged by the women of the Cocke family focused upon their relatives and friends. On August 27, 1810, Sally Cocke Faulcon wrote to Anne Barraud Cocke, mentioning the pleasure she was deriving from her daughter, Sally. On November 13, 1810, Sally C. Faulcon sent another letter to her sister-in-law, Anne. She said that she had been visiting friends but when she returned to Four Mile Tree, she “found the house in great confusion – the yard covered with bricks and mortar.” She added that the garden was neat and that she had found some flowers in bloom (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 9).
On February 9, 1811, Anne Barraud Cocke, who was visiting her family in Norfolk, sent a letter to her husband, urging him to hurry with construction of their house at Bremo. She cautioned him to “Observe whether Fred and Anner have kept the furniture in good order” and told him to remind those enslaved on the property not to let the tongs and shovels rust (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 10). It is uncertain where the Cockes stored their belongings they took to Bremo while their new home was under construction.
When Nicholas Faulcon communicated with John Hartwell Cocke II on November 14, 1809, he made reference to the crops of wheat, corn, and cotton at Mount Pleasant and said that he was trying to sell the runaway worker, Billy, who had been captured. Nicholas said that he felt that when John came to Surry next time, he might be able to take his people up to Bremo with him. In December 1809 someone (perhaps overseer Edwin Gray) noted that corn had been harvested at “the point next to the ice house.” References were made to crops being gathered from the middle meadow, high ground, lower meadow, ice house meadow, the Brick House field, and Gray’s. That same month, manure was taken from several locations (the “lane nearest the old stable, the bed by the garden, the old stable hole, kitchen manure from Sally’s pen, and the hog pen) and put in “the brick house field which is east of the settlement at Swann’s Point and south of the fourt [sic]” (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 8) .
A letter Nicholas Faulcon wrote to John Hartwell Cocke on January 9, 1810, reveals that John Hartwell Cocke II visited Mount Pleasant in December 1809. Faulcon, who was still residing at Four Mile Tree, said that “Edwin Gray went off from Mount Pleasant the Saturday after you left us and carried with him the keys of the crib at Swann’s Point and of the granary at Mount Pleasant.” He said that he had seen Edwin at court and obtained the key to the corn crib and that the former overseer had returned the granary key a few days later . Nicholas said that he would measure the corn that was on hand and also indicated that he had sold some hogs from Swann’s Point. A week earlier Nicholas sent word that he also had sold John’s land at “the Crossroads” (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 8).
Nicholas Faulcon apparently was determined to find a new overseer for Mount Pleasant. On January 10, 1810, he sent word to John Hartwell Cocke II that he hoped to place Drury there. He said that he had not yet divided the sheep between sister-in-law Polly (Martha Ruffin Cocke) and himself. Nicholas said that “Since I have got my people at Mount Pleasant I have been afraid to have them [the sheep] handled.” He added that there were some ewes and that the lambs were fine and healthy (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 8). This statement implies that Nicholas Faulcon’s workers were inexperienced when it came to working with sheep, especially lambs.
On February 13, 1810, when Nicholas Faulcon wrote to John Hartwell Cocke, he said that a little over a week ago, he had witnessed the highest tide that he had ever seen. He said that the water inundated two-thirds of the wheat in the “fort” and that the meadows were submerged. A large part of the middle meadow’s embankment had been washed away and in some areas, the ditch was filled up. Nicholas indicated that he had been busy grubbing and hauling hay and had gotten little plowing done so far. He said that those enslaved at Mount Pleasant had been sick and that a favorite servant had died. He added that Bennett, the overseer, 83 had done rather well at Swann’s Point. Speaking of his sheep’s fecundity, he reported that there were thirteen lambs at Swann’s Point, five at Mount Pleasant, and fifteen at Four Mile Tree. On March 5, 1810, Nicholas sent word that more lambs had been born; there were twenty-six at Swann’s Point, five at Mount Pleasant, and eighteen at Four Mile Tree. He quoted Harris (who appears to have been a trusted enslaved worker) with saying that he feared that they would not have even one young Commodore, a reference to a pedigreed ram owned by John Hartwell Cocke II. Nicholas said that Harris was extremely pleased with the progeny of the lamb that John had given him. He added that he (Nicholas) was progressing slowly in preparing Mount Pleasant’s old fields for cultivation and that he had not gotten more than 100,000 corn hills broken up. At Swann’s Point, Bennett was plowing and intended to sow oats the following week. Nicholas mentioned that the black mare had not worked much this year. On March 13th Nicholas Faulcon sent another letter to John Hartwell Cocke II. He said that he had found a large and very coarse grindstone and a barshear plow at Mount Pleasant and would send them up to him at Bremo, if he so desired. He said that personally, he liked the Cary plow and had used it in the old fields at Mount Pleasant where there was a strong broom sward (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 8).
