Examining a Pre-Georgian Plantation Landscape in Piedmont, Virginia: The Original Madison Family Plantation, 1726-1770

Abstract: The Mount Pleasant site, the original plantation complex of the Madison family, is one of the earliest and best preserved archaeological examples of plantation life in the Piedmont of Virginia. Burned and subsequently abandoned in the early 1770s, this site contains deposits and features relating to both the Madison family and their enslaved population. Over the past 5 years, archaeological survey and excavation have revealed several cellar foundations and structural remains that have allowed for a reconstruction of the layout of the plantation. What is clear from this work is that Mount Pleasant is laid out in a pre-Georgian plan that remained little altered since its initial layout in the late 1720s. Combined with these features, Mount Pleasant is one of the few early plantations that was run by a female planter, James Madison’s grandmother, from 1732 until her death in 1761. This paper will discuss Mount Pleasant’s unique place in Piedmont history and what the layout of the plantation reflects of Madison’s grandmother’s role within the patriarchical society of colonial Virginia.