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An Account of the Pettus Plantation at Littletown, Virginia

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Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: Littletown, Virginiamap
Surname/tag: Pettus
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Colonel Thomas PETTUS (aka Councilor) came to America in 1638-1641, after serving on the Continent in the Thirty Years War, for the Virginia Company in command of forty men to assist the colonists in their struggles with the Powhatan Indians at Jamestowne. Colonel Thomas built a substantial residence on the James River on a tract four miles downriver from the Jamestown settlement not long after his arrival. He named the seventeenth century plantation house Littletown. Colonel Thomas, son of William Pettus, sought a lifestyle different than was offered in his native environs. He found Virginia an attractive alternative lifestyle. He quickly became a member of the emerging provincial elite. Colonel Thomas PETTUS became a Governor's councilor in the mid-seventeenth century, serving on the prestigious Governor's Council from 1641 until 1660. Colonel Thomas probably was entitled to some Jamestowne property through investments made by his granduncle Sir John PETTUS, who had purchased stock in the company holding the third charter to Virginia, The Third Virginia Charter Company. 11 The marriage of Colonel Thomas to the widow, Elizabeth ( Mrs. Richard) DURRANT, added substantial holdings to the estate which eventually encompassed 1280 acres. The PETTUS plantation left a lasting imprint on the Jamestowne and Williamsburg landscape. About 1972 the Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission located and began excavation of Colonel Thomas PETTUS' Littletown 15 site at Kingsmill (right) and determined the layout and size of the buildings from discolored earth where dwelling supporting postholes existed. Several plantation sites comprised the Kingsmill area. The Pettus Littletown Plantation archaeological site, uncovered by historical archaeologist William M. Kelso, is located near the marina on the private Kingsmill Resort property south of Williamsburg, VA. An article entitled "The Virginians" in the November 1974 National Geographic Magazine 8 gives an account of this archaeological find and excavation and further insight into the development of Colonial Virginia. Below is the complete four paragraph excerpt from the section on pages 593-596, under the subtitle "Post Molds" Reveal a Colonial Saga, which pertains to Colonel Thomas PETTUS. Author Mike W. Edwards writes: "Thomas Pettus was one of those hardy settlers - a land clearer and housebuilder. When, he arrived in 1641, land was available near Jamestown. He built on a tract four miles downriver from the settlement." "I came on Pettus's holdings on a hot July afternoon and met half a dozen young people who had cleared the land again - at least, a little of it. They scraped the earth with trowels; one brushed with a whisk broom." "From beneath his yellow hard hat - protection from the sun - archeologist William Kelso of the Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission explained that the team sought 'post molds' - discolored earth that would disclose where posts had stood. Judging from the ashes here, this had been Pettus's smokehouse. 'As you can see,' Bill said, waving a hand toward rows of holes, ' we've found the other buildings of the homestead.' " "It was not a grand manor. Pettus built a T-shaped house and haphazardly added outbuildings, all of wood. 'It was almost a medieval layout,' Bill continued. 'In the 17th century, men like Pettus were concerned more with survival than pleasing architecture.' He apparently possessed little china or crystal. 'Mostly we've found items of local clay, crudely formed and crudely fired.' " Later findings and thinking can be found in William M. Kelso's "Rescue Archaeology of the James - Early Virginia Country Life" 3 and Kingsmill Plantations, 1619-1800, Archaeology of Country Life in Colonial Virginia, Studies in Historical Archaeology 12 which is an extensive study of the Kingsmill Plantations and contains many references to Thomas PETTUS' Littletown Plantation.

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