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.
- Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Munro, Mar. 4, 1815.
- Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, Apr. 19, 1809.
- Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, Apr. 19. 1809.