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Guest Post: A Visit to Shirley Plantation by Carrie Fancett Pagels

#History #NovelResearch #Writing #ShirleyPlantation 

Historical writers love history. We explore it through various means: online resources, physical books and biographies, old (primary) resources such as journals and official records, and personal visits to locations where that history took place.

Today, I welcome author Carrie Fancett Pagels to give us a heads up on Virginia’s Shirley Plantation, the setting for her novella, Return to Shirley Plantation: A Civil War Romance.

Carrie: The first time I tried to visit at Shirley was a dozen or so years ago. My mother-in-law, on one of her visits, and I drove out to the plantations along the James River and Route 5 in Virginia—one of the most scenic areas in the state.  01ShirleyPlantation_RtSP_coverUnfortunately, Shirley was closed that day. But we read all about it and vowed that we’d return one time in the future. Instead we visited at Berkeley Plantation—a lovely place. 

A few years later, my mother-in-law suggested we visit one or more of the plantations we had missed.  We chose two—one being Shirley.  We had only a short time that we got to visit, because we had a busy day, but what especially stood out was the long drive in and the vastness of the property, at first. Then, to see all the buildings on the property, I was amazed. Honestly, at that time, I don’t think I realized they were all built in the 18th century but I used them for the prototype for a plantation in a story I had that was set in New York, an 18th century estate. We spent most of our time in the house on the tour and I wanted to come back and see more of the outbuildings. 

We visited another plantation home that day, also. I remember discovering that the furnishings in that home were not original to the home whereas those at Shirley were.  And I marveled at that fact and that the Hill-Carter family had continuously held the property since the 18th century. Wow. That was pretty shocking. 

The Shirley acreage (which is in the thousands, by the way) borders the James River and there was a dock there.  At one point in time mail was even simply delivered to “Shirley, Virginia.” That access to the river supported the success of the plantation. Shirley lies south of Richmond on the river and north of Norfolk, Suffolk, Newport News, Yorktown, and Hampton—all bustling colonial towns. River access allowed people to also travel to Williamsburg easily, where much political activities took place. 

When I had my second visit to Shirley, yet a few more years later, I was again with my in-laws, both this time, and I had the privilege of being on a tour in which the guide discussed  some family members I found particularly fascinating. As she continued talking, my imagination shot off into orbit and I wrote a War of 1812 manuscript inspired by that information. 

In the meanwhile, I returned to the plantation and toured the amazing collection of buildings. There is nothing like it in the world—the most complete set of colonial era buildings on a working plantation. The plantation’s history as a field hospital during the Civil War inspired my novella “Return to Shirley Plantation.” 

This is Shirley’s 400th anniversary.  I invite readers to go out and visit this national landmark!

Sandy: On the way back from Williamsburg a couple years ago, we drove past Shirley Plantation. Though we didn’t tour it, as Carrie said, it’s an amazing view, sitting right on the river. Hopefully, one of these days, I’ll get back there to tour the place.

What is the most amazing place you have ever toured? Did you hear some unique tales about its history? Did it spark ideas?

Carrie clear glasses2

Carrie Fancett Pagels is author of Amazon top-rated Civil War novella Return to Shirley Plantation: A Civil War Romance. Carrie also contributed to God’s Provision in Tough Times, Lighthouse of the Carolinas (July, 2013). Her short story, Snowed In: A Northwoods Christmas, will appear in Guidepost Books “A Cup of Christmas Cheer” (October, 2013). With a Ph.D. in School Psychology, Carrie served as a psychologist for twenty-five years. She has two popular group blogs: Overcoming With God ( and Colonial Quills (

Carrie is the former ACFW Zone Mid-Atlantic Zone Director and Virginia/West Virginia Area Coordinator and continues to serve as co-hostess of the Tidewater Area Christian Writers group. Married for over 25 years to the love of her life, she resides in Virginia’s historic triangle. She has an 11-year-old son and a 24-year-old daughter. 

Find Carrie and her work at:

Carrie Fancett Pagels

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Links to purchase Return to Shirley Plantation: A Civil War Romance 


Barnes and Noble 

God’s Provision in Tough TimesAmazon

As an author of heartwarming historical and contemporary romance, Sandra Ardoin engages readers with page-turning stories of love and faith. Rarely out of reach of a book, she's also an armchair sports enthusiast, country music listener, and seldom says no to eating out.

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