As time went on, Nicholas Faulcon continued to send John Hartwell Cocke II regular updates about the agricultural activities at Mount Pleasant and Swann’s Point. On April 9, 1810, Nicholas told John that Bennett had begun planting corn and that he had had the apple orchard pruned. He added that he had reserved manure to put around the trees that needed it. He said that last week they had begun planning corn at Four Mile Tree and Mount Pleasant and that he expected to finish planting the old fields tomorrow. He then planned to turn his attention to getting the meadows planted. Nicholas said that he understood what John meant when talking about the need to secure the meadow ground’s embankment from flooding and muskrat damage; he added, however, that the work would be very costly and was uncertain to succeed. He said that he was less sanguine than John, but would try to secure the embankment as soon as he could. Nicholas offered some advice of his own. He advised John Hartwell Cocke II not to breed his full blooded mares with Roebuck and urged him not to “degrade Diomeda so much.” He added that she should be put with the best horse he can find and indicated that John’s Wonder filly was one of the finest he’s ever seen. Turning his attention to other matters of business, Nicholas told John that the deed of release he had forwarded to Bremo had to be proven in court and that Anne Barraud Cocke had to release her dower rights (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 9). 84
As spring moved into summer, Nicholas Faulcon continued to give his brother-in-law updates on Mount Pleasant. On May 8, 1810, he sent word that the wet spring had impeded his work with the meadows, but that he was getting the lower one ready to plant in corn. He said that his wheat crop had improved and that “the wheat in the corn ground at Swann’s Point looks pretty well and that in the lot would have been very fine but for its being sown too thick.” He said that Bennett(the overseer) had planted his cotton and was then weeding his corn. He said that Bennett’s ground was well plowed and was in good order. Nicholas said that he had had John’s colt gelded at the same time he had had the procedure performed on one of his own. He inquired whether John were familiar with Hend’s grass, which had been recommended to him for use in his meadows and was popular in the northern states. He mentioned that Tony became sick while visiting Major Butler’s over the holidays and was still unable to do anything about his crop. In closing, Nicholas Faulcon said that he and Sally often had wished that John and Anne had some of their asparagus. He said “The Beds at Mount Pleasant have produced an abundant crop and as fine as I ever saw. The beds here gave us as much as we wished. Tomorrow we shall have our first dish of peas” (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 9).
On Monday, July 2, 1810,Nicholas Faulcon sent word to John Hartwell Cocke II that he was in the midst of harvesting. He said that work had commenced at Swann’s Point and was expected to take four days, and that the harvest would begin at Mount Pleasant the following Wednesday and probably would take two days. He said that the wheat planted in the corn ground at Swann’s Point had been better than expected and that he would be glad to sell it for Cocke, if he so desired. Faulcon said that Bennett had a good corn crop and that “Mine in the old lawn at Mount Pleasant is all that I have to boast of and that is the best I ever saw of the same age, upon high ground.” He added that, “The old fields are likely to produce as well as I expected and since I got the meadows cleaned out, the corn in them has grown a good deal.” Then, he qualified that statement by saying that he feared “their produce will not equal the calculation I made at the time of planting.” He added that he had “found great difficulty in getting the corn to stand in them, indeed I have planted a good deal since you were here, which must be too late unless the weather should prove favorable”(Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 9).
