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John Neilson

d. 1827
Hired White Workers

An Irish joiner naturalized in Philadelphia, John Neilson worked at Monticello from 1804 to 1809.  Neilson worked with James Dinsmore  on the construction of Monticello II (1796-1809).  Jefferson wrote that “they [Neilson and Dinsmore] have done the whole of that work in my house, to which I can affirm there is nothing superior in the U.S.”¹ Neilson and Dinsmore trained the enslaved John Hemmings as a joiner who took over for them when they left.  In 1809, “Dinsmore and Neilson set out … for Montpelier;”² and continued to work together for several years, both returning to Charlottesville to help construct the University of Virginia.  Jefferson described Neilson as “a gardener by nature, & extremely attached to it.”³ Neilson died in 1827, by which time he owned a considerable estate in Charlottesville, including 11 enslaved individuals.

  1. Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Munro, Mar. 4, 1815.
  2. Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, Apr. 19, 1809.
  3. Thomas Jefferson to James Madison,  Apr. 19. 1809.
Carpenter, Joiner

Learn more about John Hemmings’s life history.

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


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