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George Granger, Sr.

Enslaved Workers

Massachusetts Historical Society

After purchasing his wife Ursula and their sons George and Bagwell, Jefferson bought George Granger, Sr. from a Cumberland County plantation owner in 1773 for £130.  For the next 25 years the Granger family filled some of the most important positions at Monticello.  Ursula, “a favorite house woman” of Jefferson’s wife was a domestic servant; his son George Granger, Jr., a blacksmith; his son Bagwell, a farm laborer; and son Isaac, a smith and tinsmith. While Jefferson served in Paris from 1784–89, George was “reserved to take care of my orchards, grasses &c.”  By 1793 he was a foreman of labor, a position directly under the overseer, supervising slave laborers digging the canal for Jefferson's mills.  In December 1796, Granger became the only African American overseer at Monticello, receiving an annual wage for the oversight of the farm laborers and the production of the cash crop.  He apparently struggled with his dual role as enslaved person and manager of enslaved people.  His failure with the first crop of tobacco was forgotten in the success of the second, a crop Jefferson called “extraordinary.”  The “steady and industrious” Granger, his wife Ursula, and their son George all died within months of each other in 1799 and 1800, victims of serious illness treated by a conjurer in Buckingham County. 

This account is compiled from Lucia Stanton, “Those Who Labor for My Happiness:” Slavery at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello (University of Virginia Press and Thomas Jefferson Foundation, 2012).

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 Learn more about this multi-family slave dwelling built ca. 1770.

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