On October 10, 1810, Nicholas Faulcon informed John Hartwell Cocke II that they were in the midst of a very bad drought. He said that the Red Point field probably would yield no more than a bushel-and-a-half of corn per thousand hills and that he doubted that Cocke’s meadows would yield as much as he expected. Nicholas said that he would do what John had asked about the Buzzard filly, the Wonder filly, and the Magnet colt. He commented that all three were thin and that he had seen them running in the pasture at Mount Pleasant. Then, on November 12, 1810,Nicholas sent word to John that Bennett had just finished seeding his corn ground and had sown 43 bushels of wheat. He closed by saying that he had heard that John had purchased four Merino sheep. This was more than hearsay, for an account book John maintained at Bremo lists the profits and losses he experienced with his Merino sheep during 1810. In January 1811 John offered to purchase Nicholas a Merino lamb, but Nicholas declined, saying that he was then short of funds (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Boxes 6, 9, and 10).
John Hartwell Cocke II may have left some of his enslaved workers at Swann’s Point or Mount Pleasant, for on November 29, 1810, William Taliaferro 85 sent a letter to Bremo, informing him that he had left some paperwork with Sally Faulcon about the hiring out of enslaved laborers. Several members of the Taliaferro family had intermarried with the Cockes (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 9; Cocke and Cocke 1967:35).
During winter and spring 1811 Nicholas Faulcon continued to assist to his brother-in-law, John Hartwell Cocke II, who was trying to establish a family residence at Bremo. On February 25, 1811, he told John that he was sending his cider and cotton to him soon and on May 14, 1811, he indicated that he was sending up a shipment of cotton, cotton seed, and a bag of bottle corks. Throughout the next few months, the two men continued to correspond regularly and Nicholas, who was still living at Four Mile Tree, provided John with regular updates on the agricultural activities at Mount Pleasant and Swann’s Point. On October 22, 1811, Nicholas said that he would be sending John some Scotch Broom seed that he had been able to find. He also told John that he had concluded that Barbury sheep were the best variety. Then, on July 7, 1812, he updated John about the wheat crop at Mount Pleasant (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Boxes 10 and 11).
On October 13, 1812, Nicholas Faulcon informed John Hartwell Cocke II that Mr. Bennett, the overseer at Swann’s Point, had been ordered to Norfolk to join a militia unit. He said that Bennett previously had been excused to stay home with his wife, who was ill. Nicholas said that “Your sister Polly’s affairs at Swann’s Point must necessarily suffer by Bennett’s leaving the plantation at this time.” He said that he was at a loss about what to do about hiring an overseer for next year. He said that Polly was very much attached to Mrs. Bennett and for her sake, was eager for her husband to stay on at Swann’s Point. Nicholas added that “I believe he would do as well as anyone I could get for the same wages,” but that if Bennett were away for as long as six months, it would be necessary to hire someone else. He indicated that he had told Mrs. Bennett that she and her children could stay on at Swann’s Point for the time-being. Nicholas Faulcon said that he was still having terrible luck with John Hartwell Cocke II’s horses. He said Cocke that the Wonder filly and the young Magnet colt were dead and that the Wonder filly had had what farriers call the “mad staggers.” He indicated that Bennett thought that a grub infestation had killed the Magnet colt. Nicholas said that he had decided not to sow Yellow Lamas wheat at Swann’s Point anymore and that he had supplied forty bushels from Mount Pleasant that would be used for seed. On a less serious note, in a March 10, 1813, letter Nicholas told John that he was releasing him from his wager over who would enjoy the first peas, as he realized that John was unable to sow the seed as early as he could. The bet involved the loser’s buying books for the winner (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 12).
Even before John Hartwell Cocke II left Mount Pleasant, he seems to have begun planning to take advantage of the latest advances in agriculture and animal husbandry, once he had settled in at Bremo. In 1809 he made a note about “the new Leicesteror Bakewell breed of sheep” that were in the possession of Miles Smith Esq. and a Captain Farmer on their farms near Brunswick, New Jersey. Then, in July 1809 he noted that there was “a cow of the Suffolk polled breed shown at the Pennsylvania cattle show and owned by Turner Camaresty.” Sometime prior to July 8, 1810,John purchased an imported Barbury ram that was brown in color. A man known only as W. Fontaine wrote to Cocke, saying that he had a ewe of the same variety and would like to breed it with the ram. This type of correspondence reflects the escalating interest in scientific farming that occurred during the early nineteenth century (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Boxes 8 and 9).
