In the words of a descendant, Eliza Tolliver Coleman lived “up on the mountain all of her life.” Members of her extended family lived and worked at Monticello over the course of a century—far longer than any of the property’s owners. According to family tradition, Eliza Coleman “came out of that Thomas Jefferson tree,” but her exact connection to Monticello’s enslaved families is not yet known. She married Thomas Coleman (1845-post 1910), a former slave of Joel Wheeler, manager of Monticello during and after the Civil War. They had eight children.
Thomas Coleman was an ox-team driver and Eliza Coleman was gatekeeper for Jefferson Monroe Levy, owner of Monticello from 1879 to 1923. The position eventually passed to her daughter Lucy Coleman Barnaby Page (1869-1956), who was a midwife in the local community as well as the gatekeeper. Descendants have vivid memories of summers spent at the Monticello gatehouse.
“She was up on the mountain all of her life.”
Anne Slaughter and Maxcine Sterling relate what they heard about their ancestor Eliza Coleman.