Peace Hill Farm is the heart of the sprawling colonial-era Peace Hill royal land grant, which once covered hundreds of acres in eastern Charles City County, from the banks of the Chickahominy to just below the James.
A 1698 land patent given to the English settler John Pettiver sets the border of his property at “the north side of Peace Hill.” Fire has destroyed many records from this period, but the plantation was probably owned by one Sackville Brewer, a prosperous farmer whose sons later named other plantations in Hanover County and James City County “Peace Hill” after their childhood home.
According to family records, Peace Hill was given its name after a 1614 treaty between English settlers and the local Chickahominy tribe was signed on the plantation’s grounds.
As plantations tend to be, Peace Hill was divided between sons, grandsons, and great-grandsons for many generations. The name Peace Hill survived on the fifty-acre farm owned by Luther and Amelia Morecock during the Depression.
Jessie Tench Wise was raised at Peace Hill by the Morecocks, who were both her cousins and her foster parents. Her mother’s family, the Binns, controlled the county seat to the west and established the Binns clothing store in historic Williamsburg.
In the early 1970s, Jessie inherited the farm where she had grown up. Jessie and her husband Jay, a native of New Orleans, raised their own family at Peace Hill. In 1991, Jessie’s daughter Susan Wise Bauer and her husband Peter moved back to the farm. Then, in 2009, Susan and Peter purchased the fifty acres next to Peace Hill, originally part of the Peace Hill property, and the turn-of-the-century farmhouse there, now the Bed & Breakfast at Peace Hill.
This property was a subsistence farm raising chickens, and the century-old chicken houses (now used as event spaces and Peace Hill’s farm store) boast hand-cut local timber, along with the wide low windows meant to give air to the layers. The farmhouse itself shows the beadboard walls and ceilings that predated drywall, along with with random-width floors constructed from pine cut at the estate, hand-blown window glass, and an open fireplace. The original chicken feeders, coops, and nesting boxes have been carefully preserved, along with other artifacts from the farm’s late-nineteenth-century farming past. A family graveyard sits in view of the house.
The current hundred-acre Peace Hill Farm is networked with walking and bridle paths. Thirty acres of the farm are in working cropland, currently farmed by Susan’s cousin Charles Tench, a long-time Charles City farmer and owner of Chickahominy Farms. Another twenty acres are in pasture, where Susan raises Leicester Longwool sheep (a heritage breed once owned by George Washington), Angora goats, and draft horses. Woods, a trout pond, chickens, a sizable vegetable garden, and peach and apple orchards cover the remainder of the property.