As noted above, Nicholas Faulcon sent cotton seed and Scotch Broom seed to John Hartwell Cocke II at Bremo, but as time went on, the plant exchanges became more sophisticated and purposeful. On March 15, 1812, Nicholas told John that he had been unsuccessful in growing the cherries he had started for him last summer, but that he was sending him some other cherry tree plants: three from Four Mile Tree and one from Mount Pleasant. He said that the latter was a plant John had set out while he was living at Mount Pleasant. He said that “I took it up from the border in the garden next to the Fruitery.” Nicholas proffered that it might be a White Heart and said that the others were a May Duke, a Black Heart, and a Carnation or Bleeding Heart. He said that he had had trouble getting the white fig to root but had been successful with the brown fig and was sure that its scions would succeed. He also was sending along cherry scions from the Carnation and the Common Black varieties. Nicholas indicated that he had sent John every Damson scion that he could find. He said that “Those marked plum-scions were taken from the fruitery at Mount Pleasant, around a tree that had died.” He added “Whether it was one you had purchased or started I don’t know. If the latter, it is most likely that the stock was a blue plum.” Nicholas Faulcon said that he and his wife, Sally, had tried to comply with John’s request, but that it had come too late in the season to be transplanting trees and shrubs. John apparently asked Nicholas to send him a puppy, for Nicholas responded by saying that “Ned will bring you the Shepherd’s dog and the only one of the puppies I have left.” Nicholas suggested that John consider breeding the older dog “with one from Mr. Jefferson’s breed” (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 11) .
Over the years, Nicholas Faulcon and John Hartwell Cocke II continued to exchange plant materials and information on scientific farming. On November 21, 1817, John noted in his agricultural diary that his “worthy friend” Nicholas Faulcon had “brought me two dozen of the genuine, long-hanging Hughes crab from his orchard in Surry, from which the best cider I have ever seen, has been made.” He added that he would plant them “together with a half a dozen spice apple trees (bro’t by him also) and highly recommended as a fine flavored, keeping apple.” John planted Nicholas’s fruit trees at Upper Bremo (Cocke Family Papers MS 2433 Box 20). John Hartwell Cocke II also shared plant materials with his brother-in-law and in 1817 Nicholas Faulcon said that “The cherry trees which you planted out [at Mount Pleasant] are producing this spring an abundant crop.” In another letter Nicholas told John that he was growing cucumbers at Mount Pleasant and that his wife was eating them for her health. He also said that he was then raising wheat (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 24).
Perhaps because John Hartwell Cocke IIs pent his formative years in Williamsburg at the College of William and Mary, then Virginia’s center of higher education, his thinking probably was heavily influenced by those with whom he associated. He, like young William Ludwell Leeof Green Spring Plantation, may have been inspired by the rhetoric of certain Revolutionary War era patriots, who were convinced that the enslavement of Africans and African Americans was inconsistent with the principles that had given rise to American independence. John Hartwell Cocke II also may have been influenced by the actions of his uncle and guardian, Richard Cocke VI, who maintained Mount Pleasant for a decade (until John came of age) and in 1801 bequeathed his enslaved persons his freedom.
Thanks to an emancipation law that was passed in 1782, an estimated 20,000 enslaved people of Virginia were set free during the 1780s and 90s. Eventually, however, there was a backlash of public opinion, for many enslavers, those who were disinclined to free their enslaved, were convinced that newly freed blacks were a disruptive influence in the community. By 1806 political pressure had culminated in a major revision of the laws pertaining to manumission and newly freed persons had to be transported out of Virginia. Some neighboring states responded by forbidding Virginia’s free blacks from taking up residence within their territory. In 1816 Virginia officials began to promote the overseas colonization of free blacks (Russell 1969:72-73; Morgan 1984:59; Shepherd 1970:II:19-20;III:290).
Much of the pressure for abolition came from people whose religious convictions persuaded them that it was necessary, notably Quakers and some Baptists and Methodists. Also, some people believed that the market for tobacco was destined to decline, rendering slavery unprofitable. George Wythe and Thomas Jefferson worked out a plan for emancipation, which they intended to introduce in the state legislature in 1779. However, their proposal (which involved freeing those born after passage of the act, seeing that they received some training, and then settling them outside of Virginia), never was introduced. Among those who favored the abolition of slavery, who at best constituted a minority, the consensus was that it should be phased out gradually. Slavery, however, was so pervasive and played such a large role in the state’s economy that no workable solution was found. Patrick Henry, who in 1773 had declared that slavery was “repugnant to humanity,” admitted that he was a slave-owner and was “drawn along by the general inconvenience of living without them” (Tate 1965:120-121, 125-126).
Although many Virginians were opposed to the idea of freeing their enslaved workers, John Hartwell Cocke II became an ardent abolitionist. At his estates in Fluvanna County, he dedicated himself to agricultural reform and practiced crop rotation, terracing, deep plowing, and using fertilizer to maintain and improve the soil. He campaigned against tobacco cultivation and on a personal level, found the consumption of tobacco and alcohol morally repugnant. The extreme arguments he mounted resulted in some of his ideas’ being subjected to ridicule. However, he remained steadfast in his views, which he believed were a moral imperative.
John Hartwell Cocke II insisted that tobacco planters’ preoccupation with “the weed” forced them to use enslaved laborers and to purchase meat and corn for their own tables and feed for their livestock. Cocke was among the conservative reformers, both North and South, who formed benevolent societies designed to give permanence to the changes that were occurring in religious denominations. These changes, considered important virtues, included self-reliance, thrift, industry, and sobriety.
Cocke fervently believed that enslaved labor was evil. However, he did not think that blacks and whites could live together in harmony. He was convinced that to save Virginia from ruin, formerly enslaved blacks had to be removed from the state. He, like James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and others, advocated the colonization of American blacks in Africa. In pursuit of that goal, he was involved in the establishment of the American Colonization Society in late 1816. The Society purchased some land in Liberia, in West Africa, and attempted to settle freed individuals and free blacks there. The organization also tried to educate the public on the need for colonization but ultimately transported fewer than seven thousand freed persons to Liberia, in West Africa. John Hartwell Cocke II freed many of his own enslaved workers, those he considered capable of supporting themselves in Africa and leading a Christian life. He suffered ostracism for his beliefs and as time went on, became increasingly devout. He reportedly often chided friends and family members for their weakness and pursuit of the worldly life. In time, the American Colonization Society’s support waned, for northerners suspected it of promoting slavery by removing free blacks from America and southerners bridled at the claim that slavery was immoral (Miller 1978:25-34).
Although John Hartwell Cocke II was opposed to slavery, he relied upon a combination of material incentives and moral principles to ready his enslaved workers for manumission. He pledged a percentage of his plantation’s profits toward repaying his own investment in enslaved workers and encouraged his workers (especially artisans) to work toward accumulating the money they needed for self-purchase. Cocke provided religious training and regular preaching and attempted to instill in those enslaved by him the moral values he personally believed in. He refused to release any person whom he considered incapable of assuming the responsibility of freedom and colonization in Africa (Miller 1978:33-34).
Like many southern planters, John Hartwell Cocke II considered the successful management of enslaved laborers a part of good agricultural management. In fact, articles on such management and care regularly appeared in agricultural journals across the south. In 1837 William Galt of Point of Fork Plantation in Fluvanna County asked John Hartwell Cocke II to comment upon the rules he (Galt) had formulated for such management. In the transcription that follows, Cocke’s comments appear in italics.
1st No Negroes should be permitted to go off the Plantation on his or her own business without a written pass.
2nd No Negroe should be allowed to sell anything without a written permit.
1 and 2 These two regulations are in fact the law of the land, and if executed by every Citizen on his own Estate, would cut off nine-tenths of the vices and crimes of our slaves and prevent an immense proportion of punishment, now rendered necessary by the neglect of those laws.
3rd Fighting should be strictly prohibited.
3rd Comment unnecessary on the 3rd.
4th It should be made the duty of every Negroe to take up or give information to the Overseer of every Negroe who may come among them and can not give a proper account of himself, and they should be especially prohibited from entertaining watermen.
On the 4th Necessary especially in reference to intercourse with watermen, who are the chief seducers to villainy amongst our slaves on the River.
5th Quarreling or vexations and insulting language from one to another, and especially from a younger to an older Negroe should be strictly forbidden.
On the 5th A useful ancillary rule to the one against fighting.
6th Every working hand, under the authority of the Overseer upon the Plantation, should appear in a clean shirt and decent clothes every Sunday morning.
On the 6th Some attention to personal cleanliness and comfort I have found to be an expedient preliminary step to the improvement of the moral character, but the most powerful means for the attainment of this end will be found in the thrice blessed influence of the Temperance Reformation, which I have found by experience may be as successfully resorted to for the moral machination of this class of our population as any other in the community. Indeed there are manifest reasons why this great moral movement of the age may be more successfully applied to the slave population of Virginia and the slave holding states than to any other economy in the World.
William Galt also made a list of what he described as “Rules for Overseers.” (Galt Family Papers).
During the War of 1812, while John Hartwell Cocke II was living at Bremo, attained the rank of brigadier general. Later, he assisted Thomas Jefferson in designing the University of Virginia. He also became a member of its Board of Visitors (Cocke and Cocke 1967:I:62; Kornwolf 1976:88). A receipt for the taxes Cocke paid for 1801 is dated August 24, 1802 (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 3).  On December 10, 1802, Dr. Philip Barraud informed his friend, St. George Tucker, that he hadn’t intended to ask him to attend his daughter’s wedding to John Hartwell Cocke II, but had changed his mind and in fact, would be pleased if Tucker and his wife and children came to Norfolk (Tucker Coleman Papers Transcripts I:56).  This is the earliest dated reference to the use of the name “Mount Pleasant.” It is unclear whether John Hartwell Cocke II gave the property that name, or whether that had originated with his father, who had built a home on the property. John Hartwell Cocke I’s wife, Mary Kennon, was from Mount Pleasant in Chesterfield County.  Cary Wilkinson, who had a contentious relationship with his employer, William Lee, apparently was knowledgeable about farming and the oversight of enslaved workers. He formerly had worked for Philip Ludwell III, who had given him a free hand in managing his rural property. Eventually, Wilkinson became so frustrated with Lee’s insistence that he implement his theories about agricultural practices and the management of enslaved workers that he angrily resigned (McCartney 1997:192).  Charles H. Graves was still attending to John Hartwell Cocke II’s enslaved persons’ medical needs during 1808 and 1809. It was then that he was paid for providing treatment to those enslaved at Mount Pleasant (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 10).  John Hartwell Cocke II may have placed Blanks Moody at Swann’s Point, to oversee farming operations there, and hired Thomas Maddera as the overseer at Mount Pleasant. However, the two farm managers may have been hired successively.  In 1805, 1807, and 1808 John Hartwell Cocke II purchased plank and shingles from Robert McIntosh and paid for ferriage. McIntosh and his partner, W. Schammel, ran a mill near Swann’s Point (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Boxes 6 and 8).  This document, a large page that was folded both horizontally and vertically, has writing on both sides. It appears have been a portion of an account book but shows no evidence that it was ever bound.  This work stoppage coincides with Sally Faulcon’s August 5, 1803, letter to Anne Barraud Cocke, which indicated that Mr. Lever had been ill for some time and that as a consequence, little work had been done at Mount Pleasant Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 4).  Mary Kennon Cocke’s nickname was Polly.  Richard Cocke VI, when executing his 1801 will, made a bequest to Anne Moreland, perhaps the same woman.  An agricultural diary or ledger maintained by John Hartwell Cocke II at Bremo, from November 6, 1816, to May 19, 1818, reveals that whenever he set out plants, he did so with mathematical precision. He wrote about having his trees and shrubs planted in rows that were a certain number of feet apart, and he took into account other landscape features (such as fence lines and ditches) that were present. In 1833 when he planted a fruit orchard at Bremo Recess, he laid it out like a checkerboard, with alternate rows of each kind of fruit. In 1817 Cocke hired Alexander Blair, an English gardener, who was an indentured servant. Blair was to serve for three years for ₤40. In 1817 Cocke made plans to establish an agricultural society in Albemarle and Orange Counties (Cocke Family Papers MS 2433 Boxes 20 and 76).  In 1804 John Hartwell Cocke II purchased some riding britches (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 4). A 19th century account suggests that there was a race field on the 200 acre tract at Mount Pleasant that was known as Jack’s (see ahead).  By the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, those living in Tidewater Virginia were keenly aware of the “summer sicknesses,” such as malaria. In fact, John Ambler II of Jamestown, having lost his first two wives to such illnesses, insisted upon relocating his household further inland, annually, during the “unhealthy” months of August and September (McCartney 2000:I:213).  Philip St. George Cocke eventually married Sally Elizabeth Courtney Bowdoin and moved to Four Mile Tree. He tried to restore the Bowdoin plantation’s soils to fertility but failed. Finally, he disposed of the property and moved to Belmead in Powhatan County. Later, he established cotton plantations in Mississippi (Miller 1978:19-20).  On July 28, 1807, John Hartwell Cocke II was appointed surveyor of roads in the Swann’s Point precinct; he replaced Robert McIntosh. A month later, Cocke and brother-in-law Nicholas Faulcon were appointed processioning masters of the Swann’s Point precinct (Surry County Order Book 1807-1811:28, 41).  On August 8, 1807, Dr. Philip Barraud said that John Hartwell Cocke II had “caught the Contagion” but was planning to enter the military “if war takes place.” He did so and on January 19, 1808, Barraud speculated that Cocke was “cooling his Heels somewhere in the Ice of the Potomac” (Tucker Coleman Papers Transcripts I:70, 82).  Edwin Gray was then the overseer at Mount Pleasant but lived at Swann’s Point. He was a young man and Nicholas Faulcon thought that he often lacked good judgment. He was the son of Thomas Gray, whose family had owned land on Gray’s Creek for many generations (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 8). Genealogical sources indicate that Thomas Gray had married Nancy Cocke, the daughter of Hartwell Cocke I. Thus, Thomas would have been John Hartwell Cocke II’s uncle and Edwin Gray would have been a first cousin (Cocke and Cocke 1967:16).  In 1807 John Hartwell Cocke II paid Nicholas Faulcon for a season of Magnet with Faulcon’s horse. On May 23, 1809, Cocke paid Thomas Cocke for a season of his filly, Wonder, with his “celebrated imported horse” (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 2).  Later, the Schammel property was reunited with Mount Pleasant. An August 5, 1853, reference to the property called Jack’s reveals that a race field was located there (see ahead).  The grantor probably used the traditional name for the property he was selling, instead of Mount Pleasant, to make it absolutely clear which acreage he was selling to the grantee.  Later, she wed John Faulcon.  No references have come to light suggesting that fortifications were built in the vicinity of Swann’s Point during the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries. However, if a fort were to be erected there, directly across from the fortifications that were built on the western end of Jamestown Island during the late seventeenth and the early eighteenth centuries, access to the upper reaches of the James River would have been controlled.  Thomas Gray, Edwin’s father, apparently was embarrassed by his son’s behavior, for he wrote a letter of apology to John Hartwell Cocke II (Cocke Manuscripts 640 Etc. Box 8).  There were at least four Bennett households in Surry County at this time, but no indication as to which man was an overseer. Some members of the Bennett family owned land, but very insubstantial quantities.  This probably was in reference to the deed to the property known as “the Crossroads.”  William Taliaferro was his uncle.  On February 14, 1812, Dr. Philip Barraud told St. George Tucker that “John Cocke fattens.” He added that Cocke had “gone with the Carys to hunt for some dogs with R. Harrison” (Tucker Coleman Papers Transcripts I:96).